Reviews

Corsair SP2500 2.1 Speaker Review – Something The Neighbors Won’t Appreciate

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Despite having been on the market for a while now Corsair’s SP2500 speaker set continues to sell pretty well and remain highly regarded. After going hunting for a serious audio upgrade I managed to snag a set of those bad boys and decided that since they were there anyway I might as well review them. After a few weeks of living with them and a new soundcard, how do I feel about Corsair’s expensive 2.1 speakers?

The entire unit is easy to put together and get working, a task that will likely only take you a few minutes providing you have a clear idea of where you want to place the subwoofer. The subwoofer itself draws power through a standard cord that plugs into a handy wall outlet, and the two satellite speakers then take their power from the subwoofer using a pair of ATX4 cables that measure a pretty measly 6ft apiece, which doesn’t leave much room for positioning. 10ft cables can be bought separately via Corsair directly, but given the large price for the SP2500 they should have been included in the box. The style of cable also means you can’t easily replace them with longer ones, either. From there the included control unit is connected using a VGA-style connection to the subwoofer, and then the entire setup is hooked up to your PC or entertainment system via a 3.5mm audio jack or RCA cables as required. Again, though, cable length is problematic; The control unit cable comes in at a short 6ft, while the power cable is even worse at 5ft. These lengths don’t exactly grant you much leeway for positioning the subwoofer, essentially forcing you to place it extremely close to, or under/above your desk.

As always with a good quality audio setup if you’re running them from a PC a sound card is recommended to get the best from them. It doesn’t matter how good your speakers or headphones are as the audio will only ever be as good as the weakest link in the chain. This review was done using a Sound Blaster Z, a good mid-range offering from Creative, so with any luck I’ve gotten the best out of the speakers. Speaking of which, keep an eye out for an article I intend on doing which talks about whether a soundcard really makes a difference.

Aesthetically I can’t say the SP2500 looks all that great. For the subwoofer Corsair kept it clean and simple, opting to place their logo on the front of the unit and otherwise keep the black box straightforward in terms of its design, which is fine as you don’t really want the subwoofer attracting too much attention. The left and right speakers, though, just look dull and lifeless. The inner cone is colored blue, a slight design flair to an otherwise standard black box. It seems Corsair weren’t overly interested in focusing their efforts on creating a nice looking set of speakers. It does, however, mean they fade the background, blending into the surroundings of whatever room you’ve placed them in, which may be exactly what you want.

Looks aren’t everything, however. It doesn’t matter how pretty something is if it falls apart in mere minutes, leaving you heart-broken and sobbing over a heap of wreckage. Happily that’s not the case here, and the the build quality is faultless. Corsair seemingly have spared no expense when it came to crafting the SP2500. The left and right speakers look more like bookcase monitors and are made of a solid plastic, as are the grills that ensure you don’t damage the precious inner cones. The package comes complete with two small stands, one for each speaker, which let you tilt the speakers either up or down, depending on where you have them sitting, so that the sound is sent directly to your ears. The subwoofer, meanwhile, is made of wood and feels like it could probably survive a modestly sized bomb going off nearby, the same feeling the satellites have.

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The downside to the bomb-proof subwoofer is obvious: sheer size. Measuring in at 18″ x 10″ x 11″ the subwoofer is a monster and that makes it hard for the average person with a desk setup to position it. Cthulu knows I had some trouble as it wouldn’t fit under my desk, or at least not without me stubbing my toe every few minutes, and the cables didn’t let me place it behind me or even off to the side. The advantages by far outweight the negatives, however, as the subwoofer delivers sharp, lovely bass. It never drowns out the rest of the audio as so many subwoofers tend to do, but also never disappoints when some heavy lows are needed, creating a breathtaking oomph with no detectable distortion, which is thanks to the acoustic suspension design used. The rest of the audio range is no slouch, either;  sound is pure and crisp, every note and detail delivered with fantastic clarity. For testing I ran through a gamut of music, film and games, enjoying the likes of AC DC’s Back in Black, Far Cry 4 and The Avengers, plus a sampling of music in an extremely high bit-rate. To say that the SP2500s were impressive would be something of an understatement; the audio is just beautiful, replicating every movement, explosion, gunshot, punch and soaring musical arc in exceptional detail. If there is but one problem is that there’s just a shade of hollowness in the mids which can muddle dialogue the tiniest fraction, but this has often been a problem with 2.1 setups and is where I tend to miss having a middle speaker. However, it’s a very, very slight hollowness, so little that most people probably won’t even notice. I could also nitpick in that at lower volumes the sound muddles together just a tad, whereas at higher volumes the frequencies come through more clearly.

Running the risk of sounding like a gushing teenager letting loose about their latest crush these babies really do sound stellar, providing a massive upgrade over the cheap, basic Philips 2.1 system I was using previously, and surpassing almost every other 2.1 speakers I’ve heard before. And yes, being a musician I’ve heard a lot of speakers. While they can’t compete with top-end studio monitors for raw, pure sound reproduction, that isn’t what the SP2500 is for. Even every-day use like watching Youtube was better, though of course it was games, music and movies where they were at their best owing to Youtube’s heavy audio compression.  Even the positional audio is surprisingly good for a simple 2.1 setup, although obviously it still can’t come even remotely close to a 5.1 or 7.1 setup. While I couldn’t pinpoint enemies with pinpoint accuracy like I could with something like my H Wireless headset, the positional audio was good enough for me to rough estimate where my foe was and get the drop on them.

If you want pure volume then these speakers can deliver, going up to an ear-splitting level that’s likely to set off car alarms outside. Impressively distortion was absolutely non-existent all the way up to max volume, the audio remaining crystal clear past my own ear’s ability to actually cope. Indeed, it’s really at high volumes that these speakers come alive – perfect for thrashing out some Ozzy Osbourne or AC/DC.

When it comes to controlling the SP2500 there’s an included module which sports a small LCD screen, four buttons and a knob. From the control module you can play around with basic things like volume, treble and the power of the subwoofer, but you can also select between a variety of equalizer settings plus some programs that also alter the audio. This includes a nice mode which powers down the subwoofer a tad, sending more of the low-end sounds to the satellite speakers, making it perfect for night-time use. Personally I never found a reason to change from the standard reference settings which keeps the audio as pure as possible, ensuring you’re hearing the music, film or game exactly as was intended, warts and all. Still, the fact that there are options to play with is a win-win and the interface is a breeze to navigate. The screen itself isn’t great, mostly due to poor viewing angles which doesn’t compliment the fact that the whole unit is designed to lie flat on a table, meaning most of the time you’ll be looking at it from anything but straight on. I’d have liked to have seen a deployable stand added to the back of the unit so it could be tilted, and therefore bring the screen up to a more sensible angle for viewing.

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On the module you’ll also find a headphone jack so you can plug-in the set of your choice for those late night sessions. It’s worth noting that the volume dial will also control headphone volume, which is bloody handy. You’ll also find an auxiliary port, too, which compliments the other one located on the back of the subwoofer.

Where the Corsair will falter in the minds of most people is the pricing. Even despite being available for around four years now a set of these will still run you around £180 on Amazon, which for most people isn’t exactly chump change. There’s no denying the sheer quality of Corsair’s offering, but the quality to price ratio is one point that can be argued, if never actually quantified in any meaningful way.

Pricing is, as always, entirely subjective, so let’s chuck that away for the conclusion of this review; I freaking adore the Corsair SP2500 speakers, and struggle to find much to fault with them. Aside from the sheer size of the subwoofer and minor gripes about the LCD screen these are beautifully made and wonderfully sounding speakers which excel at high volumes. These truly are sublime speakers, and I’d highly recommend them to anyone in the market for an upgrade – you won’t be disappointed.

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