Walmart’s house brand, Blackweb, is becoming a familiar sight when cruising the tech aisles of the world’s largest retailer, and for good reason. The orange and black packaging is attractive, as are the low asking prices. But there’s no doubt the actual products have trouble living up to the alluring promise of delivering a halfway decent experience without breaking the bank.
This brings us to the Blackweb 2.0 Powerful Speaker System, a less-expensive option than its incredibly boxy 2.1 Speaker System cousin that omits a separate woofer for quick plug ‘n play sound enhancement for 3.5mm devices like computers, phones, game consoles, etc. All good stuff, but the name is something of a misnomer: it’s a 2.0 speaker system, alright, but one that’s anything but powerful.
So why even bother reviewing speakers like these? Because in uncertain economic times such as these our choices become less “what you want” and more “what you can afford”, or, in the case of Walmart exclusives, “what you’ll settle for” in the midst of midnight shopping sprees at the retail giant. Not feeling shame in actually wanting to pick up a set like this is key, and while twenty bucks may seem like a small amount to some people it’s still twenty bucks. Moreover, it’s YOUR twenty bucks – why spend more when you don’t have to, right?
One great thing about the rise of cheap tech alternatives is that you can net a pretty decent setup for little cash,
Right out of the box you’ll realize there’s not much here, and that’s OK. Two speakers, tethered to each other with two cords (power and 3.5mm connection) dangling from the right speaker, all standard stuff. Each speaker houses their small tweeter/woofer combo, each packing 2.5w of power in their rectangular selves. And like all low-range speakers everything is tethered together, meaning you’ll be stuck using them with cords dangling and limited options where you can place either speaker in your setup.
Honestly, the design is actually quite pleasant and attractive: a nice combination of black matte (dull, but my preference) and reflective, smudge-prone glossy (which convinces people they’re using a better-quality product, apparently). There’s no escaping the cheap plastic molding, however, but a nice feature with this system – and rare for low-range options – is both speakers are weighted and have a little heft, meaning they won’t shift or slide around just because they can.
Two knobs control everything, one for volume and the other for bass. Also on front are two 3.5mm jacks: one for attaching headphones, line-out plugs, or (if you’re really meta) another pair of speakers, the other an auxiliary input, which automatically makes these speakers more useful than most in their price range. A small green LED light lets you know the power is on, and vice versa. Again, just as you’d expect from a setup like this.
Surprisingly, the power switch isn’t integrated into the volume knob – which is common – but is instead a separate switch on the back. It’s a small niggle as it makes quickly powering them up more awkward than need be.
Cheap or not, the real test of any speaker system is how they sound, so I put these babies to the test with a variety of sounds. Keep in mind that sources matter; the higher quality sampling of sound, the higher quality of output (you’d be amazed at how many fail to realize this when sharing their opinions on audio equipment).
My primary devices were my Apple-centric Macbook Air and iPod Touch, both running a variety of audio-friendly apps and programs. For regular web browsing sounds and YouTube streaming these were a marked improvement over the stock speakers – hardly surprisingly as most laptop speakers stink. HD-quality videos, of course, served better quality sampling and light gaming like Angry Birds or The Walking Dead benefited most.
Let’s turn over to music, because that’s honestly what you’ll be buying these things for, whether for yourself or as a gift. Again, YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services all sounded fine. High-quality MP3 (and my few FLAC files) sounded pretty good, too, though not to the point where I’m giving up my precious headphones.
I wanted to put the “Powerful” 2.5w speaker output to the test, so bass-heavy artists it was. Metallica, AC/DC, or even bassier U2 songs (they do exist) were decent – hardly powerful – but a definite improvement over stock. Hip-hop/rap was decent, depending on the artist, but any chance to listen to Dr. Dre’s The Chronic again is always a treat (thanks, Apple Music free trial).
Because I’m a glutton for punishment (and I love each and every one of you) I even ran several decidedly non-bassy pop tunes through them. Anything that emphasizes treble over thumping bass sounded fine, and this means Taylor Swift or anything Disney Channel related. Ironically, Meghan Trainor was most definitely not “all about the bass” with these speakers. Regardless of your music tastes – or lack thereof – these speakers clearly aren’t designed for the consummate audiophile. Yeah, I know, shocking.
Adjusting the volume to anything above the midway setting completely obliterates sound quality and separation. Yes, it’s definitely ‘loud’ but it sounds like audio smearing to the point of actual pain. Best to think of this volume knob like your car’s speedometer; you can definitely go higher than 85mph but you really don’t want to.
Cheap, attractive, and gets the job done: that’s pretty much the Blackweb 2.0 Powerful Speaker System in a nutshell. For small workstations, dorms, or home offices these won’t render users unconscious from embarrassment, either from cheap looks or tinny sounds. True, the mediocre bass output is anything but ‘powerful’ or enough to fill a large room, but they probably sound a lot better than your crappy stock laptop or phone speakers. For twenty bucks you could do a lot worse.