Monday, September 24, 2007

Cyber Acoustics Acoustic Authority A3780 Pro Series Computer Speaker System Review

Cyber Acoustics Acoustic Authority A-3780 Pro Series Computer Speaker System Review:

[UPDATE: Some updates have been added. since original review posted Sept 2007.]
(UPDATE Dec 2013 - Tho the tricks and info below are still relevant and applicable, the speaker systems mentioned in this post are no longer in production or available for purchase new. You'll have to find 'em used if you want one.)
Pic of Cyber Acoutics A-3780 Pro Series Computer Speaker System:

Summary: Great sound, great price (New approx $100 - $130 range). Blows away many systems costing three times the price.

Pros: Tons of power (180watts total. Subwoofer: 100watts. Satellites: 2x40watts), Fabulous sound, espec for the price. Absolutely huge bass capablilities from the Subwoofer. Two way satellites speakers give nice crisp sound. Extra long cable lengths make setup easy. Company stands behind the product, even if bit slow to complete warranty replacement process.

Cons: "Mouse style" Speaker Controller Pod very high failure rate (turns out its poor quality wires - see below). Subwoofer output might be too “hot” even at lowest levels for some tastes. System is fairly heavy if you plan to move it around as I do. You don't have to be a weightlifter but the Sub definitely has some heft to it.  Of course most folks will just set it up and leave it so weight is not an issue. This model, the 180 watt A-3780 is unfortunately no longer made.

Another con is the proprietary plug used on the Control Pod, almost impossible to replace or repair if anything should happen.

[The A-3780 Pro Series replacement system, the "new" A-3780RB, is only 135watts (see below), not 180watts and sadly its sound quality not anywhere near that of the original A-3780.]

Great system. Huge sound. Especially for the price. Aluminum heat-sink on back of Sub to help cool unit. “Mouse style” Speaker Controller Pod great design with nice long cable which plugs into back of the Sub allowing easy pod and speaker placement. Controller Pod has On/Off Switch, Master Volume, Sub Volume, and mini stereo Headphone Jack which will automatically silence the speakers when headphones are plugged in.
(Just too bad about its poor quality wires - see below.)
High quality dual speaker Satellites also have nice long wires for equal freedom and ease of placement. Nothing worse than being forced to put your speakers or controller pod where you don’t want them just because they didn’t give you enough wire. No problem with that here!

Speaker Controller Pods: Poor reliability wire/plug connection - (turns out its poor quality wires!)

Unfortunately the mouse style Speaker Controller Pods are hugely unreliable.
FIVE of them have failed on me (two A-3780 Pro Series, one A-3780RB, and two A-3640RB models) despite the fact I have always used the most extreme care and caution in handling them.

When the Control Pod fails, you will think the entire system has blown (which I of course did), often first one channel fails, then the other, and finally the Sub, if indeed the entire unit didn’t stop all at once, but after now enduring several such failures with different units, experience seems to now indicate it is these mouse-like Controller Pods which are the problem (the connector jack on the end of the cable it would seem) and not the speaker systems themselves which are dying.
Systems I assumed now permanently toast (as in never to work again) came magically back to life when a new Speaker Controller Pod unit was plugged into the back of the offending units Subwoofer. Surprise, surprise! (And a delightful one at that! - even if short lived.)

Fixing the “Pod”
Unfortunately finding a replacement plug (9-pin Mini Din, 10mm diameter) with which to repair the connector end of the Speaker Controller Pod wire, has proven hugely difficult if not impossible to find.
(At the time of this writing still haven’t acquired any replacement parts with which to effect repairs. Will post a link here below should I find a supplier.)

Requests for possible schematics to assist in repairs after several months now also still await Cyber Acoustic’s managing to find and send them to me.
UPDATE: After considerable effort finally managed to get the documents from Cyber Acoustic, though they didn't exactly make it easy.

**UPDATE: Fixing the “Pod”
Finally Some Success! ....well, sort of:
At last managed to find and order 9-pin replacement plugs but they are simply impossible to solder up being so tiny. (And a good thing in the end too as turns out the plugs weren't the problem, the wires are.)
After far more mega searching finally found and purchased better quality 9-pin cables with the plugs already attached, then cut the cables in half giving two "new" cables with connectors.
Dismantled and removed the old cable from the mouse controller pod, and after first carefully determining which wire needed to go where, soldered on the new 9-pin cables. 
These new cables work great and are far more robust than the original.  Turns out the original mouse pod connector wires are far too delicate and break inside. 

Replacement connector cables can be found at (Sorry, the direct link is broken.....  once there look for "9pin mini din".)

The A-3780RB is NOT the A-3780 Pro Series!
The "not as good" A-3780RB replacement system which Cyber Acoustics now sells and sent to me as an A-3780 Pro Series replacement, is NOT 180 watts as far too many sites declare. Even the A-3780RB box wrongly states it is 180watts but such is not the case.
The A-3780RB is only 136 watts total RMS (see link below) and unfortunately even though its satellites are identical to the Pro Series its sound output and quality suffers considerably in comparison to the original Pro Series A-3780.

Here's a pic of the A-3780RB replacement system, the one you DON'T want, ....well, I didn't anyway! :-)
136 watts total: Satellites - 32 watts/ch x 2; Sub - 74 watts.]

Only the original A-3780 Pro Series system is 180 watts (Subwoofer = 100 watts. Satellites = 2x40 watts).

The original A-3780 blows the "new" A-3780RB out of the water when it comes to sound quality. Huge difference. Instantly noticeable. On top of the Pro Series A-3780’s extra power, quite possibly its different Subwoofer design might also significantly improve its overall sound quality.

The 136 watt A-3780RB shown here is still a reasonable sounding unit but nothing compared with the original A-3780.

So, if you want the better sounding original A-3780 Pro Series, sorry, you'll have to find it used. (It’s really a shame they stopped making it.)

(The original A-3780 system shown at the top of this page, which has a large black sound port on the left side of the sub, not the small oval gray hole on the front like the A3780RB, is the one you want to look for if searching for a used one.)

Portable PA System!  . . . . using Computer speakers???

Actually using these systems now at live gigs as a small PA System (have used A-3780, A-3780RB, and A-3640RB models), running piano, bass, electric drum, and vocals(!) through them, in quite large venues and at considerable volume levels.
Volume output has never been an issue, though the less powerful A-3640RB system can more easily get pressed to its limits along with it's poorer quality satellites, and doesn’t sound as sweet as the A-3780 Pros, however the A-3640RB is also half the weight so is far easier to carry around if your sound needs aren't quite as serious.

The 180 watt A-3780 Pro Series has a very nice crisp sound thanks to its higher quality satellites (like the sub woofer, these too are twice as heavy as the A-3640’s), with absolutely tons of bass available, sometimes even a bit too much! A separate EQ would allow cutting the bass output while still allowing the Sub to be turned fully up to utilize its full power output of 100 watts.

I find the sound of this setup far “larger”, “smoother”, and "fuller" than anything that might be gotten from any compact PA system I’ve tried. I’m sure it’s having the Sub which makes all the difference to the sound over a standard small P.A.. Small to medium PA systems can’t manage such nice “full” bottom end, especially at low or moderate volume levels, unless they too have a Sub.
At one gig when still using the replacement A-3780RB which suddenly refused to run mid-song due to my then as yet undiscovered pod control wire issues, I plugged instead into their name brand house PA system sporting two substantial two way speaker cabinets, and even though it too was stereo and assuredly far more power overall than the A-3780RB, despite all manner of tweaking the sound quality was terrible in comparison to the A-3780/A-3640RB systems.
I suffered through of course, but following that carried one of my “spare” A-3640RB systems with me just in case, until I finally discovered and undertook the pod wire fix.

[Once I discovered that it’s the Speaker Controller Pods which are the problem and not the entire speaker system itself, I only carry a spare Speaker Controller Pod. Fortunately I've never needed to use it since I installed the new cables, but it's always there for extra assurance.) 
(**UPDATE: Dec 2013 - Still doing several gigs a week since 2007 with the A-3780 Pro Series, everything working perfectly since replacing those wonky pod control cables. System has turned into quite the work horse. Who knew!]


PA System Mixer
The tiny mixer I use only has EQ on the first two vocal channels. (Behringer UB 1002FX) The mixer’s stereo channels don’t have EQ so, because I like to run the keyboard in stereo, other than from the keyboard itself I’m not able to reduce the bass EQ on the Piano, Bass Guitar, and Elec Drum, so things can get a tad boomy depending on the room and how high I have the Sub turned up.
One of these days I may pick up a larger mixer with EQ on those channels so I can tweak EQ from them too, but I like the tiny footprint of the 1002FX which sits perfectly right on top of the Roland RD700 Piano just above the right hand end of the kbd.

The A-3780 (or A-3780RB and A-3640RB) systems have even handled venues with a couple hundred people, having easily more than adequate sound output for vocals, piano, bass, and drum. Wouldn’t want to crank a full live band through it needless to say, but the system performs surprisingly well!
**UPDATE: HUGE Improvement
Have since purchased Behringer's Xenyx 1202FX Mixer   giving separate three band EQ control on vocals AND the RD700 piano, bass, and drums.  Far superior sound control. 
Can actually turn the A-3780 Sub up full volume now, and roll off bass on each channel individually (by running RD700 into channels 3+4 panned L-R accordingly to maintain stereo separation). 
Now utilizing the full 180 watt power of the A3780 system instead of having to keep the sub turned way down to avoid extreme bass output.  Far superior to using the old 1002FX mixer with no EQ for the RD700.  The Xenyx 1202FX still fits nicely sideways on the RH side of the RD700, just hangs over the front edge couple inches.
1202FX Mixer

Satellite Speaker Stands - Dead Simple! - Very Inexpensive

In trying to find some sort of stand to mount the satelittes on for live perfomances, I searched high and low and tried many different ideas and stands but found nothing that was easily portable, reasonably stable, and not too obtrusive looking, not mention wouldn’t cost a bundle.
After considerable searching and trying various things in various price ranges, I finally came upon the idea of using a couple of light weight camera tripods. (Duh! Took me long enough!)

I bought two light weight aluminum camera tripod stands (approx $20ea), each of which also handily came with two easily detachable mounting plates which you would normally attach to your cameras and then easily slip the cameras on and off the top bracket on the tripod.

The Cyber Acoustic A-3780 Satellites (and A-3640RB) each conveniently (or is that thoughtfully?) have a threaded metal mounting machine screw hole on their backs. I simply took one of the satellites into the hardware store, found the proper threaded screws, then easily drilled a hole through two of the aforementioned plastic tripod mounting plates, inserted the screw through the hole, then screwed the plate to the back of each satellite.
Pic of tripod mounting plate secured on back of satellite speaker:

With these mounting plates permanently attached to the backs of the satellites, at the gig I simply slip the mounting plate into its slot on the top of the tripod and latch it in place. Ta-Da!
Of course the speaker height can easily be adjusted with both the tripod leg extensions or the telescoping center pole, and on top of all that the satellite speaker can then even be tilted up or down and swivelled left and right in any direction with the numerous adjustment features found on the top of the camera tripod. Pretty slick! Dead simple!
Pic of tripod mounting bracket on the left, which holds satellite mount plate:

Side view of satellite mounted on tripod.

Lightweight! Inexpensive! Easy to set up and take down! And because the plates are screwed to the back of the satellites and do not interfere with the base in any way, the satellites can still be simply placed on a shelf or table for more “regular” use.

Bonus: Double Duty!
After all that I can still instantly use the tripods for cameras because each tripod came with two of the removeable attachment plates, even though two plates are now permanently attached to the backs of the satellites, the other two plates are still available for camera use should I need it!. Cool!

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