Wired computer speakers aren’t irrelevant, but we see far fewer of them than we do Bluetooth speaker systems these days. Even more rarely do we see stereo PC speakers priced like the Satechi Dual Sonic Conical v2.0—$29.99 is all you need to pony up for this simple sound system. I’d love to be able to tell you what a steal they are, but from the audio performance to the design, the Dual Sonic sound and feel like budget speakers. They’re able to at least reproduce audio clearly at moderate volumes, but if you’re looking for solid audio performance in a stereo pair, you’ll need to spend more than $30.
Available in black or white, the conical Dual Sonic speakers measure 8.2 inches in diameter and 2.6 inches deep. Each speaker is angled slightly upward and vaguely resembles a megaphone. The upward angle is a smart design touch, allowing for a more direct audio path to your ears, and thus more treble clarity. Behind each grille, a 5-watt, 1.5-inch driver delivers the audio.
The simple, elegant design of the speakers themselves is undermined to a degree by the cables protruding from them. Perhaps we are getting used to the cable-free existence Bluetooth provides, and so any obvious cables seem to stand out now, but the Dual Sonic’s hardwired cable also seems too short. If you have a large monitor, for instance, fitting the cable all the way around the back of the screen leaves little slack. And don’t forget that the USB cable, also hardwired, must be connected to a USB port on your computer or a charger because the Dual Sonic lacks its own power supply. Luckily, the USB cable has some length to it, but between the cable connecting the left and right speakers, the USB cable for power, and the 3.5mm cable for audio, the Dual Sonic has plenty of wires detracting from its elegance.
The volume knob looks like an inline lamp switch and works independently of your computer or any other device you connect it to, so you’ll be managing the speaker volume plus your source volume to get things at the right level.
The speakers can get quite loud considering their size and price, but consider yourself warned: Even songs without tremendous bass make them scoot across surfaces when volume levels are high. The built-in stands and a tiny rubber pad at the bottom of each speaker do little to prevent this.
On tracks with powerful sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Dual Sonic 2.0 does what you’d expect speakers this size and price to do—distort pretty heavily. Distortion aside, the speakers can’t really deliver a strong sense of bass, either. At moderate volumes, the distortion isn’t an issue, and this track sounds crisp and bright, with the low-mid thump of the beat the closest thing to deep bass response the system can deliver.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track without much deep bass in the mix, sounds crisp and clear. The drums on this track have the potential to sound thunderous, but on a flat system, they typically sound full and vibrant, and less like mega-bass thunder. Here, however, they sound like polite taps and are relegated to the background. Callahan’s baritone vocals and the guitar strumming are the most prominent sounds in the mix, each receiving plenty of treble presence in the high mids, lending a crackling, bright sound to the mix. There’s a decent presence throughout the mids, but the highs are in charge of this sound signature.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop also receives plenty of high-mid and high frequency presence, allowing its attack to retain its sharp edge and slice through the mix as one of the more prominent sounds. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat have no real bass presence—we hear their raspy top notes, but nothing in the deeper lows. The vocals on this track stand out front and center in the mix, crisp and clear and without any added sibilance or harshness.
There simply aren’t too many excellent, or even very good, stereo speaker pairs in the $30 price range. There’s nothing to hate about the Satechi Dual Sonic 2.0, but there’s nothing to get excited about, either. If you’re looking to purchase speakers in this price range, there are a slew of Bluetooth options worth considering—both the Emie Radio and the JBL Clip 2 are all-in-one, portable speakers, and earn high marks despite their low prices. But if you’re looking for high-quality stereo speakers, you’ll need to spend much more money to find a pair with solid balance and bass response—both the Harman Kardon SoundSticks III and the Edifier Exclaim e10 are winners, but are far more expensive.