Week 41, 2016: Sealed vs. ported speakers, Asus ZenPad S 8.0 review


Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 41, 2016

Q. We had a family friend who developed his own speakers but was never able to bring them to production.  He often told me that non-ported speakers were the way to go, though he never explained why, just saying,It’s important.” Do you have any recommendations for affordable ($200 to $300) non-ported speakers?

-J.R., San Jose, CA

A. Non-ported speakers are called “acoustic suspension speakersand have the drivers fitted in a sealed cabinet. Ported designs are called “bass reflex speakers.”  They have a cabinet with an open port that breathes, allowing the back side of the woofer and the speaker cabinet itself to contribute to the sound and increase bass output. Bass reflex speakers are also more efficient, meaning they require less power than acoustic suspension speakers.

There was once a time when acoustic suspension speakers were overwhelmingly superior, with tight bass and precise sound that made ported speakers sound sloppy in comparison.  Over the past 30 years the continual refinement of ported speaker designs and advancing engineering and manufacturing techniques have resulted in ported speakers with clean, accurate sound combined with the better bass and lower power requirements that are inherent in the bass reflex design. It’s like having your cake and eating it too, and it has made it difficult for acoustic suspension to compete, especially in the $200-$300 segment. These days, I’d concentrate more on the speaker’s reputation and sound quality than whether it is ported or not.

If you must have acoustic suspension speakers I suggest looking into the $329 Chane A1.4 from chanemusiccinema.com. This outstanding speaker uses exotic technology and includes a port plug so you can use it as either a ported speaker or acoustic suspension speaker. Try it both ways and see which you prefer. You can also check the vintage market. The Celestion DL8 and SL6 are great speakers that can be purchased on eBay for under $300.

Asus Zenpad S 8.0 tablet: This week’s holiday product highlight is a terrific tablet selling for under $200. It does everything a tablet should do and it does it well, but is an especially good choice for those who love photography.

I am an avid photographer and often share my pictures on a tablet. Display quality is very important to me, and usually you have to buy an expensive tablet to get a beautiful display that reproduces colors accurately.

That’s not the case with the Asus Zenpad S 8.0. This fast, responsive 8-inch tablet has an outstanding display and sells for only $160 with 32 GB of memory. What’s more, you can expand the memory with Micro SDHC cards up to 128 GB.  A 128 GB Micro SDHC card currently sells for about $40, so adding a card gets you a great tablet with 160 GB of storage for $200 total. That’s a far cry from a $269 iPad Mini 2 with its miniscule 32 GB of storage. Anyone who has felt the pain of running up against the storage limit of their iPad knows expandable memory is an absolutely wonderful thing!

The beautiful display pays dividends beyond displaying photos.  Even web surfing and email become more enjoyable.

The Zenpad S 8.0 is a little bit hard to find in stores, and since word has been getting around they sell out quickly when available online.  It is worth time and effort to find one though and if I wanted an affordable tablet it is definitely the one I would buy. See the ZenPad S 8.0 on Amazon or visit http://tinyurl.com/zenpads8032 (direct product link) or asus.com to learn more.