I liked these little speakers. They’re definitely not 60w output as the spec says (it uses that old chestnut, “music power”, which basically is used by manufacturers to quote higher wattage output than reality), but forget the output power: For a small room, they’ll be loud enough. You definitely would never use them in public, though.
First Impressions / Setting up
The speakers come with a 2 x RCA to 1/8″ stereo TRS cable, which makes them perfect for plugging in to a laptop, iPad or MP3 player directly, or to one of the smaller Hercules DJ controllers such as the Hercules DJ Control Air or the new DJControl Instinct models, which I suspect the speakers have been designed to complement. Also in the box is some speaker cable; only one of these speakers is “powered”; the other speaker connecting to the first one in a master/slave arrangement.
The speakers are plastic fronted but wooden cased, and matt black in appearance. Not as well made or heavy as the aforementioned M-Audio Audiophile AV40s, they’re better built that the Numark NPM5s we reviewed last week. They have a small tweeter, with a little three-spoked plastic protector like the Yamaha MSP3s, and a 3″ bass speaker with a yellow and black cone. They are front ported; there are two holes in the front which work with the bass speaker to more effectively move the air in front of them, the idea being to ultimately deliver better bass response. On the front of the main speaker are volume, bass and treble controls, plus an aux-in 1/8″ TRS socket and a headphones socket. Round the back are the on/off switch, wired power lead, speaker connectors and RCA inputs. The slave speaker omits all the controls and has just speaker wire inputs. Overall they come across as high-end desktop computer speakers (“2.0” meaning two main speakers, and no subwoofer, in terminology borrowed from PC multimedia speakers), and indeed Hercules has a similar though slightly smaller PC model, the XPS 2.0 60, already in its range.
I used the M-Audio Audiophile AV40s as the reference speaker to compare these to. First things first: For a small cabinet with a small bass speaker, the XPS 2.0 60s pump out a decent amount of bass. The little 3″ cones really work hard (you can see them moving in and out massively when you turn the speakers up), and the breeze coming out of the front ports shows how effectively the air is getting moved by these little babies!
They have a pronounced mid-range, with the high-end being not overbearing or harsh, and overall the sound is pleasing – full, engaging, reasonably refined – certainly better than I was expecting. In a straight comparison with the M-Audios, the M-Audios are better; louder, with a little more “thump”. But the Hercules pair are in the same ballpark. They sound a little smaller and less capable, like they’re stretching a little more than the M-Audios to deliver the same level of sound, which is confirmed when you push them to their limits; both pairs eventually fail to get louder and just distort, but it happens at a lower volume level with the Hercules than the M-Audios. Feature-wise, having the volume, bass and treble on the front is convenient, but it would have been nice to have two inputs round the back, so that you could permanently leave your laptop and your DJ controller wired in to them, to save either using the aux in at the front (messy) or unplugging when you want to stop DJing and use them as computer speakers. They are sold as shielded (meaning they’re meant to resist interference from screens, computers etc nearby), and they seemed as good as most in this department; but like nearly every speaker I’ve ever tested, they were interfered with by our office cordless phone, and especially by my iPhone.
I liked these little speakers. They’re definitely not 60w output as the spec says (it uses that old chestnut, “music power”, which basically is used by manufacturers to quote higher wattage output than reality), but forget the output power: For a small room, they’ll be loud enough. You definitely would never use them in public, though (not that anyone in their right mind would even use home speakers to power parties) but they could at a push double up as monitor speakers were you ever DJing at a venue that didn’t offer monitors. They have good bass, and reasonably engaging sound overall, with nothing massively offputting – although of course they don’t reach the heights of half-decent budget monitors, but they are equivalent to higher-end computer speaker systems. And as I said above, while they aren’t quite as loud or refined as my go-to desktop computer / DJ monitoring speakers, the M-Audio Audiophile AV40s, they’re there or thereabouts. Assuming their street price looks competitive when they go on sale this month (they are quoted at $129, so I’d expect to see them at $99 tops), they’re a pretty good buy, although as always, spending just a little bit more at such a low price point will always get you relatively big improvements. Nonetheless, if you have one of the tiny Hercules DJ controllers with an 1/8″ TRS master output, and you want to “keep it in the family”, they’re a good choice.