Speakers that look like the Scandyna Micropod SE Active you might expect to be all style over substance. After all, anything crafted this cute and, well, crazy must be all about visual attention rather than sonic excellence.
The Scandyna Micropod SE is always going to be a head turner. The bigger surprise may be that there are sound acoustic reasons for making a speaker that looks like an undersized alien from a 50s B-movie.
Rectangular boxes for speakers have been the norm since hi-fi took off in the middle of the twentieth century, more so because square cabinets are that much easier to mass manufacture. But the regular parallel sides of such cabinets exaggerate standing wave resonances inside the box. And that can impinge on sound quality, making them thrum with certain low notes, coloring and detracting from tonal accuracy.
Before the Micropod was the Minipod, a larger and even curvier loudspeaker designed by Blue Room, when it was still a special projects division of distinguished speaker brand Bowers & Wilkins. Now the Minipod, Micropod and several other whacky looking loudspeakers are being made by Danish drive-unit specialist Scandyna.
Standing just 200mm high on their tripod feet, these small Scandyna Micropod SE Active speakers are available in conventional passive form for connection to a stereo amplifier; or as we tested them, with built-in amplification for connection directly to a PC, laptop or iPod.
The main mid/bass driver is only 65mm diameter, so they are inevitable a little light in the bass. Scandyna also sells a range of separate subwoofers to create a full-range speaker setup, but the Scandyna Micropod SE Active Active should not be ruled out for use alone on the desktop or a small room.
A 20mm soft-dome tweeter sits closely above the main drive, helping create something like a point-source radiator. That is, with the drivers’ centres so close to each other, all sound output appears to come from a single small point in the speaker. This aids stereo imaging here, making it easier to pinpoint the spatial positioning of individual sounds in the mix.
That stereo precision is also aided by the mounting of the treble unit in a streamlined cowl, which reduces diffraction effects.
It’s the right-hand speaker that contains the electronics for the system, a 10W two-channel amplifier which daisy-chains to the left speaker by a length of included speaker cable. You connect to PC through a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack. A silver knob on the right speaker’s back serves as volume control, and also here is DC power input for a 14V outboard power supply, as well as another mini jack to wire up to the optional subwoofer.
The rounded cabinet is formed from two section of ABS plastic, joined together with a visible seam running around the circumference.
Scnadyna Micropod SE Active: Sound
With our expectations managed by the tiny size of cabinet, main driver and the class-D 10W amplifier, we still found these Scandyna Micropod SE Active speakers to sound remarkably detailed.
Playing uncompressed audio files through an ADL GT40 USB DAC, they showed great reproduction of voices and lead instruments. Female vocals especially could soar clear of the confines of the speakers, to just hang in the air naturally. Similarly, acoustic guitar benefitted from the crisp and lean balance of the Micropod.
From Close to the Edge, the side-two opener ‘And You and I’ lost all the depth of the bass guitar and drum backing, leaving a near-hi-fi radio balance that was nonetheless quite compelling and insightful. Down to a certain point, you could still hear at least the overtones of all basslines.
Cabinet coloration was certainly low, and there was little evidence of resonant plumminess to bass notes.
Acoustic integration between drivers was very good, with no hint of the join that you might hear on speakers with larger mid/bass drivers.
Maximum volume is limited of course. And these will not be speakers for bass lovers – you can play Massive Attack, just don’t expect to hear any of those low fundamentals flapping your trousers.
Chamber music, jazz, and pop all work a treat. As does the speaker’s other forté: video and film playback. With an eye on the volume knob again, they work wonders at bringing out the dialogue in television and films.