With the launch of its HS1 headset last fall, Corsair proved that the audio market wasn’t one it was planning on jumping into without first making sure that its products would impress. But what about those gamers that don’t like to use headphones? The answer is the SP2500, a speaker set with a unique design, and a lot of power.
In the menu, there are two modes to bare in mind, EQ and Programs. These are various Digital Sound Processing effects to either correct or enhance various aspects of the supplied audio. We’ll take a gander over the Programs first.
The options either side of None – the default, will be Headphone and Late Night Modes. Late Night mutes the subwoofer and redirects the bass to the midrange drivers via the digital crossover, setting the frequency response down from 140Hz to 100Hz. It also enables dynamic compression, preventing sudden peaks in volume (sudden gunfire and surprise music/ads come to mind…).
This mode is great for movies, but not so great for music, as anything below 100Hz is inaudible – muting pretty much all bass. The sub can be re-enabled and you’ll keep the dynamic compression, so for music, this might a better option at night.
Headphone mode is more of an EQ based setting that corrects the sound profile of lower quality gear, bumping up the mid range and dropping the bass and treble, giving them a more balanced sound profile. This corrects the ‘impressive’ tuning that goes on with certain headphones, the common ‘smiley’ or ‘double hump’ profile. It will largely come down to personal taste, but for those that enjoy good quality and balanced sound, this mode proves to be quite effective. It won’t work miracles, but it certainly helps calm down some otherwise extreme tuning that can go on. Those with a decent pair of headphones can skip this option.
While on the subject of headphones, the jack port on the base of the control will automatically mute the speakers when a pair of headphones are inserted. On top of this, Corsair has done a fine job balancing out the volume, so you won’t be in for a surprise when un/plugging your gear. The other good news is that it doesn’t have much affect on audio quality, you will hear the headphones as if they were plugged directly into your soundcard – there may be some distortion, but for the most part, I can’t tell the difference.
This has been a pet peeve of mine for a while with headphone bypasses in the past with DSP based speakers, so I’m glad Corsair took note and left things alone. My only quibble is that the speakers must be turned on in order for the headphone socket to work, since it still needs to go through the DSP. Having said that, since the sound card volume is set to 90% and if I were to plug my headphones into that – my ears would bleed.
The next program mode, Mod X, is a rather strange function. Certain movies when released to the public, use the same mixing profile as that used in cinemas. So the soundtrack has been made for a very large room with a wide soundscape and big speakers. Play this on your little home theatre setup and you’ll be constantly changing volume, turning it up during the quiet bits, and turning it up further after the loud bits made you partially deaf. Mod X compensates for this, but its effect is hit or miss, depending on the film and soundtrack. It’s one of those ‘fiddle’ options that you can try to see if it helps.
Stadium, Concert Hall, Club, Theatre, Karaoke and Wide are the usual additions to any DSP’s portfolio, with varying degrees of success. Wide for example does change the sound scape, but at a severe cost to audio quality. Same for Karaoke, it compress the centered mid range; the usual location of studio recorded vocals, so you can sing along, but its success largely depends on the recording. Dynamic Pop is the last on the list which reintroduces the ‘smiley’ EQ curve but with dynamic range compression – the setup often found with various home theatre kits.
For those unaware, Dynamic Range Compression performs a similar function as Normalizing or Auto Volume Limiting Systems (AVLS), making louder things quieter and quieter things louder – depending on the implementation.
While the SP2500′s make full use of the DSP, the only thing missing is custom EQ settings, limiting you to the modes available on the control unit (or via your soundcard’s drivers).
For the most part, the EQ modes will perform much like they do anywhere else, even with Mod X and Headphone modes making an appearance again. The two settings that the audiophiles among you will want to pay attention to will be Reference and Classical.
Reference is an electrically flat EQ curve, meaning that the frequency response curve should be near linear – often resulting in the typical ‘sounds cold/harsh’ response. Classical is an acoustically flat curve, which means it should take into consideration the human ear’s response to sound, resulting in a much warmer sound than the reference EQ. While I do not have the equipment to test this, Classical does sound like the better mode, negating the need for me to tune my sound card’s EQ settings.
There are two gaming EQ modes as well, FPS and Action Gaming. Both boost the base range while FPS increases the mid range as well for better positional tracking of bullet fire, etc. These EQ adjustments are not that harsh either, so they will not completely destroy the original sound. For the music lovers though, stick with Classical and you’ll be fine.
Speaking of which [Ed: ouch on the pun], now would be good time to bring up the 4th order bandpass and the design choice of using ATX cables.