Arctic Sound S361 2.1 Speaker Set Review
Testing and Conclusion
Testing speakers is one of the simpler tasks as it just involves plugging them in to a variety of sources and rocking out.
The difference that the Arctic Sound S361 make over a regular set of desktop speakers is instantly and jaw-droppingly apparent. Having much larger speakers enables the audio to be reproduced over a much greater range than you get from the speakers that are built down to a aesthetically pleasing size.
Huge response range is definitely the key. Rather than everything being compressed into the middle frequency range, having different sized speakers, with different responsibilities, allows whatever you're listening to to be freed from the normal constraints. Instead of sounding muddy or tightly packed, it has room to breathe.
The mid-range, vocals, speech and the like, has enormous clarity. You can certainly hear many things which are hidden in a less capable set of speakers, but also you have such a breadth of detail in the elements you've normally been able to hear. Subtle nuances become apparent that are otherwise hidden.
If you're a fan of Motown you'll be pleased that the high-end, although naturally not as dominant, isn't overlooked either. The sound is never tinny, but rather one of clarity. You start becoming aware that normally you're straining to hear everything, whereas with the Arctic Sound S361 listening is a relaxed and joyful experience.
Finally we have the twin-speaker, ported, sub-woofer. As one would expect this delivers unholy levels of bass for a unit this size. Bass has become one of those things that gets mentioned a lot in the blurb of any new audio item. How often have you read about headphones or speakers and all the advertising mentions the excellent bass, and all the queries from potential purchasers is "what about the bass?". Sadly this often leads to audio reproduction that is more muddy than bassy. Removing the middle and high frequencies doesn't count as improving the bass. Anyone knows that bass should be tight and crisp, not muddy and watered down. That absolutely is handled by the S361s, giving more bass than you could reasonably need yet without losing clarity in the rest of the audio spectrum.
The remote unit is of particularly high quality, being very well put together and having a quality 'heft' to it that belies the price-tag. The buttons for adjusting the treble and bass are responsive, as are those for muting the unit, as well as putting it into standby. The volume knob deserves special praise for being one of the finest we've ever come across and a tactile joy to use.
About the only criticisms we can level at the S361 are firstly, the crack in the sub-woofer and bits of glue that broke off therein. Whilst this doesn't effect the performance, and with sub-woofers normally out of the way it's not even something you notice, nonetheless we'd have been very disappointed to get it home and find this. Of course this is a one off, and not indicative of the excellent Arctic products, but I'd be remiss not to mention it.
Secondly the blue LED that is constant when the unit is on, is slightly off-putting. You need the volume controls to hand, so you're aware of it, and if you do choose to watch a film, you don't really need a bright blue light glowing away. This is a small issue compared to it's blinking when in standby. My word that is SO annoying. Why on earth is it blinking? It's nice to know the unit is in standby, but as I haven't got Alzheimer's yet I haven't forgotten whether my speakers are plugged in or not. Blinking every five seconds doesn't help.
However, these are very small issues in an otherwise exceptional unit. They might not be the most subtle speakers to ever appear on your desk, or beneath your TV, but the measure of speakers is always in the happiness they bring to your ears rather than your eyes, and the S361 make my ears very happy indeed. Available for around sixty quid, they'll make your wallet happy too.
In the quest for image quality, audio can sometimes be left behind. Treat your ears too and remind yourself that quality audio can be just as smile-inducing. Couple this with the fact they only cost around £60 and you are on to a winner, taking everything into consideration I'm delighted to award the Arctic Sound S361 our Gold Award.