To call speakers ‘bookshelf’ is fine and dandy - until it comes to actually finding them a home. Some are only fit for shelves that are as deep and tall as an old-school 36in CRT TV.
Build and design
But the Roth Oli RA1s are the real deal. At only a millimetre over 23cm tall, 15cm wide and 15cm deep, you will be doing well to find a bookshelf these little beauties can’t sit on or a desk space they can’t squeeze into.
Given the asking price, they’re nicely enough designed. Okay, so the RA1s don’t feel particularly solid, but the matte-black finish (white is also available) looks smart, so too do the curves that wrap around the top and bottom edges of each cabinet. It’s nice to get our hands on something at this level that doesn’t looked cobbled together with a few pieces of chipboard and a couple of tacks.
The Roths are a two-way design: each speaker features a one-inch silk dome tweeter and rather petite, four-inch fibreglass hybrid mid/bass driver.
The two run-of-the-mill speaker terminals on the back of each speaker are joined by a small bass port and wall mount. Each speaker slots onto a screw-in bracket supplied in the box. Just as you’d want from a speaker at this price and size, the Oli RA1s aren’t too fussed when you place them against a rear wall.
If anything, the compact cabinets thrive on the proximity – the inclusion of a rear bass port helps to reinforce low frequencies and give them a greater sense of impact compared to when they’re placed out in the open.
Play Drake’s Take Care and the Roths jump into action – the opening exchanges are rhythmic and tightly controlled. As Drake’s vocal and the percussion kick in, there’s an impressive sense of weight and drive to the track – the powerful bassline acts as a solid foundation and the Roths produce just enough low-frequency heft for the listener to feast on.
Faced with the Foo Fighters’ My Hero, the RA1s rock out with impressive detail and dynamics. Drum kicks and guitar riffs are tight and attacking, with plenty of expression and emotion coming across from Dave Grohl’s vocal.
The Roths also possess enough dexterity to cope with a shift in pace to tracks that demand a more delicate, gentle approach.
You just need to take a little bit of care when cranking up the volume – the Roths harden and brighten up ever-so slightly when they’re stressed, but this only creeps in when the volume moves towards anti-social.
Otherwise, they conjure up a decent sense of scale and show impressive weight and authority - all the more impressive given their small dimensions.
If both space and budget are tight, or if you’re looking to upgrade the speakers supplied with an ageing micro-system, then the Oli RA1s have the size and sonic skills to fit the bill.