Testing was conducted using an ASUS Xonar Xense PCI-E sound card without any processing turned on. This card was running on an AMD/ASRock Phenom dual core platform @ 3.00GHz, 2GB DDR3 (1333). No other hardware was installed on this test bed.
We found the Microlab SOLO6C to offer great overall sound quality combined with a high level of build quality. But what really makes this a great solution is the fact that an amplifier is included for the price you would ordinarily pay for just a pair of entry level book shelf speakers. Pair these with a reasonable sound card and you get a mini Hi-Fi for a steal.
Thanks to the use of a dedicated 1" silk dome tweeter, the SOLO6C are already amongst the best in the multimedia speaker realm. During testing we found the high end to be very well balanced and integrated into the mix. During extensive listening tests, the high end frequencies were delivered with clarity and poise. Symbols and guitars sounded rich and alive, as they should sound, with complex pieces of music remaining coherent and lively.
What we really enjoyed the most, though, was the feeling of control and overall balance experienced as a result of the tweeters used in the SOLO6C. This balance is well and truly present right up until the upper most limits of the volume dial.
- Mid Frequencies:
Thanks to the use of a large 6.5" driver, the SOLO6C breezes through nearly anything we threw their way to test mid range performance. This is largely because Microlab has thrown the concept of compact desktop speakers out the window, where it should be.
What has basically happened is that rather than having a sub woofer which means extra everything in terms of manufacturing demands, Microlab has simply gone the traditional route (which we totally agree with); that being to forget the 'sub' and build decent sounding satellite speakers and be done from the get go.
How difficult is that? Which begs the question, why has no one else done this in the way Microlab has with the SOLO6C? But we digress. What's on offer here is some stunning mid range performance which made percussive instruments sound fantastic. Drums and other skinned instruments sounded musical and rich, with good tonality as well from a speaker not costing a bundle.
We would extend our praise even further by saying that for the playback of complex big band music with lots of symbols and drums, the SOLO6C is probably top three out of what we have tested over the years. But that's not totally fair, because the majority of systems out there use a sub in order to get away with 'small footprint' desktop speakers.
- Low End:
The first thing to remember here is that the SOLO6C is going to need a break-in period in order for the low end to sound its best. "Say what?" we here you murmuring to yourselves. Well, that's because of the stiff rubber surrounds which need to be gradually softened through use to allow the rubber to reach its normal state of flexibility, like a new pair of shoes, except not leather... and not for your feet.
Anyway, once this break-in period has been reached, some really good low bass can begin to be heard through the SOLO6C. No matter our test material, the low end held up well, even managing a decent amount of non-directionality which gave us the feeling of having a small sub woofer without actually having one. This is of course what any good speaker should be capable of, because if a speaker needs a sub just to 'get up in the morning', then it's probably not a very nice sounding speaker.
Just a quick reminder, good speaker technology does not require a sub woofer in order to produce deep non-directional bass. This is a popular misconception getting passed around over the last few years. Generally sub woofers are used for large scale reproduction where big crowds of people soak up low end like no tomorrow and it must be reinforced to create a balance in the sound. For 99.9% of people sitting at home, grab a decent pair of bookshelf speakers and enjoy. Don't buy into the hype that everyone must use a sub these days, because it's just not true.
Given that this is a 2.0 system, surround sound is not going to be an option, so we will not spend a lot of time dwelling on this criteria. However, during our testing we found the experience of movies and games through the SOLO6C to retain the high level of performance found above when listening to music.
For testing we left the treble and bass controls at their factory settings so as to not influence the way the speaker actually sounds. But in all honesty, we never needed to make any changes to the bass and treble during testing. However, we were using a high end sound card and this might have precluded the use of these controls.
Dialogue sounded crisp and clear with a good central stereo image forming a detailed sound stage. We also found off axis listening (not in front of speakers) to also be very impressive. We even did some listening from completely behind the speakers, totally out of position. And we still heard detailed audio.
There was also a filtering effect we heard during dialogue playback which seemed to give the feeling of having the voices 'guided' down a channel of audibility. In reality, what we were hearing was the balance of having mid range frequencies played back evenly across this part of the audible spectrum.