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Corsair SP2500 2.1 Speaker System and HS1A Headset
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Date: Apr 12, 2011
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and specifications

It was back at the Consumer Electronics Show that we first caught a glimpse of the Corsair SP2500 2.1 channel speaker system. Dave and I were traversing the show floor while our compadres Mat and Jennifer were off gallivanting at a few private meetings at some lavish Las Vegas hotels. As we headed straight into the Corsair booth to check out some new cooling gear, new solid state drives, and a slick, white 600T case, we walked right passed the SP2500s, which were positioned on and end-cap at one of the corners of the booth. As our discussion with reps from Corsair winded down, we asked if we had seen all that Corsair was featuring for the show. The answer was no.

At that point we were escorted to the SP2500 demo and became more interested as the demo progressed. In a former life, I was a bit of a wanna-be audiophile and was immediately intrigued by the use of a fourth-order closed bandpass subwoofer enclosure, integrated DSPs, class-D amplifiers, and bi-amplified satellites, among a handful of other features. Although the idea of a 2.1 speaker system isn’t terribly exciting to some users in this era of multi-channel gaming audio and 5.1 channel speaker systems, the technology employed by the Corsair SP2500 2.1 channel speaker system grabbed our attention. Not only that, but the simple fact of the matter is, most PC users don’t have the right room and / or desk setup to properly configure a surround sound speaker system. If you own a high-end, 5.1 channel speaker system and your rear satellites aren’t positioned properly, at the right angle and distance from your ears, don’t scoff at the idea of an advanced 2.1 channel system. Odds are the 2.1 channel setup sounds better than the muddled mess that is an improperly setup and configured 5.1 channel speaker system.

That’s enough backstory and ranting. Take a peek at the Corsair SP2500 2.1 channel speaker system’s specifications and features below and then we’ll take a tour of the kit and give you our impressions. We’ll also be featuring a great companion to the SP2500s a little later, Corsair’s recently released HS1A headset. There’s lots to get to, so let’s crank things up to 11 and get this party started.

 

Corsair SP2500 2.1 Channel Speaker System
Specifications & Features
Specifications 

  • Frequency response: 35Hz – 20kHz +/- 3dB
  • 232 Watts total power (measured via FTC “RMS” method)
  • Subwoofer dimensions: 18.1 x 10.2 x 11.7 inches (46 x 25.8 x 29.7 cm)
  • Satellite dimensions: 4.25 x 4.7 x 6.25 inches (10.8 x 12 x 15.9 cm)
Subwoofer:

  • 8” 120W (IEC60268-5 24hr continuous rating) subwoofer with durable rubber surround
  • Fourth-order closed bandpass enclosure design
  • Bridged dual 60 Watt class-D amplifiers with integrated DSP for 120 Watts of power (measured via FTC “RMS” method)
  • Ultra-efficient integral power supply with 100V – 240V AC input
Satellites:

  • Bi-amplified, two-way design with detachable audio cables
  • 3” 40W (IEC60628-5 24hr continuous rating) midrange drivers
  • 1” 16W (IEC60268-5 24hr continues rating) ferrofluid-cooled silk diaphragm tweeters
  • 56 Watts per satellite (measured via FTC “RMS” method): 40 Watt midrange class-D amplifiers with integrated DSP
  • 16 Watt tweeter class-D amplifiers with integrated DSP
I/O, Controls and Programming

  • PC input on subwoofer
  • Dual 3.5mm auxiliary inputs (one on subwoofer, one on desktop controller)
  • 3.5mm headphone output with digital signal processing
  • Wired desktop controller with high-resolution color 1.8” (4.6cm) TFT display and multi-lingual interface (English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, and Simplified Chinese)
  • Mod X™ theatrical audio processing for Blu-Ray and DVD audio that recreates the theater experience
  • Dynamic DSP programs and EQ curves for late night listening, environment simulation, and optimal enjoyment of game and movie genres
Package Contents

  • Subwoofer
  • Satellites (Two)
  • Desktop controller with 6’ / 1.8m cable
  • 3.5mm to stereo RCA cable for PC input
  • Two 6’ / 1.8m satellite audio cables with ATX4 connectors
  • Power cable

Looking strictly at the numbers, the Corsair SP2500 2.1 channel speaker system may not seem overly impressive. Only 2.1 channels, only 232 total watts, an 8” subwoofer, etc. But there’s definitely more to the numbers. As we’ve mentioned, a 2.1 channel setup may be ideal for users who cannot properly install and configure a 5.1 channel system (and no, sticking your rear satellites on the floor, under your desk is not adequate). Those 232 watts are an actual, measured RMS rating, not some meaningless peak power rating, and that subwoofer is wrapped in a tuned enclosure that minimizes distortion and maximizes output. The bottom line is the Corsair SP2500 speaker system has a lot going for it, that the numbers don’t explicitly show.

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Setup and Configuration

Inside the Corsair SP2500 box, users will find a large subwoofer, a pair of satellites, two small stands to help angle the satellite speakers up or down depending on their location, a control pod, and all if the necessary wiring to get the speaker system connected and running.


Corsair SP2500 Fouth-Order Bandpass Subwoofer

Because the Corsair SP2500 2.1 speaker system uses a standard analog connection to a PC’s sound card or integrated audio controller, installing the system couldn’t be an easier. A single 3.5mm stereo to dual RCA cable plugs into the PC’s output and then into the left and right channel inputs on the subwoofer. Then the satellites need to be connected to the sub along with the control pod, and then the sub needs to be plugged into power (obviously).


A View Of The Back Of The Right Satellite Speaker

The cables for the satellite speaks have four-pin, keyed connectors on each end, so they can only be installed one way, i.e. the correct way. The cables are color coded as well, to designate the left and right channels. Simply plug in the cables to their color matched receptacles, place them properly on your desk and the satellites are set up.


The Corsair SP2500 Control Pod

The control pod is similarly easy to install. The pod features a thick cable with a DB15 connector on one end. Simply screw it into the port on the back of the subwoofer and that’s it. The cable is 6 feet long, but we should note that a standard VGA extension cable can be used to extend it if the need arises.

With everything connected and powered up, the final step to configuring the Corsair SP2500 2.1 channel speaker system is telling Windows that you’re using a 2.1 channel speaker system. Any games you play will also need to be set to 2.1 channels or stereo output to ensure no details are lost.

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Sound Quality and Testing

Before we discuss sound quality, we should discuss the specific attributes of the speakers themselves. The subwoofer included with the Corsair SP2500 2.1 channel speaker system uses a fourth order bandpass enclosure design with an 8” driver. A fourth order enclosure is essentially a sealed subwoofer enclosure with an additional section that houses a tuned port. The port is tuned to a certain frequency and extends the low frequency response over a basic sealed enclosure, within the limits of the driver. Fourth order bandpass enclosures are efficient and offer good power handling, but only up to the limit of port’s tuned frequency. Try to push lower than the tuned frequency and things get distorted real quick. But, since the Corsair SP2500s uses individual class-D amps with dedicated DSPs, supported frequency ranges, or crossover points, can be specified to minimize distortion. The sub is rated for 120 watts and is powered by a pair of bridged 60 watt amps, which can output up to 120 watts.

Although they don’t use quite as elaborate of an enclosure design, the SP2500 satellites also have the benefits of individual amplifiers with DSPs per speaker. Crossover points are set to each driver’s rated frequency range, and the drivers consist of a 3” 40 watt midrange and a 1” 16 watt ferrofluid-cooled silk diaphragm tweeter. Total power capacity per satellite is 56 watts, and you guessed it, there is a 40 watt midrange class-D amplifier and 16 watt tweeter class-D amplifiers, both with integrated DSPs.

We have been using the Corsair SP2500 speaker system for a few weeks now and have had the opportunity to listen to a wide range of music, movies and games. Overall, we’d classify the sound quality of the speaker system as excellent, but not perfect.

Music:
We listened to a variety of music sources on the Corsair SP2500 2.1 channel speaker system including low-quality, streamed internet radio, high-bitrate MP3s, and store-bought CDs. Across the board, the SP2500s excelled. The almost total-lack of distortion from the speak system itself seems to mitigate some of the poor audio qualities of streamed content at all but the highest of volumes. High bit-rate file playback was simply excellent. Listening to a variety of top 40 titles, including artists such as Pink, Cee Lo Green, and Rhianna, we were continually impressed by the sound quality of the speaker system. Highs are clean and crisps, mids are clear and easily distinguished, and lows are solid and punchy. The same can be said of the store-bought CD playback, which was also excellent. We tried discs which included everything from the ‘Walk the Line’ soundtrack to kids’ titles from Laurie Berkner and everything sounded great.

Movies:
Watching movies was also very good on the Corsair SP2500s, for the most part. We watched a handful of movies including Zombieland, WarGames, Saving Private Ryan, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Walk the Line and sound quality across the board was great. Vocals were particularly easy to distinguish and highs were crisp. As good as the sound quality was, however, this 2.1 channel setup cannot compete with a true 5.1 setup in terms of positional audio / surround sound effects. So, while sound quality was great, the movies were perhaps not as immersive as they would have been with a surround sound setup.

Gaming:
Many of the same comments we had with regard to movies ring true with gaming as well. We played a lot of Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2, F1 2010, and Bad Company 2. BC2 and F1 2010 performed exceptionally well. Quality was excellent and the gunshots and explosions in BC2 were as clean and clear and we’ve ever heard. The same can be said for L4D and L4D2 with one caveat. It seems the SP2500s, regardless of the EQ or Program mode we tried, made subtle sounds more subtle than they were on other speakers. For example, the sound of the witch crying in the distance and the sound of a Tank hulking around the corner were much more subtle and harder to distinguish.

For users that like to tweak their sound quality for different situations, the Corsair SP2500 speaker system offers a number of preset program and EQ modes, most of them self-explanatory. Program modes include, Late Night, Stadium, Concert Hall, Club, Theater, Karaoke, Dynamic Pop, and Wide. If you’re wondering, Late Night mode reduces the harshness of high frequencies and lowers bass response, so Late Night gaming or movie sessions don’t produce sounds that reverberate through a house, even at low volumes. Preset EQ modes include Reference, Classical, Pop, Jazz, Mod X, Action, Drama, FPS, Action Gaming, and Headphones. Mod X in particular is interesting because it processes Blu-Ray and DVD audio for better performance on a 2.1 channel speaker system, rather than a movie theater environment.
 

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Corsair HS1A, the Perfect Companion

While testing the SP2500 speaker system, Corsair also sent over a pair of their recently released HS1A gaming headphones. The HS1As are very similar to the excellent HS1 headset Corsair launched a while back, with the exception that the newer HS1A kit uses an analog connection, rather than the digital USB connection of the originals.

Like the HS1 headset, the HS1A is a traditional 2-channel headset with circumaural cups, which is to say they surround the listener’s entire ear. There is ample padding around the cups and headband and a soft terry-cloth like microfiber covering which helps keep the listener’s ears dry during extended sessions. Leather covers are also included if that’s your thing. A boom microphone is mounted on the left side and a 3 meter cable with inline volume / microphone controls terminate in standard 3.5mm (1/8”) connectors for the headphones and microphone.

Corsair HS1A Headset
Specifications & Features
Headphones

  • 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response
  • 32 Ohms impedance at 1kHz
  • Custom-engineered 50 mm drivers with 24 mm copper-wound voice coils
  • Extra-large circumaural earcups with a closed-back, noise-isolating design
  • Two sets of replaceable memory foam earpads: one covered in microfiber, one in synthetic leather
  • Attached 3 meter cable with inline volume/microphone controller and dual 3.5 mm (1/8”) connectors
Microphone

  • Unidirectional, noise-cancelling condenser with adjustable, rotating boom
  • 2.2k Ohms impedance
  • 200Hz to 10kHz (+/- 3dB) frequency response
  • -45dB (+4/-2dB) sensitivity
Package Contents

  • HS1A gaming headset with inline volume controller/microphone mute
  • Quick Start Guide

We decided to showcase the HS1A headset here because we found them to be a great companion to the SP2500s. The SP2500 control pod features a headphone output and a preset EQ mode geared for headsets and when the HS1As were used in conjunction with the SP2500s, sound quality was fantastic.

The specifications of the Corsair HS1A headset are listed above. As you can see there’s no fancy positional audio trickery going on here, just a wide frequency response, with noise-isolating earcups.

Using the same array of music, movies and games mentioned on the previous page, we found the Corsair HS1A headset to offer excellent sound quality. When uses with the SP2500’s control pod set to the Headphone EQ preset in particular, we found the combination to be excellent. The Corsair HS1A headset is available for about $89, which also makes them rather affordable in light of many other gaming headsets currently on the market, that don't offer the kind of sound quality that the HS1As do.
 

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Our Summary and Conclusion

There is a lot to like about the Corsair SP2500 2.1 channel speaker system. Sound quality across the board, with a wide range of music, movies and games was simply top-notch. The bass produced by the speaker system’s 8” subwoofer, which resides in a fourth order bandpass enclosure, was booming and heavy at all volume levels, with minimal, if any perceptible distortion. Similarly, the Corsair SP2500 satellite speakers also produced excellent sound. The individual midrange drivers and tweeter are matched well to the subwoofer and provide crystal clear audio at a wide range of frequencies and volumes.


The Corsiar SP2500 2.1 Channel Speaker System

Corsair was able to produce such a clean sounding speaker system by using individual class-D amplifiers with dedicated DSPs per driver. With a setup such as this, the power provided to each driver can be set to optimal levels and crossover points for each driver can be tuned perfectly. Couple those attributes with a tuned subwoofer enclosure, quality drivers, and tuned program and EQ presets and you’ve got a speaker system that offers clean, clear, distortion free audio at virtually any volume level.

Our only gripes with the Corsair SP2500 2.1 channel speaker system are minor ones. We weren't thrilled with the plastic satellite enclosures and the overly subtle tones produced in some games may put off some listeners. Some users may like the look and feel of the satellites, however, and the subtle tones mentioned during our game tests are easy to get used to, especially when everything else sounds so good.

If you’re in the market for a high-quality speaker system and don’t have the room or desire for a 5.1 channel surround sound setup, we highly recommend the Corsair SP2500s. The Corsair SP2500 2.1 channel speaker system is available for about $230 currently, which certainly isn't cheap for a 2.1 channel setup, but they are worth every penny. Sound quality across a wide range of sources is excellent, plain and simple.

  • Great Sound Quality
  • Easy To Install
  • Simply To Navigate Control Pod
  • Preset Program and EQ Modes

 

  • "Only" 2.1 Channels
  • Somewhat Pricey



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