Testing the Rockus 3D

I'll go ahead and preface again in saying this testing is largely subjective, and with a $249 speaker set that admittedly becomes a little harder to excuse. That said, if this is going to bother you, I strongly recommend curling up with your studio monitors, because at the end of the day this is still a consumer product. A moderately expensive one, but a consumer product.

The first big point that needs to be made is the difference between the Music and 3D modes for the Rockus 3D. The Music mode could probably be more accurately referred to as "reference mode:" the Rockus 3D simply tries to produce as clean and accurate a sound as possible and functions as a basic albeit high quality 2.1 speaker system.

Switching to 3D mode invokes what Antec calls "3Dsst," a sound processing algorithm designed to simulate a larger space. This should be fairly familiar to most users, as even many sound cards include some way to try and simulate surround sound using only two speakers (i.e. the HS1 we reviewed recently had a similar mode it could operate in). I'll tell you right now, 3D mode isn't going to produce accurate sound, but its value depends entirely on how you're using the speakers at a given time. The rep was very proud of 3Dsst; I personally tend to be skeptical of simulated surround environments and haven't yet heard one that felt convincing.

I'll also point out that I tested the Rockus 3D using three different connections: I used the optical connection plugged into my ASUS Xonar DX, tried it again with the TOSLINK port on my motherboard (Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R), and then used an analog connection with the Xonar. I actually asked the rep via e-mail which connection he felt would present the Rockus 3D in the best light, and he suggested using the analog connection with the Xonar. Color me surprised when I found that the digital connection seemed best overall, regardless of whether I used the motherboard sound or the Xonar DX. In fact, the Xonar's equalizer wouldn't affect the sound quality at all, while the equalizer in my motherboard's Realtek ALC889 drivers was able to manipulate the digital signal just fine.

I also frequently double-blinded my existing Bose Companion II speakers connected to the Xonar against the digitally connected Rockus 3D. It's not entirely fair, but close enough: the speakers and sound card together cost about $200, just $50 shy of the Rockus 3D.

With all that said, I did the majority of my testing with the Rockus 3D connected optically to my motherboard, and before getting into any of the nitty-gritty of it, I feel it prudent to note that unless you have a more expensive sound card, an optical connection is probably going to be the way to go. Analog quality is for the most part comparable, but the digital just works, requires very little calibration, and operates independent of the quality of analog components used by the audio hardware itself.

Introducing the Soundscience Rockus 3D 2.1 Speaker Set Music on 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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