peteraczel | 23 November, 2011 15:16
USB Powered Computer Loudspeaker System
Olasonic Co., Ltd., 1100 Hatcher Avenue, Suite B, City of Industry, CA 91748 (USA customer service). Phone: 1-800-928-4840. E-mail: email@example.com. Web: WWW.olasonic.us. TW-S7 computer loudspeaker system, USB powered, $129.99 (choice of white or black). Tested samples on loan from manufacturer.
(This is only the first installment of the complete review because my loudspeaker measurement system is in a transitory stage of changeover. The measurements will be separately written up in a second installment.)
As I have said before, I am no longer interested in conventional, me-too loudspeaker designs. The Olasonic TW-S7 is something different. Computer speakers, whether built-in or outboard, are generally a sorry-ass bunch, not even on speaking terms with the concept of high fidelity. The Olasonic is a genuine hi-fi speaker on a drastically reduced scale. It is shaped like a somewhat pointy egg measuring only 5.6 inches on its long axis. It incorporates a 2.4-inch full-range driver, a 2.4-inch passive radiator, and some highly unorthodox electronics. For what it is, it sounds totally satisfactory to audiophile ears; in fact, it is the only computer speaker I have found acceptable since David Clark’s Monsoon MM-1000, which is no longer made and had a tendency to go on the fritz.
Rather than connecting the Olasonic to the output of the soundcard in your computer, you plug it into a USB port. That is its most distinguishing feature. Nothing to plug into the wall, no power cord, no clutter of wires on or behind your computer desk. That alone puts it one up against the Monsoon. The USB port provides only a maximum of 2½ + 2½ watts output, but the Olasonic increases that to 10 + 10 watts on peaks with a proprietary circuit called the Super Charged Drive System (SCDS). The SCDS stores USB power as an electrical charge in a high-capacity condenser during low-level outputs and releases the power on dynamic peaks. This enables the digitally amplified speaker to produce surprising volume out of that diminutive package.
The egg shape is another signature feature. I am reminded of John Ötvös, now no longer on the audio scene, who years ago dreamed of making his next speaker, after his reference-quality Waveform Mach 17, a giant egg. That’s the ideal shape for a speaker enclosure to minimize diffraction and reduce standing waves. The engineering is certainly easier in Olasonic size but no less desirable.
The expanded-urethane passive radiator in the rear is also unexpected in a speaker of this size and does the job. I’m not going to say that you can feel the Telarc bass drum in your chest, but there is certainly more bass than you can get out of the typical thin-sounding computer speaker. In fact, the entire sonic output of the Olasonic, from top to bottom, is an amazingly good imitation of a grown-up high-quality loudspeaker’s sound, just a bit miniaturized. Occasionally I am able to forget that I am listening to a computer speaker. (Please don’t expect from me quasi-pornographic descriptions of front-to-back depth, airiness of the highs, etc., etc. I leave that to reviewers of $65,000 loudspeakers.) I also like the silicone insulator on which the Olasonic’s round bottom must be placed because there is no limit to the ways you can angle the speaker for best listening position. It’s an impressive little package.
Olasonic is a Japanese company with representation in California. I understand that the TW-S7 has already started to build a reputation and following in Asia; in this country it is new but not obscure for long, in this reviewer’s opinion.
(Part 2 with measurements to follow, as noted above.)