The APX-4620, from the Labtec "Performance Series" straddles their mid to high-end range, sitting comfortably below the $200 "sweet spot" at a suggested retail price of $149.99. The 4620s consist of two tall-standing satellites, and a dark, monolithic subwoofer unit, measuring 11" x 11" x 13" - certainly bigger than a breadbox, and particularly difficult to conceal. The specs are listed below:
- D'Appolito driver configuration
- Variable Spatializer® 3-D Imaging™
- 3-way electronic crossover
- Progressive suspension subwoofer
- Laminar flow bass port
- Clear Desk™ Mounting System
- Max-X™ drivers
- Convenient single-side control panel with variable volume, treble and bass controls
- Power on/off switch
- Headphone output and microphone input jacks
- Frequency response: 25Hz-20kHz
- Power output: 70 watts RMS, 44W (subwoofer), 7.5 + 7.5W (midrange), 5.5 + 5.5W (tweeter)
- (1) Shielded 6" Max-X™ progressive suspension subwoofer
- (4) Shielded 2" Max-X™ midrange drivers in satellite speakers
- (2) Shielded 2" tweeter drivers in satellite speakers
- Cord length: 7' to source, 5' between speakers
This all amounts to an impressive-sounding portfolio that we'd like to try and break down for you. The most exotic-sounding feature, the "D'appolito driver configuration" is merely a way to reduce weak or dead spots from the reproducible range of sound by using multiple drivers - the 4620s combine 2 2" midrange drivers with a 2" tweeter for each satellite unit. "Electronic cross-over" technology actively separates high and low frequency sounds to route to the tweeter or the subwoofer, respectively.
The 4620s also boasts a "progressive suspension subwoofer (the unit is on short stilts with the driver pointed towards the ground), a "laminar flow bass port," and Max-X drivers. As a general rule of thumb, it's almost always OK to completely disregard the techno-marketing speak from any speaker manufacturer - never be sold by the brochure. The best pair of speakers is the one that you feel sounds the best.
While the thought of going into a store for a listening test on a pair of $150 speakers makes you feel a little over-the-edge, I have no doubt that you'll be much happier with your purchase if you do. In fact, some stores (including the local CompUSA) have realized the importance (and cost savings) of having listening stations set up for customers, so it's probably not quite the hassle you might think it is.
Real 3D Sound?
The most "doodad-ish" function, the Variable Spatializer 3-D Imaging engine, is HRTF technology, found on a number of consumer audio products. This technology enjoyed a fad stage a few years ago, when stand-alone boxes were sold, which were meant to middleman between your sound card and speakers, giving you wondrous, full-3D sound. The Spatializer works by measuring the volume differential between each of the stereo channels, and filtering the output through a DSP to modify the timing from which sounds are played from each channel. This simulates the slight delay a sound wave takes to reach the opposing ear.
HRTF technology also includes algorithms to modify sounds, accounting for the muffling effects as they pass through/around obstructing objects, such as your earlobes, skulls, etc. However, this is more important in an active 3D positioning system (such as for a 3D sound card), and the passive system made only to enhance a stereo signal, such as the one found on the 4620s (or any set of stereo speakers/appliance) would have limited benefit from it.