In January of 2007, designer Neil Poulton teamed up with LaCie to design a set of FireWire PC speakers. The drawback is the speakers use up a precious FireWire port. In an attempt to fix the problem, LaCie created the $60 LaCie USB Speakers. The new version keeps the same exterior design as the FireWire model, and even receives a substantial price cut. Unfortunately, the audio quality is poor and competing speakers from Yamaha and Logitech offer much higher fidelity in the same price range with an equally stylish design.
Design and features
The LaCie USB speakers received the royal treatment from Parisian designer Neil Poulton, famous in artistic circles for his mass-produced minimalistic objects. The speakers are curved like the tip of an exhaust pipe and decorated in a sleek white housing with a matte black border surrounding the perforated speaker cover. LaCie obviously put a lot of creative effort into the design of these speakers.
The circular ring underneath the speakers is made of a sticky rubber that prevents them from slipping around on your desk. The bottom of the right speaker houses all of the necessary cables: one cable that connects the right and left silo and another hardwired USB cord to plug into a computer. There's also an eighth-inch line-in port and a hole for the AC adapter if you want to connect to an external audio player. Finally, the speakers have a small cutout on the bottom that neatly guides the two cables and allows the speakers to sit flush against a hard surface.
Setting up the LaCie USB Speakers is easy: just connect the two speakers and plug the USB cord into any available USB 2.0 port on your computer. You might need to tweak your operating system's settings to use the "USB Audio Device," but the speakers are plug-and-play, so there's no driver to install. The speakers are small and simple, but they lack a headphone jack and volume knob, falling victim to the classic "fashion over function" adage.
The output quality of the LaCie USB Speakers also leaves a lot to be desired. With only 1 watt of output from each channel and a limited frequency range (90Hz-20kHz), they can't reproduce music in the same aural ballpark as most digital music recordings intend. We used the speakers to play several different genres of music including modern recordings with digitally enhanced instruments and we were consistently disappointed with the results. Bass guitars and other instruments with a baritonal low end are distant and unenthusiastic and the treble sounds painfully shrill without a solid foundation. The sound quality is a small step above the stock speakers built into the average laptop.
We can cut LaCie some slack since the speaker are self-powered and are intended to be a no-fuss desktop companion, but the competition offers a much better overall deal if you're willing to plug in a power cord. For example, you can spend the same $50 on the Altec Lansing VS2421 and get a much crisper overall sound and even an adjustable subwoofer for fine-tuning to your particular taste. Another space-saving solution is the Yamaha NX-A01 that manages to squeeze an entire speaker system with headphone and stereo ports into a portable package.