Despite a 25 per cent price rise, we’re as well disposed towards the 3is as ever. That may be a first
Balanced, controlled sound
Utilitarian finish shows the dirt
The credit crunch has a lot to answer for. Take these Samson Studiodock 3is, for instance. They first appeared in a January 2009 First Test priced at £110 and deservedly made off with the full complement of stars.
Just three months later, the hair-tearing of the global markets means you must shell out a full £140 to find out just what we were getting so excited about.
So, first things first: are the 3is worth the extra outlay? Oh yes.
You can't really tell from the images shown on the website, but the Samson's are not as compact as the Audioengine A2s (very little is, really).
Still, the Studiodock 3is are still plenty discreet enough (17 x 13 x 17cm) to sit on top of your desk without making a nuisance of themselves.
More after the break
The right-hand speaker does the business here, incorporating 15 Watts of power per channel, USB input, stereo RCAs, 3.5mm sockets (one in, one out) and, for the first time in this test, an integrated iPod dock.
That's right – no wires, just a snug fitting for all iPods on top of the speaker. The left-hand channel makes do with the same 2.5cm silk-dome tweeter and 7.5cm polypropylene driver as its active partner.
Integrated iPod dock does fine jobWith an iPod pressed home and a lossless copy of Four Tet's And They All Look Brokenhearted playing, the Samsons are every bit as accomplished as we remember.
Everything you want from an inexpensive pair of active speakers is here: burly-but-controlled low frequencies, communicative midrange, sparkling top end and first-rate integration of those three elements.
The sound is brisk but not forced, reasonably dynamic and respectably punch.
Switching to a 128kbps file of Guided By Voices' Picture Me Big Time allows the 3is to demonstrate what a plausible way they have with vocals, as well as revealing a fairly big, broad soundstage and toe-tapping rhythm management.
The crackle-black finish, so beloved of recording studios the world over, may not be the last word in chic interior decoration but it's fair to say that this is about the only element of the Studiodock 3is that we can't really get on with.
In every other respect, these remain unarguable value for money – so if you bought some before the price hike bit, allow yourself a moment's self-congratulation. Just a moment's, mind.