While their diminutive size and tilt-back stands might put you in mind of mere "computer" speakers, the Audyssey Media Speakers ($250) are more than simple desktop companions — they're among the most affordable and versatile of the new breed of active speakers.
The Media Speakers' 3-inch woofers, 3/4-inch tweeters, and 4-inch raceway passive radiators (plus a healthy dose of the DSP the brand is famous for) combine to deliver serious performance that makes them suitable not just for the desktop, but anywhere you might need a helping of 2-channel audio. An onboard optical digital input not only lets you dispense with an outboard DAC, but makes the Media Speakers a great pairing with a laptop or other device — say, a set-top box like an Apple TV. The possibilities are endless: Flanking a TV set? Plugged into a game console? Paired with a wireless receiver to extend music to another room? The Audysseys can cover a variety of duties, and should cover them all well. There's even a front panel headphone jack; plugging in a set of cans conveniently mutes the speakers.
Of course, none of this would matter if the little speakers couldn't back up their functionality with solid sonics, and that they do. The Media Speakers exhibit smooth response across the frequency spectrum, and the onboard DSP manages to eke out impressive volume — and unbelievably good bass performance — for boxes this size. A bit of a forward midrange shows off vocalists, while top-end detail should satisfy even perfectionists. They can't handle everything — in terms of sheer horsepower they can't compete with larger units, and they can't quite keep up with dense, complex rock music with a ton of bottom end, in the great majority of situations the Media Speakers make for an eminently satisfying listen.
Not interested in a wired digital connection? Prefer wireless? Another $50 will get you the Audyssey Wireless Speakers, which trade in the optical input for a Bluetooth receiver. They sound near-identical to the originals when fed analog audio; whether you prefer optical digital in or wireless streaming is up to you.
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