(Reprinted from the Fall 2004 Audio Ideas Guide)
Part of my series on Desktop Audio
At only $99.00 the Edifier R1900 is designed to compete at what is perhaps best described at the upper low end of the multimedia speaker world. It’s certainly a large step above the trashy plastic stuff, and styled to look like a semi-serious bookshelf speaker. From afar it may even look like one, but a close look reveals fit and finish befitting a bargain priced product, especially the vinyl “wood” covering the sides.
The boxes themselves are made of real wood, however, assuming you consider MDF wood. The cabinet walls are said to be about 1/2″ thick and each speaker stands 11.4″ tall, 6.5″ wide and 8.2″ deep. They’re ported at rear and shielded too, so proximity to computer gear shouldn’t pose any problems. The driver complement consists of a 1″ cloth dome tweeter and what Edifier calls a “5 inch wool mixed paper cone using diagonally reinforced cone ribbing to aid cone stiffness thereby improving bass performance”. This “ribbing”, which looks more like cutouts from the surface of the driver than “ribs”, bears more than a passing resemblance to the “sliced paper cones” used in some Scanspeak drivers found on a number of high end loudspeakers.
What Edifier calls an “extremely low noise Hi-Fi amplifier” is contained in one of the speakers and the passive speaker is fed via a supplied speaker cable from the active one. The active speaker also features rotary controls for volume and bass contour as well as power switch and RCA line level inputs. The amplifier within is rated at 22 watts per channel and cools itself via a chunky aluminum heatsink on the speaker’s rear panel.
I wish I could report that the sound of the Edifier far exceeded my expectations and set a new standard for inexpensive multimedia speakers, but, alas, listening to the Edifiers was, ahem, somewhat less than edifying. Anyone used to listening to half decent speakers will immediately notice how coloured the Edifiers are. Fed directly from the Powerbook, as well as from the Echo Indigo, the speakers sounded overly warm and fuzzy with a gauzy haze over the treble. Bottom end performance was no great shakes either, the bass very limited in extension and generally soft and indistinct. As such the speakers are very forgiving of source and program material, their colorations overshadowing any produced further up the signal chain. This, I’m afraid, may be the speaker’s only sonic selling point.
A sonically impressive active speaker system for less than a hundred bucks Canadian seemed a little too good to be true, and as is usually the case with such things, it was. I haven’t heard enough such systems to know, but the Edifier 1900 may very well be competitive with other multimedia systems at its price point. In a market niche populated by cheap, sizzly and zingy sounding PC speakers its warmth may even help it win customers, taming the brittle and abrasive top end of many computer sound cards and sounding smooth and inviting in comparison to its peers. A hi-fi speaker, however, it is not. Those interested in enjoying their music collections through a PC are advised to look elsewhere.