Back in the day (or way back, as it were), we recall quite vividly the impression made upon us by Klipsch's ProMedia v.2-400. It wasn't the cheapest four-piece speaker set for the PC, but compared to the competition at the time, it certainly offered up a sound rivaled only by much higher-end options -- options that were generally tailored for home theater applications. Fast forward to today, and Klipsch is still carrying on the ProMedia line nearly a decade later. The latest set to waltz into our labs are these: the ProMedia 2.1 Wireless. Essentially, these are the exact same ProMedia 2.1 speakers that were released eons ago (in the midst of the Y2K chaos, if you're looking for specifics), but with a wireless twist. Klipsch has integrated 2.4GHz wireless technology into the subwoofer, and it tossed in a USB dongle in order to beam out audio from whatever PC or Mac that you connect it to. Pretty simple, right? Hop on past the break for our two pennies on how this package performed.
We should start by explaining a little about what a buck under $200 gets you. The 2.1 system includes a ported, side-firing 6.5-inch subwoofer encased in an 11 pound box that measures 9.5- x 9.8- x 10.2-inches. Also within that is a 2.4GHz wireless receiver and amplification for all of the drivers involved: 50 watts for the subbie and 35 watts per satellite. The system has a peak power rating of 200 watts, and trust us, that's plenty of oomph for your home office. Each of the two sats include a 3-inch woofer and a 0.75-inch tweeter, and on one you'll find a subwoofer and volume knob as well as a side-mounted 3.5mm headphone jack and an auxiliary input for quickly connecting one's portable media player. The system ships with the internal receiver and the USB dongle synced, but there's a button on the subwoofer's rear in case you ever need to get the two talking once again.
Setup is about as painless as it gets; the satellite with the volume knobs has a signal socket to connect to the sub, while each sat has a run of standard speaker wire (+/- on each, not some proprietary connector -- in case you're wondering). We tested these on a MacBook Pro and on a trusty Windows XP-based desktop, and both machines required nary a driver. On the Mac, we simply inserted the dongle, confirmed to our machine that we weren't attempting to connect a new wireless keyboard, then surfed into the 'Sound' settings and changed the output from the internal speakers to the newly found ProMedia 2.1 Wireless. Painless. Our experience was similar on the Windows XP rig; after it self-installed a driver (no CD required), the new system showed up within the 'Audio' pane of the Control Panel. A quick switch in there, and our audio was pumping from the wireless system.
After plugging everything in and settling back, we fired up a few of our favorite tunes in order to have a listen. Our take? If you've ever heard any of the previous ProMedia setups, you'll be right at home here. That iconic Klipsch sound is here in full force, with crisp highs, delicate mids (which can easily have a bit more meat added with an EQ tweak) and tight, booming bass. There's no adjustable crossover available here, but we'd say that Klipsch really nailed it from the factory; the 6.5-inch subwoofer was as musical as ever, handling everything from techno loops to bass guitar slides with poise. The only real knock on the sub is likely due to its physical size; some of the low-lows didn't sound incredibly accurate at higher volumes, so if you plan on sending Fatboy Slim remixes through here ad nauseum, you may want to invest in a system with a larger earth-shaker. That said, the smaller size makes it extremely responsive to subtle changes, and it's easily the tightest bass sound we've heard in a sub-$200 PC sound system.
The satellites produced spacious, wide-ranging tones with great accuracy, and while we would've personally preferred a bit less on the high-end and a bit more in the middle, the speakers are plenty capable of delivering that once you've adjusted your own equalizer. On everything from Deas Vail to Taking Back Sunday to Metric to MGMT (and way beyond), the speakers managed to hold their own, and in the vast majority of listening situations, we found it tough to complain about any aural aspect. We should also mention that we found it physically uncomfortable to listen to these in a office desk setting at over 50 percent volume. So if you're worried about these getting loud enough for your den, office, bedroom or outdoor patio, don't be.
All told, you'll be hard pressed to locate a set of 2.1 PC speakers for less than $200 that deliver the same audio performance as these. Particularly if you're dead set on locating a wireless pair. Though, we have to say, we're a bit skeptical of the usefulness in such a setup. A grand total of four cables are still required: a main power cable, two speaker runs and a signal cable from one of the satellites. In other words, the system is still undeniably tethered to the wall, and you'll still be running cables to your satellites. Oh, and if you plan to mount said sats on the wall, you should be aware that your signal cable -- which is a required link between one satellite and the sub -- is proprietary in nature and less than 10 feet long. In other words, there's no denying that these are desktop speakers, and if you're sitting at your desk, chances are that you wouldn't be burdened by actually wiring up your speakers. We can envision a scenario or two where a wireless setup would come in handy (the aforementioned outdoor patio example comes to mind), but we'd caution you to really think out your usage patterns before spending extra on a solution you may not need. If you're still skeptical, roll by a Best Buy and have a listen to the wired ProMedias that they'll have in stock; if you're impressed with the sound there, you can rest assured nothing will change here save for one less cable.