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.
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.
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.
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.