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Review: SoundSticks II by harman multimedia

Volume Number: 20 (2004)
Issue Number: 5
Column Tag: Review

Review: SoundSticks II by harman multimedia

by Neil Ticktin

As you might expect, I'm definitely a computer guy ... 6 computers in one house with 4 people. Lights, sprinklers, and more are controlled by one of the machines, and of course, we've now added a G5 for a "media station" since we've been averaging more than 1250 pictures per month, since 2001, with my trusty Nikon D100.

All this technology aside, taking pictures is not about being a geek ... it's about capturing an emotion. And, while stills capture the moment, stringing them together and putting them to music is one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had. There's nothing like putting a teacher and classroom full of parents in tears ... or hearing a six year old yell out the names of their teammates when they see them on the screen.

In my set up, my G5 sits several feet to the side of its screen and keyboard, and while the G5 is a great machine, listening to music out of it while composing a slide show or video ... let alone just listening to iTunes for pleasure ... just doesn't cut it.

I started to look around at options just to get the speakers up next to the screen where I'm working. I quickly realized that while technology has come a long way, cheap speakers for your computer still sound cheap ... they sound like computer speakers. While I don't get the time to listen to music as I once did, I still do have a discerning ear and "computer speakers" were not going to cut it.

I looked a variety of the options out there, including harman multimedia's assortment. I always liked the SoundSticks design and layout (especially the small form factor on my desk), but I didn't like the need to go through USB and software to handle my speaker output. I'm an "old school" guy ... we have audio outputs, let's use them.

Enter SoundSticks II

harman multimedia has taken a great product in SoundSticks, and made it even better with SoundSticks II by taking to a standard analog audio connectivity and touch volume control.

As any audio aficionado will tell you, sound is a personal thing. It's best to listen to speakers side by side using the exact same source to determine what is attractive to you. When buying speakers for your computer, this is relatively difficult. That said, I had the opportunity to listen to a variety of harman and JBL speakers (as well as other brands), and to my taste, the SoundSticks II were hands-down the winner.

To me, SoundSticks II were well worth a bit of extra money (retail for $199) for the clarity, accuracy, and fullness of the sound. If you want to just go with speakers without having the opportunity to do a side by side sample as I have, these are winners.

The details...

SoundSticks II have three main parts -- two satellite speakers that are tall and narrow, and one larger subwoofer, which optimally sits below your desk. Frankly, the hardest thing about setting them up is unpacking the box. :)

The only issue that I had in set up is that it took me a couple of minutes to find the volume controls the documentation mentioned (at the base of one of the satellites). It would have been nice to see this better in the documentation.

These speakers can pack a wallop ... enough of one that when i first set it up, my kids on the other side of the house made me turn them down. :(


You've spent a good chunk of money on your system ... if you are either listening to iTunes or making slide shows or movies, you have to get the full effect by upgrading your sound. SoundSticks II is, hands-down, the best solution that I found at a moderate price.

Neil Ticktin is the Publisher of MacTech Magazine.


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