Computer speakers actually go against traditional hi-fi and multimedia designs in many ways. The biggest reason for this is the intended usage space and positioning of the listener relative to the speakers themselves. While the traditional approximation used for separation and sound field puts the user at twice the distance from the speakers as the speakers are apart, this breaks down in the close confines (or “near field listening”) in which computer speakers are typically used. In terms of speakers, the listening environment changes their sound dramatically, and is the most common cause of consumers uttering the phrase “but it sounded great at the store”. Overcoming this basic hurdle and providing proper staging and separation in near field environments is a large task alone but, unfortunately for designers, more obstacles are there to confront them.
Next, designers have to contend with size limitations. Let’s face it, no matter how good it sounds, very few people have the room to drop a pair of 1.5 cubic foot enclosures on their desk next to their monitor…and with 2.1 setups there really isn’t a need to. However, with staging and definition truly noticeable in most people’s hearing down to about ~100Hz, you need a midbass driver in your desktop satellites that can produce frequencies that low cleanly while letting your subwoofer handle the frequencies below that. Ideally, you would want a 4” or 5.25” driver handling these chores (in conjunction with a tweeter capable of handling frequencies at the mid’s upper frequency reproduction capabilities), but even proper enclosures for these are often too large for realistic desktop use. As a result, we often see 2” “woofers” used in computer satellites….the best description I have for this is “ugh”. This leaves either a huge hole between the sub and midwoofer or horrible midbass reproduction caused by either the sub or 2” driver attempting to reproduce frequencies it is incapable of. Another solution is multiple smaller drivers which will have enough surface area on the cones to capably reproduce frequencies far lower than a single driver of its size.
From an audiophile perspective, the new ineo Alienvibes W402 2.1 speaker set does a lot of things right while staying at a very reasonable price point and including some extras that will make any gadget or multimedia enthusiast very happy. The Alienvibes W402 is designed not only as a simple speaker set, with USB/SD card and aux inputs and full pre-amp with wireless remote, the W402 can be a one stop multimedia sound center for multiple devices. At the heart of the W402 is a single reflex bandpass enclosure housing a 5.25” subwoofer, with fully functional controls and a piano black finish. Also residing in the enclosure is a three channel amp capable of 15w RMS x 2 to the satellites and 40w RMS to the sub. The satellites of the Alienvibes W402 are wooden construction with two 3” woofers and one 1” tweeter in each. The inclusion of the two 3” drivers allows for better reproduction of the midbass frequencies it handles. Overall frequency response of the W402 setup is listed at 35Hz-20kHz. The Alienvibes W402 also features dual inputs (one each RCA and 3.5mm) with the source selectable through the remote or control panel. This allows for a second audio source (mp3 player, CD player, TV, etc.) to be used, making the W402 a very versatile setup.