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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  • DanD85 - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    I'm not sure if Antec sound better than Edifier. I know it's quite unfamiliar brand name around here but I've heard it and it really really good. The price is quite reasonable too.
    http://www.edifier.ca/english/speakers/s330d/s330d...
    Reply
  • warisz00r - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    As an owner of the S330D I can definitely vouch this poster's opinion. The Edifier compares pretty well with the Klipsch Promedia 2.1 and is also way better than any similarly priced 2.1 systems from Logitech and AL. Reply
  • Patrese - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    Agreed as well. I have a set of Edifier E3100 for 5 years now and they're easily the best sounding 2.1 computer sets I've ever heard. Reply
  • The0ne - Monday, November 29, 2010 - link

    I have two sets of Klipsch Promedia 2.1 and don't have any complaints. They're un-used mostly now because of my Z5500s but they are still very good when I do use the other PCs. I have another comparable 2.1 but can't remember the brand name, urgh. It also has very good sound qualities and still going strong. Reply
  • wtfbbqlol - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    Things like:

    - Frequency response
    - THD+N
    - Speaker sensitivity

    Unfortunately to make all these things happen, and have them be valid, you'll have to go all out and have an anechoic chamber with proper measurement equipment (measurement mics, and hardware testers like some Audio Precision stuff) for your measurements. If you don't have an anechoic chamber, use maximum-length sequence type measurements to circumvent room reflections.

    Anyway, my point is, if you can't at least provide some valid baseline measurements a purely subjective review is more or less useless. Better spend Anandtech time on other more useful stuff.
    Reply
  • ninjaquick - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    S/N, FR are almost always marketing gimmicks. While it is true that many high quality speakers advertise these values, their relevance is questionable at best.

    Ultimately it is the subjective hearing tests that matter most. The shape of the enclosure, the aspiration of the drivers/woofers., the material of the cones and even the wires used inside the system + the amplification/DACs all affect how the system will sound past the S|N/FR statements. What I am getting at is until you hear how it sounds you will never know how it sounds. I could, right now, grab top shelf drivers and wires, get it to be 15hz-25khz / 112 dB S/N but they would sound awful. Hell, even with null THD they would sound bad.

    I don't even care anymore to get to where I was going.
    Reply
  • wtfbbqlol - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    Without some form of valid lab measurements you have no reference to judge the audio performance. The measurements aren't an absolute metric of what sounds good or bad, but its value is in showing whether the product has any gross deviations/defects in its audio performance. For example, if I see weird 10dB peaks or dips over a wide band in the frequency response, I am almost certainly sure that the audio product is not worth my time at all.

    What the reviewer thinks "sounds good" to him/her may not be good for you. His/her ears are not yours. Meanwhile, measurements which are done properly, even if they don't give the full picture, allows you some way to gauge the audio performance and compare one like product to another.

    Also, notice I suggested that Anandtech perform their own lab measurements, and not use the advertised "specs" of these products. It's a huge undertaking, make no mistake about it, and one I think Anandtech is currently ill-equipped to deal with currently and is of questionable value even if they do. It's going to take a lot of money, time, and effort just to improve one small portion of their output. Either do it right, or don't.

    I'm going to be blunt; this kind of review doesn't belong on Anandtech. I expect rich analysis like some of the better hardware articles here (SSD, motherboard reviews etc).
    Reply
  • wtfbbqlol - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    For example, here is a page from a speaker review of another site with reasonable effort put into some of the measurements.

    http://www.audioholics.com/reviews/speakers/booksh...
    Reply
  • anactoraaron - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    I would agree with this. I am only going to compare and refer anyone reading this post to Anand's SSD trilogy. The depth of how nand works wasn't necessary nor was the controller's inpact on performance and why, but it is that depth that makes Anandtech.com what it is. This article just doesn't match up with the SSD articles. I know this is more of an issue of "the manufacturer sent us this to review it and this is the only way we are able to do so as of now" but maybe this should be filed under the News section and brief specs listed there, rather than doing this and calling this a full fledged review.

    my 2c
    Reply
  • chrnochime - Thursday, November 18, 2010 - link

    Just because the speakers sound "great" doesn't mean they're actually accurately reproducing the recording. The speakers can be overtly coloring and alter the music so that it sounds "better".

    Here's something to chew on, no matter how good your speakers/amp/pre-amp/DAC/player is, if the recording itself is already lossy/compromised from the moment it is captured, then placed on the media(again more info lost), everything after that is moot point. Not to mention the signal degradation/alternation that inevitably occur in the links between the recorded media and the speaker(itself is imperfect as well)...
    Reply

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