You may know that I do not consider myself an audiophile.  I do not spend much time with the high-priced and high-spec audio products.  I’m not a knowledgeable nor trained sound mavin.  I just know what I like and what sounds good to me.

I am, however, interested in the new flat-panel speaker technology you may have read or heard about for the last couple of years.  So, it was with great interest that I sampled the sounds from BW2000 Benwin speakers (about $130), a brand manufactured and marketed by Kwong Quest, LLC. (http://www.benwin.com) or phone 888-9-BENWIN (888-923-6946).

These and other similar flat-panel speakers are built under license from NXT, the British concern holding the rights to what they do and how they do it in the area of flat speakers.  NXT is the same company that builds the highly regarded Quad and Mission brand speakers.  This flat panel technology is quite a remarkable feat.

The BW2000s are marketed for use with desktop and laptop computers, portable and personal audio systems.

Upon seeing these little speakers, my first impression was with regard to their size and shape, and then their weight.  They’re really flat!  (Click here for image.)  Each 5” x 7” speaker itself is just 7mm thick and weighs next to nothing.  The “speaker” material is a special membrane that is the heart of the flatness concept as defined by the license from NXT.  In other words, it’s material from NXT.  The mechanism supplying the signal that causes the membrane to vibrate with the supplied sound is called an exciter, otherwise known as a transducer.  This does roughly the same job as the coil that vibrates in a conventional speaker, only instead of a moving coil causing a speaker cone to vibrate, the exciter, strategically placed behind the membrane, causes the membrane to react and emanate sound from across the entire surface when a signal is supplied.  Get it?  I hope so.

Each speaker sits in a surrounding enclosure with the entire assembly weighing less than 4 ounces and only slightly taller and wider than the membrane panel.  Total depth around the rear area where the exciter protrudes is less than one inch!  Snap-in stands support each speaker on the desktop.  Other than the exciter and membrane, the speaker assemblies are plastic.

Volume, tone controls, on/off switch and a 3.5mm headphone jack are accessible on the top front edge of the compact (6.25”H x 4.5”D x 4.75”W) subwoofer assembly.  The speakers are rated at three Watts each with the sub drawing six Watts of power.  They are not shielded and are not recommended to be placed directly next to your conventional tube-type monitor and run at high volume settings.  Image distortion may occur.

Kits are available for some Benwin flat panel speakers for mounting directly to a monitor or on the wall.  Check their Website or call for details.

Benwin has announced that it will incorporate SRS technology into four of their conventional design multimedia speaker systems to be marketed to the same customers as the BW2000 models.  The addition of SRS will enhance their value as multi-media speakers for music lovers as well as gamers.  Delivery is expected by the end of the first quarter, with pricing ranging from $50 to $150 and with power outputs of 36 to 75 Watts.  I’m a big fan of SRS and eagerly await the opportunity to have a crack at a pair of SRS-equipped Benwins.

Make no mistake; most consumers will at first be attracted to the unusual size and configuration of the Benwin BW2000s.  Some will buy regardless of the sound quality.  It’s only human nature.  But, then it’s on to what’s really important.  How do they sound?  I liked what I heard at the show and asked for a sample to evaluate in my own world.

As this is being written, I am sitting, pounding away on my PowerBook with the BW2000s connected and playing The Doors Strange Days CD.  The sound is crisp and clean with no discernable sweet spot or directionality.  Frankly, I’m pleasantly surprised.  They won’t win any power contests, but they’re more than adequate for music and games.

There, now I’ve gotten up and walked around.  The sound is quite pleasant as I walk all around the room.  For their size, they are remarkably pleasant and don’t sound like a set of “cheap” speakers, but, rather rich and full.  Maybe I should be a wine critic!

I warned you that I’m not an audiophile, didn’t I?  My bottom line is this, dear readers, I think most of you will really like these Benwins.  You’ll be drawn to them for their unusual design and size.  You’ll like the fact that they don’t require much desktop space.  You’ll be amazed by the sounds you hear from them.

According to their distributor, the Benwin BW2000 flat panel speakers can be ordered online through Benwin’s Website and from catalog retailers including PCMall and MacMall.

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