Speakers designed for the desktop should look good — mainly because you’re gonna be staring at them for hours on end while working, talking on the phone, or whatever. With its die-cast metal shell and glass top panel, Monitor Audio’s WS100 sports a streamlined design that will let it blend with most environments. But cool design is just one part of the WS100 story. Depending on placement, the speaker can either lie flat or be angled up to optimally direct its sound. And its 3.5-inch C-CAM woofer and 0.75-inch gold dome tweeter are based upon driver designs used throughout the Monitor Audio line. Amplification is built in, and the system comes with a wireless USB dongle that sends uncompressed audio to the speakers using SKAA wireless technology. (There’s also a 3.5mm input to plug other devices in directly.)
Using the system is a snap. You plug the dongle into a USB port on your PC/Mac and set “SKAA transmitter” as the sound output device in your computer’s system preferences panel; when you play music (or other audio), the speakers lock on to the signal. A sensing circuit automatically shuts the system off after a period of nonplay. You can control track playback and adjust volume using the included remote; you can also use Apple’s Remote app on your iDevice to easily do the same. Wireless range is specified as 10 meters (which sounds about right, as I had success transmitting signals to the first and second floors of my home from my attic office), and you can drive up to four separate systems from a single transmitter for basic multiroom setup.
With its fleshed-out, dynamic sound, the compact WS100 performs better than most desktop speakers I’ve encountered: Guitars and other acoustic instruments had texture and body, and drums sounded like actual drums. Low-end reach was limited — not surprising considering that we’re dealing with a 5-inch cube — but the bass it does put out sounds tuneful and tight. And it plays loud! With the WS100 sitting on a desk 3 feet from your head, chances are you’ll cry uncle and turn the volume down long before these speakers show signs of strain. — Al Griffin
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