Review: Olasonic TW-S7
by Danny Kaey on September 14 '11
Olasonic's new table desktop speakers retailing for a modest $129, are the perfect companion to your personal i-Music, i-Lifestyle, etc. Hit the warp drive to read on...
When a Japanese audiophile gets behind the design and manufacture of a speaker system, you better watch out. When said speaker system is set to redefine what's possible and sell for a US retail price of $129, look out, something big is about to happen. Yoshinori Yamamoto, the man behind these egg-shaped puppies, has held several high level positions with Sony over the years, ranging from work on Sony's SACD and Blu-ray formats. Retiring in 2008, he moved on to consult for various companies, including designing Olasonic's latest desktop speaker system reviewed here. Nominally, there's really nothing special about the TW-S7's upon first look. After all, USB compatible plug-n-play desktop speakers are as common as anything, but looks alone can in fact be deceiving. What's hidden beneath the shiny all black high quality, sturdy plastic case is where the magic is at. For starters, the TW-S7's feature digital 1-bit amplifier technology that was originally built for Sony's SACD format (Editor: a little known fact is that Sony's vision for SACD's superior 1-bit DSD technology was to incorporate that into entire lines of audio equipment, ie. speakers, amplifiers, Discman (remember those?), etc. Alas, with SACD's demise, none of that ever happened, but it's interesting to note no less for obvious reasons). Featuring "Super Charged Drive System" amplifier technology, the amplifier is actually capable of producing 10W of output power (per channel), despite the fact that these speakers are self-powered and only upon USB's power transfer. The drivers themselves are of the 60mm full range cone variety, which include a central audio diffuse, said to dramatically help with stere imaging. A flat passive radiator at the back further enhances bass output and volume. Plug-n-play is of course one part of the equation, thus, no drivers or software are necessary for Mac and PC based playback. Simply connecting the speakers to your USB input is all that it takes. My first reaction when I unpacked them was that these speakers looked quite unusual, what with an egg shaped cabinet you don't see all that often. Second, build quality was rather impressive, given the retail price of $129, no small feat. If you are thinking el-cheapo Sparkomatic, you won't find that here. Placing the speakers onto their rubber feet, said to reduce energy transfer and lower distortion levels, I was ready to give these puppies a spin. Once you get used to their egg shape, these desktop speakers appear larger than the pictures would suggest. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as I have come to find out. Placing them to either side of my monitor (PC setup running Windows 7 & iTunes), the sound stage and stereo imaging, once properly angled and toed in, was rather astounding from such a package. Bass output, too, was quite incredible, definitely giving you the feel and touch of whatever music you were playing. Though nominally rated at 10W of output power per channel, you get the feeling of listening to something far more powerful and capable. Al Green's expertly produced Lay It Down for example, played with depth, dynamics and bass output that was several orders of magnitude better than any other el-cheapo system I have heard. Lets' get real, for the asking price of $129, I sincerely doubt you will find anything remotely close to sound quality, never mind build quality. The Olasonics impress with careful attention to detail and design, jamming along with whatever you seem to throw at them. Ultimately, B&W's MM-1's or Zeppelin will play with even greater clarity and a generally more cohesive image, but then again those are several notches higher in price and don't really speak to the same target audience as the TW-S7. All in all, the Olasonic TW-S7 is quite the performer, given the retail price and overall most satisfying sound and build qualities. It simply shoes what can happen when economies of scale are applied within reason to a mass produced and mass marketed consumer product. Rumor has it Japan is selling thousands of these a month through regular retail channels, whilst gaining quick respect amongst the i-Crowd, read: Apple afiscionados. A no brainer upgrade to any stock speakers, desktop or notebook, these puppies will be a hit for the coming holiday shopping season. A+++ and most highly recommended!