Immediately I was impressed by the low end bass response which can easily deliver a kicking punch to the midriff reproducing the feeling of standing in front of a live band. Listening to low end tom drums was eye popping and almost matched our experiences with the THX certified Razer Mako speakers at over twice the price.
Bass lines could deliver the rumble we wanted and while sometimes they could get a little ‘wooly’, it only required a little reduction on the bass volume to tighten things up. Let me be clear, the bass from this subwoofer is fantastic – there are huge resources on offer and quite often the settings needed to be dialed down, or the desk would literally lift off the floor.
Listening to well recorded rock music such as Iron Maiden’s: Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album really drove home the tour de force that the subwoofer is capable of delivering. Steve Harris’ thudding and slapping bass lines were accurately rendered, to the point that I was actually double checking that Arctic Cooling were actually able to sell these for 80 euros. The Staccato introduction to ‘Infinite dreams’ was pinpointed accurately within the soundstage.
It really isn’t all about the bass kick however as the satellites can really deliver clear and focused vocals. The All Angels cover of FleetWood Mac’s Songbird sailed beautifully through the air and managed to reproduce the effortless vocal dexterity from the all girl group. I noticed a slight sibilance from the tweeters which again could be dialed down with the control pad. I have yet to find a ‘computer’ oriented speaker system I would be happy to live with all the time, but for the price so far they were hard to fault.
Equally as impressive was the S361’s rendition of the Damien Rice album ‘O’ with the vocals firmly pinpointed in front of the ambient acoustic guitar in the background. The track Cannonball was presented with acoustic warmth and focused soundstaging.
MP3’s are inherently prone to compression based audio distortion and unless you are familar with the material beforehand it proves to be a tough platform when trying to truly evaluate speakers – we therefore moved to our small collection of Super Audio CD’s.
Listening to the stunning Philips recording of The Academy of St.Martin In the Fields: Vivaldi: Guitar Concerto from 1996 highlighted that the satellites are certainly very balanced when dealing with orchestral soundstages and easily capable of filling a bedroom or living room with a vibrant, well seperated soundstage. In the upper registers they could tend to get a little confused with complex string arrangements, causing wide open passages to sound slightly compressed, however I am comparing these in my mind against my Dali Grand Coupe floorstanding speakers which cost over 40 times the price of this complete kit.
Moving the speakers into a living room really highlighted the multimedia potential from this budget offering. They deftly delt with car chases, gun shoot outs and high octane fight scenes, aptly delivering the variety of tones needed to keep the viewer planted to the edge of the seat. While the subwoofer dealt many a killing blow, the S361’s also proved to be capable of subtle depth during many of the gripping and sometimes sarcastic scenes in the BBC remake of Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch was given the dramatic aural platform he needed during many of his story building speech sequences.
The opening scene from the classic Terminator 2 highlighted that the subwoofer was able to work in parallel with the tweeters to produce the intense snapping sound of the human skull under the metallic foot.