Audio equipment does not, on the whole, mix well with water! But here we have a 2.1-channel sound system where each of the three speakers contains a reservoir of liquid together with coloured lights and pumps, ready to create a personal son et lumiere in time to your tunes. What, we say what is going on?
We came across the Liquid Sound Atomic Beats 2.1 at last October’s Australian Audio & AV Show in surely the most colourful display of the event, with rows of this Atomic Beats design all performing their jet dances alongside a line of the smaller single-column Liquid Sound speakers.
The Atomic Beats are very simple to set up, requiring only mains power to the big 32cm-high subwoofer unit and then connecting cables on to the two 26cm-high satellite towers. The final connection is to your audio source — a double-ended minijack cable is provided for this. (It’s analogue connections only, no Bluetooth available here, though there is a Bluetooth edition of the smaller Liquid Sound model) You control volume from a neat LED touch circle on the front of the subwoofer; there is a separate bass control there and a switch to turn off the water features should you somehow tire of their exuberance or wish to save the power they require to squirt.
For their sonic output, each satellite uses a 40mm driver firing upwards onto a cone disperser to deliver omnidirectional output from what are quoted as 7W amplification. The larger subwoofer fires downwards using (we think) a single 10cm driver with 16W powerr quoted. All three units confine their audio systems to the bottom 40% of the available space, leaving the top free for their liquid visuals.
These visuals are marvellous fun. With lights of red, blue and green, together with rotating sections in the smaller units, they sling their coloured jets upwards in synchronised succession, triggered seemingly by signal density rather than any specific frequency — they were as happy squirting along to Julia Zemiro’s questions on Rockwiz as they were bouncing to beat-driven dance music. On night we used the lights at a party alongside a full hi-fi system by running them a signal from the tape out of our big hi-fi pre-amplifier and then keeping their own volume down low; it was very effective, and excited much comment from visitors.
We noted that the voracity of jettage is unrelated to their own volume output — they don’t squirt any more powerfully as you turn the system level up. Only when entirely muted (or lights disabled) do they desist from dancing. But they are, we realised, sensitive to input level. So for maximum visual dynamics keep the Liquid Sounds’ own volume up high and then experiment with the level of your source device to achieve the best liquid dynamics.
Inevitably the water jets contribute a little acoustic noise themselves, mainly from the rotating sections of the satellites in fact, but this is somewhat in time with the music, and becomes less distracting once you hit half volume on the system, which is a solid listening level. The sound quality itself is by no means a strength of the system — it’s more the sound we’d expect from speakers in the computer market than the clarity or punch we’d hear from a more hi-fi orientated company. But it goes moderate-to-high without shrieking at you, and the frequency ranges are well-enough balanced, just a little boxy and artificial-sounding.
The bright bonus here is, of course, the swooshing water lights, which come into their own especially after dark, shining lights up to the ceiling with ripples and jigging kaleidoscopes of mainly purple and green.
We wouldn’t choose them for critical music listening, then, but you’re obviously getting more than just a sound system here. As a combination of audio and built-in party joy, the Liquid Sound Atomic Beats are a unique offering.
Subwoofer: 220 x 220 x 320mm
Satellites: 90 x 90 x 268mm