Speakers are a nearly necessary peripheral for your computer, but lots of users for various reasons spend quite a fair bit of money on such systems. We have found that either users buy a fairly cheap pair of speakers (or similar 2.1 system) or they splash out a decent amount of money and buy a full surround 5.1 system. We do as such wonder if there is a market for the more expensive 2.1 speaker systems. When most users think of speakers, we expect they will think of Logitech, or at the very least Creative. Certainly, Antec will be a surprise to most.
Soundscience, is a sub brand of Antec and has been created to produce speakers, audio components, video components and other accessories for PCs and while there range of products is fairly limiting they have certainly come out with a bang and a lot of fireworks with this product. Unlike other companies branching into the audio industry they have come out with a product that is both special and quite unique instead of trying to reproduce and improve products that have been on the market for years. The special feature with these speakers is the 3D feature, as well as being quite a powerful 2.1 speaker system with several inputs available including optical.
The question really is, do Antec and the new Soundscience brand have the expertise to produce great speaker systems that can rival the likes of Logitech and Creative and is this product the first of many amazing products.
The packaging as we expect from speakers, is quite large, and certainly the Rockus packaging is larger than most. On the front of the box is a lovely product picture of the two satellite speakers
Finally, the main feature is of course the fact that these speakers are called ‘3D’ and as such this side of the packaging tries to demonstrate how this works.
Now taking a look at what could be considered as the most important part of a speaker system, the volume control. From the top of the control we can see the top section rotates, and can also be pressed down to mute the speakers.
The button at the front allows you to switch modes. If you press and hold the button for ~5 seconds the Antec Soundscience speakers will switch the Optical source. Pressing the mode button once will switch it between Music mode and 3D mode.
As you can see the Soundscience branding is very simple, but does look quite smart.
On the other side of the v0lume control we can see that Antec have gone down the standard line of using an 8-pin connector for the control. The other end of this cable plugs into the back of the Subwoofer.
This cable is a fairly short length but is hopefully long enough to have the volume control on your desk even with the subwoofer on the floor.
The satellite speakers come pre-installed on their stands so can be set-up very easily – they do unfortunately point upwards at a fairly sharp angle, and so presumably are designed to be used with a TV stand more than on top of a computer desk.
From the front we can see the mesh cover that protects the speaker cone and should reduce the likelihood of these speakers being damaged.
On the back of the speakers they have kept it very simple with a single jack, making it very easy to plug these speakers in.
While on the subject of cables, we can see Antec have chosen to take a compromise of using the jacks for the speakers but using a standard speaker connection to plug into the subwoofer, which is a bit fiddly to connect but this is the industry standard for Hi-Fi and other speaker systems. Of course, they have gold-plated the connectors, but we would expect this from most non-budget speaker systems.
Moving to the best bit of any speaker system, the subwoofer, which is to say the least, fairly large – it is a full 35.1 cm’s high, and nearly 20cm’s wide. While not the largest, it is certainly one of the larger 2.1 subwoofers on the market.
On the reverse is where all the magic happens, or at least, where everything gets plugged in.
A close-up reveals the speaker connections, as well as the audio inputs, bass control, and the connector for the volume control.
The other side of the subwoofer has the power switch and power cable.
The power cable is of a sensible length especially as you are unlikely to want to use speakers this size too far away from a mains socket.
There is nothing exactly special about the design of the subwoofer, at least from the outside.
Also included is a standard 3.5mm throughput cable which is of course gold plated.
They also include a 3.5mm to stereo rca’s. We are slightly unsure why you would need both cables (as the input is the same) but it does allow you to use two different sources, and in theory this cable might give better quality sound.
Instead of including a manual, there is a single A4 – sheet of paper which covers the basics of installation.
Firstly we are going to discuss the features of the Antec Soundscience Rockus 3D 2.1 Speaker system, which are certainly impressive and fairly varied. The 3d mode is certainly a very unique feature and one that we haven’t really seen on the market yet and could potentially help bring your high-definition movies to life. The other additions to this speaker system which we don’t always see, is more than 1 input option, in this case there are 3. However, only 2 are effectively switchable so if you use both the analogue inputs you will find the speakers ‘mix’ the two together if both play, this is mildly annoying but easily avoidable. If however you want to switch between an optical source and an auxiliary (analogue) then the mode button on the volume control makes this very easy and is perfect for switching between games console and PC for instance.
The sound quality in general of these speakers is very impressive, mainly because they are a decent size, and made extremely well, on top of that they have a lot of spare power to play with. We were certainly very pleased with the subwoofer which has a full 100w but maybe more importantly has a frequency range that goes down to a mere 10 Hz which is some serious bass note, although after testing we found that the subwoofer did manage to play a 5 Hz sound note although it was quite distorted this is pretty good considering most 2.1 speaker systems have a frequency range down to 22 Hz.
The speakers automatically turn on with the Music Mode selected as this is the most likely option you will want. This is designed for all your everyday music, videos and as such is tailored perfectly to give you the best sound. We did find that the satellite speakers do most of the work and even lots of the lower frequencies go through these speakers and its not until you have a song with some serious bass that the subwoofer really kicks into life. When it does however, we were stunned, 100w for a dedicated subwoofer is quite a lot and it is certainly loud and very punchy. The quality and tone is also quite nice and manages to reproduce fairly soft bass sounds as well as the much more in your face bass. With the right song the bass will knock you off your feet.
Pressing the mode button once quickly will switch from Music Mode to 3D mode, which in theory should help you to be immersed in your movie. We did find a few problems with this, but all in all it was an amazing feature to have. The sound produced did sound like it was coming from a larger ‘angle’ and did give a more surround feel, but whether it sounded 3d is certainly very debatable. It did certainly heighten the intensity for action films, and the speakers really do come alive in this setting, but only when using the right source. For instance, if you are playing a FPS or similar game, which has full surround sound, 3D mode is pretty impressive, except that because certain frequencies are boosted, any vocal or speech noises are fainter, and this became a problem. This was admittedly less of a problem in films, but it wasn’t as clear as we would like especially when compared to the Music mode. This did mean that while playing games we were reluctant to have it in 3d mode even though it had a lot of advantages.
Having an optical input is a brilliant addition allowing you take digital sound straight into your speakers, which in theory should provide a better sound quality, and as already mentioned being able to switch sources is brilliant. That said, we did struggle to hear any audible difference between the same source playing through auxillary and through optical but this doesn’t exactly surprise us.
While these speakers are quite bulky and not the most stylish they certainly don’t look bad and will certainly look quite impressive next to a large TV for instance. However, there are a few design flaws, firstly, the stands on the satellites are at such an angle that either they expect you to have the speakers close to the ground or expect you to be sat/standing the other side of the room. Many other speakers point ‘upwards’ but these are slightly more tilted and so if they are sat on top of your computer desk they will throwing sound straight over your head. The other design flaw, is that the speaker cables are surprisingly short, for instance, if you use these speakers with a 40″ TV and put the subwoofer to the left-hand side, (of the TV) you will not be able to place the right-hand speaker to the right of the TV as the cable is just too short. Instead, you end up putting both speakers in front of the TV and quite close together. If the subwoofer is directly beneath a computer desk (below the monitor) you will be able to have the speakers spread out slightly, but if you put it to one side you will not be able to put the speakers where you want. Simply, the cable length chosen by soundscience reduces the flexibility of the positioning of these speakers so you are forced to put them where you can and not in the best position and that is quite frankly annoying. There is also no option to plug in any headphones to the volume control which is a feature even lots of the budget speaker systems have.
In terms of overall performance we are very impressed with these speakers, 3D mode when used with the right source is pretty impressive and has an intense sound. We also like the options for input devices and the volume control and mode button. However, there are a few design flaws that do let these speakers down slightly.
Antec Soundscience have certainly produced a very impressive product, that delivers brilliant sound quality with a very punchy and powerful bass. There are also lots of good features that have been incorporated into these speakers, but there are also a few basic tricks that they have missed. More worryingly the length of the speaker cables stop you from setting up the speakers in the perfect position, we simply don’t expect this kind of mistake from a company like Antec.
We do really like what Antec have tried to create with this product, and considering its their first venture down this audio path we certainly have high hopes and expectations for future products. The speakers have been built with an air of quality that makes them look very professional and we expect these speakers to lost the test of time as so to speak.
Unfortunately while the 3d mode is pretty amazing, it does have its drawbacks and certainly won’t satisfy all tastes especially as you can only use it with certain sources – such as movies, films and games and in some cases it will make your listening experience worse, but in others it will really bring the music to life.
Turning to probably the most important aspect of these speakers, is the price. They currently retail at £149.87 at Scan and while this is a fairly high price they certainly give you a lot of bang for buck and ooze quality. Couple that with an rms of 150w you really do have a powerful and brilliant set of speakers. For these reasons, we highly recommend this product even at this price.