After whining about about Mocoloco getting a set of Joey Roth's ceramic speakers to review before I did, I stomped my little feet and he sent me a set to review. And I have to say, from the moment you open the box, you know this is a very different product.
Before I start, I should explain that in 2001-2003 I was working with Julia West Home on the integration of entertainment and computers into big beautiful 50s style stereo cabinets, on the principle that the computer belonged in the living room. (You can see it in Part 4 of this post) In the course of that exercise I spent a great deal of time investigating every 5.1 and 6.1 computer sound system going, and became disenchanted with them all. For my own system I have used two Tannoy speakers and a NAD amplifier, essentially a high quality stereo system, rather than computer speakers. A recent refurbishing of the Tannoys cost almost as much as Joey's whole system.
The whole system comes shipped in Joey's trademarked pulpy recycled cardboard, all tied together with a ribbon, a bigger version of how he packed the Sorapot.
The wood stand just snaps together easily,
From mocoloco, because they take much better pictures than I do.
It is beautifully made out of ceramic, with a cork end and gold plated connectors.
The amplifier is fastened to a heavy steel plate, so that the thing stays put. When you move the smooth, sensual sliding volume control the amplifier doesn't budge. It feels substantial and solid.
Controls certainly couldn't be simpler; a toggle switch and a volume control. I wish the toggle, the volume slide and the indicator light were on the front together and the input and power were on the back.
So with it all set up, how does it sound? For music, not as good as my NAD and Tannoys; it doesn't have the bass. But the stereo setup was fine for music and terrible for work. I have far too many skype conference calls every day, and the stereo was terrible for those, the speakers too far away, the voice frequencies muddied by too much bass.
The ceramic speakers make a skype conference sound like it is in the room. The controls are convenient and minimal. The switch and blue light is in my face, so I remember to turn the thing off when I am done. It takes up a much smaller footprint and consumes a lot less juice than my previous system did.
For music, once I got into the iTunes equalizer I was able to crank the bass a bit and while it still did not sound like a direct-to-disc recording on a turntable through the stereo, it was very good, better than any other system designed for computers that I had heard.
And then there are the aesthetics- They are beautiful. Everything is put together with care, using solid, high quality materials. It complements my Apple monitor nicely. I do worry about the connectors, and their ability to rotate under pressure; the nut inside could loosen over time and they might touch, shorting out the circuit.
At $ 499, they are comparable in price to Bose and other high-end brands. It is a lot more than 2.0 speakers from Logitech or Creative, but from a sound, build quality and design point of view, they don't compare.
Expensive materials and limited runs mean higher costs. But these are worth every penny. More at Joey Roth's Website
UPDATE: Now that I have written my review, I looked at some others for a comparison.
BoingBoing: "The Ceramic Speakers are about marrying distinctive minimalist design with good quality and an open-minded approach to where in the home you stick them."
Crunchgear: "I see these as the perfect speaker system for the enlightened apartment dweller. Loud, clear, and suitable for most purposes, as well as being beautiful and interesting objects."