Editors' note: The review below was written before Audyssey dropped the "Lower East Side" portion of the product name.
Last year's Audyssey iPod/iPhone Audio Dock was named for the South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco. This time the company has gone east, naming its new $199 Lower East Side Media Speakers for the Manhattan neighborhood. (We'll use "LES" for short.)
Why the Lower East Side?
Well, the marketers behind the speakers were inspired by the neighborhood's gritty "tenement-lined streets that have been home to immigrants from nearly every country since the neighborhood's inception" and rich musical history that included such "hallowed venues" as CBGB, ABC No Rio, and Arlene's Grocery. (Today, of course, the neighborhood isn't quite so gritty as it once was, dominated instead by young hipsters.)
Fancy name notwithstanding, what you have with the Audyssey LES Media Speakers is a pair of powered stereo speakers. Once upon a time, we'd call these "PC speakers," but these days, the audio source might be anything from an iPod, smartphone, game system, streaming media box, or a laptop--just to name a few. These speakers are small enough that they'll fit into any bedroom, dorm room, home office, or den environment. Meanwhile, Audyssey has used its expertise with sonics to tweak the sound beyond what you'd usually find in a pair of throwaway $30 PC speakers.
Design and features
From a design perspective, the Audyssey LES speakers have a simple, clean look that has a bit of throwback feel, with integrated wiry metal stands and a single red stripe that the designers say harkens back to the red brick buildings of the Lower East Side (we kid you not).
Each of the two speakers is 9.3 inches tall by 5 inches wide by 6 inches deep, and weighs about 3 pounds. They each boast a 3.5-inch driver and a 0.75-inch silk dome tweeter up front (neither the stands nor the speaker grilles are removable), and a passive bass radiator on the rear.
The left speaker houses the amplifier, and the volume/power control and headphone (output) jack are available on the front side. There's no remote control option for the Audysseys, but they do have an automatic standby mode, meaning they'll go to "sleep" after a few minutes of dead air.
Feature-wise, these guys offer one thing missing from most PC speakers: a digital optical audio input (Toslink). That means you can connect them to an Apple TV or a game system such as the PlayStation3, and still have the 3.5mm analog input available for a second device. (Both inputs and the power port are located on the rear of the left speaker.)
There is one caveat: for better or worse, you can't toggle between the two inputs--they're both active simultaneously. That means you'll hear a mix of both audio sources if they're both active at the same time.