Review: Antec Rockus 2.1 Speakers

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Short version: Not bad, but the “3D” effect isn’t very compelling, and the lack of extra features makes the $200 price unpalatable.

Features:

  • 150 watts (25/satellite, 100 in sub)
  • 3.5mm, RCA, Optical inputs
  • “3Dsst” virtual surround sound
  • MSRP: $200

Pros:

  • Very clear sound
  • Plenty loud
  • Unique look

Cons:

  • Missing out on the midrange
  • Relatively small “sweet spot”
  • Virtual surround you can take or leave
  • No headphone output, aux/mic input on puck

Full review:

These funky-looking speakers debuted a while back with a big promise: a powerful new virtual surround system that analyzes the stereo signal and places the sounds in a “3D sound field.”

The look is certainly unique, though I can’t say it’s particularly functional. The satellites are fitted with little cones around the speaker elements that I’m pretty sure don’t help distribute the sound properly and only serve to make the speakers look bigger. The honeycomb grill is cool, though. The subwoofer is an unassuming front-firing unit.

For normal usage, which is to say the daily consumption of music, YouTube videos, and so on, the Rockus 2.1s work just fine. I’d say that they have a definite dip in the midrange, or rather a natural emphasis on the low and high end. The high end is definitely clear, but sibilants are hissy and stab through the sound. The low end is powerful and fairly punchy, but also tends to rumble a bit, suggesting the sub is carrying the low end of the mids. Mids like neutral voices seem softened compared to the high end, and are often overpowered by things like accompanying snares and high hats. In games it’s the same story; machinegun rattle and things like footsteps in gravel or water tend to obscure the mid sounds of atmospheric noise.

It’s not an unpleasant listening experience, in fact some of my songs sounded better with this EQing, but it’s not really “true”; speakers should be objective and neutral, rather than imparting their own sound.

The “sweet spot” isn’t tiny, but it ain’t big, either. These are definitely made for sending sound to one person, though of course with a twist of the dial they can get plenty loud — loud enough to bother your neighbors without distorting, I think.

The 3D sound is hit-or-miss, and besides that a matter of taste and situation. I’ve been playing a lot of Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and I legitimately can’t decide which setting is better. The 3D mode definitely widens the soundstage and stereo cues seem further towards their sides, but there’s also a huge loss of clarity and shift to the low end. It makes driving a tank or jeep a very visceral experience, but out and about it made the world sound like my character had water in his ears. You know that feeling, where everything is a bit indistinct? It’s like that. Don’t even think of turning it on for music; I’ve known virtual-surround systems that have enhanced music, and this one definitely doesn’t.

There’s also a lack of the useful stuff we like to have on speakers. The volume/input puck is nice, but why isn’t there a headphone port on there, or mic? And there’s no way to tell how high the volume is set, since the volume dial just spins forever.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, with great speakers like the Logitech Z623s or classics like Klipsch’s Promedia 2.1s going for $50 less, I just can’t recommend these Antecs. Looks like the longtime hardware maker still has a lot to learn about making a compelling speaker set.

Product page: Antec Soundscience Rockus 3D Speaker System