Railtones 2 Speaker Kit Price: $479 Rating: *Recommend As always, we try to bring you the best from the utopian world where wires and cables are nary to be found. Articles number one and two of our constitution: shun wires in all their many forms. And abiding by these rules, Railtones offer a simple lighting-styled speaker set that can hook directly onto any modern-style track lighting system (MonoRail- the detached type). We installed and tested the novel new home audio system and report below. We received a pair of these a little while back and immediately discovered that we didn't have the MonoRail style track lighting, even though the tracks had been installed very recently... a pain, to be sure. There are adapters and an additional "Freejack" that can be purchased if you don't have the correct tracks or enough of them which allows you to hook up an individual speaker anywhere you want. The Freejack can be plugged into the wall with a normal plug or it can integrate into your home's power like a lighting fixture (this was how we did our testing).
Before we get into sound, let's start with the design side of things: the Railtones speaker is very easy to live with. Not so much beautiful, as just simple. If you have a mod style apartment and you have a need of a set of wireless speakers that don't break up your decor's lines, you could do worse. The materials feel sturdier than they have a right to be and the look is clearly well thought out. We continue to be surprised by the build quality and the system really looks at home on the track. If we have a complaint, it is simply the way the logos are printed on the stainless ring, but from the ceiling, you will never notice. Railtones come in Black, White and Black (with a bronze ring) and there are all kinds of adapters to get them to fit with different fixtures and types of tracks – there is even a recessed can adapter. Despite the fact that there are 4 switches on the backs of each speaker, you cannot get a whole bunch of channels going unless you have a few sets hooked up to a multichannel preamp. Generally, you have Left, Right and Mono to choose from (only two at a time). If you are running your sound out of your computer, there is a USB transmitter and you can only plug one in at a time- that limits you to two channels. You could hook them up via the lines out and run multiples like with a standalone preamp, but you would miss the benefits of the direct to USB interface. What you can do is set up several zones and listen in different places around your expansive mansion. A pair in the bedroom, a few in the observatory, and another set in the climate controlled garage. Since there is no limit to the number of speakers you can hook up to each zone, you can technically buy all the speakers they still have in stock and have them all blaring at once. Call that a dare. Plugging in and getting started will take you as long as it does to read this sentence. Don't you love it when people say things like that? But honestly, it is that easy and fast; this is plug and play at its best. You can use the USB to plug right into your computer or you can plug a 3.5mm plug into it from any source including TVs, portable music players, stereo systems, and whatever else. If you are not using a USB connection, you got to get power from the included wall-wart. So how is that sound? This is uncompressed transfer at 1.6 MBs per channel, so the audio signal sounds fabulous. To be honest, we were sort of surprised with the quality, as we expected to hear lots of artifacts, glitches and gremlins humming in the background, but the system delivers and performs well. Even at this price point there is plenty of junk out there, but these seem to warrant the heavier coin. We'd recommend a subwoofer if you are going to go through this much trouble and to round out the overall sound, as you will notice the bass is a little light, but considering their size and the flexibility of adding these into the home, the Railtones 2 system are recommended. Pros: Great looks, great sound, easy install, lots of options for use, unusual out of the way positioning. Cons: Cost, only two channels per USB connection, accessories can add up. Our Ratings: Strong Recommend Recommend* Weak Recommend Don't Recommend Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.