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Au­dio equip­ment does not, on the whole, mix well with wa­ter! But here we have a 2.1-chan­nel sound sys­tem where each of the three speak­ers ac­tu­ally con­tains a reser­voir of liq­uid, to­gether with coloured lights and pumps, ready to cre­ate a per­sonal son et lu­mière in time to your tunes. What, we say what is go­ing on?

We came across the Liq­uid Sound Atomic Beats 2.1 at last Oc­to­ber’s Aus­tralian Au­dio & AV Show in surely the most colour­ful dis­play of the event, with rows of this Atomic Beats de­sign down in the Rialto Rooms all per­form­ing their jet dances along­side a line of the smaller sin­gle-col­umn Liq­uid Sound speak­ers.

The Atomic Beats are very sim­ple to set up, re­quir­ing only mains power to the big 32cm-high sub­woofer unit and then con­nect­ing ca­bles on to the two 26cm-high satel­lite tow­ers. The fi­nal con­nec­tion is to your au­dio source — a dou­ble-ended mini­jack ca­ble is pro­vided for this. (It’s ana­logue con­nec­tions only, no Blue­tooth avail­able here, though there is a Blue­tooth edi­tion of the smaller Liq­uid Sound model.)

You con­trol vol­ume from a neat LED touch cir­cle on the front of the sub­woofer; there is a sep­a­rate bass con­trol there and a switch to turn off the wa­ter fea­tures should you some­how tire of their ex­u­ber­ance or wish to save the power they re­quire to squirt.

For their sonic out­put, each satel­lite uses a 40mm driver fir­ing up­wards onto a cone dis­perser to de­liver om­ni­di­rec­tional out­put from what is quoted as 7W of am­pli­fi­ca­tion. The larger sub­woofer fires down­wards us­ing (we think) a sin­gle 10cm driver, with 16W power quoted. All three units con­fine their au­dio sys­tems to the bot­tom 40% of the avail­able space, leav­ing the top free for their liq­uid vi­su­als.

Th­ese vi­su­als are mar­vel­lous fun. With lights of red, blue and green, to­gether with ro­tat­ing sec­tions in the smaller units, they sling their coloured jets up­wards in syn­chro­nised suc­ces­sion, trig­gered seem­ingly by sig­nal den­sity rather than any spe­cific fre­quency — they were as happy squirt­ing along to Ju­lia Zemiro’s ques­tions on Rockwiz (aren’t we all) as they were bounc­ing to beat­driven dance mu­sic. One night we used the lights at a party along­side a full hi-fi sys­tem by run­ning a sig­nal to them from the ‘tape out’ of our big hi-fi pre-am­pli­fier, keep­ing their own vol­ume down low. It was very ef­fec­tive, and ex­cited much com­ment from vis­i­tors.

We note that the vo­rac­ity of jet­tage is un­re­lated to their own vol­ume con­trol — they don’t squirt any more pow­er­fully as you turn the sys­tem level up. Only when en­tirely muted (or lights dis­abled) do they de­sist from danc­ing. But they are, we re­alised, sen­si­tive to in­put level. So for max­i­mum vis­ual dy­nam­ics try keep­ing the Atomic Beats’ own vol­ume up high, and then ex­per­i­ment with the level of your source de­vice un­til you achieve the best liq­uid dy­nam­ics.

In­evitably the wa­ter jets con­trib­ute a lit­tle acous­tic noise them­selves, mainly from the ro­tat­ing sec­tions of the satel­lites in fact, but this is some­what in time with the mu­sic, and be­comes less dis­tract­ing once you hit half vol­ume on the sys­tem, which is a solid lis­ten­ing level. The sound qual­ity it­self is by no means a strength of the sys­tem — it’s more the sound we’d ex­pect from speak­ers in the com­puter mar­ket than the clar­ity or punch we’d hope to hear from a more hi-fi ori­en­tated com­pany. But it goes mod­er­ate to high with­out shriek­ing at you, and the fre­quency ranges are well-enough bal­anced, just a lit­tle boxy and ar­ti­fi­cial-sound­ing.

The main point and the bright bonus here are, of course, the swoosh­ing wa­ter lights, which come into their own es­pe­cially af­ter dark, shin­ing lights up to the ceil­ing with rip­ples and jig­ging kalei­do­scopes of mainly pur­ple and green.

We wouldn’t choose them for crit­i­cal mu­sic lis­ten­ing, then, but you’re ob­vi­ously get­ting more than just a sound sys­tem here. As a com­bi­na­tion of au­dio and built-in party joy, the Liq­uid Sound Atomic Beats are a unique of­fer­ing. JF More info: www.liq­uid­sound­speak­

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