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Audyssey Media Speakers review: Audyssey Media Speakers

Audyssey includes a 3.5mm analog audio cable, and a speaker interconnect cable for tethering the left and right speaker to one another.

Audyssey, which until recently was known more for its behind-the-scenes audio technology in AV receivers and the automotive and theater markets, says it uses "unique audio software technology to solve problems with small speakers, which typically can't produce deep bass, lack clarity and produce poor sound quality at softer listening volumes." The company calls that technology Audyssey Smart Speaker technology, and says its new LES speakers' audio performance "far outpaces other speakers in the price category."

While we can say these speakers sound quite good--and they certainly do outpace many speakers in their price class--they don't "far" outpace every PC speaker in their price range.

The first thing you should know about them is that they're fairly aggressive. They have good, well-defined bass and good stereo imaging (we expect most people will set them up about 3 to 6 feet apart from each other. However, they tend to overemphasize detail, which makes them sound a tad coarse and grainy, especially with less-than-stellar recordings (because they accentuate detail, they also accentuate the flaws in your music).

In other words, whatever digital chicanery that Smart Speaker technology is doing to process the sound, it's pumping up the bass and treble. We listened to a variety of music from acoustical jazz to Top 40 and hip-hop tracks, and while it all sounded better than what we're used to hearing from most of the iPod speaker docks we test, with acoustic jazz, for instance, the symbols sounded tizzy, which gave the music a little bit of a harsh edge.

We also found the volume range somewhat limited. These guys just don't play terribly loud and seem ratcheted back to stay within the boundaries of a set dynamic range (this helps prevent distortion at higher volumes--a good thing).

For some folks, all that amped up detail and bass won't be a bad thing. The identically priced Audioengine 2s are mellower and more laid-back (warm, as we like to say), but some people may find that type of sound a touch bland.

One final note on performance: we spent most of our time listening to music in our tests, but we also hooked the speakers up to an Apple TV with an optical cable (not included). The speakers clearly sound much better than your typical TV speakers, so for folks who have their Apple TVs connected directly to their TVs via HDMI, this is a good way to boost your sound--assuming, that is, that you don't already have a soundbar or AV receiver.

It's also worth mentioning that when you combine these speakers with Apple TV, you automatically get wireless AirPlay functionality, so you can stream tunes from your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. When you add up the $199 for the speakers and $99 for Apple TV, you end up with a set of AirPlay speakers that sound better than other AirPlay speakers that cost more.

While we prefer the warmer sound and overall build quality of the Audioengine 2s, these Audyssey Lower East Side Media Speakers deliver quite good sound in a small, attractively designed package. Throw in the optical connection and you end up with a more versatile speaker system that can be paired with Apple TV or a game console. At $200, they may be a touch pricey, but we can still recommend them.

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