Unpacking and Setup
I'm always amazed at how
small a container can hold so much stuff. The 418's had wires and stands.
And more stands. And more stands. No, I wasn't losing my mind, there are three
sets of stands for three setup solutions. Catching my eye first was the tall,
slightly "L" shaped stands. Not stands really, they provide an option
I have thought of many times, the "winged" monitor option. Some
OEM's like IBM and HP have the option to purchase fitted speakers; fitted
to the monitor that is. Affixed with double sided sticky tape, this was the
absolute coolest mounting option for anyone who doesn't mind a sticky monitor
if you ever change your mind.
The next, most sensible
mounting option is the flat surface adapters. These will place the satellites
on any flat horizontal surface and tilt them back a few degrees too. I've
listened to the panels for over 40 hours now using this configuration.
The last option was one
that makes no sense; wall mounts. The engineers should be smacked for this
one and here's the reason. Flat panels, by definition have significant output
from the rear! Hence the term, "bipolar radiator." Turn them around
and the loudness barely decreases. For flat panels to breathe properly, they
must be given some room, not only in the back, but on the sides as well.
Flat panel speakers are
nothing new. Back in the 1950's a British company by the name of Quad invented
the first commercially successful electrostatic speakers. Giant, electrified
flat screen door looking jobs, these babies had to be set several feet out
into the listening room to sound their best. And even though the Labtec's
panels are passive units, they exhibit similar characteristics. While not
nearly as sensitive as the AM radio sounding AVBTech
Sonix S-2000's, they still require some breathing room, especially in
The remaining wiring and
sub placement was a no-brainer and in a few minutes I cranked up my usual
variety of music and 3D gaming effects.
Expecting nothing more
than average bass from the small and lightweight sub, I thumbed the volume
halfway up and put on some dance tunes. Bump, bump, boom,
boom, BOOM, BOOOOOOOOM! Now, wait a minute.
Who hid the 8" woofer around here? I couldn't believe my ears; deep,
fast, solid, low bass, from a tiny driver. That's what prompted me to measure
the magic boomer first.
Labtec has intentionally
placed a moderately strong and narrow boost in the lower bass region, far
below the vocal range. Voices and other critical midrange only instruments
do not take on any extra thickness or "woofiness." The effect was
so well executed that when I broke for lunch, I poked my head into the local
Best Buy to hear the very same set. Yup, they sounded the same and that effect
stood out in the crowd. Labtec will sell a lot of 418's just from the initial
gee whiz boom EQ which they dub, "Real-Time Bass Equalization."
That being said, make
sure that an intentional bass hump is what you want. Listeners of classical
or jazz music may not be so impressed after an hour of pre-fattened timpani
and exaggerated double string bass. With most dance, rock and pop music, the
effect was mostly listenable and very entertaining.
Listenable describes the
satellites even if they are missing the top 10-20KHz octave. Which makes sense,
considering that 200Hz and up is being reproduced by a piece of plastic with
brown material affixed directly to it. My usual diet of Altec
Lansing ACS-48's didn't quite prepare me for the extremely different type
of sound the 418's make.
If you took a blanket
or thin piece of carpet and placed it over the ACS-48's, added small room
reverb and EQ'ed the highs back in (except 10-20KHz), you would nail the Labtec's
pretty closely. All hope is not lost, however as the panels get the midrange
right with added coloration. I can't emphasize enough that the three
piece setup is long-term listenable; a feat not previously attainable at TargetPC.
All music gets a mandatory live hall effect which pushes the imaging back
at least 12 inches from where it would be normally. I suppose that one problem
might be that if you get too used to the effect, all other speakers will suddenly
Let there be no mistake,
the Edge 418 flat panels are the first listenable panels I've encountered.
If you don't mind the intentional sub boost and the inherent limitations and
restrictions of flat panel technology, have no hesitation and get a set. You'll
have a pleasant and headache free experience. However, flat panel technology
has many milestones to reach before the overall sound quality can approach
the traditional round, paper/polypropylene drivers that permeate the sub $100
market. If you must have the best sound at the $80 price point, check out
Altec and Midiland's offerings as they are sans real-time equalization.