Optimus 7 speakers

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Optimus Pro 7 Speaker System Review

The Optimus PRO-7, sold through Radio Shack stores, is a true minispeaker, small and light enough to be held in the palm of one's hand. It is also a true two-way system, with a 4-inch "woofer" in a vented enclosure and a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter. The manufacturer's specifications for the system cover only the basics: a frequency range of Hz to 20 kHz (no tolerance given), a nominal impedance of 8 ohms, and a suggested maximum amplifier power rating of 50 watts.

The PRO-7 is housed in a metal case, available in black or white. A perforated metal grille protects the drivers. The enclosure vent, which is 11/16 inches in diameter, is on the back of the case with the input connectors, which are effectively flush with the rear panel. The connectors are spring-loaded and accept only stripped wire ends. Also on the back panel is a fitting for wall-mounting the speaker.

We placed the Optimus PRO-7 speakers on stands, several feet from the walls, for both measurement and listening. The close-miked woofer response varied only +3 dB from Hz to 2 kHz, falling off rapidly above and below those frequencies. Although the crossover frequency was not specified, it appeared to be about 2 to kHz.

The averaged room response of the two speakers, using a sweeping warble tone, fell off below Hz at about 12 dB per octave. It was quite uniform from Hz to 3 kHz, varying only ± dB over that range, with an increase of 2 or 3 dB at 4 kHz and a downward slope at higher frequencies.

A separate close-miked measurement of the woofer response (which excluded room effects) indicated a ±dB variation from Hz to 2 kHz. The output dropped sharply at lower frequencies. Although the lower octaves were present in the port output, their level was far below that of the woofer cone and did not contribute significantly to the overall response.

The PRO-7's composite frequency response, formed by splicing the close-miked woofer curve to the averaged room curve, closely matched what we actually heard from the speakers. It was flat within +2 dB from Hz to 3 kHz, with a broad 3-dB rise at 4 kHz before returning to the average midrange level. The output above 7 kHz remained quite flat to about 13 kHz, dropping slightly at higher frequencies to -5 dB at 20 kHz. Clearly, this pint-size speaker can do a reasonably good job of radiating the middle and high frequencies, but, barring magic or miracles, it cannot be expected to match that performance at lower frequencies.

Our quasi-anechoic MLS frequency-response curves revealed that the PRO-7's on-axis output was very flat from Hz (the lower limit of this measurement) to almost 15 kHz, with one exception that may not be audibly serious. There was a pronounced response "hole" between and 7 kHz, ranging in depth from 10 to 15 dB depending on the distance between the speaker and the microphone (1 to 2 meters). The same effect appeared in every MLS measurement and appears to be a cancellation between the outputs of the two drivers, possibly related to the crossover between them. Strangely, however, the dip was completely absent from normal room measurements, which actually showed a slight peak in output at 4 kHz. In listening tests, too, we could not detect any anomaly in that range.

Impedance dipped to ohms at 80 and Hz, with maximum readings of 32 ohms at 30 Hz, 44 ohms at Hz, and 18 ohms at kHz. The actual minimum impedance was 5 ohms from 5 to 7 kHz. Despite the PRO-7's 8-ohm rating, these low impedance readings are of little importance since the speaker is relatively efficient over most of the audio range. With a volt input of pink noise, the sound-pressure level (SPL) was a rather high 92 dB at 1 meter.

With a constant input of volts (equivalent to a dB SPL in our sensitivity measurements), the PRO-7's woofer distortion was less than 1 percent over most of its effective range, from Hz to 2 kHz. Even at lower frequencies the distortion remained under 10 percent, although that is irrelevant since the output in that range was largely inaudible.

As would be expected from the small drivers in the PRO-7, its horizontal dispersion was good, though it did not match the range of some larger systems with smaller and more sophisticated tweeters.

Despite its small drivers, the PRO-7 was able to absorb considerable power during short (single-cycle) tone bursts without damage. At Hz, the 4-inch driver began to sound raspy with about 50 watts input (its rated maximum), but that is of little practical importance since no one in his right mind would attempt to drive a 4-inch speaker to such levels. The raspiness increased gradually as we raised the power, and we stopped at watts (into the speaker's ohm impedance at that frequency) since destruction was not our goal. The speaker suffered no permanent harm from this outrageous treatment that we could detect. At higher frequencies the amplifier clipped (at and 1, watts at 1 and 10 kHz, respectively) before the speaker was damaged.

Obviously, no one buying this speaker would expect it to deliver room-shaking acoustic levels or to match the sound quality of speakers several times its size and price. But if you understand its limitations, the Optimus PRO-7 can do a creditable job of playing music. In the usual hi-fi sense, it has virtually no bass output. On the other hand, higher frequencies are reproduced, for the most part, without serious distortion.

It should be obvious that comparing the PRO-7 with a top-ranking speaker system selling for ten or twenty times its price is like judging a Model-A Ford against a modem luxury automobile. Nonetheless, we made that comparison, placing the Optimus PRO-7's on top of the "reference" speakers. With most program material, the minispeaker's lack of bass was only too obvious when switching between systems, though after a period of listening the PRO-7 began to sound more "normal." With music having little or no content below Hz, the difference was greatly diminished, and the PRO-7 acquitted itself quite well. Often the difference was virtually unnoticeable -so long as the music didn't go into the bottom octaves.

If the Optimus PRO-7 is used in relatively uncritical applications such as in a den or child's room, it should do a fine job. Another possible application might be as a surround speaker in a low-cost home theater installation.

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