Edifier E3350

Edifier's E3350 is a budget-level computer speaker system that tries not to seem like a set of budget speakers. This 2.1 system--which means it uses relatively compact left and right satellites for higher frequencies plus a larger subwoofer/amplifier component that sits under your desk and produces lower frequencies--stands out from most inexpensive systems thanks to a unique design and a nice set of features, if not stellar sound quality.

The E3350's satellites and subwoofer certainly don't look like those of a budget speaker system. Each component takes the shape of a triangular, convex-sided pyramid with the top chopped off. The left and right satellites are 9.4 inches tall, 3.8 inches across at the widest spot, and 4.7 inches deep, while the compact subwoofer is 8.5 inches tall, 9.8 across at the widest spot, and 11.5 inches deep.

Just as unique as the shape of each component is its shell: instead of a boring black or gray, each piece is housed in fancy-looking, metallic-finish plastic. Six eye-catching--and difficult to describe--colors are available: a grayish-teal blue, a deep orange, a light-teal-green, a salmon-y pink, a pale purple, and a gunmetal gray. The shape and finish of the components make the system look much more expensive than it is.

The E3350's subwoofer unit houses a 5-inch low-frequency driver--small by subwoofer standards--as well as the system's amplifiers, which provide 32 Watts to the subwoofer and 9 Watts to each satellite. Along the bottom of the subwoofer, in the rear, you'll find the system's connections and controls: a jack for the included AC power adapter, 1/8-inch (miniplug) jacks for connecting the satellite speakers and an audio source, a 9-pin jack for connecting the wired remote pod (described below), and a bass-level dial. On top of the subwoofer unit is a triangular, metal-finish button to toggle the system's power on and off; a red light surrounds the button when the system is in use. The placement of this power button in inconvenient, as it means you have to reach under your desk to turn the system on and off; a power button on either speaker, or on the wired remote pod, would have been better.

The plastic grille on the front of each satellite is covered in black-fabric mesh. Behind this facade sit dual drivers: a 2.75-inch midrange driver and a 0.75-inch tweeter. The only connection on each satellite is a permanently attached cable for connecting the satellite to the subwoofer. Oddly, instead of using separate cables, the two satellites share a connection to the subwoofer: the 70-inch cable splits at a Y about 15 inches from where it plugs into the subwoofer. Although this design makes for easy setup, it also means you can't place the subwoofer unit off to either side of your listening position; it must be placed essentially in the middle of the two satellites, directly underneath your desk.

I liked the E3350's remote pod, which connects to the subwoofer via a 68-inch cable. The pod's triangular base--which sports the same color and finish as the rest of the system--hosts a large, metal volume dial. The dial has a nice, smooth feel when you turn it and, like the system's power button, is surrounded by red light when the system is in use. On the left-hand side of the pod is a rubber door that hides a headphone minijack and a 1/8-inch audio-input jack for connecting an additional audio source, such as your iPod or iPhone. I wasn't a fan of the flimsy door, but it's convenient having these connections within easy reach.

It's when you get to audio quality that the E3350 shows its budget-minded pedigree. While the system has good treble extension, there's an emphasis in the lower-treble and upper-midrange frequencies that makes the system sound a bit tinny. Well-recorded acoustic tracks also lose some of their ambience, and stereo imaging isn't as good as what you get from most of the other 2.1 systems we've tested.

Still, the upper frequencies sound pretty good considering the system's price; it's the lower frequencies that are somewhat problematic. Subwoofers that use small drivers often sound boomy, with an emphasis in the upper-bass frequencies. They can also sound "one-notey" at the low end--instead of distinct bass notes of different frequencies, you get a thumping bass line that muddles notes together. The E3350 suffers from both flaws, especially at louder volumes: the system provides decent bass impact and kick, but many of the low-frequency notes seem to blend together, and the boominess of the system can get fatiguing on certain tracks. I also found that the subwoofer vibrated quite a bit if I cranked the volume too high. While you can lower the bass output using the sub's bass-level dial, this also affects the system's tonal balance.

(In my testing, the E3350's bass response starts to roll off above 100Hz, and by 80Hz has faded significantly. In other words, don't believe the manufacturer's claim of 40Hz performance.)

The E3350 may not look like a budget speaker system, but despite the fancy design and some nice features, it's still a system that costs less than $100. Which means you aren't getting high-end audio here: Bass extension is limited, the E3350 strains at louder levels, and sound quality isn't as balanced as what you get when you spend more. On the other hand, if you're on a tight budget, the E3350 provides decent sound quality, some nice features, and a standout design that could make the system a tempting purchase.

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