Among the raft of new consumer audio products that Samson Technologies took to CES last month was a desktop speaker system for computers, laptops and tablets. The company says that the Meteor M2 stereo speakers promise studio quality sound that breaks barriers in desktop audio at volumes that go "well beyond its compact size." We got our hands on a review system and have spent much of this month putting those claims to the test.

The die cast metal enclosure of the Meteor M2 speakers has buckets of retro elegance. It's something like having a pair of old Shure or Stromberg-Carlson type microphones on either side of your laptop screen, but they throw out audio instead of capturing it. Each speaker unit houses a full range driver with a 1-inch voice coil and a passive radiator at the rear for an overall reported frequency response of 80 Hz to 20 kHz.

The actual diameter of the speaker itself is given as 2.5 inches on the online product page and 2.25 inches in the printed manual, we found the latter to be accurate. The system is touted as offering custom digital signal processing, though no further information has been provided (other than it's been optimized for fatigue-free listening).

There are three soft-touch buttons on the side of the right speaker. The uppermost powers the speakers on after being pressed for about a second. A blue LED under the brand name signifies that the M2 system is ready to for action, while the two underneath raise or lower the volume. From the back of the left passive speaker sprouts an integrated 6 ft (180 cm) long cable that ends in an RCA plug, which is connected to the appropriate port of the right active speaker at the rear.

The Meteor M2 system comes with a proprietary power adapter, which also plugs into the back of the right speaker, and the source sound provider is connected to the right speaker with a 3 ft (97 cm) male-to-male, gold-plated 3.5 mm audio jack, which is far too short to be useful in our opinion.

After about 15 minutes of inactivity, the blue LED goes out and the speakers go into sleep mode. They wake up again when source audio is detected. When awoken from sleep or switched off completely, the speakers power back at the last volume level set.

Each speaker unit measures 5.8 x 2.8 x 3.7 in (146 x 72 x 95 mm), has non-slip rubber foot and tilts back at an angle. The left speaker weighs 1.9 lb (865 g), the right comes in a bit lighter at 1.87 lb (850 g).

Sonic boom from a Meteor blast

The speakers of my portable Samsung workhorse are pretty decent, if a bit lacking in low end presence, but I generally use quality headphones helped out by a headphone amp when listening to the digital music library, watching vids or engaging in a spot of mixing, polishing and producing with Cubase. The M2 speakers offered pretty decent all-round performance when listening to high-res digital audio files via flat EQ media players on a laptop, desktop PC and dedicated music player, AAC files on an iPad mini, iPod and MP3s on an Android tablet.

Multimedia desktop speakers of similar proportions can leave the listener rather wanting when it comes to low end thump, but the M2s offered pleasantly full and rich bass. The output was also accompanied by a reassuringly strong throb running through the office desk.

Elsewhere, a strong frequency showing resulted in bright brass, clear vocals, popping percussion, lively acoustic instrumentation and rocking electric guitars. Samson does seem to have given the mid range a little more emphasis than the much more neutral headphones we'd normally be listening to, but not annoyingly so.

If we had to find fault with the sound signature then it would be at the higher end of frequency range. Cymbals, for example, had just a little too much presence for our taste, especially those in heavy rock and metal tracks, though it was a crisp tsssss rather than a sibilant tshhhh. We also found the stereo image to be rather cramped, even when the speakers were placed as far from each other as the audio cable allowed.

That said, the M2s are articulate and clear at "normal" listening levels across numerous genres and are surprisingly loud for their size. But if pushed, they did start to distort at room-filling volumes.

Watching movies proved a much more engaging experience than simply listening through device speakers, though obviously not as much as through headphones.

And the slightly forward mid and high range reproduction meant that using the M2s as small studio monitors for working in a Digital Audio Workstation was somewhat less accurate than using more neutral audio throwers, but a vast improvement on the built-in speakers of the laptop running the music production software.

The bottom line

The Meteor M2 speakers are claimed to offer the kind of listening normally reserved for larger speakers that are accompanied by a subwoofer. Realistically though, the M2s are not going to replace a powerful 2.1 channel system like Harman Kardon's similarly-priced SoundSticks III or a larger two speaker setup like the (very expensive) KEF X-Series. Then there's the question of convenience. Being tied to mains power and cables does appear somewhat old hat these days when compared to the portable wireless convenience offered by manufacturers like Cambridge Audio and FoxL.

However, Samson's desktop speakers did offer a much improved listening experience when compared to the built-in speakers present in the Samsung laptop, the Asus all-in-one computer and various tablets, smartphones and music players tested during this review. The speakers proved surprisingly loud and performed well across a number of different genres. That the M2s also look good is just the sugar coating on a well-rounded cake, though that very much depends on personal taste.

The Samson Meteor M2 multimedia stereo speaker system is available now for a recommended retail price of US$149.99.

Product page: Samson Meteor M2

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