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Corsair SP2200 2.1 Gaming Speakers Review

Date: May 4, 2011
Author(s): Jamie Fletcher

In our look at Corsair’s SP2500 high-end speakers back in March, we were left impressed by the quality offered – especially for the company’s initial offering. With its mainstream SP2200, priced at $100, the company had quite a job at hand to make sure that users received a perfect balance of features and audio quality. Has it succeeded?



Introduction

Corsair’s impact on the PC audio market can only be described as phenomenal. Coming out of the blue with it’s HS1 headset, it showed that it wasn’t going to do things by half. A month later with the SP2500, Corsair really showed how serious it was about audio. Very few companies could step into a new and highly competitive market with such a splash.

Under review today is more audio goodness with the SP2200 PC Speakers, the little brother to the SP2500 reviewed a couple months back. While the SP2500 catered to the high-end segment with its $250 price bracket, the SP2200 aims for the more mainstream segment at $100.

With the price difference also comes a size and power difference. At half the price of the SP2500, it’s also a quarter of the size with one sixth the power, but don’t let that fool you. The power may be down, but the performance is surprisingly well balanced.

Let’s go over a few details first. The SP2200s are a near-field, desktop PC speaker set taking up a very modest footprint compared to its bigger brother. It’s a 46 watt set, measured again by the FTC method rather than ‘peak’. Of this 46 watts, 30 goes straight to the 6 inch ported sub unit; a good 65% of the total power. Frequency response range is 40Hz – 20kHz. The satellites are fair bit smaller too at 5 inches high but with a 2 inch driver; each channel fitted with 8 watts of power. It’s worth noting that this is half the power of the dedicated tweeter on the SP2500.

So, what does it all look like and what do you get? Well, let’s plunge into the box and find out (and for comparison, let’s place it next to its bigger brother)


Corsair SP2200 Gaming Speakers

Quite the size difference. The 4th Order system on the SP2500 increased the size of the sub substantially. The satellites remain near enough equal in size.


Corsair SP2200 Gaming Speakers

In the box you will find the sub unit, 2 satellites, a power brick, RCA cables and a 3.5mm jack to jack cable.


Corsair SP2200 Gaming Speakers

The right side satellite acts as the main control unit for master and sub volume, headphone output, auxiliary input and main input. There are two cables trailing out the back of it, a rather large and pleasantly retro DIN connector for hooking up to the sub, and a 3.5mm jack that connects to your PC. I should note that the DIN cable is remarkably easy to insert. Many a nightmares from yesteryear came about trying to get those plugs fitted, so I’m glad to see this one done properly. My only complaint comes from the inclusion of a super-bright blue LED on the front for power-on… a gentle soft-white would be nice. Out with the electrical tape for me.


Corsair SP2200 Gaming Speakers

Both satellites are trapezoid in shape, with the woofer facing slightly upward. Instead of matte black, Corsair has gone with a semi-silvered grey front on a matte black body with a glossy black rim for the driver. This left speaker connects directly to the subwoofer with an RCA connector.

Aesthetics have somewhat suffered to keep the price down, but these satellites are not complete eye-sores either, still maintaining the simplicity of Corsair’s other product ranges (except for a certain RAM mod…).

The Subwoofer

The sub unit is where all the action happens and makes up a considerable amount of both the budget and power of the total system. The sub is a rather large 6-inch, side-firing ported bass system which can go down as low as 40Hz without distortion. It can go lower, but the volume roll-off becomes quite substantial.

The front port does suffer from port-noise, but due to its size, it has a much smaller range; starting at around 44Hz and rolling off at around 66Hz. Port-noise is unavoidable, especially with a lower-end system, and much like the SP2500 it only produces the tell-tale rumble at very high volumes in very isolated frequency ranges; general use through music and/or games is unlikely to be a problem.

Even with an exposed speaker on the side, sound will still come through the front port, so you can twist or turn the sub as you wish; though I would still recommend keeping the port facing towards you.


Corsair SP2200 Gaming Speakers

Around the back of the sub we find an additional input, RCA, as well as the DIN receptor and power input. Due to the large 6 inch speaker and by trying to keep the footprint small, the SP2200 makes use of an external power brick rather than internal.


Corsair SP2200 Gaming Speakers

Installation was a breeze – as one would hope with a set of speakers. Everything is clearly labeled, the DIN connector only goes in one place, but the left channel RCA connector might throw you for a second as it’s bundled on the back of the sub next to the secondary RCA input. It’s so simple in fact, that the installation diagram is the front page on the manual.

The right speaker controls are smooth but not completely linear in transition. The sub control is fine for the most part but master volume control tends to be less noticeable at higher volumes, regardless of input volume. This just basically means that volume control goes up to about 3/4, past which it has little affect.

An interesting note has to be made about the headphone output as it introduces a novel feature (to me at least). First, the volume is very balanced; you won’t be in a scramble to change it when headphones are plugged in and likewise, you won’t be scrambling to change the volume after removing them due to a rather simple but very effective eased volume transition.

Normally, removing headphones from a speaker set, you are presented with crackling, and if you turned up the volume for the headphones, a nasty surprise awaits when unplugging mid-media stream. Preventing this, the SP2200 gradually increases the volume up to whatever is set by the master dial, so you won’t be hit by full volume all at once.

Final Thoughts

What Corsair has done is a very clever balance of the audio curve, a balance that is heavily dependant on distance. The satellites utilize painfully small drivers at 2 inches, so much of the bass and lower mid-range are all but lost when you’re more than a couple feet away from the speakers. To compensate, much of the unit cost and power went into the sub.

The sub covers a much broader frequency range than it would do normally, covering up to and past 200Hz when doing a frequency sweep. This does add a directional element to lower frequencies, often felt as a pressure difference in one ear – if the sub is off-center. So long as the sub is centered, it shouldn’t be a problem.

The dramatic effect the sub has on total audio quality can be heard quite clearly by simply turning the sub volume down. You will quickly gather that the sub is handling much more than bass, as much of the warmth in the mid-range is completely lost too – those poor little 2-inch drivers on the satellites really do end up sounding like 2-inch speakers.

This isn’t a problem but an achievement, as this careful consideration and balance does result in a much richer sound, especially with regard to bass. The only real problem comes in the form of a poor mid-range response from the satellites. Since the satellites are 2-inch speakers, they can only pump out so much sound, and that audio curve will be very heavily dependent on listener distance from the speakers. Too close and the mid over-powers the treble; too far and you lose all the mid-range and are left with just higher frequencies.

Corsair SP2200 Gaming Speakers

These speakers have been designed as near-field speakers. While you can certainly listen to them from more than a couple meters away, the mid-range rolls off quite quickly and you lose all stereo separation too, leaving room-filling, floor-shaking bass, and most of the 1k+ range. Don’t expect to use these as a substitute for a home theater setup.

When one is placed in the sweet-spot however, audio quality is unmatched within this price range. Sure, you may miss out on the clarity of the dedicated tweeters or the accuracy of the 4th order sub, but for pure audio enjoyment in a small footprint, the SP2200’s are no slouch. The sub is surprisingly powerful while still keeping a fair amount of punch in the air.

While it may seem that we give out a lot of Editor’s Choice awards to Corsair, it’s hard not to, as each one is well-deserved. If you are looking to spend $100 on speakers, but want quality over quantity (missing out on a 5.1 system), then the Corsair SP2200s are very much worth the price; and without a doubt get our Editor’s Choice award.

Corsair SP2200 Gaming Speakers
Corsair SP2200 Gaming Speakers

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