|Model||Gaming Audio Series SP2500|
Many adjectives describe Corsair's entry into the audio market—surprising, unexpected, and bold, among others—but half-hearted certainly isn't one of them. Since we reviewed the company's first gaming headset last year, Corsair has introduced another headset and two sets of gaming speakers.
We first encountered those speakers at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. While we were intrigued, Vegas isn't exactly the best place to sit down calmly and assess the fidelity of audio equipment. The fact that the speakers were premiered in a crowded club filled with busty waitresses and inebriated journalists didn't help.
For the past little while, however, we've had a set of Gaming Audio Series SP2500 speakers all to ourselves. We've been listening closely and have finally been able to come up with a verdict about Corsair's latest foray into the world of premium PC audio equipment.
Make no mistake: these are premium speakers through and through. They'll set you back 250 bucks at Newegg, and that's for just for a stereo set with a subwoofer. (Corsair doesn't make surround speaker sets yet.) To give you a nice frame of reference, Newegg stocks a similar set of speakers from Bose... and those cost $26 less than the SP2500. I haven't been too impressed with Bose products in the past, but they're not exactly known for being affordable, either. Corsair's pricing signals bold confidence in its first and only high-end speaker offering. We'll soon see whether that confidence is warranted.
The SP2500 certainly looks like a premium PC speaker setup ought to look. I would go so far as to call it dashing, especially given the two satellites' muscle-car-dashboard finish. Of course, looks alone can't justify the kind of asking price Corsair is demanding—one also expects top-notch sound quality and the ability to crank up the volume enough to make one's ears bleed.
At least on paper, the SP2500 seems to tick all the right boxes. It has 232W of maximum output power, and it's supposed to let you use the entire volume range—a feat you can't take for granted with the competition, Corsair claims. The firm tells us the two satellites feature 3" mid-range drivers as well as "silk-domed, ferrofluid-cooled tweeter[s]." The satellites are "bi-amplified," purportedly to prevent audio signal bleed. Meanwhile, the 120W subwoofer plays host to a "custom-designed, high-efficiency power supply unit, the two-stage amplifier for the sub itself, and the four Class D digital amplification circuits for the bi-amplified two-way satellite speakers."
Are you blinded with science yet?
Since we're talking about the subwoofer, I'd like to take a minute to point out just how friggin' large it is. Seriously. I measured the thing at roughly 18" x 10" x 11", which is a little over a cubic foot. If the sub were hollow, it would hold almost nine gallons (or 33 liters) of liquid. Here it is dwarfing a 2L bottle of pop:
Believe it or not, there's a reason behind those elephantine dimensions. Here's the relevant graphic and excerpt from the reviewer's guide Corsair sent us:
The Corsair Gaming Audio Series SP2500 utilizes a sophisticated 4th orders band-pass subwoofer design, rather than the ported bass-reflex design that is commonly used in competing systems. In a 4th order band-pass system, the driver unit is placed in a sealed chamber. This is also known as "acoustic suspension" and allows the driver to create bass tones with very low levels of distortion.
The driver unit fires into a separate, ported chamber, which creates an acoustic filter that only passes a set range of frequencies (hence the name "band-pass"), and rejects frequencies outside this band, significantly reducing audible distortion.
In a nutshell, the sealed-chamber-firing-into-a-ported-chamber design is meant to produce higher-quality and better-defined bass tones than conventional designs. The tradeoff is all that extra volume. At least, that's what you'll have to tell yourself every time you stub your toe on this subwoofer.
Getting the SP2500 up and running is child's play, since only a single cable connects each speaker to the sub. Those cables have plugs that look an awful lot like 12V ATX power-supply connectors, but hey, what else do you expect from a company that also makes PSUs?
Once the speakers are connected, you'll want to hook up the power, the stereo audio cable (which connects to your sound card), and the remote. Corsair also includes RCA audio jacks, but there's no digital input. The company rationalizes this omission by pointing out that a digital 5.1 audio stream would have to be mixed down to two channels anyway. A digital connection might yield higher stereo sound quality if you're using onboard audio, but let's face it: anyone springing for a $250 PC speaker setup really ought to shell out $30 for a good sound card.
One issue you might run into during setup is trying to position everything without running out of cable length. The power cable is only about 5' long, and the speaker, stereo, and remote cables are all 6' long or so. I was hoping to put the subwoofer next to my desk to avoid restricting my legroom, but the cables were simply too short for that to be possible. Next stop: stubbed toe city.
But I digress. Now that we've got everything set up and ready to go, let's take these bad boys for a spin.