|Model||Soundscience Rockus 3D 2.1 speaker system|
Audio seems to be the latest craze among certain PC hardware makers. How else would you explain the fact that, through some strange twist of fate, both Corsair and Antec somehow introduced their very first PC speaker setups within weeks of each other?
We've been tracking the two companies closely. Earlier this month, we published our review of the Gaming Audio Series SP2500, the more upscale of the two speaker setups Corsair announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Today, we're bringing you a hands-on evaluation of the Soundscience Rockus 3D|2.1 speaker system, Antec's first stab at the PC speaker market.
Antec, of course, is more broadly known for its cases and power supplies. While that trait is partially shared with Corsair, Antec has gone about entering the PC audio market in a notably different manner: through a wholly owned subsidiary called Soundscience. That subsidiary was founded in 2010. According to the official About Us page, Soundscience "brings Antec's expertise and reputation in PC enclosures, cooling and power systems, to speaker systems and multimedia components."
Antec really is serious about letting Soundscience take the spotlight here. The Antec name is almost entirely absent from the Rockus 3D set, save for a single tagline—"Designed by Antec in California"—written in small print at the back of the subwoofer.
If it weren't for that tagline, you might never guess Antec had anything to do with the design of these speakers. The rounded, avant-garde design of the satellites and remote is pretty far removed from even Antec's bolder PC cases. The company's trademark emphasis on fit, finish, and build quality permeates this product, however.
Let's start with the two satellites, which have anodized aluminum casings with chrome-plated front surfaces. Antec claims the lack of plastic components ensures "durability and audio clarity" while "minimizing the distortion caused by enclosure vibration." The drivers are purportedly tuned to deliver simulated 3D audio, as well—we'll get into more detail about that in a minute.
The subwoofer, meanwhile, is relatively compact (measuring about 14" x 8" x 11") and features connectivity options aplenty at the back. Don't go thinking its small size necessarily implies poor quality, though; Antec says its use of a passive radiator design "creates extended low frequency response, producing deep bass from a compact subwoofer enclosure, eliminating the need for a larger, bulkier subwoofer." We'll put that claim to the test on the next page, but it's good to see at least one newcomer to the PC audio stage trying to balance audio quality and footprint.
The Rockus 3D's subwoofer isn't small by any means, but it doesn't dwarf our 2L pop bottle like its Corsair rival. Antec uses cables of similar length as Corsair, so while you might have to tuck the subwoofer away under your desk, you can safely do so without subjecting yourself to stubbed toes on a regular basis.
Connectivity options are, as I said, plentiful. You have the choice of RCA, 3.5-mm, and optical inputs, and the included remote lets you toggle between optical and analog inputs easily. You can have two analog devices plugged in at the same time, but Antec says doing so will halve the volume of both sources, and you'll be able to hear then playing simultaneously. Another caveat: Antec doesn't supply an optical audio cable, so you may need to buy one of those separately. A six-foot Toslink cable only costs about 10 bucks, though.
Speaking of cables, Antec is—just like Corsair—guilty of not using generic cables to connect the satellites to the subwoofer. The cables supplied have an RCA plug on one end and a pair of twisted wires on the other. (The twisted wires clip into positive and negative connectors on the sub, while the RCA plug goes into the satellites.) That's a shame, especially considering the relatively short length of those cables (about 5-6 ft), although again, the sub is small enough to tuck away in a corner under your desk.
Observant readers might have noticed the 150W maximum power consumption rating emblazoned at the rear of the subwoofer. 150W isn't anything to write home about these days—Logitech has a 200W 2.1 speaker set selling for $129.99 at Newegg—but of course, wattage isn't everything. You don't want to crank these up to full blast all the time, do you? Antec claims the Rockus 3D speakers were "purposely built" for environments like "dorm rooms, bedrooms, studios, apartments or offices" with areas of around 100 sq. ft. Clearly, this speaker set is meant to provide quality sound in close quarters, not deafen guests in your living room.
Does it deliver?