Stem Innovations: Tandem Speakers

There are those who really couldn’t care less about the sound coming out of their computer. For these folks, money spent on computer speakers may be better spent on socks, depilatory, or beer.

While I will agree that beer can take priority over most speakers, there are some sound makers that are just too good to pass up, even if it means sacrificing a month’s supply of Chimay Grande Reserve. (Yeah, they’d better be some serious speakers.)

I recently came across some speakers that purport to do a good job of reproducing sound using the latest technologies, including USB, DSP, TBR (tuned bass reflex), optimized headphone output and more. These Tandem Speakers, from Stem Innovations, are designed to compliment Apple hardware, matching the clean lines, aluminum color, and spartan design of MacBooks and iMacs.

Tandem Speaker

Stem Innovation’s Tandem Speakers

 

The interesting and extensive list of acronyms notwithstanding, do the Tandem speaker live up to the promise? Will they make me miss an opportunity to quaff a quart of Chimay?

As far as looks go, I think they may. The Tandem Speakers are silvered trapezoidal boxes, about the size of a box of elbow macaroni, with black cloth grills covering the single speakers on the front and small ports in the back to let the bass out (that’s the TBR part). They are not exactly portable, especially since they require AC power. There’s also a line-in jack in case you have audio source that doesn’t support USB.

A USB cable is used to connect one speaker to your computer, a switch lets you choose which side (left or right), and there’s an included cable to get sound to the other speaker and tie the whole system together.

There’s a volume control and earphone port on the right speaker. That’s about it. The only light, that lets you know the speakers are powered on, comes from the volume control buttons. On the back you’ll find the TBR ports on both speakers. The right speaker also has the USB and plug to connect to left speaker, a power switch, and aforementioned switch that lets you determine speaker orientation.

There are no shiny knobs, no pulsing lights, no gaudy adornments. Just clean lines and basic functions. This is a good thing if you are creating an environment that doesn’t distract. That doesn’t mean everyone will adore them, however. They have a squat, modern look that may not appeal to some. I like the way they look, and I like the way took with my iMac.

Tandem with Macbook

Macbook flanked by Tandem Speakers make a nice couple, …er, trio.

You buy a set of speakers because you want better sound from your computer, and the Tandem Speaker System provides that. Highs are sweet, not tinny, and the midrange is pleasant. You’ll want more bass though. Those TBR ports on the backs of the speakers just aren’t adequate to deliver much more that halfhearted bass reproduction. This can be improved somewhat by situating the speakers close to a wall to bounce the sound back at you. Unfortunately, my desk, where I’m testing them, stands away from any wall, so most of the bass is lost to me.

Which points out where I believe these speakers would likely work best. If your computer is in a small, cozy area, like a cubicle, or hutch, then the Tandem Speakers would be ideal. In such an environment you don’t want ear splitting volumes. You want to hear good sound at volumes loud enough to enjoy, and these Stem speakers will give you that. If, however, you are looking to fill anything larger than a small closet with heart stopping sound, look elsewhere. The Tandem Speakers are not for you.

When I write, as I am now, I like to listen to jazz. I fire up a Genius Mix and set to typing. Speakers provide the soundtrack to my musings. While you might think I wouldn’t pay much attention to the tunes playing, exactly the opposite is true. Listening while typing is one of the few exercises I can accomplish through multitasking, and jacked up sound reproduction can be as annoying as fingernails on a chalkboard.

Playing jazz and classic rock through the Stem Tandem Speakers is an enjoyable experience which could be greatly improved, in my opinion, with the addition of a decent subwoofer.

Bottom Line:
You can’t spit these days without hitting a speaker set aimed at computers, and there are many really good (and really bad) systems out there, so it’s hard to differentiate a product enough to stand out on its own. These Tandem Speakers are no different. They sound good as long you don’t expect a lot from the bass, but they are not great. They look good with Apple equipment, and that counts for something. They are ideal for close and personal spaces.

In fact, you can use them to created very nice bookshelf system centered on your iPod/iPhone/iPad. All you need is a dock/stand that has a line-out port and there ya go.

At a suggested retail price of US$79.95, they are a good, if not the best choice for speakers in that price range. Currently STEM has the Tandem Speaker on sale for far more wallet friendly US$49.95. And bargain hunters have to look no further than Amazon to practically steal these speakers for a paltry $24.49 (the price fluctuates)! That’s about the cost of two bottles of Chimay. I can handle that!

Good sound, simple design and, now, a great price makes it easy for me to Highly Recommend* these STEM Tandem Speakers.

Review ItemTandem Speakers
ManufacturerSTEM Innovation

List Price


Street Price

US$79.95

US$24.49 (Amazon)

Minimum Requirements

Any Mac with USB or audio line-out

* Note: My rating system goes like this;

  • Get it Now! - Highest rating and an absolute must-have
  • Highly recommend - Minor flaws, but a great product
  • Recommend - Flawed, but still a solid product
  • So-so - Problem product that may find a niche market
  • Avoid - Why did they bother making it? A money waster.