- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 8, 2011

For at least the foreseeable future, I intend to have an Apple Inc. iMac computer on my desk at home. The model I’m using, vintage 2009, has a 24-inch display screen that’s just right for my eyes, not to mention many other nice features.

One feature lacking on almost any computer today, desktop or notebook, is “enough” USB ports. If one can “never be too rich or too thin,” as the late Baltimorean Wallis Simpson once said, one also can never have too many USB ports.

Enter the $79 “Space Bar,” a combination pedestal/USB hub for the iMac sold via www.quirky.com, a website offering products developed by entrepreneurs and voted on by Quirky’s customers. If you do enough “influencing” to develop a product online or push its sales, you get a share of the revenue. (In writing about this product, I am not asking for, nor shall I accept, any revenue-sharing.)

The brushed-metal pedestal part - matching the iMac’s look - involves lifting the iMac base ever so slightly, about 2 inches, off a desktop to enable you to store a 1.5-inch-tall keyboard underneath. On the right and left side of the pedestal are two USB ports. Two more are in the rear, along with a power connector and a mini-USB port through which the Quirky connects to the iMac.

The piece is sturdy and attractive. I haven’t yet been able to park my keyboard under the pedestal - there’s too much stuff on my desk - but it is possible and is a very nice option for the fastidious among us. Raising the iMac doesn’t make viewing difficult, so that’s good.

USB performance is OK, however. I can sync and charge an Apple iPhone via one of the Space Bar’s ports, but not an iPad, though this probably is as much because of the higher power requirements of the iPad as to the Space Bar’s design. Other devices, including a recently attached Belkin memory-card reader (the ‘09 iMacs don’t have the built-in SD card readers later models do) work just fine.

I do wish the mini-USB port had been placed on the opposite side of the Space Bar, closer to the iMac’s USB ports. For now, this stretches the connecting cable just a bit.

Overall, I’m satisfied with my purchase, and I like the idea behind Quirky. But, guys, don’t send me any money. Donate it to the Salvation Army instead, please.

Raising a ruckus

For one of the best $200 purchases you’ll ever make, check out the Soundscience rockus 3D|2.1 speaker system from Antec.

Yes, I know, Antec is better known for computer system components (cases, power supplies and the like) than for speakers, but this product, which I’ve seen for about $150 online at merchants such as Amazon.com, might well blow the doors off of that one.

Whether it’s Mendelsohn’s “Reformation” symphony or “I’ll Fly Away” by the Charlie Daniels Band (and you haven’t lived till you heard that one, I believe) or the signature chords of Lady Antebellum - not to mention online radio stations streamed through iTunes - you will be astonished by the sound, just flat-out astonished. I’m listening to Mendelsohn as I write, and it’s just magical, transporting you to another realm. Ditto, in a far different genre, for the Romanian rockers Kal.

The system comprises a subwoofer, two desktop speakers and a dial-up remote that is not wireless, but powerful. The components are designed for use with a desktop computer, although I might want to try them out with my flat-screen in the family room.

Installation was quick and the directions clear. But no written words could prepare me for a sound that rivals that of components costing twice or three times as much. Sound, obviously, is what you want in speakers, and the Soundscience rockus 3D|2.1 delivers handsomely. The “3D” mode available via the remote produces even deeper sound.

Antec knows it has an uphill road in cracking this market: It’s offering customers who buy via mail order a 60-day refund, details of which can be found at www.antec.com/ rockuschallenge/. If you’re serious about the sound you hear, it’s a challenge worth taking.

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