Call me a cheezeball if you will, but I couldn’t help but start my eval of the Spinnaker with “The Lone Rhinoceros,” from Adrian Belew’s debut solo album Lone Rhino, sourced via Bluetooth from my iPod touch. The downfiring woofers instantly shook my desktop with the tune’s plodding bass line. Belew’s vocal sounded essentially free of sonic coloration. The piano — an instrument even many high-end speakers struggle with — sounded amazingly full and detailed, spread out luxuriously across the left half of the soundstage. The best part was the end, in which Belew’s Stratocaster simulacrum of a rhino’s roar emerged from way behind and to the outside of the speakers. Clearly this was no cute-but-crummy-sounding lifestyle system.
Playing something more familiar — Steely Dan’s “Aja” — gave me a fuller picture of the Spinnaker’s sound quality. Still, my impression was much the same. The drum kit, especially, sounded surprisingly dynamic and enveloping, stretching well beyond the outside edges of the speakers and really giving me the feel of sticks striking drum heads. The vibraphone or keyboard or whatever it is that plays the little quasi-Chinese melody in the middle of the instrumental section sounded like it was coming from way outside my office window, while saxophonist Wayne Shorter appeared dead in front of me, solidly imaged between and behind the speakers.
Finding a vocalist that didn’t sound good — usually an easy task with a compact system — proved impossible through the Spinnaker. Every vocalist in my collection of test tracks, from Laura Nyro to The Cult’s Ian Astbury to Rev. Dennis Kamakahi, sounded at least real good. In a few cases, I noticed a trace of thinness in the lower mids; Nyro’s voice didn’t sound quite as full as I’d like. And in other cases, in particular James Taylor and Donald Fagen, I noticed what seemed to be a slight emphasis in the mid-to-upper treble. But these anomalies were of the magnitude I’d expect to hear in a $2,000/pair speaker, so for a $349 system, this is exceptional performance.
The system puts out enough bass for anybody but the most hardcore hip-hop fan. “Aja”’s perfectly even, perfectly plucked bass line sounded loud and full — maybe even a dB too loud for my taste — with the speakers sitting on my desk, at least 2.5 feet from the nearest wall. I later found that placing the Spinnaker on my mantle, so the speakers were right up against the wall, reinforced the bass even more — not something I needed or desired, but an effect I’m sure lots of listeners would like.
Edifier obviously built a pretty big resonant bass peak into the woofer enclosures to get such big bass from those small enclosures. Although one could make the case that the bass is a little one-notey, it’s not boomy or sloppy or bloated like it so often is with inexpensive desktop systems.
Potent as the downfiring woofers are, they can cause a problem. They tend to shake the surface underneath, so whatever else is on the desk or table is likely to vibrate, too — something a system with a separate subwoofer probably wouldn’t do. This may annoy you when you’re trying to work on your laptop. And be careful to route the connecting cables underneath the speakers properly, otherwise the speakers themselves can vibrate on the desk or tabletop.
Even with felt pads on the bottoms of my desk’s legs, the desk still vibrated audibly on the wooden floor below when I played music with extremely deep bass notes, such as Bebel Gilberto’s “Aganjú” or Wu-Tang Clan’s “Duck Seazon.” A heavy desk or table, placed on fairly thick carpeting with a pad underneath, is the Spinnaker’s safest harbor.
The Spinnaker seems totally teen-proof. I cranked it full-blast for my proprietary, ultra-exclusive MCMäxxx test (cranking Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart” until I hear distortion, then bringing the level down one notch and measuring the C-weighted SPL at 1 meter), and the Spinnaker not only showed no sign of distress, it didn’t even audibly distort at 96 dB SPL (with occasional 102 dB peaks). It didn’t even fatigue my ears. So basically, you can’t crank this thing up too loud. That’s some mighty fine engineering, Edifier.
Brent Butterworth and Geoff Morrison combine their years of gear testing and knowledge in one überblog of irreverence and techiness.
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