Evaluating The Soundscience rockus 3D|2.1 Speaker System

I recently had the chance to test out an interesting set of speakers targeted at PC users, the Soundscience rockus 3D|2.1, designed by Antec. At first glance, these speakers may not stand out with their smallish-looking satellites, and unassuming rectangular sub, but upon closer inspection there’s obviously something special going on here.

Before I get to some of the particulars, let me quickly point out the main features and specifications of the Soundscience rockus 3D|2.1 speaker system (feature list and specifications courtesy of soundscienceaudio.com):

3Dsst digital surround signal processing - 3Dsst is a suite of DSP (digital sound processing) algorithms that creates a virtual surround sound experience from 2.1 stereo speakers.

Active subwoofer with passive radiator - This compact unit creates an extended low frequency response, producing deep bass from a compact subwoofer enclosure, eliminating the need for a larger, bulkier subwoofer.

Preassembled speakers/stands - The speakers come ready to use out of the box to aid in quick set up.

Magnetically shielded speakers - This ensures that your components and speakers are protected from interference from other magnetic fields.

Three inputs - Enjoy three audio sources simultaneously. Connect your computer, console gaming, and portable device all at once.

Looking at the specifications doesn’t reveal anything out of the ordinary, except for maybe the speakers’ support for 3Dsst digital surround signal processing. But dig a little deeper and a few very interesting attributes become apparent.

The Soundscience rockus 3D|2.1 speaker system consists of a subwoofer, two satellites, and a wired control pod. Let’s start our discussion with the satellites. The cylindrical enclosures, which house 2.5” drivers (25w, each), are made from anodized aluminum. The volume of the enclosures is tuned specifically for the driver, and because of their shape and rigid build material, they help minimize distortion.

Moving on to the control pod, the simple looking, round devices allows users to easily adjust the volume, select and input, and change the sound mode selection, from 3D to Music modes.  There’s not much else to say here. The pod does its job and works as it should—I did with the cable included with the pod was a bit longer, however.

Now for the subwoofer. Like most other 2.1 channel speaker systems, the sub-assembly houses the kit’s amplifier, and the satallites and control pod all connect directly to it. The sub is fed 100w (total output for the kit is 150w) and features a 6” driver with a passive radiator. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a passive radiator somewhat like a typical driver, but it lacks the large magnet and isn’t fed any power. Instead, because they’re in the same physical enclosure, when the actual subwoofer vibrates the air in the enclosure is compressed (or decrompressed), forcing the passive radiator to move in tandem with the sub. Using a passive radiator extends the low frequency range, which is how the Soundscience rockus 3D|2.1 can produce deep bass from a relatively smallish sub.

Overall the look of the Soundscience rockus 3D|2.1 is probably not the everyone—the sattelite’s cylindrical enclosures, with chrome flares and large honeycomb grills aren’t particularly attractive. But the sound this kit is able to product is nothing short of impressive. We listened to a variety of music sources on the Soundscience rockus 3D|2.1 speaker system including low-quality, streamed internet radio, high-bitrate MP3s, and store-bought CDs. Across the board, they excelled. The almost total-lack of distortion from the speaker system itself seems to mitigate some of the poor audio qualities of streamed content at all but the highest of volumes. High bit-rate file playback was simply excellent. Listening to a variety of top 40 titles, including artists such as Pink, Cee Lo Green, and Rhianna, we were continually impressed by the sound quality of the speaker system. Highs are clean and very crisps, mids are clear and easily distinguished, and lows are solid and punchy. The same can be said of the store-bought CD playback, which was also excellent. We tried discs which included everything from the ‘Walk the Line’ soundtrack to childrens’ titles from Laurie Berkner and everything sounded great.

Watching movies was also very good on the Soundscience rockus 3D|2.1, for the most part. We watched a handful of movies including Zombieland, WarGames, Saving Private Ryan, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Walk the Line and sound quality across the board was great. Vocals were particularly easy to distinguish and highs were crisp. As good as the sound quality was, however, this 2.1 channel setup cannot compete with a true 5.1 setup in terms of positional audio / surround sound effects. So, while sound quality was great, the movies were perhaps not as immersive as they would have been with a surround sound setup. Which brings us to the kit’s 3Dsst support. Here’s how that’s explained...

“3Dsst is a suite of DSP (digital sound processing) algorithms that create a virtual surround sound experience from 2.1 stereo speakers. The technology analyses the frequency content and pan/positioning of sounds in the incoming audio stream, and then uses certain types of filtering and phasing to widen the sound stage and create the effect of listening to a much larger surround speaker system.”

I personally didn’t find any content that was particular enhanced by 3Dsst. It’s easily turned off, however, so it’s not a hindrance in any way.

Many of the same comments we had with regard to movies ring true with gaming as well. We played a lot of Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2, F1 2010, and Bad Company 2. BC2 and F1 2010 performed exceptionally well. Quality was excellent and the gunshots and explosions in BC2 were clean and clear. These are great speakers for gamers that don’t have the room for a true surround-sound setup.

Ultimately, I very much liked the Soundscience rockus 3D|2.1 speaker system. For under $200, they’re absolutely worthy of consideration.