It’s probably the most common complaint about laptops that no matter how much hard drive space you have, how stunning your graphics card or the power of your CPU, when it comes to sound quality it’s hard to rise much above the noise of a tinny old transistor radio.
Of course you could plug in your desktop’s 5.1 or 7.1 surround system but that’s not much joy when you’re on the move. So to answer this dilemma Yamaha has come up with the NX-U10, a compact set of stereo speakers that amplifies the output and quality of your laptop’s audio via the USB port. So confident is Yamaha of the result that the NX-U10 has been marketed as ‘the world’s most powerful USB speaker’.
The problem in the past is that a USB port’s usual maximum output is 5V/0.5A of power which appears very feeble emerging from regular speakers. Yamaha, though, has managed to augment this to a more impressive 10W per channel using what it calls a ‘Charged Capacitor Amplifier’. In addition, the manufacturers have added a booming bass response, called ‘SR-Bass technology’, so in theory you can now play games, music and movies like they were meant to be heard.
Designed in stylish silver and a trim 33mm long, the NX-U10 is simplicity itself to set up. There are no drivers; you simply attach the USB lead from speakers to notebook, turn on the power button on the side, open the battery cover to prop up the unit and adjust the volume button.
Power is supplied via your computer, although you are provided with a separate battery holder should you wish to use the 3.5mm input jack to feed your phone, iPod or MP3 player. However if you do want to amplify these peripherals, because the speakers are all contained within one unit, the NX-U10 is too bulky to carry around in your jacket; you’ll have to keep a large handbag, backpack or briefcase within reach.
So now the $64,000 question: does it deliver? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. We tried out Half-Life 2 online and the speakers clearly differentiated between gun battles, background music and other effects whilst delivering the kind of power volume and bass rumble that gives the buzz for first person shooters.
MP3 sound was also high grade – we tried a range from Kaiser Chiefs and Kelly Clarkson to Beethoven’s Ninth – although there was slight distortion when cranked to the max.
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