Abit’s iDome DS500 and SW510 speakers

Manufacturer Abit
Model iDome DS500 (Speakers)
iDome SW510 (Subwoofer)
Price (Street) (DS500)
(SW510)
Availability Now

WHEN ABIT WAS ACQUIRED last year, the new owners pruned the company’s product line to focus its attention squarely on motherboards. Graphics cards and other ancillary products were cut, but one plucky side project managed to survive. That side project spawned Abit’s new iDome digital speakers and may inspire a revolution in PC audio.

That probably sounds a little melodramatic, but consider this. The iDomes were designed from the ground up with digital input in mind, and Abit has taken great care to ensure that they deliver every bit of the pristine quality of a digital bitstream to your ears. That bitstream—digital audio in its purest form—can be provided by fancy sound cards and “free” integrated motherboard audio alike, setting up the iDomes to challenge not only other speakers on the market, but the very need for a discrete sound card as well.

And so the stage is set. Can the iDomes, when paired with integrated motherboard audio, challenge the output quality of the best PC sound card on the market? Read on to find out.

Why digital?
PC audio starts in a digital format—a series of 1s and 0s that can be faithfully, and even perfectly, transmitted within the confines of a system. However, to get that audio content into a format that our ears can hear, it has to leave the safe, binary confines of the PC and enter our organic, analog world. Therein lies the problem: reproducing and transporting 1s and 0s in a digital world is a snap, but translating those bits into analog waveforms is not.

In most modern PCs, digital-to-analog audio conversion happens in an aptly-named piece of silicon called a DAC, or digital-to-analog converter. (The DAC is sometimes integrated into a cheap multi-purpose chip that acts as a DAC, ADC, and headphone amplifier, such as the Realtek ALC880. Fear the crab.) This chip sits on the motherboard or sound card and converts outbound audio bitstreams into waveforms that get piped to analog output ports. This crucial step is often where things go sideways in PC audio. Many a pristine digital audio signal has been butchered by the cheap DACs built into most motherboards and low-end sound cards.

Assuming the DAC does do a good job of converting the original audio bitstream to an analog signal, that signal is still subject to distortion on the way to the speakers. First it must pass through the confines of the PC, where it’s subjected to all sorts of electrical noise that can interfere with the signal. Once it leaves the system, it has to contend with the speakers, which probably apply some form of amplification that further manipulates the analog signal.

One way to combat such distortion and interference is to move the DAC closer to the end point on an audio stream’s journey. Digital signals can more easily maintain their integrity while navigating interference-riddled environments, and their very nature allows for more precise manipulation.

With the iDomes, Abit has moved the digital-to-analog conversion process right to the end of the line. Audio bitstreams maintain all their digital glory as they leave the system and enter the speakers, bypassing the DAC on the sound card or motherboard. Once the bitstream enters the iDomes, it hits a digital processing unit that handles equalizer functions and amplification. This work is all done in silicon, with a µGuru chip controlling one of several preset “SFX” processing modes.

Speakers can’t generate sound waves directly from a digital signal, so the iDomes do have to dip into the analog world eventually. However, that conversion doesn’t happen until the end of the line, which should help preserve the integrity of the original signal.

 

iDome DS500 speakers
The first element in Abit’s iDome equation is the DS500 speaker set. This two-channel setup combines 4″ satellites with 13mm tweeters and is rated for 25W RMS per channel. Abit claims a frequency response of between 20 and 300kHz and a signal-to-noise ratio of 86dB, and says the speakers can sample at up to 24 bits and 192kHz. So we’re off to a good start, then.

These iDomes are a little larger than typical PC speakers; each measures 186mm deep, 135mm wide, and 250mm tall. That’s 7.3″ deep, 5.3″ wide, and 9.8″ tall if you’re partial to fractions of the king’s forearm. The speakers aren’t that heavy, though. The right channel, which integrates all sorts of extra hardware, weighs just 2.5kg, while the left channel tips the scales at only 1.9kg.

Things get even better on the aesthetic front, at least if you’re a fan of glossy, piano black. The front face of each speaker is polished to a near-mirror finish that exudes class, at least until your greasy mitts leave smudged fingerprints all over it. You can’t get away with not touching the iDomes, either. They don’t come with a remote, so adjusting the volume, bass, treble, and SFX modes is done with knobs located along the bottom of the right-channel speaker. You’ll also find the power button along the bottom of the right-channel speaker, just above the requisite blue LED that lets you know the speakers are actually on.

Blue LEDs are a little passé for those looking for bling, but the iDomes do include an additional red LED that backlights the translucent panel at the bottom of the right-channel speaker. The red is a little much for my tastes, but Abit lets you turn it off with a switch at the back of the speaker.

Joining the red LED switch at the rear of the right-channel speaker are TOS-Link digital S/PDIF input and output ports, RCA analog input and output ports, and a little switch that toggles between them. Despite being designed primarily for digital input, the iDomes can accept an analog signal. The digital and analog outputs are there to connect to the iDome SW510 subwoofer—or any other subwoofer, for that matter.

With the iDomes so focused on digital input, it’s a little disappointing Abit doesn’t also include coaxial S/PDIF ports. We’ve seen a lot of motherboards sporting coaxial rather than TOS-Link S/PDIF outputs, and while you can get an adapter that converts between the two, it would have been nice to have coaxial ports out-of-the-box.

Digging through the DS500 box does produce analog and optical cables, though. You also get a 2m length of speaker wire to connect the left speaker.

 

The iDome SW510 subwoofer
Unlike most high-end PC speaker sets, the iDome DS500s don’t come with a subwoofer. Depending on how much you like bass to punch you in the chest, you might not need one, either. However, for those who want to feel their music as much as hear it, Abit has created the iDome SW510.

The SW510 follows the same aesthetic as the DS500s, but at 320mm deep, 200mm wide, and 350mm tall, it’s quite a bit larger. (12.6″ deep, 7.9″ wide, and 13.8″ tall for those of you who would rather water freeze at 32 degrees as opposed to 0.) As one might expect, the subwoofer weighs in at a heftier 5.2kg, too.

Like the DS500s, the subwoofer’s controls are located at the front of the unit, this time along the top edge. There isn’t much to control beyond the subwoofer’s power button and bass and volume knobs, though. Subwoofer volume and bass control are independent of the left and right speakers, which is either a great feature or an annoying inconvenience depending on how you like to tweak playback settings.

From the rear, we can get a good look at the subwoofer’s 6.5″ driver. The sub’s exhaust port is located at the bottom of the unit, and Abit says its design equalizes airflow to prevent distortion. Showing its motherboard maker roots, Abit calls this design DBX, or Digital Bass eXhaust. You know, because the speaker world doesn’t have enough oddly-capitalized Xs.

Abit says the SW510 pumps out 50W of RMS power with a 16-160Hz frequency response and signal-to-noise ratio of 93dB. The subwoofer isn’t limited to working with just the iDome DS500 satellites, either. You get standard analog and digital input and output ports, and since all the sub’s controls are independent, you can use it with any other speaker system, but again, no coaxial S/PDIF ports.

As with the DS500s, the SW510 comes with RCA and optical cables. The optical cable is of the thin, flimsy variety you find bundled with some sound cards and motherboards, so it feels a little cheap next to the solid construction of the iDomes. That shouldn’t affect the cable’s ability to deliver a clean digital signal, though.

 

Playback quality
The iDomes look promising on paper and gorgeous in the flesh, but how do they actually sound? Very good indeed. I’ve used various incarnations of Logitech’s high-end PC speakers over the years, and to my ears, the iDomes deliver superior clarity toward the middle and high end of the spectrum. You really need the SW510 subwoofer to get satisfying bass, though. Even then, the lows won’t knock you back in your chair, but you will feel them.

If you’re looking to wake your neighbors or fill a cavernous room, the iDomes are probably a little too quiet. They do offer plenty of power for mid-size rooms, and they can even fill larger spaces as long as you’re not throwing a rave for a bunch of rowdy teenagers who have all but driven themselves to deafness with their iPods.

Of course, we expected the iDomes to sound pretty good. At roughly a combined $250 for the speakers and subwoofer, they had better. But do they sound as good when paired with the digital output of built-in motherboard audio as they do when powered by a high-end sound card like Creative’s X-Fi XtremeMusic? To find out, I enlisted a friend for some blind listening tests. Our subject listened to a selection of 30-second WAV clips from our latest sound card comparison played back on the iDomes connected to the analog outputs of an X-Fi XtremeMusic and to the digital output of an EVGA 122-CK-NF68 motherboard with a relatively common Realtek ALC885 codec.

Through several songs, our subject was unable to distinguish reliably between digital motherboard output and analog output coming from the X-Fi. The two sounded all but identical to his ears, and I couldn’t discern a meaningful difference in playback quality, either. Score one for the iDomes.

Out of curiosity, I also tried out our integrated motherboard audio against the X-Fi’s digital output. Again, there was no difference in playback quality.

These results aren’t surprising given the nature of digital audio output, but it’s still mildly shocking to hear sound that good coming from onboard audio. The sound quality tanked when we switched to the onboard audio’s analog outputs, of course, but that’s not the iDomes’ fault. And with digital input, there’s no need to fall back on analog, anyway.

Time to ditch your sound card?
Combining a motherboard’s digital audio output with a set of digital speakers like Abit’s iDomes seems like a good way to cut a sound card out of the equation and save some money, and it works rather well if music playback is your only concern. However, it’s far from a universal solution.

For starters, the iDomes are only available as a two-channel speaker set, so you don’t get true surround sound. Surround audio is a handy feature to have for movie playback, but it’s even more vital for games, where being able to place the source of gunfire accurately can mean the difference between life and, uh, waiting 15 seconds to respawn. To be fair, software algorithms can fake surround sound environments using just stereo speakers. However, current virtual surround sound implementations aren’t as good as the real thing, and they’re not available with the majority of integrated motherboard audio solutions. Thanks, Realtek. Ironically, speaker virtualization schemes are actually more commonly supported on the very discrete sound cards you might want to supplant with the iDomes.

Whether the iDomes can replace your sound card will depend on just how fancy you want your positional audio and surround sound—and whether your motherboard’s integrated audio software is up to snuff on those fronts. 3D audio buffs will no doubt have a hard time matching the EAX Advanced HD 5.0 support of Creative’s X-Fi, which allows for 128 high definition 3D voices—with hardware acceleration to boot. However, some folks may be more than happy with the EAX 2.0 support offered by most motherboard audio, even if it is limited to just 32 concurrent 3D voices. When combined with the right positional audio algorithm, multi-core processors can largely mute the appeal of hardware acceleration, as well.

 

Conclusions
Abit’s iDomes aren’t the first digital PC speakers to hit the market, but they sound better than any others I’ve heard. For music playback in medium-sized rooms, they’re fantastic. More importantly, you don’t need to go out and spend a lot of money on a high-end sound card to make these speakers sound good—the “free” integrated audio on most motherboards should do, provided you have a digital output.

Of course, you will have to spend quite a bit of money on the iDomes. If you get the DS500 speakers and the optional SW510 subwoofer, which we’d recommend for those who appreciate a little chest thumping, you’re looking at about $250. Sure, you save a little on a sound card, and yes, speakers should last through several upgrade cycles, but that’s still a heck of a lot of money to spend on a two-channel setup.

What hurts the most about the iDomes’ lofty price tag is that they could use a little extra polish. Not to their exterior—they look gorgeous as-is. Playback quality doesn’t need any work, either, but the lack of a remote control and coaxial input options is disappointing. Independent controls for the satellites and subwoofer make the missing remote even more annoying, especially when gaming, where Windows or application volume controls aren’t readily accessible.

If you’re looking to make the most of your motherboard’s digital audio output, Abit’s iDomes will give you playback quality rivaling the best consumer-level PC sound cards. That’s a victory in itself, and although it’s a pricey one, Abit’s digital speakers make ditching your sound card a tantalizing option if you have little need for positional audio or true surround sound. Even if you do, the iDomes are just a couple of competent software audio algorithms away from a viable alternative to discrete audio cards. 

Comments closed
    • FireGryphon
    • 13 years ago

    Interesting review of an interesting product. You guys could have done a few more tests and given us some numbers to munch on, and I’d love to see more speaker reviews here in the future.

    The DS500 and SW510 are decent in their own right, but in some way I believe they are Abit’s response to our battle cries against Creative. No one can compete with Creative in sound cards, so Abit decides to try and popularize the idea of no discrete sound card at all. I imagine that if these speakers are a success, Abit will release even more powerful speakers in the same vein, perhaps even a surround sound version.

    The criticism in this thread is a little harsh considering that these speakers coudl very well be Abit’s prodding the market to see if there’s some desire for digital speakers. A more in depth review might have clarified some things and quieted some of the naysayers, but in any event, let’s take these speakers for what they are and not take them out of context.

    Yes, there are other digital speakers. As the article points out, digital speakers are a great way to beat Creative, and that selling point is a new one. I think we all want to give Creative a little honest competition.

    • Chrispy_
    • 13 years ago

    It’s amazing how much bashing a set of digital speakers can get.

    Audiophiles will not buy these speakers, they know better.
    Non-audiophiles will buy cheaper, more powerful speakers. Why have underpowered 2.1 from Abit when you can have a more powerful, better quality 5.1 setup for the same money.

    In the world of PC sound, most sound is dirty anyway. We’ve got to get away from these audiphile arguments in this thread because we’re NOT talking about crystal-clear 24-bit DAC’s that you get in a $1000 amp. We’re talking about 192Kb MP3’s and videogame sound effects sampled by a tape recorder. The problem in the upper spectrum of the PC audio world is low-quality sound source, not poor hardware reproducing the sound.

    • sigher
    • 13 years ago

    This article sounds like a stupid payed ad, the concept of “made for digital” is silly to start with, sound is analog.
    And to call anything not digital ‘distortion’ is also quite silly, digital is the distortion (need I mention quantisation errors) that a good amp has to rectify to get rid of the inherent flaws and problems putting it back into sound, which is analog.

    And the trick of the chinese to stamp ‘for digital’ on anything audio, even 2 dollar speakers/headphones like they’ve been doing for years makes it a bit unconvincing if abit does it too.

    But ok, abit doesn’t really deserve to go through so much trouble as they did I don’t think, so I don’t mind you boost them a bit with your ad, and the speakers might well be excellent, but I don’t think you were interested if they were before you started the article to be honest.

    • albundy
    • 13 years ago

    save your money and get a decent set of speakers from B&W. you will never regret it. sound is only as good as you can hear it.

      • StashTheVampede
      • 13 years ago

      You’re not looking at the market for what these speakers are. Instead of taking your digital output, then pumping into a receiver and THEN getting to some analog speakers, this setup removes all the analog pieces altogether.

        • tu2thepoo
        • 13 years ago

        uh… it’s not some magical new DIGITAL!!! technology they’re using – the only thing that these Abit models have done is effectively reduce the wire length connecting the speakers to the amplifier and D/A converter. If you actually believe there’s no analog part to these speakers you must not understand how speakers actually work.

          • liquidsquid
          • 13 years ago

          Digital amplifiers ARE quite different from their analog counterparts. While the speaker itself works in the same way, the amplifier has VERY low impedance (less than 0.1 ohms typical) making the damping of the amplifier phenomenally good. This results in very tight bass, mids, and highs, even from cheap speakers. What this means is the mechanical resonances of the driver which usually differentiate a good speaker from bad are “shorted out” so you mostly hear the sound signals desired. However more design goes into the filters on the output of the digital amps to remove switching frequencies that can effect this quality, but not by much.

            • ludi
            • 13 years ago

            All well-designed solid-state amplifiers (save for those deliberately designed otherwise, such as guitar amps) have a very low output impedance, resulting in very good damping factors. The real-world effects of improving this further are going to be small; at most you will get a very slight tonality shift in the speaker driver. The idea that a Class D amplifier can magically turn a poorly-designed driver into an excellent-sounding driver is a comedy routine straight out of the marketing brochure.

    • rythex
    • 13 years ago

    If there is one class of nerd more annoying than an Anti-MS linux nerd, it’s sound guru nerds…

      • tempeteduson
      • 13 years ago

      I assume that’s directed at me. I admit that “sound gurus” can be quite annoying, and I’m beginning to think that of myself, but I’m just pointing out the things that aren’t right.

      I’m out. Probably.

        • eitje
        • 13 years ago

        he’s just upset because he doesn’t understand the vast knowledge and, indeed, LOVE that you have for audio equipment. 🙂

        like when you try to correct someone that says “I got a three Gigahurt Pentium in my computer.” AAAUUGGG….

        or when someone says “I have 60 GB of memory…”

        he just doesn’t understand, my audio-brother.

      • ludi
      • 13 years ago

      Why, are you deaf?

    • Corrado
    • 13 years ago

    So the fact that it merely passes digital audio out, how does this handle EAX and the like? That is a function of the sound card drivers I know but in the TR tests a while back it was found that some (Craaaaaaaaab peoples.. </south park>) on board drivers were horrible at doing the EAX and positional stuff. Is this eliminated in the direct digital stream? Or does the audio stream still get processed by the drivers and merely the DAC is moved to the speakers instead of the one on the sound card? If it merely moves the DAC aren’t you still limited by the features and drivers of your sound card? I was under the impression this is the reason people purchase Creative Labs hardware over Envy32 and similar solutions… because they did hardware 3d and EAX algorithms with the latest and greatest versions, where as no other chip did it in hardware and you’d still feel the CPU usage…

      • Dissonance
      • 13 years ago

      All positional audio processing is done before an audio stream gets piped to output, so you’re still at the mercy of your sound card or mobo’s EAX implementation with these speakers.

      /[https://techreport.com/reviews/2007q1/abit-idome/index.x?pg=4<]§

        • Bensam123
        • 13 years ago

        I wondered as well… Thanks for the clarification.

    • cRock
    • 13 years ago

    I always get in trouble when I try to give constructive criticism, but here I go….

    As previously mentioned, the frequency response specs are completely absurd. I don’t know if they are a misprint or you’re just quoting Abit, but they are a red flag for anyone with even a basic knowledge of audio.

    Second, if you’re going to review speakers, some basic measurements (frequency response, distortion) are an absolute requirement. A very effective measurement system can be cobbled together using a PC and mic capsule.

    I’d love to see more reviews in this area, but “it sounds pretty good” is next to worthless. Our ears are easily fooled.

      • Damage
      • 13 years ago

      Hey, thanks for the input. You wrote:

      y[

        • ludi
        • 13 years ago

        So, are you saying that these are the figures as Abit delivered them, and not a typo? It would make a lot more sense if the main speakers were rated 20-30kHz (not 300kHz) and the subwoofer were rated 16-160Hz (not 160kHz).

        This is a pretty basic thing to catch; IMO “Abit says” is not a good enough answer. It’s obviously a misprint or an exceedingly gross exageration, and if they came from Abit with those figures attached, then furher questions seem to be in order — especially since I can’t find any indication of where these came from on the Abit website.

        So: where did they come from, did you guys catch them as being suspect(and if not, maybe you should set aside speaker reviews for a while!), and if so, did you try to contact Abit for clarification and what did they say?

        Interestingly, the power ratings (often the one thing that gets exagerated to the moon with a wink-wink-nudge-nudge P.M.P.O. tag attached) are given as RMS and are quite feasible.

          • Dissonance
          • 13 years ago

          kHz is, indeed, a typo. Fixed.

            • ludi
            • 13 years ago

            Sweeeeet. :’)

        • cRock
        • 13 years ago

        I’m sorry. Like I said, I’m trying to be helpful here.

        Our ears are easily fooled in a numerous ways. Acoustic memory is very, VERY poor which makes it very difficult to compare sounds when there is any more than the briefest of lapses in between. Our brains are also excellent at filling in any “missing” auditory information. For example, if you play the second and third harmonic of a tone, your brain will automagically fill in the fundamental to a certain extent. There are also numerous well documented psychoacoustic techniques that can be used to invoke emotional response. For example, 2nd harmonic distortion is often perceived as relaxing in the short term, while 3rd harmonic distortion is irritating. Over the long term, our brains are much better at figuring out what is going and building an accurate picture. For this reason, those speakers that were so impressive in the showroom sound boomy and tinny and you’ve lived with them for a week.

        So while some people are happy with the “near HD quality” of iTunes movies some people are also happy with mediocre sound reproduction. Hey, that’s cool by me. However, it doesn’t change the fact that something is missing. I’d like to know exactly what that something is before I make a purchase and the best way to provide that information is measurement. Otherwise, we’re just arguing over opinions.

    • eitje
    • 13 years ago

    q[<"as long as you're not throwing a rave for a bunch of rowdy teenagers who have all but driven themselves to deafness with their iPods. "<]q back in your day, did you have to walk uphill both ways in the snow to go deaf? and did you use sharpened sticks rather than these new-fangled gadgets kids have these days? 😀

    • SuperSpy
    • 13 years ago

    y[

    • Corrado
    • 13 years ago

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been considering these for the past few months but haven’t been able to find a review I trust. Now I need to ride out the last few days of my contract with Microsoft and find a new job… then I’ll pick em up.

    • ew
    • 13 years ago

    What class-D amplifier chip do these use? I’m pretty sure Texas Instruments makes one that accepts digital audio formats directly. No need for a D/A converter at all. (at least not an external one)

      • liquidsquid
      • 13 years ago

      Almost all Class-D chip amplifier chip-makers have drivers that take PWM digital signals directly, in fact they are forced to due to the chip processes needed for high-power transistors are much different than for low-power digital pre-processors. TI however makes some wonderful PWM controller parts that I have used on a project as well as the drivers. I achieved a 94% efficiency at 40WPV into 4 channels, so no heatsinking was even required!

      The one thing lacking was a HD audio or AC97 solution that would go direct from the PC’s digital stream right to PWM output rather than forcing a long chain as thus:

      PC digital to analog, AC97 mixer, AC97 amplifiers, A/D converter, PWM controller, PWM output, Class-D amplifier, speakers.

      Ideally:
      PC digital, PWM controller, Class-D amplifier, speaker.

      It seems this reviewed solution does just this, and when this becomes more commonplace, watch Creative break a major sweat. Most of Creative’s product line-up varies in the analog circuitry and quality thereof. Class-D amplifiers have come a long ways in the last few years, making traditional A and AB amplifiers a run for their money, and eliminating the need for high-quality opamps and linear amplifiers, capacitors in the audio chain, etc.

      Great stuff! I may have to get a pair of these.

      -LS

        • Kaleid
        • 13 years ago

        I’m sorry, but the truth is that digital amplifiers are still pretty much useless over 2000hz, there’s simply too much distorsion.

        The constant on-off switching of the powersupply is the reason for this.

        Judging by the review, these speakers seem crap.

          • mako
          • 13 years ago

          I have to disagree. I built a Tripath amp and it sounds fine.

          • liquidsquid
          • 13 years ago

          FUD FUD FUD. I have performed a LOT of tests on TIs lineup, and they are very good right up to 30kHz. Better than their analog counterparts when connected to speakers by quite a lot. You are thinking of the advertisements from competitive amplifier styles which don’t want you to buy into these new amps. This was true roughly 10 years ago, but not anymore. Technology advanced while you were under a rock.

            • Kaleid
            • 13 years ago

            Show my one digital amplifier that has less distorsion than say Rotel 1080 or 1090 🙂

            Real measurements made by say Stereophile..

            • ludi
            • 13 years ago

            That’s a tinkling match proposal that would never survive a proper double-blind test, because the distortion levels on those units, and on a modern high-end Class D amplifier, are below the threshold of audible perception in the human species.

            Class D’s primary disadvantage is in mechanical durability in PA equipment, because the virtual requirement for surfacemount technology is a lot less likely to survive being dropped out the back of a truck a few times by a careless roadie.

            • nonegatives
            • 13 years ago

            How do you justify comparing a $250, 25W speaker/amp with a $1000, 200W amp? I should hope your Rotel is better than anything that is sold as a “computer speaker.” You probably have a set of interconnects that cost more than these speakers.

            • liquidsquid
            • 13 years ago

            Sorry, can’t get much below 0.1% on class D due to no feedback (which has other benefits), which is still 100x below the human ability to hear distortion in basic sound and music (10%). Pure tones you can hear 1% but is is BARELY noticeable, and believe me, I am picky. You speakers will introduce much more distortion than the amplifier, it is a fact of non-linearities in cone movement and factors of mechanical momentum and spring action.

            Lets put it this way, I recently finished a design that was 30 RMS watts per channel into 8 ohms (59 into 4) and 4 channels worth. It had a S/N of 92dB (because it was run from a switching supply and it’s noise got into the analog path on the digitizing front-end). Running from a linear supply during test was 98dB. Still pretty darned good for “useless above 2KHz”. It had a frequency response of 10Hz to 20kHz +/-1Hz, and stupid efficient. (see previous post). It also had better than 1% distortion across that spectrum at full power, but most was above 10kHz due to when you drive 30W at 10kHz, you tend to push things really hard. Normal music at 30W RMS has very little power above 8kHz, so it is safe to say <0.1% since at 20W the amp had <1% across the spectrum.

            Cool stuff!

            Oh, the interesting part is how different the amplifier sounded from its analog counterpart. The class-D made the OK speakers we were using sound great, punchy, and very dynamic. The analog solution (some top-end integrated amplifiers from National) sounded comparatively awful. The damping of each amplifier was vastly different: 2 ohms for AB vs. 0.07 for the class D, which impacts how the mechanical design of the speakers interacts with the electrical.

            I am sure really good speakers wouldn’t have had as much difference, but a class-D amp can make cheap speakers sound great.

            -LS.

    • tempeteduson
    • 13 years ago

    Digital Bass eXhaust (DBX)
    20Hz-300kHz (DS500)
    16Hz-160kHz (SW510)

    What a load of hooey! The first is called a bass-reflex port or vent, and it’s no digital bass. As well, the frequency response specs are just ridiculous! (How in freezing hell would a “subwoofer” reach 160kHz? Divide by 1000, please. And double the 16Hz figure, at least. The numbers for the mains are, similarly, a blatant lie.) I’m sorry, but marketing like this really grinds my gears.

    To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with the review. I know audio is not TR’s expertise, but I expected more in the way of listening impressions. Not that I would ever buy this matching set of pure audiophile shamefulness. Try a stereo pair of Swans M200 or S200 speaks.

    Cue the bashing.

      • ew
      • 13 years ago

      Oh, I believe you’d get a response in those frequency ranges. That response would probably be anything ranging from +3db to -100db though so it’s totally worthless information.

        • tempeteduson
        • 13 years ago

        One reason why “multimedia” speakers rarely advertise dB figures associated with frequency response numbers. If they are there, it’s most likely -10dB (or at best, -6dB) for the bass cutoff. -3dB is more-common for the civilized world of audio. 😉

      • ludi
      • 13 years ago

      It would make more sense if that were 20Hz-30kHz for the mains and 16-160Hz for the subwoofer. Still pushing the limits of what a non-exotic speaker system of that size can achieve, and probably at least 6dB down on the lower end of the bass ratings. But I am wondering if that was what they were trying to claim, and it got garbled in translation somehow.

        • tempeteduson
        • 13 years ago

        The fixed specs are only a bit better. 20Hz from the mains would mean you could (nay, should) get away without a subwoofer, which is, of course, not the case. I’d wager the real -3dB point is somewhere around 80Hz (that’s optimistic), seeing that a good ported 5″ woofer can get to 60Hz (-3dB). That’s two octaves above the quoted specs, and that’s a /[

          • Willard
          • 13 years ago

          For Christ’s sake people, they’re /[

            • ludi
            • 13 years ago

            For $250 computer speakers…yes. You can get a pair of Infinity 2-way bookshelffers and an Alesis rack amp off eBay for that kind of money.

      • continuum
      • 13 years ago

      No kiddin’… I wonder who was being SLIGHTLY optimistic with those specs.

      I’ll stick with my PSB Alpha A/V’s at home, my Paradigm Titans at my parental units’, or even my crappy Klipsch Promedia 2.1’s at work.

    • adisor19
    • 13 years ago

    I have a Cambridge Soundworks 2500 5.1 set back from 2001. Still works wonderfully and with the digital connection.

    Adi

    • UberGerbil
    • 13 years ago

    This might be interesting for someone with a DVD player but no digital-capable receiver (there was someone asking about this situation in the forum a few weeks ago). Sure, you don’t get surround or a center channel but that’s not a deal-breaker.

    • Bensam123
    • 13 years ago

    In the past audio virtualization has been pretty bad (playing 5.1 content on 2 speakers or 2.1), but with the X-Fi card I’ve found it to be almost just as good.

    I own a pair of s750s and I have a nice pair of sennheiser headphones. When I need to turn the volume down I just flip over to my headphoners with CMSS-3D enabled. It’s /[

    • Fighterpilot
    • 13 years ago

    Although 5.1 and 7.1 speaker systems with speakers(and wires) all over the place is the “in thing” these days,I find my Boston Acoustics BA735 setup with 2 satellites and a powered subwoofer delivers excellent sound across a range of applications.The 2.1 system in this article looks like a newer, better version of them.Definetly worth a look if you’re in the market for a PC speaker system.Nice review there guys.

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