This time, Audyssey has dropped the radical approach to design it used for the SOMA dock — with its unusual, back-to-back speaker configuration — in favor of a much more conventional, yet still attractive, form. Audyssey left three things unchanged though: Like the SOMA, the LES speakers exhibit a good deal of quality, and incorporate what Audyssey calls their “Smart Speaker” technology. And like the SOMA, these speakers are a bit pricier than their contemporaries. So the question is: Do they deliver?
Audyssey have done an admirable job of making such a conventionally shaped pair of speakers look thrilling. They’re just simple, understated raised rectangular blocks, but the twin scarlet stripes add exactly the right amount of danger. Everything is finished superbly — media speakers can sometimes look or feel cheap, but I never had the impression that Audyssey cut corners or used shoddy materials with the LES set.
The pair connect via standard speaker cables, and there’s a 3.5 mm stereo jack for input; but the LES is also equipped with an optical audio input — unusual for media speakers, and a plus for those of you with Apple TVs. There aren’t any other surprises or gimmicks, but what’s there has been executed very well; the power input, for instance, has a collar around it to make connecting the power cable easier, and the left speaker’s volume/power knob (the only control input on the pair) provides satisfying feedback when turned or pressed.
What about that Smart Speaker tech? Audyssey says their technology produces deeper bass, lower distortion and better sound at low volume than rival sets. Well, yes on the first: The LES speakers do seem to produce sonorous bass, especially for a set of media speakers with no sub. And the highs and mids are impressively clear and detailed.
In fact, apart from a few idiosyncrasies (see below), the pair made for a satisfying desk set; separation is good, sound is generally clear and well-defined, and bass is good — the last attribute, as I said, especially welcome in small speakers.
Finally, the set has a power-saving auto power-off feature: Leave the speakers on with no input and they’ll eventually shut themselves off. A welcome feature that I wish more gadgets were equipped with, even if the tradeoff is the small inconvenience od having to push the power back on when ready to rock out.
While the highs were clear, they also sounded a little harsh at times, a trait especially noticeable during tracks where highs and mids took center stage. Also distortion, though slight, sometimes crept in sooner than I would have liked as volume inched upward.
Then there’s also the puzzling overall lack of volume. In order to get any sort of uproar from the speakers, I had to twist the volume knob all the way up, and push both the volume of my MBP and the iTunes volume near the limit. Which is ironic; because aside from the minor issue with distortion, the set sounded better as volume went up, with bass especially benefitting from raised volume — not what I’d expected from small speakers. All this had the effect of creating a small sweet spot where the volume was usually necessarily in the upper half of the range for enjoyable listening.
A refined set of speakers, with good sound and polished looks, that generally sticks to the classic gameplan but execute well; great-sounding media speakers can be had for considerably less though, and the set’s sonic quirks tarnish that external polish somewhat.