Following on from my review of the great little Otone Aporto portable speakers I wanted to review something a little beefier and aimed at desktop use.
Otone were happy to oblige and for the past few weeks I have been almost exclusively using their 2.1 top-of-the-line Stilo 2.1 Pro for audio listening, gaming and more. The Stilo 2.1 Pro consists of two satellite speakers, a cube-shaped subwoofer and an amplifier to drive them all.
The speakers are oval-shaped, and decked out in Otone’s signature black/lime green/silver. They can be tilted back a good 20 degrees for filling a room when they’re stood on a desk. They have a small footprint a little larger than a credit card. This is all good, but on the down side they are hard-wired into their cables, so you wont be able to reposition them further apart than the cables allow; this is not something I’d normally expect from a truly “Pro” set of speakers. They would do well to include a standard RCA connection or screw/clip terminals.
The subwoofer, as mentioned, is a tidy cube shape which will fit on a desk if you want to keep it handy. It’s about as wide, high and deep as the short side of a sheet of A4 paper and is matte black with a gloss black front. Again it has a hard-wired cable to connect it to the amplifier.
The amp itself is an upright standing oval the same height as the speakers and is just slightly deeper than the subwoofer. It’s a pretty hefty thing to have to have on a desk, and I’d have preferred a remote-control with the amp built into the subwoofer. On the plus side, when well positioned most of its bulk (ie: depth) disappears behind its sleek front profile and it provides easy access to volume, power, bass/treble adjustment, input source selection and a 3.5mm headphone socket.
Disappointingly the volume is controlled by means of two buttons, rather than a dial. This is, again, not something I’d expect from a Pro product, and is even more bizarre when you consider that the regular Stilo 2.1 speakers do have a cabled remote with a volume dial.
This isn’t a big issue, however, as you can easily leave the volume on max and adjust it on your computer as necessary. The tactile feel of volume knobs cannot be overstated, though!
Although most of the Stylo 2.1 Pro’s design considerations are barely Pro at all, the set fortunately delivers upon its promises in the sound quality department which is ultimately where it all counts. In addition to looking good, the 2.1 Pro speakers will make a serious amount of noise, and comfortably handle all but the most punishing and ridiculous bass when driven at high volumes.
For general music listening, everything is cleanly separated and cymbals are crisp and clear, bass is punchy and there’s really nothing to complain about.
That’s the speakers. The headphone socket is a different story. Suffice to say that, unless you’re gaming or watching some inconsequential video you need sound for, you’re going to be disappointed by both the lack of volume and of audio quality when you connect headphones through the Stilo 2.1 Pro. It’s extremely handy if you have a PC sitting under your desk and need a headphone port with easier access, but ultimately if you care a lick about quality you’re going to be better off running a Y splitter and a male->female cable from under your desk than using the port on the Stilo.
Finally, missing from the Pro lineup is a ToS-Link ( optical ) input port. The Stilo 2.1 Pro don’t have one, and although that’s perfectly acceptable for a 2.1 system in this price range it’s a really great feature for any speaker set to have as it grants instant games console compatibility.
Overall, the Stilo 2.1 Pro are a mixed bag. They combine great looks and great sound with an awful lot of design choices that are anything but “Pro”. I can’t say I’m disappointed, because I’ve seen similar choices in much more expensive speakers, but expected a little more from Otone who seem to know what they’re doing. If you like the way they look, and don’t mind losing a little of that 75W output power, then the regular 40W Stilo 2.1 speakers look like a much better choice at £20 less and with a volume dial to boot. The Otone Sonara also look extremely good.