First seen at CeBit, and then at Computex, these all digital speakers from Abit have had my appetite whet for too long. Finally they have arrived and much to the annoyance of everyone in the office upstairs, I gave them a thorough test.
The units I was sent came in two boxes. One had a set of speakers, and the other had a sub-woofer. As far as I can tell, these are sold as separate units – but they can and will work together as one system.
If there is one criticism that can't be levelled at these speakers, it's being unattractive. I really like the polished black finish and the cones showing through the metal grilles. On the primary speaker that contains the amp, there is also a red LED that lights up the acrylic stand. I don't like this much – partly because the other speaker doesn't have one to match and partly because the power LED is blue – it wouldn't have been hard to make them match, would it?. Luckily, there is a switch on the back to turn the red light off.
The speakers themselves have both analogue and digital inputs, but quite why you'd buy these speakers and plug in an analogue source is beyond me. It is however useful for plugging in a secondary device such as an MP3 player. Unfortunately, you can't run a digital and analogue source at the same time, so you'd need to flick a switch on the back of the device.
One of the great benefits to having a digital input, is that it doesn't matter what your sound card is – a digital signal is transmitted to the speakers. This means no interference and no degradation of audio quality. Sound reproduction is entirely down to the speakers. With pretty much all motherboards shipping with fairly decent onboard sound and an optical output, you can almost justify spending a little extra on speakers with digital input.
It is worth noting that these speakers only have optical S/PDIF, not coaxial support. If necessary, a third party adapter can be used, or you can even make your own, but it's something worth checking on your PC before purchase.
On the back of the primary speakers, you can see not only optical in, but out. The optical output will replicate the input S/PDIF signal as a way of daisy chaining multiple devices – in this case, the sub-woofer.
The second speaker is connected with an analogue cable. No power is required at all.