This speaker bar is outclassed by its rivals in pure performance, but its clever clip mounting system, clear audio reproduction, and lack of distortion at high volume keep it in contention. It can be an ideal option for anyone with a tight budget and an aversion to desk clutter.
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Inexpensive speakers don’t have to be hopelessly basic. So many models are though, including some very popular ones like those in the Amazon Basics line.
The Cyber Acoustics CA-2890 skirts that edge of mediocrity. If this $25 speaker bar were instead a set of stereo speakers, its shortcomings would allow our current favorite, the similarly priced Creative Pebble, to steamroll over it. So what keeps it out of the reject pile? Primarily one standout feature—the ability to clip it to a monitor.
Anyone with a slim flat panel monitor (no more than about 0.75-in thick) can attach the Cyber Acoustics CA-2890 to the bottom of the panel. This model effectively reproduces an speaker bar accessory that Dell has long-produced for its series of monitors, but with a universal mount. The benefit is that you don’t have to give up any desk space, making this Cyber Acoustics speaker ideal for tight spots or minimalist setups.
Of course, form factor alone wouldn’t be enough to save a truly dismal speaker. The Cyber Acoustics CA-2890 also offers decent sound, especially given its small size (2.75 x 8.25 x 1.25 inches). Audio is clean and neutral, with fairly wide projection. High-frequency sounds (like the clash of cymbals) come through crisply too, without any harshness.
However, this speaker bar does largely ditch the reproduction of low-end frequencies, a possible deal killer for those with audiophile tastes. You won’t find much in the way of bass here, which makes for audio that sounds a bit thin. That said, this tuning decision is also responsible for the CA-2890’s pleasing lack of distortion, even at full volume.
Stereo output is also weak. You barely get a feel for the directions that sounds should come from. Take the opening clapping in “Where Did Our Love Go” by The Supremes—you can guess that it starts from the right and moves a bit left, but everything mostly sounds as if front and center.
On the whole, this speaker bar is fine for listening to movies, TV shows, and podcasts. But music can quickly become a little fatiguing if you’re used to at least some tangible bass. Not everyone will mind this, particularly if the only expectation is to clearly hear what’s being said or sung. In fact, for some people, this speaker bar will sound better than most other ultra-compact speakers. Cyber Acoustics makes the most of the CA-2890’s two drivers and 2 watts of total output. You can encounter other speakers (like those built into monitors) with similar RMS specs, but these get loud and remain clear while doing so.
Speaking of going full blast—I ended up liking this speaker partially because you can push its volume. At max, you can fill a room and then some, without distortion or harsh highs. On my test PC (a Windows-based desktop computer I built myself), I generally kept it around 55 to 75 percent volume depending on time of day. If I didn’t have an air filter running constantly in the background, I could have dropped that lower.
With all honesty, this bar can outdo a fair number of laptop speakers—both in sound quality and max volume. If you dock at home often, the CA-2890 can serve laptop users equally as well as desktop PC owners.
As for controls, Cyber Acoustics keeps them simple and easy to navigate by touch. You get physical buttons for Play/Pause, Mute, Volume Up, and Volume Down. There are also two indicator lights that show the status for power (green) and mute (red). The speaker bar connects to a PC via a single USB-A cable that’s hard-wired into the unit, with full plug-and-play support in Windows, MacOS, and ChromeOS.
One last note—during testing, I noticed that this speaker bar was distorting website alert notification sounds, like those from Facebook, Google Hangouts, and Outlook. The tail end of the sound would finish in a garbled manner. Repositioning the speaker along the underside of the monitor fixed the issue.
When it comes to pure performance, this speaker bar is outclassed by its rivals—it’s average for media consumption and audio calls, and tolerable for music listening. But its clever clip mounting system, clear audio reproduction, and lack of distortion at high volume still keep it in contention. It can be a perfect option for anyone with a tight budget and an aversion to desk clutter.
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Alaina Yee is PCWorld's resident bargain hunter—when she's not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she's scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.