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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  • michal1980 - Friday, November 19, 2010 - link

    You might not have been directly paid, but who paid for the intial 'press junket'

    " 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."

    From that paragraph it sounds like antec paid for dustin's trip to the press junket. Then sent him home with some free speakers.

    Right there he got $250 worth of free goods.

    Your right, their might not be any direct payment for a 'review'. But this 'article' was indirectly paid for by antec. And what really information did it give us? One listeners opinion that 2d makes things sound unclear? That in standard mode the speakers might sound ok?

    Its not just this site. Most seem to have written the same amount of worthless subjectivity that is presented here.

    I just expect more from Anandtech.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, November 19, 2010 - link

    Actually, Antec flew a guy out to meet Dustin in his home town... was going to meet at his pad, but Dustin lives in a small apartment and declined to go that. I wouldn't qualify that as "paying" Dustin, certainly. LOL Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, November 19, 2010 - link

    Actually I think they just drove out here. I live 45 minutes from their headquarters.

    As for keeping the speakers, what good would $250 speakers do me if they weren't any better than what I already had? "Oh, someone gave me free stuff, I'd better give them a positive BS writeup." Would you feel better if I sent them back? Is it really worth it for Antec to pay to have this kit shipped back to them?
    Reply
  • Antec_Jessie - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    Just to make one thing clear - Antec did not pay for this review.

    Our thinking is this - Anandtech is one of the most popular enthusiast websites on the internet. We have made a product in the rockus speaker set that we think PC enthusiasts will want to hear about from a source that they trust.

    Audio reviews, from headsets to sound cards to speakers are all subjective. You can get into impedance, signal to noise ratio, dynamic range and other measurements all you want but what matters at the end of the day, when it comes to any audio device, is how it sounds to you. And that's what we wanted to hear from Anand's staff.
    Reply
  • wtfbbqlol - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    Antec_Jessie,

    I agree that audio to a large degree is subjective. But a review of an audio product still requires some reference measurements IN ADDITION to the subjective impressions. I'm not saying to just provide graphs and that's it. What I like to see is subjective impressions, corroborated by proper lab measurements.

    From your side, let me ask you this. Whoever designed these speakers must have some specifications to meet internally, correct? During the design process you specify electrical, acoustical, and mechanical targets that meet the pricepoint and performance you want. You couldn't have designed these speakers with vague instructions like "eh just make it sound good" because "sound good" has no design/target properties.

    Well reasoned, relevant, and correctly done lab measurements add value to any hardware review. Not having any, on the other, hurts the review.
    Reply
  • WhatYaWant - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    Seriously, the guy doing this review knows little of audio. Audio reviews CAN be done in a nice way and I strongly disagree that it cannot be done more objective.

    "...is how it sounds to you. And that's what we wanted to hear from Anand's staff."

    *cough* BS!
    Reply
  • stratosrally - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    I never liked 2.1 systems, finding that for apartment living they annoy the neighbors.
    I have my PC audio going into a $45 Behringer Xenyx 502 mixer and out to KRK Rokit 6 Powered Studio Monitors. This allows me to do some basic home recording from my Korg Kaossilator, an additional stereo source(maybe guitar), and a good microphone. Yes, the speakers were about $400 for the pair, but that's for 6" woofers. The Rokit 5s are $100 less.
    This equipment uses 1/4" TRS and RCA jacks to connect, so I'm using nice thick cables. Also, I feed the mix back into the PC and to a set of Grado SR60i headphones. I'm able to play music quite loud w/out upseting the neighbors because the KRKs are upon a shelf about 4' away and angled toward my ears. They come with a layer of foam rubber on the base, which I liked. I may buy wedged monitor isolation pads to angle them down as the shelf is 20" higher than my desk.
    I'd been using the Creative Labs GigaWorks T40 Speakers for years - but when I tried using the Kaossilator through them the bass notes really overwhelmed the drivers... so I budgeted for a simple home recording setup and couldn't be happier.
    Reply
  • WhatYaWant - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    Please Anandtech. You are not qualified to make speaker reviews. Stick to what you know. Reply
  • slayernine - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    No graphs, am I on Anandtech?? You should find a clever way to benchmark speakers :D Reply
  • Agamemnon_71 - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    The GigaWorks T3 is in the same pricerange as these ($249 at Amazon). I own them and (in my subjective way) love them. From what I've read here I cant see in what way the Rockus can compete with them.
    I personally hate optical connections, not because of the cost or quality of the cables, but the often low quality of the circuits encoding/decoding the signal. In my ears it sounds tinny, just as this review points out.
    I will always prefer a good analog source and connection, and the Xonar being a proven quality soundcard should be just that.
    To me it looks like Antecs stab at good 2.1 system falls somewhat short of its pricetag.
    Reply

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