When you think of British design, what comes to mind? Red phone boxes, the London Underground map, the Mini or Concorde jet, perhaps?
According to Steljes Audio, an audio division of the AV distributor, Steijes Ltd, you can add the NS3 desktop speakers – a “beautifully British design” – to that list. They certainly look good, but do they have the sound quality to match?
If there’s one thing that the NS3s have going for them, it’s that they look sleek. As well as the yellow of our test sample, they also come in another six colours, including ‘Lagoon Blue’, ‘Gun Metal Grey’ and ‘Vermillion Red’.
They’re a hefty pair of speakers, weighing about 6kg, and the glossy finish on the casing makes them look a lot more expensive than they actually are.
On the inside, there’s a 25mm soft dome tweeter, and a 10cm woven fiberglass driver; but a word of warning – there’s no grill covering the drivers, so you should keep these speakers out of the way of anything (or anyone) that might be tempted to prod or poke them.
For a pair of low-cost desktop speakers, connections are plentiful. According to Steljes, if you’ve got it, the NS3’s will work with it.
The back of the left NS3 speaker has an optical input, a 3.5mm jack and a stereo RCA connection. There’s also a handy USB port on the back for charging devices, although it doesn’t support audio playback.
The NS3s connects via Bluetooth using the dedicated button on the remote, with a flashing blue light telling you when it’s in pairing mode. It’s a satisfyingly simple system.
You can also use the remote to alter bass or treble, which is a nice touch.
More after the break
And on the whole, the NS3s sound decent. For such a small product, the low frequencies are surprisingly deep. Kendrick Lamar’s King Kunta has a strong bassline, and the NS3s manage to dive down and bring up that force.
Rhythmically, the NS3s are pretty responsive. Playing Old Friends from the soundtrack of The Hobbit, these speakers can handle the slow, smooth opening notes as well as they can the speed and adventure in the strings midway through the song.
But they are let down somewhat by their treble. Kanye West’s Power has an added hard, bright edge, not only in his vocals, but also in the backing piano.
The treble isn’t particularly well integrated either, sounding disconnected from the rest of the music.
While you might be able to overlook this in small doses, it becomes grating over time, especially as the NS3s are billed as a pair of dedicated speakers for your TV or games console. They also need a little more subtlety and detail.
Your Best American Girl by Mitski has layers upon layers of sound, with erratic noises that should come through clearly.
The NS3s don’t quite deliver on those fine details, like the sharp bursts of feedback or crashing cymbals, leaving the song sounding a tad hollow.
And where Mitski’s voice should cut through the background sounds, as a point of stability amidst the disorder, the NS3s don't give it enough space, and the song doesn't quite tie together.
For a low-cost desktop solution, the Steijes NS3 speakers look the part.
There are enough ways to connect your players to keep it versatile, it’s aesthetically pleasing, and it’s got some solid bass power.
Unfortunately, its sound is just a bit too edgy and imprecise to leave a lasting impression, meaning it's not a product we can whole-heartedly recommend.