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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  • SilthDraeth - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    Anand, Jared, Dustin, I would like that you continue the audio reviews. You even have a huge section on the forums dedicated to audiophiles and they argue as much or more than than the politics and news crew.

    I find reviews like this one helpful. I have some tone deafness, and wouldn't know properly reproduced sound if I heard it. Heck real life sound I miss out on a lot of anyways. What I like to know is, can I turn the volume up loud and not have it get all statically. Can I possibly lower the explosions in movies, so I can better hear the talking... though, I guess that is why I use subtitles.

    I think, however, as I stated in my first paragraph, that you should continue the audio reviews if you are able to perhaps invest some resources into the tools and equipment needed to test said devices. Also, dissecting the devices, as a poster or two mentioned, so people know what drivers are in a speaker, would help out a lot.

    In the end Jared, you might be right though, it might be worth just ending the audio reviews, either that or just flat out ignoring all the audiophiles with sticks up there asses. Since they will never be satisfied.
    Reply
  • WhatYaWant - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    Com'on...it has nothing to do with audiophile. It has to do with doing a proper review. No audiophile would even waste time reading a review of a 250$ speaker.

    /the non-audiophile looking for a nice review
    Reply
  • sonci - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    I also have fun reading these articles on anandtech, the problem is that a lot of people are going to buy this crap based on the article..
    They cannot dissect drivers because it will reveal cheapy chinese noname speakers

    I think they should have stoped doing audio when Anand claimed for the SQ of ipod touch "it cant be better than this" or smth like that,
    speakers review are always subjective, but thats doesn't mean superficial,
    as a good RMAA doesn't mean a damn thing for the SQ of a soundcard..
    Reply
  • phaxmohdem - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    I am the (very) happy owner of a pair of Audio Engine A5's... and besides the obligatory shoutout to the awesomeness of the things since this is an audio article, I wanted to comment on the artifacting issue.

    When I first hooked up the A5's to my computer, and fired up Winamp, I was appalled. Sure it was loud, but it sounded like crap. The problem... 128k MP3. (CD quality my arse) I had never noticed how bad lower bit rate MP3 compression actually was until I had speakers clear enough to play what they were told with out the 'muddiness' you spoke of.

    That said, if you get away from the YouTubes, and crappily ripped MP3 files, and bump some FLAC, CD, DVD, or BluRay audio through them and it is an almost religious experience.

    In my personal opinion, if you listen to internet streaming audio, or MP3's @ less than 192Kbps, stay away from high end speakers. But if you are willing to take the time (and have the space) to convert your music collection to VBR, or 320K MP3's, or better yet, FLAC, then go ahead and take the plunge. Otherwise, you will be wondering what you just dropped a crapload of money on.
    Reply
  • Agamemnon_71 - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    Agreed.
    Living in Sweden gives me access to Spotify and the bandwith needed for "quality" streaming at 320 kbps. It makes all the diffrence.
    And my T3's runs circles around your A5's ;)
    Reply
  • warisz00r - Saturday, November 20, 2010 - link

    Creative speakers? Unless you are being sarcastic, there are a lot of brands out there that can outdo Creative speakers in their respective price points.

    Before moving back to my home country I used to own a pair of Audioengine 2s (the smaller brother of the 5s) while studying in Australia. Then and now, these are the best sets of speakers I have ever owned. It was just all-around better than the Logitech Z2300 (which I used to own, too) except if you value the amount of bass that a subwoofer can pump out.

    From then on, I realized that any built-for-the-purpose, active or passive set of bookshelfs and monitors are always superior to any computer-oriented 2.1 systems.
    Reply
  • Agamemnon_71 - Sunday, November 21, 2010 - link

    I wasn't being sarcastic...just messing with you. The blinksmiley should have tipped you off :)

    I came very close to buying a pair of A5s instead of the T3s. What put me off was a few user reviews that talked about dead speakers and strange hissings in them.
    The T3s are nothing like earlier Creative sets and Logitech has nothing like them. They are what these Rockus claim to be.
    Reply
  • bji - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    Reading this articule and its responses make me happy that I am not an audiophile. I am so pleased that a pair of $90 Creative computer speakers are all that I need/want in terms of audio. Didn't even get a system with a subwoofer because I just find them annoying (to myself and to those in the next room as well).

    Sometimes it's quite blissful to be ignorant. I can't imagine the pain that I'd experience if I cared about audio and had to read articles about it and torture myself over how terrible any speakers that cost less than $1000 sound.

    Probably I'm lucky that I spent my formative music years listening to cassette tapes which sound crappy no matter what, but still managed to enjoy the hell out of them because I cared more about the content than the perfect reproduction thereof. Everything since cassettes has sounded GREAT to my ears.
    Reply
  • sonci - Friday, November 19, 2010 - link

    Lucky you're not audiophile..

    ..but I just have to post this, buy a vintage deck like Nakamichi or Marantz and please try your cassette tapes...
    they can beat the hell out of every compressed mp3 you have in your library..
    Reply
  • sinPiEqualsZero - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    Hi Dustin/Anandtech,

    I truly believe that you’ve given your best recommendation based on the available data, and I appreciate the time spent doing the review. I pay particular attention to speaker reviews since I wear hearing aids and need amazing speakers to understand speech, and thanks to you I have some more data with which to make a decision. I'm even in the market for them since my old ones just died last week.

    In general, as you are well aware, audio review is an under-appreciated and subjective process. In this case, I have reservations about the one used for the review. But first, a small bit of relevant background based on some of Anandtech recent accomplishments.

    When SSDs were coming out, you picked apart their parts, algorithms, and used the awesome collective knowledge of Anandtech to make big waves in the industry. We are still benefiting from those articles today and I guarantee that the major manufacturers and engineers are reading all related articles they can. You even referred to working directly with some manufacturers!

    Then the iPhone4 reception issues came along, and you did what no one else did; you measured the effect of the wild claims that were flying around and erased all doubt. We may never know the true extent that your article influenced the notoriously secretive Apple, but I bet the impact wasn't small.

    Let's get back to speakers. There are so many things that can be measured with speakers: distortion, maximum/minimum settings that can be compared to manufacturer's claims, and more. The quantifiable data is there, you just need to find ways to measure it. Heck, you could even disassemble the speakers and look at their components, and comment on how their use/placement/etc. affect the sound and cost.

    I'd love to see a true "Anandtech"-level audio review where that creativity was on full display. Given the shady claims and misinformation that pervade the speaker market, connecting repeatable readings, analysis, and some physics know-how with the overall listening experience would be amazing and unique. That is exactly the reservation I mentioned above - there is no reason that a speaker review should only be subjective, and I've love to see some of our finest minds in the industry tackle the problem of defining "good" speakers.

    Again, thank you for the time and effort you’ve put in. No matter how many negative comments you get, there are many who appreciate what you do. In this case, though, I believe you have chance to once again take up the mantle of industry leader and go where almost no one else does. Best wishes to you and to all of the people at Anandtech!
    Reply

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