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Cerwin-Vega! XD3 Powered Desktop Speaker Review

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Cerwin-Vega

Subjective Evaluation and Conclusions

 

Disclaimer: Reviewing speakers is not easy. To do it right requires a lot more equipment and experience than I have. The best I can hope to do is to relate my personal experience with the XD3 speakers and give you my subjective opinion. Unfortunately what sounds good to one person may not necessarily sound good to another.

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After unpacking the XD3 speaker system and checking them out I set them up on my desktop and connected them to my computer using the supplied 1/8" mini-to-RCA patch cable. The speakers are sitting on a book self behind the computers, which place them at about ear level and 6' apart. I like listening to a variety of music while I work. I had Deuter's "East of the Full Moon" CD queued up and when I hit play my first response was WOW – these little speakers sound great!

Over the past several weeks I have used the Cerwin-Vega! XD3 Powered Desktop Speakers almost daily for a variety of listening tasks; music, movies and gaming. I found early on that I really enjoy the XD3s for listening to music while I work. The clean, rich tones produced by the XD3 Powered Desktop Speakers are impressive and pleasing to listen to. The only exception has been for music that includes a lot of really deep bass (like B-Tribe "Spiritual") or a prominent kick-drum that would at times sound thumpy, especially at higher volumes with Vega-Bass engaged. My experience with movies and games was less satisfactory as I missed the tactile low frequency effects that a subwoofer provides (my regular powered desktop speaker system is a Logitech 2.1 system with a sub). On the positive side, dialogue was very clear and easy to understand while listening to the XD3s.

The power output was very impressive from the XD3 Powered Desktop Speakers. You can crank these little speakers up to LOUD without any noticeable distortion. I was able to push them to 85 dBA @ 6' while listening to music, which is no small feat for a self-powered desktop speaker system. However at the higher volume levels the bass becomes very anemic.

The built-in amplifier also sounded very good to my ears when listening to music through a good set of headphones (Ultrasone HFI-700).

OK, now let's be realistic; at this price point ($99.99 USD) choices and compromises have to be made. It appears obvious that Cerwin-Vega concentrated on sound output, clarity and signal purity at the expense of omitting a subwoofer component. Bottom line, the Cerwin-Vega! XD3 Powered Desktop Speakers truly deliver big speaker sound from a small package at an affordable price.

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I can strongly recommend the Cerwin-Vega! XD3 Powered Desktop Speakers to music lovers or anyone involved with sound production who wants high-quality sound on their desktop from a small package at this price point. On the other hand if your main interest is movies and/or games and tactile Low Frequency Effects or multi-channel surround sound is important to you, then you may have to spend a little more money and buy a system that includes a subwoofer.

The Cerwin-Vega! XD3 Powered Desktop Speakers are currently available and typically sell for $99.99 USD (Best Buy March 2012).

Strengths:
• Big sound from a small package
• Clear highs and smooth midrange
• Silk dome tweeter
• Plenty of power for desktop speakers
• No noticeable distortion at high volume levels
• Rear line level RCA input jacks and front 1/8" mini stereo Aux in
• Front panel 1/8" mini stereo Headphone jack with speaker mute
• High-quality construction
• 5-Year/2-Year warranty (speaker/electronics)
• Big sound – small price

Weaknesses:
• Anemic bass at higher volume levels
• Minimal Low Frequency Effects for movies and games
• On-Off switch is located on the back side of the left enclosure

Side Note: One of my hobbies is home theater – I love movies. Over the years I have put together a custom home theater that includes a 7.2 surround system. For the first week I fought the urge to connect the XD3s into my home theater system but my curiosity finally got the best of me. It was relatively easy to do: I placed the XD3s on either side of the flat panel TV beside my existing front tower speakers and fed them from the pre-outs of my Denon AVR-3808ci, which is used as a pre/pro. I turned off the outboard power amps that feed the 7-channel speakers and initially turned off both subs (later I turned one sub on and adjusted the crossover up to 120Hz and lowered its gain). Setting the surround mode to stereo allowed me to listen to any source through the XD3 Powered Desktop Speakers!

While listening to music at lower volume levels in a relatively large multi-media room, the XD3 speakers still sounded good. Adding one sub into the mix helped fill in the lower frequencies a lot. However, while it was an interesting experiment, it just reconfirmed that size and power do make a difference – a very big difference; I quietly disconnected the XD3s and put them back on the desktop where they belonged!
 

March 20, 2012 | 10:38 AM - Posted by jsciii

Ryan,

Couldn't you have told us a bit more about the sound quality? Since the Stereo enthusiast mags seem to concentrate on speakers costing hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars, it's up to computer sites to review computer speakers.

CV speakers have always had the reputation as being designed to sound good to inexperienced listeners who are initially impressed with overemphasized treble and base. In fact, you sort of allude to this by saying that the base is "in your face."

Jamie

March 25, 2012 | 05:19 PM - Posted by Lee Garbutt aka...

Jamie - In my opinion the CV HD3's sound quality is very good for a pair of powered desktop speakers at this price point. The highs are clear without being overly bright and the mid-range transitions are smooth. I wouldn't describe them as "muddy or muffled", but as I said in the review what sounds good to one person may not appeal to another. Overall I thought the HD3's had a fairly flat frequency response (with Vega-Boost turned off) but are lacking on the low end. CV advertises the "bass being in your face" but I can't agree; the bass sounds more anemic to me.

March 20, 2012 | 03:51 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

They look like m audio av30. I wondering if they sound close. I love my m audio.

March 25, 2012 | 05:21 PM - Posted by Lee Garbutt aka...

At first glance the HD3's look almost identical to the M-Audio AV30 Mk II speakers (minus the Vega-Boost switch). I suspect they are manufactured by the same OEM but without looking inside to see what drivers and electronics are being used I can't say whether or not they are the same. Unfortunately I don't have a pair of AV30's to conduct a side-by-side listening test.

June 11, 2012 | 11:16 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Este modelo CV XD3 resultó ser bueno para mí, soy un aficionado del sonido. El diseño de caja y apariencia es apropiada para escuchar música de preferéncia, bajo nivel de distorción. El sonido es distribuido y balanceado en sus canales con potencia variable, el botón del vega bass es de mínima potencia. Combiné este sistema con un Bose media companion 3 y el sonido fué más sorprendente. El precio aunque es algo costoso pero en calidad de rendimiento lo merece.

March 22, 2012 | 11:35 AM - Posted by ButtonPuncher (not verified)

@Jamie - The sound quality is not very good. Mediocre at best.

The build quality of the speakers is incredible but the sound is muddy and muffled. They get loud and sound better than a 20 year old pair of Labtec speakers but that's about it. If you want sound quality, don't buy these.

For the technical people... I'm guessing that if you RTA'd these that the frequency response would look like the golden arches. The lows roll off below 125HZ, the highs at 15kHz, and there is a gap in the middle. I know that small speakers like this won't have much bass but my Tivoli Model Two only has two 2.5" full-range drives (no tweeter) and they blow the Cerwin Vegas out of the water. I'm guessing that Cerwin Vega didn't spend much selecting the drivers for these and they threw whatever in them.

The boost switch on the back just makes them boomy. I tried plugging the ports with some wash cloths and that made them sound a little better.

I'm returning mine.

March 28, 2012 | 09:05 AM - Posted by Scott (not verified)

Ok I'm someone who has been doing custom audio enclosures for over 25 years. I decided see how they sounded and see if they would be better than my current computer setup. The music used to listen to the XD3's was Judas Priest for vocal range, Gorillaz (Double Bass, and Client Eastwood). I did listen to classical music too, but the vocals and lows was my main concentration. Without any EQ adjustment I would say the sound was not awww inspiring. With EQ adjustment the speakers did have a better improvement in vocals, and highs. The lows were really lack luster. If you are listening to anything but hip hop these speakers will be good for you. If you want deep base I would look at something with a 2.1 setup. The sound sounds better from a distance than used as computer speakers. There is a gap in the middle range that need correction with an EQ to make the vocals sound better. The high were not tinny but smooth, and that should be expected from silk dome tweeters. The speakers compared to other computer speakers in the price range for $100 this would be your best bet, but if you have $50 more you will be more happy with the Klipsch Pro 2.1 computer speakers. I picked up these speakers from Best Buy over in the musical instrument section. I first went to computer speakers and didn't find them, then looked in home audio. Of course the help at Best Buy was horrible. The people in home audio goes we don't sell these and kept mentioning they don't have them. I said that the computer system online said you had them. It took me three time to ask to just look in the system see if the store had them. It said it did, and after 30 mins they finally looked at the planagram to see where they were located at and we found them on the bottom self. I will be returning these today to my Best Buy because personally I'm not that impressed with them personally.

April 24, 2012 | 12:41 PM - Posted by cvtechsupport

Hello All,

We are glad you have taken the time to comment about the speakers. The best way to hear them is to experience them with sound but if you only have online reviews to go by then please take into consideration that everyone's setup is different, from different sound sources, listening rooms and application uses. We believe that as far as desktop speakers go this is one of the best options around. Thank you all for helping people find the best solution online.
Thanks Again-
CV Tech Support

May 22, 2012 | 12:15 AM - Posted by wes2day (not verified)

I went to Best Buy looking to spend 50 or 60 bucks for some decent PC speakers. I even considered spending a little more for the trusted Bose brand. After listening to the Bose 2 speakers I wasn't as impressed as I thought I might be. Maybe I was expecting too much for what I wanted to spend. Then again, maybe I wasn't. I saw that they had the Cerwin Vega desk top speakers for only $99.00. I was familiar with the brand and knew that they've been making high quality speakers for a long time. My only issue was that I hadn't done my typical research on these. What the heck, I trusted what I knew and spent more than I had planned. This is easily the best 100 bucks that I've spent in a long time. I absolutely love these speakers. Perfect for what I needed and they look marvelous next to my black Dell. It's unlikely that there's another set of speakers better that these at this price. If you just need some nice quality PC speakers for a good price, don't look any further. I've already done the research for you!!!

May 19, 2014 | 10:09 PM - Posted by Omar (not verified)

I've had this speakers for over a year, and tho they do sound good, these are as far from being flat as a curve from being straight. They lack considerably of mid range. They work great as PC speakers but never as nearfield monitors. At medium to 3/4 volume they sound their very best, a little over that they will start to distort. The bass is a little shy and the Vega bass doesn't fix much. It mostly muffles it.

Regarding someone's question for a comparison between this and the AV30s they both sound similar, perhaps the AV30s are a little more detailed, but as for frequency response none of them covers the whole spectrum at similar levels. One thing the XD3s have way better than the AV30s is that they will last much longer

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