I've just been introduced to the wonders of the i7-2600K processor and the possibility of being able to work my photographs and listen to music at the same time. That's not something I've been able to do for a while; Photoshop is amazingly resource hungry. So, with the possibilities offered an upgrade to my old, but ever faithful Yamaha YM-10 system was required.
Having spent some considerable time researching my options, I was torn between the Altec Lansing Expressionist Ultra MX6021 and the Harman Kardon Soundsticks III. I was biased towards the latter given the huge size of the sub-woofer on the Altec system. While most reviews were rapturous about the system, several were critical of the bass; a surprise given the size of the before mentioned bass unit. When I came across the Harman Kardon Soundsticks III at the bargain price available on Amazon though, my decision was made.
Initial impressions were good. The packaging was a little `cheap' looking to be honest, but the speakers survived the trip. Lifting out the components I was immediately taken with the quality of the product. I've read that these speakers have permanent residence in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and I can see why. They are stunning. They look even better in the flesh then they do in any of the photo's I've seen. While the components are essentially acrylic, they're very solid and have a quality feel to them. Setting up the system was very simple and the satellite speakers look great next to my new monitor. The bass unit is very pretty, but I don't have the space for it on my desk, so it's on the floor where it belongs. SO, having unpacked, I plugged the units in, fired up iTunes and rocked out!
I was initially flummoxed by the perceived sound quality - a little muffled - but as others have already discussed in their review, the satellites are highly directional, so positioning makes a big difference. Oh, boy is it worth a couple of minutes setting up. I have the satellites sitting one either side of the monitor, tilted back from fully vertical by about 10 degrees and angled slightly inward. Try sitting at your normal spot on the workstation and `aim' the speakers at your ears. Bliss is bound to ensue.
I had previously taken note of a review on the Amazon.com site by a gentleman who found, as I did, that the top-end was a little too bright.[...] and toned down the output using the iTunes equalizer as Andrew recommended. I've had this problem before, and much of this has to do with the environment. I've not much in the way of soft furnishings in my office.
I've read a couple of reviews that say that the bass is a little lite with this system. All I can say is that this is not a problem I can verify. I would suggest that putting the sub-woofer on the desk may look great; it certainly is pretty, but if its sound quality you're after, then a rock solid concrete floor covered with a good dense carpet is the way forward. Bass is no longer the `thump-thump-thump' that the Yamaha sub-woofer provided, but a spectacular and tuneful rendition of the notes being played. If you ramp up the volume, you can start moving your internal organs about with the beat. There's no problem that I have on my copy of this system in that department. The bass is rock solid. Try a little Deadmau5 at volume and watch the pictures fall off the walls.
In summery then, I couldn't be more pleased with my purchase. The Harman Kardon Soundsticks III look and sound amazing. They are capable of high quality, crystal clear sound quality with clinical levels of clarity at the top end and grinding bass that's equally in evidence when driven hard, and at more serine volume levels that are certain not to annoy the neighbours. You don't have to make your ears bleed to appreciate these speakers, though they certainly will go very loud if required. For the £99.99 I paid for them they're nothing less than a solid gold bargain and I have no difficulty recommending them.