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LaCie FireWire speakers review: LaCie FireWire speakers

Looking like they've been plucked from the deck of a cruise ship, LaCie's FireWire speakers sound great, but are best suited to party animals who like a lot of volume.

Ella Morton
Ella was an Associate Editor at CNET Australia.
Ella Morton
3 min read

A tubular periscope or something off the deck of a P&O cruise ship -- the two images that appeared in our heads when we unboxed LaCie's FireWire speakers. The smooth white tubes, designed by Neil Poulton may have a nautical feel, but they're right at home flanking an LCD monitor or laptop screen.

8.0

LaCie FireWire speakers

The Good

Sleek and sexy. Few cables. Powerful sound, no tinniness.

The Bad

May require adjustments that aren't mentioned in the manual. High volume. No visual volume indicator.

The Bottom Line

They look and sound great, but are best suited to party animals who like a lot of volume.

A 6-pin FireWire 400 port connection provides both power and audio, meaning there isn't a tangle of cables or a chunky power adaptor to deal with. AC power is an option, but you'll need to buy the adaptor separately. You can also plug in an MP3 player via the 3.5mm line-in port -- there's a cable in the box.

The left speaker is a study in purest minimalism, with just one thin hardwired cable emerging elegantly from the recessed underside. This cord plugs into the underside of the right speaker, where you'll also find the power socket, line-in port and an LED that glows sapphire when the speakers are plugged in.

The undersides are also equipped with a spool each, allowing you to wind the cables into each speaker for neat storage. It's all very civilised. The only downside is that the ferrite cylinder on the FireWire cable is placed close to the spool, and can get in the way when you attempt to coil the cord.

While the designer looks will enhance the class factor of your desktop, the simple aesthetic does have a downside -- as with Harman Kardon's SoundSticks, there are no visual indicators for volume level. There are no controls for volume either; you'll need to make all adjustments on your computer or MP3 player.

To test the LaCie speakers, we plugged them into a MacBook Pro, loaded iTunes and cued up Beck's Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime. Expecting to hear the soulful strains of the indie stalwart, we were taken aback by a sped-up song that sounded as though it had been remixed by Alvin and the Chipmunks. The "Beck on helium at double speed" effect wasn't the sole peculiarity either: when we unplugged the speakers then re-attached them, two songs began playing simultaneously.

There was nothing in the scant manual to indicate that this was normal, so fearing a poltergeist, we checked the technical support section of LaCie's Web site. The product FAQ allayed our fears, explaining that Mac owners need to delve into their MIDI set-up and switch their audio frequency from 32KHz to 44KHz. (They specify "PowerPC" Macs, but our Intel-powered MacBook Pro begged to differ.) Easy enough to accomplish, but it would have been handy if this info was in the user guide.

Windows users shouldn't need to mess with their MIDI, but may need to install drivers. These are supplied on a CD.

With our sound set-up sorted, we breezed through a playlist incorporating an eclectic mix of genres. There was a significant difference between these speakers and USB-powered versions -- the sound felt richer and more powerful, and volume levels were much higher. Though there's no subwoofer to boom out the bass, low-end audio is quite well-rounded, and the sound carries far into the room. Higher-frequency sounds are handled even better, with none of the tinniness we've encountered in USB speakers.

The LaCie speakers make for a sleek and sexy addition to your computer set-up, and the lack of serpentine cables to stash is a bonus. They're also reasonably priced at AU$149. Our main complaint would be that they are almost too powerful -- if you like to have tunes playing quietly in the background, you'll probably need to adjust both your system volume and the volume within your music player app. If you forget this before you press play, be prepared to get a knock on the door from some irate neighbours.