While I’m afraid I don’t possess any synthetic sound equipment that can give you a readout of how good these are, I can give you an idea of what they sounded like over a good 10 hour testing period. I spent a few days playing about with these, listening to music, watching movies and of course gaming on them. I think this gave me a pretty good outlook on their pros and cons, but of course, as with everything this is subjective.
- CPU: Q9450 @ 3.2GHZ
- Motherboard: Asus P5QL Pro
- RAM: 4GB Super Talent DDR2 @ 800MHZ
- GPU: Sapphire 5770 1GB
- Sound Card: Auzentech Prelude 7.1
- OS: Windows 7 Ultimate x64
For this part of the testing I used a variety of different sources of varying quality. This involved several CDs of different genres being played, as well as many a youtube track and (legally of course) downloaded tracks. Utilising the music setting on the volume control I found that the Rockus 3D hav a really nice range of sound to them. Highs are well represented with the mids also coming through nicely (though this is common for 2.1 and 2.0 setups) and even bass was pretty good; though I did feel need to use it on its maximum setting (3) and tweak the bass slightly in my sound settings to get the right ammount of kick.
Most of the music also had some very high levels of clairity. A lot of the highs and mids sounded incredibly crisp with notes punching through the mix in a very pleasing fashion. Antec’s goal with this speaker setup was to make it sound great straight out the box, which it does. However, because of this its very hard to make it even better by playing with EQ or other settings. I’d still contend that adding some crystallizer helps a bit, but there wasn’t much more to be done. It never feels like you can fine tune it to your own taste; even though it’s very good anyway.
Switching to 3D mode was an interesting one. What it does, is mush all the sound together and spread it out infront of you. So instead of having a definitive stereo mix, you have a sort of wall of sound that moves around and its either infront of you (IE between the speakers) or its somewhere between them and you.
It’s hard to describe so bare with me. You never have sound behind you or to the sides, but the entire area infront of you could be where the sound is coming from. Its certainly very good at tricking your brain, but I’m not sure how “3D” it sounds. The problem with doing this though is that you lose a lot of clarity. Sounds are squashed together a bit more and its harder to pick them out in the mix. It feels like you’re listening to live music in a very small room.
One thing 3D mode does do though is add a lot of volume to the sound, so you get some serious loudness, especially from the bass. While this is actually slightly addictive – the bass really thumps in your chest at certain frequencies – past a certain volume point, the sub is vibrating so much that it rattles some metal work (possible the passive radiator?) within the woofer itself. This sounds horrible and completely ruins whatever you’re listening to.
Cool as it is in some cases, avoid 3D mode for music.
Gaming on the other hand is a little bit different. While music mode sounds excellent, 3D mode is certainly more applicable than it was playing songs. It adds a bit of depth to the sound that does make it feel more atmospheric; though again, because of the collection of sound, despite its volume (in terms of physical space and DB level) you lose clarity in the stereo mix. I felt more realism from explosions in games like Call of Duty MW2, but I didn’t feel like I had as much accuracy from the stereo mix when trying to pick out flanking enemies.
Its annoying trying to give a cut and dry opinion of gaming with the Rockus, as I feel that music and 3D modes have their own plus points. The sound is so drastically different between the two modes that its almost like reviewing two different sets of speakers. I want the atmosphere and awesome sound body that 3D mode has, but I really hate the drop in sound quality from music mode. What to do?
It will end up being a personal preference, but either music or 3D mode will do you fine when it comes to gaming; though each has its drawbacks too.
I did however really like that I could have the Xbox and PC plugged in at the same time and performed testing on both. However, when going back to the PC afterwards, I found that the sub would click instead of thump the bass notes out while the Xbox was still plugged in – even though it was turned off.
Watching some Final Fantasy Advent Children – the second half anyway – gave me a pretty good chance to test some high volume action, just as Starship Troopers’ Klendathu invasion did. With both I had similar thoughts to my gaming experience with the Rockus except that I ran into the 3D frame rattling that I had with the music, and it completely spoils the experience.
You’re watching a giant fight scene, there’s explosions, gun fire, martial arts, giant swords, unrealistically gelled hair and you’re getting all excited, only to hear your subwoofer – that was seconds before pumping out some top notch, moody bass – rumble around like its sat on a metal bench. Ive tested it in midair, the woofer is not vibrating the desk, the floor or anything else, its the actual sub itself. Either the frame or the casing, but its a big oversight, as it kills movies in 3D above half volume.
In music mode, it all sounds great, but you will need the volume cranked reasonably high to get some good bass, as with that setting it certainly feels muted compared to the more expansive 3D.
The price of the Rockus 3D isn’t too much when compared to some sets we’ve tested, but I think £150 is a little over the top for what you get. While I love the clarity of music mode, I’m not convinced that the 3D setting will be a strong seller and without that, I think they could have dropped the cost a bit.