Introducing the Soundscience Rockus 3D 2.1

When Antec decided they wanted to introduce sound products to their portfolio with their new Soundscience brand, they weren't kidding around. They sent representatives to demo the Rockus 3D 2.1 speaker system to the press and take questions in person. I was sat down in front of a Toshiba notebook connected via analog minijack to the Rockus 3D and allowed to play with the speakers, play different music, try some tracks off of YouTube, listen to a movie demonstration. And when it was all over, they sent me home with a set of the speakers that I have rigorously put through their paces during the past 10 days.

So before we get ahead of ourselves, let's talk about the Rockus 3D itself. The Antec rep was adamant that this speaker system be near perfect out of the box, and I believe him. It's a "basic" 2.1 system: two satellites rated for 25 watts and a frequency response between 10 Hz and 20 kHz, and a large (but surprisingly not too large) subwoofer rated for 100 watts. The satellites themselves connect via an RCA jack in the back and use a fairly robust cable that splits into speaker wire when it connects to the subwoofer. Build quality on the satellites is impressive: they use anodized aluminum for almost the entire build save a glossy plastic rim around the speaker proper that serves more for decoration than anything else. This is supposed to produce a cleaner, distortion free sound that plastic speaker satellites may have more trouble with, but it also gives them some heft. We have no complaints about build quality at least; these feel solid.

The subwoofer is simultaneously more and less fortunate. As the basic control hub for the speaker system the housing is a sturdy plastic with the typical cloth front, and it's actually comparatively small, measuring at 13.8"x7.7"x10.6". The subwoofer fires forward instead of down the way many cheaper units I've seen do, and spoiler alert: it can fill a room. Connectivity on the back is kept fairly clean and manageable: there's a port to connect the remote controller (which is heavy enough to actually hold its place on your desk without being at the mercy to the cable connecting it), a power switch, the two sets of speaker inputs, and then three audio inputs. This is important: the Rockus 3D accepts a dual RCA connection, a standard 3.5mm minijack connection, and a TOSLINK optical connection. This last one is supposed to make the Rockus 3D ideal not just for your computer but for your blu-ray player or gaming console, but frankly it's just nice to see a digital connection. Finally, there's a hard switch to choose between three levels of bass, and that's disappointing: it would've been nicer to see an analog knob to let you finetune the output of the subwoofer.

Last but not least we have the remote, which is weighted fairly well but does feel comparatively cheaper than the rest of the kit. The top disc is the volume knob—press down to toggle mute—and the front of the unit has four indicator lights and a toggle button: one of the lights indicates whether the speakers are in digital or analog mode, the next two indicate whether they're in music mode or 3D mode (more on this later), and the last indicates whether the speakers are being muted. To toggle between digital and analog inputs, just hold the button for three seconds. Otherwise, one press switches between music and 3D modes.

The package includes pretty much everything you'll need to connect everything to everything, but there are a couple of major shortcomings. The cables used to connect to the satellites may be of good quality, but they're fairly short and made positioning a bit difficult on my desk. Despite including robust minijack-to-minijack and minijack-to-dual-RCA cables, Antec also neglects to include an optical cable. I understand these aren't the cheapest cables in the world, but having to go out and buy my own was a little irritating, especially when this is really one of the better features of the speaker set.

It's also worth pointing out that there isn't a single certification on the box or the unit: no THX, no DTS, no SRS, no Dolby, nothing. And I can confirm: the optical input takes PCM audio and that's about it.

Testing the Rockus 3D
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  • EddyKilowatt - Monday, November 22, 2010 - link

    "Only the subjective sound matters" is the siren song that led the hi-fi field to cryogenically frozen AC outlets, and enough holier-than-thou golden-eared 'experts' to turn the entire business into a laughingstock.

    Sure, the subjective sound matters, but the objective facts matter too, and ignoring them leads rather quickly to expensive la-la land.

    That said, I agree with the sentiment that audio reviews is a high cost-of-entry business, already populated with some credible sources. I'm happy to see Anandtech diversify a bit, but they need to choose their battles.
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    I think the comparison to the Bose speakers is probably good enough for most readers.

    Graphs and specs aren't going to do much for a lot of us. My last set of speakers were purchased simply because they were on sale, and the NewEgg user-reviews were favorable.
    Reply
  • ckryan - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    I would very much like to hear these. I made it a few paragraphs in before it sunk in that these are not Logitech units. That's a very good thing. That earns this system points before it goes anywhere else.

    The main problem as I see it, is the subwoofer. A switch with three settings does not an acceptable option make. It would really just need two knobs. How about this: A level control knob, and a crossover knob. Why don't they utilize these cheap, easily added extras to the sub? Put some recommended settings as hash marks or in the manual. Let the user have some kind of actual control. A semi-parametric control would be a nice extra. None of this requires any addition knowledge, but could be invaluable for for both sub placement AND my sanity.

    The satellites could sound as good as a Ferrari F1 exhaust note -- but if the sub (an integral part of the satellite + sub idea) isn't versatile in terms of placement, then all is for naught. Good for Antec though. I used to love them but they fell out of favor with me for a few years. I took a chance on them again though, and have found them to be better than I remembered in their traditional case/psu area. I'm glad they are branching out. But making good sounding gear isn't easy. There isn't a good formula for it when it must be done cheaply. I hope they can pull it off.
    Reply
  • Antec_Jessie - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    We certainly agree with the last portion of your paragraph. Making good sounding gear isn't easy. Even at $250, which many consider a "premium," there's not going to be a perfect set of speakers. There's just too much subjectivity in evaluating speakers. What we wanted to do was make the best $250 set of speakers would could. Reply
  • JCheng - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    > two satellites rated for 25 watts and a frequency response between 10 Hz and 20 kHz

    10 Hz? I think you meant 100Hz.
    Reply
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    I noticed this too. I highly doubt they go down to 10Hz. Reply
  • Spivonious - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    Yeah there's no way those satellites go down to 10Hz. I doubt the subwoofer goes that low. Reply
  • WhatYaWant - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    It may make a sound at 10 Hz, albeit music it is not. Not the biggest error of this junk review tho'. Reply
  • absx - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    $250 would also fetch a nice pair of entry-level studio monitors like a pair of Behringer B1030A's. Why bother with the wiring mess of a subwoofer or the tinny little satellites? Reply
  • Gunbuster - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    You should take speakers apart and tell us the manufacturere and ratings on the drivers. It's hard to judge scale from the pictures but I am sceptical of even that 25w power rating on the satilites. I am also guessing the driver is a reletivly small ones hidden behind the plastic grill. Reply

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