Wireless speakers from Dynaudio: the new Xeo

Want to declutter your hi-fi? Dynaudio has one of the tidiest designs yet with its new Xeo range. What you get is a pair of active speakers with built-in DAC and wireless transmitter. The only wires you need are mains cables to power the speakers. There is also a remote for selecting the source and controlling the volume.

Xeo 5 is a floorstander with dual woofers.


Xeo 3 is a standmount or bookshelf model measuring just 170 x 281 x 246mm.


Both models have a 100w power rating (50w woofer and 50w tweeter).

You attach your sources to a transmitter box that accepts analog, digital or USB connections, though there is only one SP/DIF digital input which could be a nuisance, and it is optical only. Maximum digital resolution is 25 bit / 48 kHz.


The range of the transmitter is (roughly) up to 50 meters through obstructions, or up to 100 meters in free space.

Price is around £1180 for the Xeo 3, or £2450 for the Xeo 5, plus £210 for the transmitter.

A neat solution; but for that kind of price you will want good sound and I hope to report on that soon.

Appcelerator Titanium gets Mobile Web SDK, cloud services

Appcelerator’s Titanium cross-platform development framework has moved up a gear with the announcement of two new features:

  • A set of cloud services, based on those acquired with Cocoafish in February this year. These are now known as Appcelerator Cloud Services (ACS).
  • Support for mobile web applications as well as native

These features are integrated into the Titanium development environment, an Eclipse-based IDE which has evolved from Aptana, a JavaScript tool acquired in early 2011. Start a new project, and ACS support is included by default.


The cloud services are hosted on Amazon and comprise the following:

  • Push Notifications
  • User management
  • Photo manipulation and storage
  • Places (rich location storage)
  • Social integration
  • File Storage
  • Check-ins
  • Status updates
  • Chats
  • Friend connections
  • Ratings and Reviews
  • Discussion forums
  • Event planning
  • Messaging
  • Key-Value data storage

“We have a portfolio of additional services rolling out over the next several quarters,” said Jo Ann Buckner, VP of Product Management. There are code examples here. A limited usage of the services is available free, after which it is pay as you go. It is a REST API that you can use from any platform; use of Titanium is not essential.

The other big feature is the Mobile Web SDK. Why is Appcelerator doing this given that it has been pushing native code apps as the way forward for mobile deployment?

“Two reasons,” says Buckner. “The debate has been going on for a long time, is it native, or web? Our position is that it native and mobile web are complementary. We have customers building native apps with Titanium that also want to have a mobile web presence, even for iOS and Android. Some customers will just interact with a mobile web site and never download the application.

“The second is reach beyond iOS and Android.”

Does that mean Appcelerator will not support other platforms such as Blackberry or Windows Phone with its native approach? “This is not a replacement for those efforts. We are investing in support for additional platforms,” says Buckner.

There are differences of course between what you can do in a native app, and what you can do in a web app, and these differences vary according to the target browser. Titanium allows you to write platform-specific code in order to workaround these problems, or to vary the user interface to suit the device. The illustration below shows the new Titanium IDE with an app which targets both Android and the Mobile Web, and you can see the folders on the left which separate common code and platform-specific code (click the image to enlarge).


Titanium installs its own web server for testing. Here is an example running in the Android emulator, served from Titanium.


When should you do a native app and when a mobile web app? “You’re going to build more than one application,” says Mike King, Appcelerator’s Principal Mobile Strategist. “If you are doing an augmented reality application the native interaction is going to require that to be a native application. You can do a forms-based application as well, and mobile web is going to be a better fit for that. Different use cases require different architectures.”

But why do your mobile web apps in Titanium, when you could use pure HTML 5 tools instead? “It’s about one platform for all of your development requirements, as opposed to one for native and one for HTML 5,” says King.

Titanium is certainly evolving with impressive speed. The latest 2.0.1 IDE is a rich tool, and pop-up help guides you concerning supported platforms for each keyword.


Another strong point is the way you can easily write conditional code for tablet form-factors.

The comparison with Adobe PhoneGap is interesting. PhoneGap takes a different approach, supporting native apps but by means of the embedded browser in each device, rather than by building a native user interface. Titanium’s new mobile web support is different in that it runs as a web app in the browser, not as a native app with an embedded browser.

Nokia Lumia strategy needs time, may not have it

A quick comment on Nokia’s dismal results for the first quarter of 2012. Sales are down 26% quarter on quarter; Smartphone sales down 38% despite the introduction of the Lumia Windows Phone in Europe. Negative operating margin, heavy losses.

The reasons given?

  • competitive industry dynamics continuing to negatively affect the Smart Devices and Mobile
    Phones business units;
  • timing, ramp-up, and consumer demand related to new products; and
  • the macroeconomic environment.

Translation: the new Lumias are failing to compete effectively against Apple iPhone and Google Android devices.

I have a Lumia 800 and like it increasingly. It is elegant and nice to hold, it works well, and Nokia Drive makes an excellent SatNav, to mention three good things.


Nevertheless, I am not surprised by the poor sales. When I first got the Lumia its battery life was poor; it is still not great, but was much improved by the last firmware update I installed (1600.2487.8107.12070), for which I had to use a manual process.

There was also an aggravating problem where if the phone ran out of power completely, it could not easily be charged. In other words, it was nearly a brick, though I managed to coax it back to life by repeatedly reconnecting the charger. The problem seems to be fixed with the latest update.

I do not think my experience is untypical, and can see that while in one sense it is a great phone, from another perspective it qualifies as buggy and problematic; I expect returns were above average.

The problems are fixable, but with hindsight Nokia should have worked that bit harder to ensure a trouble-free launch. The US launch of the Lumia 900 may be better since the company has had a little more time to improve quality, though there was a data connection bug.

Everything to prove

The bigger problem is that Windows Phone has everything to prove; iPhone and Android dominate the market, so the Lumia has to be sufficiently better to win customers over to a braver choice.

App availability is another factor. Windows Phone is not on the radar for most app vendors – because its market share is too small.

Despite a few lapses, I have been impressed with what I have seen of Nokia’s Windows Phone efforts. Nokia’s marketing and developer evangelism has been far better than Microsoft’s. At Mobile World Congress in February Microsoft had a large stand but was mainly doing silly “smoked by Windows Phone” demos, while Nokia’s stand was humming with activity.

Microsoft more to blame than Nokia

I also incline to the view that Microsoft is more to blame than Nokia – except insofar as Nokia could have made a different choice of partner.

Windows Phone 7 was nicely designed but badly launched, more than a year before the Lumia appeared. The launch hardware was uninteresting and Microsoft failed to line up strong operator or retail support for its devices. Microsoft focused on quantity rather than quality in the Windows Phone app store, resulting in a mountain of rubbish there.

The pace of development in the Windows Phone 7 operating system has also been rather slow, but the issues are more to do with marketing and partner support than with the OS itself.

Nokia has gone some way towards fixing the issues. Its devices are better, and so is its marketing. It is unlikely though that Nokia can succeed unless Microsoft also ups its smartphone game.

The future

Microsoft’s strategy for Windows Phone and Windows 8, as far as I am aware, does make some sense. We will see convergence of the operating system, improved tool support with an option for native code development, and a coherent cloud story.

This will take time to unfold though. It also seems likely that Windows 8 will have a rocky launch, with desktop users disliking the Metro-style elements imposed for the sake of tablet support. Nokia has indicated that it will be producing Windows 8 tablets as well as phones, but whether this will be an instant hit is at the moment uncertain.

Who knows, perhaps it will be Windows 9 before Microsoft really makes its tablet strategy work.

The problem is that Nokia does not have time to wait while Microsoft sorts out its mobile phone and tablet strategy. It needs quick success.

Two final thoughts.

First, Microsoft can hardly afford to see Nokia fail, so some sort of acquisition would not surprise me.

Second, how difficult would it be for Nokia to bring out some Android smartphones alongside its Windows range? Currently we are told that there is no plan B, but perhaps there should be.

Microsoft results: old business model still humming, future a concern

Microsoft has published its latest financials. Here is my at-a-glance summary:

Quarter ending March 31st 2012 vs quarter ending March 31st 2011, $millions

Segment Revenue Change Profit Change
Client (Windows + Live) 4624 +177 2952 +160
Server and Tools 4572 +386 1738 +285
Online 707 +40 -479 +297
Business (Office) 5814 +485 3770 +457
Entertainment and devices 1616 -319 -229 -439

What is notable? Well, Windows 7 is still driving Enterprise sales, but more striking is the success of Microsoft’s server business. The company reports “double-digit” growth for SQL Server and more than 20% growth in System Center. This seems to be evidence that the company’s private cloud strategy is working; and from what I have seen of the forthcoming Server 8, I expect it to continue to work.

Losing $229m in entertainment and devices seems careless though the beleaguered Windows Phone must be in there too. Windows Phone is not mentioned in the press release.

Overall these are impressive figures for a company widely perceived as being overtaken by Apple, Google and Amazon in the things that matter for the future: mobile, internet and cloud.

At the same time, those “things that matter” are exactly the areas of weakness, which must be a concern.

A bug in embedded Internet Explorer in Windows 8

Long-time readers of this site may remember that I did some work on embedding Internet Explorer, and its core rendering component MSHTML, in .NET applications. The code is still online.

I noticed that it does not work properly in Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Specifically, plain HTML works but you can no longer apply external CSS stylesheets. I reported the bug here (sign-in required).  I did not use my own component, but rather the standard WebBrowser control. I have appended the code to reproduce the bug in case you cannot see the report.

Microsoft has now responded as follows:

We were able to validate your feedback. However, based on the limited impact this bug may have, we will not be able to address this bug during this release.

This status is also known as “won’t fix” and gives me pause for thought. How many other little bugs are there which Microsoft is not fixing, but which break a certain number of applications?

If you are one of those few people using embedded IE in an application, I suggest checking Windows 8 compatibility now to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Perhaps it would be preferable to use WebKit or Gecko (Mozilla) rather than IE in any case. There is a thread on stackoverflow that discusses some options. OpenWebKitSharp looks promising.

Code to reproduce the bug:

Create a Windows Forms application in C# in VS 11. Add a Webbrowser control and two buttons, and an OpenFileDialog control. Also add a reference to the COM library Microsoft HTML Object Library.

Here is the code for the first button that loads some HTML:

string sHTML = "<html><head><title>Some title</title></head><body><p>Some text</p></body></html>";
this.webBrowser1.DocumentText = sHTML;

Here is the code for the second button that applies a stylesheet:

openFileDialog1.Filter = "CSS files|*.css";
if (openFileDialog1.ShowDialog() == DialogResult.OK)  {
mshtml.HTMLDocument doc = (mshtml.HTMLDocument)this.webBrowser1.Document.DomDocument;

This is the stylesheet I am applying:

    font-family: Arial;
    font-size: 18pt;

To reproduce, run the application. Click the first button to load the HTML. Then click the second button to apply the stylesheet. In Windows 7 and earlier the stylesheet is applied. In Windows 8, the stylesheet is not applied.

UPDATE: It seems this bug was fixed in Windows 8 RTM, despite the “will not fix” designation. Good.

Windows 8 to be called Windows 8, no Outlook on ARM

Microsoft has announced the range of editions planned for Windows 8, which is now the official name (previously it was a code name).

Here is what I found interesting. Windows on Arm (WOA) is now called Windows RT and ships with Office included. However, Outlook is not included, confirming my suspicion that Outlook may gradually get de-emphasised in favour of separate email, calendar and task managers built into the operating system but with strong Exchange support – a good move since Outlook is perhaps the most confusing and over-complex application that Microsoft ships.

Windows RT is missing some features which are in the Intel versions, not least the ability to install desktop software, but has an unique feature of its own: device encryption.

I consider Windows RT as critical to the success of the Windows 8 project, and the only edition that may compete effectively with the Apple iPad in terms of price, convenience, battery life and usability. That said, the market will see the Intel version as primary, since it is the one that can run all our existing apps, but all the legacy baggage will also weigh it down. Users will suffer the disjunction between Metro and Desktop, and will need mouse or stylus and keyboard to use desktop applications. The danger is that Windows RT will get lost in the noise.

Hands on: building an app for Windows 8 Metro

How difficult is it to build an app for the Windows Runtime (WinRT), which powers Metro-style apps in Windows 8?

Here is how I created a simple calculator app (this is one in an occasional series) using Visual Studio 11 beta. I started with a new Visual C# Windows Metro Style project, choosing a blank template.


A slight complication is that you are prompted to install a Developer License, which means logging into your Windows Live account.


Next, I had to layout the controls. Visual Studio creates a single-page app with a main page called BlankPage.xaml. I renamed this to Calc.xaml. I also used Visual Studio’s refactor menu to rename the page class from BlankPage to Calc.


The default application has a black background, which seems gloomy. I changed the Background of the container grid to white.

My basic calculator design is based on six rows and four columns, so I added 6 RowDefinitions and 4 ColumnDefinition to the XAML grid. The units for RowDefinitions and ColumnDefinitions can be set to Auto, Pixel or Star. Star means the unit is a weight which is calculated at runtime. For example, if you set the value of one RowDefinition.Height to 2 and the others to 1, the first one would be twice as high as the others. Here is my basic grid:


Next, I placed controls in the grid. The easiest way to get them to fill the space neatly is to set their HorizontalAlignment and VerticalAlignment properties to Stretch. Then you control the margin round the control with the Margin property. You can have a control fill more than one cell by using the Grid.ColumnSpan and Grid.RowSpan properties.

I found it easier to add the controls in code using copy and paste.


A Grid has no FontSize property, and although the Page has a FontSize property it does not seem to be inherited by the controls. I therefore set the FontSize individually for each control but there must be a better way of doing this.

I then wrote minimal code that performs calculations without always crashing, and tested the app.  When you debug, you can choose Local Machine, Simulator, or Remote Machine. I found it easier to debug using the simulator, since if you use Local Machine and Visual Studio is running on the main display, then the app you are debugging becomes invisible if you hit a breakpoint or exception. The simulator seems really good (it is actually a remote session into your own machine) and I would like some way of running all Metro apps in a window like this, not just for debugging!


A few reflections

A developer with experience of C# and XAML (which is also used by Windows Presentation Foundation and by Silverlight) will not have much trouble getting started with WinRT, though I noticed that XAML is substantially cut-down, as Patrick Klug observes here.

Visual Studio 2011 is an excellent IDE although I do not much like the new property editor; a minor point, but I find the latest go at prettification detrimental to usability; it is too busy. This may be a matter of familiarity and it is a minor point.


The XAML visual designer is slow to refresh even with my simple app, so this could be annoying with a more complex layout.

Layout with XAML works well, though it is more difficult than say Windows Forms for a new developer. It is easy to get peculiar results unless you do everything with pixel layout, which is not the best approach.

What about Metro itself? Apps always run full screen, and I had a problem with this in that my little calculator does not need all that space.


I am not a designer; and I suppose with a bit of effort you could add some decoration or effects to use the space, or add extra features. But why?

I was thinking about the Atari ST the other day, following the death of Jack Tramiel. The ST did not really multitask, but to get around the problem of needing to run a second app without closing the first, it had the concept of desktop accessories, available from a pull-down menu. My calculator would work well as a desktop accessory in Metro, except there is no such concept – unless you count the “Snap” split view. I wonder if Microsoft is too religious about its “Immersive UI” concept.

A few reservations then; but that does not take away from the overall impression of a strong integrated development experience for building Metro-style apps.

My tribute to Jack Tramiel, Commodore PET and the Atari ST

Jack (or Jacek) Tramiel has died at the age of 83. He was born in Poland, survived Auschwitz, and emigrated to the USA in 1947. He founded a typewriter import company called Commodore Business Machines, which transitioned into digital calculators and then a computer called the Commodore PET.

This was my first computer, which I acquired second hand.


I had an external disk drive that was almost as large as the computer itself. There was a word processor called WordCraft that was rather good, though you could only fit a page of A4 into the 32K of RAM. A spreadsheet called VisiCalc that was excellent. And a database manager whose name I forget that was terrible.

The great thing about the PET was that you had to program it. BASIC was in ROM, and in essence when the computer started up it said to you “write some code.”

You could also get a book called The Pet Revealed which indexed every address and what it did. This was a computer you could actually understand.

Tramiel left Commodore in 1984, after a triumph with the bestselling Commodore 64. He acquired the video game company Atari from Warner Communications. In 1985 Atari released a 16-bit computer called the Atari ST, based on the Motorola 68000 CPU.

Picture © Bill Bertram, 2006

The Atari ST was my second computer. At the time, the choice was between the Atari ST, the Commodore Amiga, the Apple Macintosh, or a PC.  The Mac was too expensive, and the PC was both expensive and looked out-of-date with its character-based user interface. The ST (or “Jackintosh”) won over the Amiga for my purposes (mainly word processing) thanks to its excellent high-resolution 640 x 400 mono monitor and low price. I was sold.

The ST proved a great choice. There were many superb applications, and ones which come to mind are Protext, Signum, Superbase, Notator, Calamus, Logistix, Degas, Neodesk; and for gaming Dungeon Master, Populous, Falcon and more. I still have it in the loft though I really should find a better home for it.

The ST was also well supported for programming. I used mainly GFA Basic and HiSoft C. There was also an innovative game creator called STOS.

Admittedly there was a touch of “held together with string and glue” about the ST which I suspect was to do with Tramiel’s personality and desire to prioritise bringing value to the mass market. That said, my 1040STE in the loft still works so I cannot complain.

I learned a lot and achieved a lot with Tramiel’s computers. Thank you Jack Tramiel.

Windows Phone and Windows 8 convergence: a few more hints from Microsoft

The moment when Nokia is in the midst of the US launch for its Lumia 900 phone, which both Nokia and Microsoft hope will win some market share for Windows Phone 7, is not the best time to talk about Windows Phone 8 from a marketing perspective. Especially when Windows Phone 8 will have a new kernel based on Windows 8 rather than Windows CE, news which was leaked in early February and made almost official by writer Paul Thurrott who has access to advance information under NDA:

Windows Phone 8, codenamed Apollo, will be based on the Windows 8 kernel and not on Windows CE as are current versions. This will not impact app compatibility: Microsoft expects to have over 100,000 Windows Phone 7.5-compatible apps available by the time WP8 launches, and they will all work fine on this new OS.

Nevertheless, Microsoft is talking a little about Windows Phone 8. Yesterday Larry Lieberman posted about the future of the Windows Phone SDK. After echoing Thurrott’s words about compatibility, he added:

We’ve also heard some developers express concern about the long term future of Silverlight for Windows Phone. Please don’t panic; XAML and C#/VB.NET development in Windows 8 can be viewed as a direct evolution from today’s Silverlight. All of your managed programming skills are transferrable to building applications for Windows 8, and in many cases, much of your code will be transferrable as well. Note that when targeting a tablet vs. a phone, you do of course, need to design user experiences that are appropriately tailored to each device.

Panic or not, these are not comforting words if you love Silverlight. Lieberman is saying that if you code today in Silverlight, you had better learn to code for WinRT instead in order to target future versions of Windows Phone.

The odd thing here is that while Lieberman says:

today’s Windows Phone applications and games will run on the next major version of Windows Phone.

(in bold so that you do not doubt it), he also says that “much of your code will be transferrable as well”. Which is equivalent to saying “not all your code will be transferrable.” So how is it that “non-transferrable code” nevertheless runs on Windows Phone 8 if already compiled for Window Phone 7? It sounds like some kind of compatibility layer; I would be interested to know more about how this will work.

I was also intrigued by this comment from Silverlight developer Morton Nielsen:

Its really hard to sell this investment to customers with all these rumors floating, and you only willing to say that my skill set is preserved is only fuel onto that. The fact is that there is no good alternative to Silverlight, and its an awesome solution for distribution LOB apps, but the experience on win8 is horrible at best. And it doesn’t help that the blend team is ignoring us with a final v5, and sl5 is so buggy it needs 100% DEET but we don’t see any GDRs any longer.

What are these acronyms? DEET just means insect repellent, ie. bug fixes. GDR is likely “General Distribution Release”; I guess Nielsen is saying that no bug-fix releases are turning up are turning up for Silverlight 5, implying that Microsoft has abandoned it.

All in all, this does not strike me as a particularly reassuring post for Windows Phone developers hoping that their code will continue to be useful, despite Lieberman’s statement that:

I hope we’ve dispelled some of your concerns

Still, it has been obvious for some time that WinRT, not Silverlight, is how Microsoft sees the future of its platform so nobody should be surprised.

Update: Several of you have commented that Lieberman talks about WinRT on Windows 8 not on Windows Phone 8. Nobody has said that WinRT will be on Windows Phone 8, only that the kernel will be the that of Windows 8 rather than Windows CE. That said, Lieberman does specifically refer to “the long term future of Silverlight for Windows Phone” and goes on to talk about WinRT. The implication is that WinRT is the future direction for Windows Phone as well as for Windows 8 on tablets. Maybe that transition will not occur until Windows Phone 9; maybe Windows Phone as an OS will disappear completely and become a form factor for Windows 8 or Windows 9. This aspect is not clear to me; if you know more, I would love to know.

Audyssey Lower East Side speakers: remarkable sound quality in a compact package complete with DAC

Audyssey is a US company best known for its audio processing technology, as found in high-end home cinema receivers and the like. Recently the company has turned its attention to home audio, and now has a range with a couple of iPod/iPhone audio docks and these powered speakers, engagingly named “Lower East Side” (LSE), this being a tribute to a Manhattan neighbourhood which Audyssey says is “the stomping ground for bands propelling cutting-edge music at venues like CBGB, ABC No Rio and Arlene’s Grocery.”


Audyssey is a company with attitude. You can expect that:

  • Audio quality will be high
  • Design will be individualistic but clean and uncomplicated
  • Products are for the modern listener equipped with Apple devices and the like, no CD player in sight
  • Prices will be at the premium end of the market

On that last point: do not write these off as too expensive until you have heard them. Yes, they are expensive compared to say a pair of Creative Inspire T10s (about 20% of the price) or Gigaworks T20 (about one third the price). Bear in mind though that the LESs have a built-in DAC and sound good enough than with something like a Mac Mini and nothing more you have a respectable and very compact home audio system.

What’s in the box

Inside the sturdy box you will find two powered speakers with integrated metal stands, each around 23cm (9 in) high and 12.4 cm (4.9in) wide including the stand. There is also a chunky power supply, a 3.5mm audio cable, a further cable that connects the two speakers, and a quick-start manual.

Connections are simple. The right-hand speaker has both optical and analogue audio inputs, plus a power socket. It also has a speaker output which you connect to the left-hand speaker with the supplied cable.


Now attach a device with an audio output, and play.


On the front of the right-hand speaker you will find a volume control which also switches the unit between standby and on. You do this by depressing the control, so when you turn it back on the volume remains as it was last set – a thoughtful detail.

Sound quality

The sound quality is remarkable. The aspect that is most surprising is the bass: put simply, these speakers sound much larger than they really are. The bass is not bloated or boomy though, especially if you use the digital input which I recommend.

I played Sade’s song By Your Side from Lover’s Rock. This song is characterised by deep bass which contrasts with Sade Adu’s silky clear vocals. On lesser systems the whole thing turns to mush, but this sounds great on the LESs. So does Prodigy’s Voodoo People, which depends on pounding bass for its potency.

The Miles Davis classic Kind of Blue is well conveyed, with piano that sounds like piano, the bass melodies easy to follow, and breathy trumpet that transports you back to the fifties studio where it was recorded (I seldom hear modern recordings that sound as good).

Any flaws? Well, you need to be realistic about the absolute volume level you can get from these things. They go loud enough for most listening, but you really want to rock out or party, look elsewhere. I would also worry about the longevity of the units if you max them out for long periods; though those fears may be unfounded.

The bass is prominent but not excessive in my view, unless you site them in a corner that further emphasises the bass, in which case you may find it too much.

I compared the LESs to a more expensive separates system with full-range floorstanding speakers. The LESs survived the comparison with credit; but you can hear how the vocals sound small and boxy relative to the large setup.

That said, when I was playing the LESs someone who came into the room was not sure whether the small or the large system was on; they are that good.

I compared the sound of the digital versus the line-in input. It goes without saying: if you use the line-in, then the quality is constrained by the quality of the DAC and pre-amplifier which precedes it. Attach a smartphone or MP3 player, for example, and it will probably be less good than the DAC in the LESs. Then again, most of these devices do not have a digital output so you have to make the best of it.

I used the Squeezebox Touch, which has a high quality DAC of its own, for a fairer comparison. It is hard to be sure, but to my ears the line-in option was slightly less clear than the digital, and slightly more bass-strong. My preference is for the digital connection.

Technical details

The supplied leaflet does not tell you much about the specifications. There are more details on the box:

  • Two silk-dome tweeters
  • Two 3.5” woofers
  • Two 4” passive bass radiators

These bass radiators are the secret of the LES’s extended bass. They occupy a large part of the back panel on each speaker:


Note that these are not active speakers; they are correctly described as powered speakers because they have a built-in amplifier but the crossovers are passive, and the left-hand speaker receives an amplified signal from the right.

That said, in the hands of audio engineers a design like this has some of the advantages associated with an active loudspeaker. In particular, the amplifier can be designed specifically for the transducers, whereas a separate amplifier has to be designed to work with whatever speakers happen to be connected. This is especially true if you use the built-in DAC, allowing the integrated electronics to handle the entire analogue chain.

Audyssey revealed a few further details on its web site:

The LES speakers have passive crossovers.  We don’t list the amplifier power because it is meaningless in a powered speaker–it only has meaning in stand-alone amplifier.  The speakers are rated to produce 95 dB SPL at 1 m listening distance.  The optical input accepts PCM signals up to 24 bits/48 kHz.  Audyssey Smart Speaker technology is used to design the speaker driver, enclosure, and amplifier in conjunction with Audyssey EQ, Dynamic EQ and BassXT technologies.

I was interested in the remarks about high resolution PCM input. What about the common 24/96 format? I tried a 24/96 signal and the good news is that it played fine. Whether that means that the DAC actually fully supports 24/96, or whether it is played at 24/48 resolution, I do not know. I doubt that the difference would be audible.

Worth noting: both inputs are active all the time. This can be a good thing, if for example you want two sources plugged in, but only if you are careful not to play them both at once!


There are a few. One is that the speakers have an auto-standby feature, which kicks in if you stop playing music for a while. There is no auto-on though, so you have to get up and turn them on: fine if they are on your desk, but irritating if you are sitting at the other end of the room.

A remote volume control would be nice (and would deal with the standby problem too). That said, in most cases you have a volume control on the input that you can adjust remotely, but this is not always the case.

The line-in needs a relatively high signal level in order to make use of the full volume of which the speakers are capable.

The power supply is not universal. This means you cannot buy these in the USA but use them in the UK, for example, unless you get a new power supply or step-down transformer. The power supply is also rather bulky, for which there may be good audio reasons, but it detracts from the compactness of the design.


Despite a few niggles, the sound quality on offer is extraordinary for the size of these speakers; they are the best speakers of this type which I have heard. If you want something to sit on your desk plugged into a Mac or PC, but without compromising sound quality, these are ideal. They also make a great companion to a Squeezebox Touch or similar: all your music, in good quality with little clutter.