Beats audio this, beats audio that. We’ve talked about Beats a bunch on this blog. That’s because the technology is packed into our desktops and laptops. Sure, you can hear the music at “maximum awesome” when you strap on some high-end (or Beats) headphones. Every once in a while, though, you just wanna nod along with no strings attached. If you ever spun around the TouchSmart 610 and took a close look at the back panel, you’d notice that there is a subwoofer output. Go on. Take a second, I’ll wait right here.
Now, you’ve got a tiny box to add some boom to your audio – the HP Pulse. This $150 subwoofer is made to match the style of the above-mentioned all-in-one PCs and tucks away nicely in the home so that it won’t stand out. Unless you want it to – there are blue lights along the undercarriage that can glow bright, be dimmed or get turned off altogether. You ask me: Have ‘em blink to the beat. Maybe a smoke machine add-on…..ANYhow, let’s get back to the point at hand.
The sub promises a 40-180Hz response range and 60 watts peak output. How does that translate into what it’ll sound like to you? Obviously, it’s tough to convey how something like this actually sounds without you hanging out in my home office as I test this stuff...but it’s not going to stop me from trying.
Up front, I’ll say that I probably got the most bang for my virtual buck by dropping some tunes on the speakers. Classics like Ray Charles’ “You Don’t Know Me,” lilted around the room and Ray’s gravelly voice got a little more depth. Modern hip-hop and dance track added a little extra bump. AC-DC’s “Highway to Hell” also had a bit more bite to it after I manually tweaked the audio output on the computer. (Beats seems a natural fit for hip-hop / rap and soul right out of the box).
When it came to movies, I went into the Beats audio control panel on my computer and toggled the “Movie” mode. Here, the mids seem a bit brighter (You’ve got a small 2.1 system that’s now trying to recreate a center channel) but for the most part it keeps from drowning out the dialogue.
The Pulse subwoofer added a little more gravitas to some games as well. The near-futuristic soundtrack for Deus Ex: Human Revolution shined on this and the buckshot blasts from my shotgun punctuated a couple key moments without blowing out my eardrums.
Pro-tip #1: Make sure to go into the menu system for each game and make sure that your audio is set correctly. I didn’t at first, and the subwoofer wasn’t automatically “seen” by a game or two.
Pro-tip #2: Trying to find that audio balance between source output and the speakers is always a tricky dance. You’ll move the equalizer up somewhere and have to balance it elsewhere. Short version: Getting clearer sound out of your speakers sometimes boils down to you opening up the advanced audio panel. On the TouchSmarts-in-question, for example, go to the Beats Audio Control Panel. Under “Speakers and Headphones,” click on the “Equalization” tab and you’ll be able to adjust sliders until you hit your own personal audio Nirvana.
How do I sum up my experience with this subwoofer? Don’t think that the HP Pulse will rattle your back teeth, but it’s a nice little extra kick for those that rely upon the built-in speakers on the TouchSmart 610 and 520. If you can, go on and give it a listen for yourself, though, and let me know what you think. The Pulse is going to be available later this month for 150 bucks.
Darren Gladstone (@Gizmogladstone) is a former journalist, now TNB's Blogger-in-Chief. He geeks out over games, gadgets and hot laptops.