Corsair SP2500 2.1 Speaker Review - Corsair enters another market
Satellites and Control Pod
Each satellite features the tweeter offset from the 3” driver. This is done to more adequately direct the “sweet spot” towards a user who is around 3 to 5 feet away from the speakers. The speakers also come with small stands which are nicely padded to keep from vibrating when placed on a hard surface. These stands tilt the speakers back around 20 degrees, so as to direct sound towards the head of the user rather than their chest (assuming that these speakers are set at desktop levels).
Corsair is taking a direct stab at computer speakers by including a tweeter in their satellites. Tweeters in computer audio are not unheard of, but they are uncommon. Each satellite has a 1” silk-domed, ferro-fluid cooled tweeter, as well as the 3” treated paper driver. What is unique about this design though is that each satellite speaker is bi-amplified. Most computer satellite speakers have a single pair of wires going to it. Considering that most of these speakers feature one driver, this is not surprising. In home audio, we often see 2-way speakers which still utilize the same pair of wires to power both speakers in the enclosure. This means a single amp is going to power the tweeter and the driver, and inside the speaker a passive crossover is used to “divide” the signal and power to the different components. The crossover determines what frequency sounds go where, and how much power it will deliver.
The sub is nicely wrapped and protected. For your pleasure.
Using bi-amplified speakers allows Corsair to do some interesting things. First off it uses a separate amplifier for each speaker component. Each tweeter has its own class-D amplifier, and delivers 16 watts per tweeter. Each driver again has its own amplifier, and it delivers 40 watts per driver. This means very clean power to each individual driver and tweeter. It also allows Corsair to utilize digital crossovers to help shape the sound. Digital crossovers can be programmable, as compared to passive which will always be static in what frequencies they handle. So Corsair takes the source signal, processes it and sends it individually to each amplifier. It is more complex to do this, but it can also be more accurate. The result is very clean sound to each individual speaker.
Using digital crossovers also allows Corsair to do a few other things. For the most part these crossovers do not react dynamically to the sound coming through them. They are pretty much set when it comes to frequencies being passed to the amps. Where the programmability comes in is in the DSP functionality that Corsair includes with the control unit. The big example here is the “Late Night Mode”. When enabled, this mode changes the crossovers and shunts the bass frequencies to the midrange drivers. This essentially cuts out the subwoofer, but still allows those frequencies to be represented. Obviously music and games will not have the same thump, but the low end will still be present.
The satellites are connected to the amplifier embedded in the subwoofer by some pretty unique cables. These are essentially 4-pin ATX power cables, which allows easy installation of the satellites. It also is robust enough cable to handle the 56 watts of power being directed through them. This was apparently a simple, turnkey solution for Corsair that worked out very well. The only real downside is that it makes potentially swapping out the cables a bit harder.
The final big feature is that of the control pod. This is a unique and very useful unit as compared to other competing 2.1 designs. The unit features a TFT LED screen which provides a graphical interface for users to adjust their speakers with. There are a total of 4 buttons and a wheel which can be depressed to select highlighted functions on the screen. The buttons are: power, system volume, system settings, and subwoofer level. When system volume is selected, the user can see where the power level is compared to min/max. There are three colors which indicate overall volume power and comfort. Blue represents normal listening volumes, and I preferred it set right at the top of the blue bar. Green represents higher volumes which are still within the comfort range to most people. Red represents the highest volumes that this set can go, and are generally uncomfortable to people with normal hearing in a standard listening environment.
The control pad is intuitive, and the LCD screen is bright enough to be seen even in direct sunlight. The screen is set to turn off after 10 seconds of new input, but this can be changed by the user in the settings menu.
The subwoofer button allows the adjustment of the subwoofer level. I preferred it around three-quarters of the way up. The functionality button controls the DSP effect, the input selection, and finally the preset equalizations. DSP functionality includes different sound effects, such as “Stadium” or “Theater” modes, which attempt to replicate the sonic environments of these environments. Also included is the “Late Night Mode” which adjusts the crossovers to still deliver bass, but not utilize the subwoofer so that it does not shake the house when loved ones are sleeping.
EQ settings are not the same as DSP. Instead of shaping the music digitally and changing the very tone of the material, the EQ changes the strength of the represented frequencies. A Flat or reference setting does not change any of the frequency strengths from the source material. Settings such as FPS or Action Gaming will increase the strength of frequencies under 80 Hz, which gives percussive elements and explosions a boost. The most important settings are those of Headphone, Mod-X, and Action Gaming. The Headphone setting is an attempt to overcome the typically poor high end representation in low-quality headphones. Typically these cheap headphones have a poor response above 2 kHz, so the EQ attempts to overcome that response. High quality headphones typically do not exhibit this deficiency, so this is primarily for users who purchase $50 and cheaper headphones looking for good sound. Mod-X re-equalizes movie soundtracks which assume the use of a larger home theater system and larger rooms. This allows better dialog and spatial cues in soundtracks to come out in a near-field environment. Finally Action Gaming really makes the bass thump, and explosions have that visceral feel that can scare the dickens out of you at unexpected moments.