We go ears-on with Corsair's newly unveiled 2.1 speaker system and find something very special lurking beneath its monolithic exterior.
High-end PC component manufacturer Corsair has been tentatively dipping its toes into consumer audio products of late. Its first product, the Dolby-powered HS1 headset, was very impressive. The design, build, and sound quality were head and shoulders above many of its competitors, despite a few bass response niggles.
Spurred on by the success of the HS1, Corsair is branching out further, this time into desktop speaker systems--a market heavily dominated by companies such as Creative and Logitech. It's kicking things off with the top-of-the-range SP2500, a gaming-focused 232-watt 2.1 system complete with bi-amplified satellites, a 4th order band-pass subwoofer, and a nifty LCD-equipped desktop controller, all costing a considerable $249.
The satellites and subwoofer have an understated look about them. You won't find any glossy plastic, shiny chrome, or oddly shaped housings to speak of. Instead, the look is functional, with the small satellites sporting mesh-covered 3-inch drivers and a silk domed tweeter in a plain black enclosure. They're reassuringly sturdy and weighty, though, and look and feel like they'll stand up to some abuse. The 120-watt subwoofer is similarly weighty and clad in black, with its size giving it a monolithic stature.
It's significantly larger than subwoofers from similar systems, almost reaching the size found in most home theatre setups, so you'll need plenty of room under your desk to house it. This is because it uses 4th order band-pass technology, which Corsair claims provides deeper and more accurate bass compared to the ported bass-reflex designs commonly offered by rivals. It also houses the power supply, a 3.5mm jack input, a standard phono line-in, a two-stage amplifier for the sub itself, and four Class D digital amplification circuits for the bi-amplified satellites,
Bi-amplification isn't something normally seen in desktop 2.1 systems and is instead featured in much more expensive hi-fi, home theatre, and studio monitor setups. What bi-amplification does is provide separate amplification to the mid-range driver and tweeter in each satellite through individual audio cables, rather than drive the entire satellite through one amplifier via a single cable. In theory, this should result in much better sound quality because each driver receives only the frequencies it's supposed to be reproducing, so there's much less chance of distortion. This does of course depend on how well the amplifier separates the low, mid, and high frequencies--commonly known as crossovers.
It's fortunate then that the SP2500 has some top-notch digital crossovers at its disposal. They're implemented using a digital signal processor (DSP), which means the crossover can be dynamically adjusted, so higher or lower frequencies can be sent to the sub and satellites on the fly. This can dramatically change the sound of the system and in conjunction with the DSP allows for special modes and environmental effects.
They're controlled using a supplied desktop controller, which features a colour LCD, a control dial, another 3.5mm jack input, a headphone output, and buttons for power, menu, volume, and subwoofer volume. The controller is very easy to use, with the control dial acting much like the iPod's clock wheel. You can scroll through lists of different EQ and environmental presets, adjust the volume, and change inputs with ease, and the bright LCD makes things easy to see late at night.
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