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Big sound in a small package?
If you're anything like me I'm betting that you rarely use your laptop without a pair of ear or headphones plugged in. Not just because it's more private but also because the ones built in sound absolutely awful.

Of course most laptop speakers are not created to deliver big sound. In a typical notebook chassis where space is at an absolute premium and where most users don't use them anyway, speakers are more of a courtesy inclusion to relay system warnings and the odd, frequency-stunted music file. They're fine at a pinch but you really wouldn't want to listen to music through the majority of them for a moment longer than you'd have to.

If you're at home there's always the option to plug your notebook through your HiFi or your desktop PC's speakers if you have one, but this isn't an option if you're holed up in a hotel room somewhere.

Today I want to look at a portable notebook audio solution for AmacroX, a company who started life in 2003 in Germany and who now have sales offices in USA, UK, China and Taiwan. It's compact, easy to carry and claims to take your notebook audio to a new level with dual full-range speakers and an active (amplified) sub-woofer, all powered from your notebook's USB port. Sounds good...or does it?

Model name: AX-NB002/PCNB051002(White) - AX-NB003/PCNB051003(Black)
USB section - TYPE A PLUG
USB cord length - 53cm
Compliant OS - Windows XP, 2000, Mac OS9/OSX without additional driver

Amplifier section
Maximum output power - 1.2W+1.2W(10% T.H.D. 1kHz, 4 )
Input - USB terminal

Speaker section
Sub-woofer - 52mm magnetically shielded
Satellite speaker - 28mm magnetically shielded
Impedance - 4
Rated input power - 5W

Power supply - USB bus power compliant (5V, 500mA)
Dimension - 110 x 110 x 42 mm
Weight - 280g
Supplied accessories - Operating instruction 1PC

The speakers, which need a name so I don't have to keep calling them "the speakers" come in one of those great plastic packages that are impossible to open without scissors or an oxy-acetylene torch but which does offer good protection during shipping, especially against damp.

There's not a huge amount inside the package, in fact you get the speaker unit, a mini-CD and a small instruction pamphlet.

Of course I had to own a notebook with a slot-loading optical drive which makes a mini-CD about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike and I had to burn the contents onto a regular CD before I could use it. Windows XP set up the speakers without the need for the driver CD at all but if you want to access the specific features such as Xear 3D sound technology, reverb engine and equalizer etc. you'll need the software installed too.

Speaking of CD's the speaker is about the same size as a regular CD and somewhere around 4cm deep.

I don't want to get too involved in the technical details but for those who care it's powered by C-Media's CMI-102 USB 2CH Audio Controller which sports some handy features like power saving and USB bandwidth releasing (USB Suspend) functions when it's idle, anti-pop circuitry and embedded digital control amplifier.

The silver grill on the top is for the sub-woofer, though at 52mm you can bet it's not going to be loosening any fillings or breaking any ornaments. Two further full-range speakers are also integrated into the unit on a fold-up section which can be angled any way you like it.