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Antec Soundscience Rockus 3D 2.1 Speaker Review

Testing speakers is always a subjective experience, and I tend to find fault with computer oriented speakers, as I have spent a small fortune on my own home setup which comprises a Krell pre and power amplifier and custom Dali Grand Coupe speakers which cost as much as my last Ducati motorbike.

I always find if I go into these audio reviews with certain ‘non purist' expectations then I can arrive at a more balanced conclusion.

Firstly, after much experimentation I have to say that the Rockus 3D mode did not impress me at all when listening to music. It added sibilance and sometimes even compression related distortion to specific tracks and I found it more than distracting when trying to analyse the audio output from the Rockus 3D 2.1 speakers. For all of the audio testing, it was firmly disabled.

At low volume I found the subwoofer to be rather lacking in depth, so I decided to experiment with the bass switch and finally settled on the maximum 3 setting. Something I would normally not touch at all as increasing the bass levels beyond a certain point can colour the sound significantly. In fairness, at the higher two settings, the subwoofer delivers a very focused, punchy sound that will please those people who listen to jazz, well recorded rock and even instrumental music. At low volumes, the subwoofer has been clearly designed to not dominate the sound, but on some tracks we adjusted the equaliser in our software to compensate a little. At lower sound levels, we found the audio to be a little detached with some tracks.

Listening to 3 Doors Down ‘Away From The Sun' from  their 2002 album proved an enjoyable experience. The bass lines were well reproduced and the vocals were crisp and clear, without being over sharp and fatiguing. Equally as impressive was ‘Your Decision' from Alice in Chains 2009 Album “Black Gives Way to Black'. The track exhibited very cohesive sound staging with the acoustic guitar able to cut through the rich ambient production and thumping bass lines.

At higher volumes, setting 2 was more than adequate to deliver a rollocking, balanced rhythm section. I do wish the bass control options were slightly more refined and placed on the Pod, rather than the back of the subwoofer. It proved rather inconvenient to fine tune the sound initially.

Bob Marley's classic live rendition of ‘No Woman, No Cry' was also a pleasure, with the reggae master's vocals passionately reproduced with enough impact to make me forget temporarily I was listening to speakers. Closing my eyes, I could almost feel I was in the audience. The mid range is a particular highlight with this specific design as the soundstaging always remains  focused, although speaker placement is imperative in getting the most from the cones. If the speakers were too close to the subwoofer, then the soundstaging would literally fall apart.

Brandon Flowers well recorded ‘Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts' from his Flamingo album was a clear indication that the Soundscience Rockus 3D 2.1 speakers could faithfully reproduce complex pop arrangements, able to seperate bass guitar, bass drums from multi tracked backing vocals and firmly position them within the soundstage.

MP3's are inherently prone to compression based audio distortion (even at 320kps) and to properly analyse speakers we moved to our stunning Super Audio Philips recording of The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields: Vivaldi: Guitar Concerto from 1996. The speakers truly came to life with this recording, capable of delivering a highly focused, yet impressively seperated sound field from the duelling classical guitarists.

When compared directly to the budget Arctic Cooling S361 speakers which we reviewed in January the Antec Soundscience Rockus 3D 2.1 delivered a much more dynamic experience, not suffering from the same ‘muddiness' when dealing with complex string arrangements. Concerto in A Minor for Guitar (L'estro armonico' No 6) RV356:III Presto) made the hairs on my neck stand up, and this alone deserves a mention as no computer speaker system has yet been able to do this, even the Razer Mako's which remain one of my favourites. The delicate string score complimented the subtle, beautiful acoustic passages.

There was significantly less compression during the wide open passages than experienced with the Arctic Cooling speakers, although I did notice that when pushed to their limits, they did sound a little distressed. In reality I am talking about output levels that most people wouldn't even come close to experiencing within a house. They deliver enough power to easily fill a medium sized room 15 foot by 15 foot.

Moving into a living room enviroment and when paired up with a 50 inch LCD television, the Rockus 3D functionality was finally able to deliver something worthwhile. When watching action movies, the 3D mode offered much wider soundstaging, and even if it was extremely ‘fake', it did give the impression of a few extra speakers in the room. The purist in me disliked the 3D setting outside movie based media, but other people might find it useful for ‘bigger than life' sound when trying to impress their friends.

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