Onix Rocket Tykes 5.1 Review

Highs

  • Beautiful aluminum construction
  • quality sound
  • easy placement.

Rating

Our Score 9
User Score 2

Lows

  • Inability to hit some lows
  • non-removable grills.
There are few, if any, systems that can surpass what the Tykes have to offer for $499.

Summary

Onix’ Rocket Tykes are truly a gem among micro speaker systems. If you are looking for a tiny speaker system with little sacrifice in sound, you may not need to look any further than the Rocket Tykes. Overall, the Tykes are pleasant to listen to and quite adept for movies or music. They are also very versatile, with the ability to be used in many situations where space and installation are a challenge.

With a beautiful finish, excellent customer support and a clean sound, there are few, if any, systems that can surpass what the Tykes have to offer for under $500.

Introduction

With today’s speaker technology, sound quality is often not directly related to the size of the speaker. We’ve seen this ring true in several of our reviews, including our recent experience with the HSU Research VT-12 systems. Onix aims for that big sound from a little package with the smallest member of the Rocket speaker family, the Rocket Tykes.

Featuring solid extruded aluminum enclosures, the Rocket Tykes 5.1 channel home theater speaker system is available in two premium finishes: Brushed Gun Metal Black or Brushed Arctic Silver. The 5.1 channel Rocket Tykes are available for $399 direct from AV123.


The Rocket Tykes 5.1 channel system in brushed aluminium.

Features and Design

We’d have to categorize the Rocket Tykes as “micro” speakers as they are smaller than most bookshelf speakers on the market. But even though the Tykes are small, they are certainly not subdued in appearance. In fact, they are quite flashy and distinctive looking.

Unlike the speakers from the other Rocket series, with the exception of the subwoofer, wood (or MDF more exactly) is not the name of the game for this micro speaker system. The satellite and center channel speakers in the Rocket Tykes system are constructed mostly of aluminum. This is rather unusual at their price point of $399 as most other 5.1 systems in this price range are plastic or MDF enclosures. Both the brushed aluminum and the anodized and brushed black finishes are conversation pieces before even listening to them.

We would classify the overall quality of the construction of the Rocket Tykes system as above average. And because of their sizes, they are relatively light and easy to move around. Each of the satellites and center channel speakers has four small feet with rubber tips, which are quite handy if you plan on putting the speakers on a shelf or on top of a TV. Wall mount brackets are also included in the Tykes package.


The Rocket Tykes satellites are constructed of all aluminum (shown in black and silver brushed aluminum)

The Tyke system offers four two-driver, two-way satellites, a three-driver, two-way center channel, and a 100 W (RMS) powered, ported subwoofer.

The satellites and the center channel of the Tykes system employ the same type of drivers: ¾-inch silk dome tweeter and 2.5-inch woofer, both utilize neodymium motor structure, which is usually used in higher priced speakers to improve power handling. Dual woofers are used for the center channel and only one for each satellite. The binding posts on the back of the speakers are of the push-spring type and suitable to be used with bare wire or pin connectors. In another departure from competing products, the speaker grills are non-detachable.

Bass is delivered to the Rocket Tykes system in the form of an 8-inch down-firing driver in a front-ported enclosure powered by a 100W internal amplifier. This subwoofer accepts low level input only and has no output. The controls provided are for volume level and crossover frequency. There is no phase control, but with a subwoofer this small, it is not a big drawback, because you can easily correct for phase by easily moving it to a different location. This subwoofer has four short legs, which are threaded for use with the provided spikes if desirable.

Performance

For our evaluation the front satellites were placed on 24-inch stands, the center channel on top of a 32″ Sony Wega television, the rear satellites on wall shelves, and the subwoofer was located in between the front satellites. Our listening position was nine feet from the front speakers and about four feet from the surrounds. We tested the Rocket Tykes with a Shanling CD-S100 CD player, Toshiba SD-3800 DVD player, Meridian 565 preamplifier, Parasound HCA-855A amplifier and a Rotel RSX-1067 receiver. All connections were made with MIT Terminator 4 interconnects and Ultralink speaker cables.

As with other speakers, placement has a profound effect on the sound quality and total listening experience. AV123 does a good job of explaining placement and offering ideas in the included manual, which is a big help for inexperienced users. Putting the Tykes satellite very close to a wall or room boundary enhanced its bottom-end response, and the frequency balance sounded better to our ears that way. Because of this, you don’t have to worry about mounting them on the wall if that’s your only option. Several crossover settings (80, 100, 120 Hz) between the satellites (also the center channel) and the subwoofer were tried before we settled with the one that we thought gave the best blend for our setup, which was 100 Hz.

When we began our critical evaluation of the Tykes system after a break-in period, we were immediately impressed with the clarity of the sound it produced. There was a slight trace of brightness at the upper frequency end, but it was not obtrusive. Matched with a good source and amplification, this system could really sing. The Tykes’ treble might not be as airy and detailed as their more expensive siblings (the ELT or the RS series), but it was still quite respectable. The subwoofer blended in nicely with the rest of the system, and added the necessary weight to the music. If you are used to heavy-weight subwoofers, you might not feel satisfied with the bass from the Tyke subwoofer. But this is understandable considering its small physical size. The important thing was this subwoofer just omitted what it couldn’t produce rather than fake it by producing artificial rumble. Therefore, even though it might lack attacks and extension, the bass it produced had good articulation. Midrange performance is often the Achilles heel of many little speaker systems like this, but the Tykes midrange performance actually turned out to be one of its main strengths. This is why we believe the Tykes were so good and better than most micro systems in two-channel (stereo) music performance. Moreover these speakers could easily disappear in the musical soundstage, leaving you with a nice soundstage with no boundaries. Although the majority of Tykes owners may not use the system on a regular basis for serious stereo music listening, nevertheless it is important to note that the capability is there.

Used in home theater application, the Tykes offered more than their size and their $399 price tag indicated. Other than lacking of bass impact that was only obvious for some program materials, the Tykes pretty much covered all other bases in respectable fashion. We noticed excellent timbre match between the satellites and the center channel, good dialog intelligibility, and a nice delivery of ambience and surround effects.

Only when compared with a better system such as Onix’s own ELT or RS system, did we notice what the Tykes lacked, such as smoothness of sound and vocal naturality. But the differences were not night and day, and the Tykes’ versatility was more than a make-up for those weaknesses. The Tykes’ smallish size for example is a real advantage for a situation where space is really limited. Their small size also makes them a good solution to use in a video game system, or maybe even as computer speakers. The Tykes also offer more flexible installation options.

Speakers as small as the Tykes usually cry to not be pushed hard, but we were surprised at the ability of the system to handle a lot of power. Unlike what their size suggested, they could be driven to what we’d consider to be a very loud level – and certainly to a level at which other micro-sized bookshelf speakers start to complain – without sounding strained.

Conclusion

Onix’ Rocket Tykes are truly a gem among micro speaker systems. If you are looking for a tiny speaker system with little sacrifice in sound, you may not need to look any further than the Rocket Tykes. Overall, the Tykes are pleasant to listen to and quite adept for movies or music. They are also very versatile, with the ability to be used in many situations where space and installation are a challenge.

With a beautiful finish, excellent customer support and a clean sound, there are few, if any, micro speaker systems that can surpass what the Tykes have to offer for under $500.

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