Date: January 16th, 2006
Article by: Mike Carter (Hardware Reviewer)
Edited by: Nathan Glentworth (Owner / Head Editor)
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INSTALLATION & SETUP (cont'd)
To the left of the input jacks, you'll find 5 pairs of spring-terminal speaker connections, a Master Volume, and a Sub Level control. The layout is clean, neat, and easy to understand. On the bottom end of the cabinet, you'll see a standard, 3-wire power jack, the power switch, and a large heatsink covering the amplifiers.
Wait a minute. 5 pairs of speaker terminals?
Ok, let me answer that question now. The LX-4 2.1 system can be expanded to a full 5.1 surround setup, simply by adding the LX-4 expander pack, which provides you with three more matched satellite speakers, identical to the two you get with the 2.1 setup. The expander kit costs an extra $200.
Now that we've gotten the once-over out of the way, let's hook these up.
For my testing, I'm using my regular setup. These will be hooked up two ways. First, through my FireWire 1814 recording interface, and then through my motherboard's onboard Via Envy soundcard. Connection to the 1814 will be with a pair of TRS (stereo) ¼” cables, while connection to my onboard sound will be with a 1/8” stereo to two ¼” mono plug cables. Both sets of cables were provided by Hosa.
A note here. If you were to buy the expander set, and want to use these as a 5.1 setup, you would need three of the latter cables. One for front L/R, one for rear L/R, and one for Center/LFE. Keep that in mind if you purchase these, you will need to get the proper cables. While that might seem like a drag, it does eliminate four cables if you do not plan on using surround sound. Nice touch.
I can hear your next question: Where's the control pod? There isn't one. Once again, true to their studio monitor heritage, volume is intended to be adjusted via software. The overall level is meant to be a set-and-forget arrangement. This might be an annoyance to some folks, so bear that in mind if you're looking at these.
Now, on to the testing.
SOUND QUALITY & PERFORMANCE
For this test, I'll be using a mix of source material. The first will be an unmastered recording of one of my former bands. The second will be Dream Theater's Images and Words CD. The third will be a small mix of MP3's. I will not be using any sound enhancement, and the EQ settings on my media player will be flat. Let's see how these stack up.
The first thing I noticed was how clear these speakers are, and how LOUD they get! Before you scoff at the 120 watt specs, remember that efficiency and clarity is worth more than sheer power. These get as loud as any higher powered setup I've used, with only the tiniest hint of distortion at the highest volume setting. Nice.
Using the 1814, my unmastered recording sounded pretty darn close to the studio monitors I originally used for recording, which is no mean feat. Each hi-hat hit sizzled, while the low frequencies never got muddy or boomy. Nice, tight bass. Same with the CD. Portnoy's kick drum sounded tight and deep, while the underlying “snap” was clearly audible. Vocals were clear, clean, with no hint of hollowness. Details in the recordings were heard that were not apparent on other speaker systems.
On the MP3 front, it was a slightly different story. With speakers this clear, you'll hear the imperfections of the compression format. Obviously, the bitrate of the encoding matters. With these, it matters in spades. Like true studio monitors, the quality of your source material is very evident.
There was also no apparent crossover “notch”, where a loss of a particular frequency range is heard either due to the crossover, or a gap in driver frequency range. While I don't have fancy testing equipment, my ears reported smooth frequency response across the entire range, without a hint of dropped frequencies in the transition from mid-bass driver to high frequency driver.
Results were the same while using my onboard sound, which is a testament to these speakers. I was able to detect only a tiny difference between the Via chip and the 1814, much less of a difference than I expected. A casual user probably wouldn't notice. Bravo!
WHO WILL USE THESE?
It wouldn't be a review if I didn't find something wrong, right? To be honest, I can find only one fault, and that's not even a true fault, as much as it's a limitation of the design. Since the LX-4's lean more toward the studio monitor side of their breeding, they are nearfield monitors. If you're looking to fill a large living room with sound, you might want to look elsewhere. In my smallish “test lab”, they did a fine job, but they certainly will not replace pure multimedia-design speakers in a large environment.