Review by Doug Horton. Widely known for its high quality, wide range of component products for computers, Corsair has significantly expanded its product line. It now offers memory, power supplies, cases, solid state drives, USB drives, CPU cooling, speaker systems, headsets, keyboards, and mice, all of which are targeted for computer gaming enthusiasts. Reviewed in this article is Corsair’s Gaming Audio Series™ SP2500 High-power 2.1 PC Speaker System.
According to Corsair, this high-power 2.1 PC speaker system features “bi-amplified two-way satellites with 1” ferrofluid-cooled silk dome tweeters and 3” midrange drivers, as well as an 8” subwoofer.” Well, there are lots of technical terms in that sentence, and we’ll help explain most of them as we proceed, beginning with descriptions of the speaker system components.
The two SP2500 satellites (left and right channels) are “two-way, bi-amplified” speaker enclosures, both of which house a hi-fi quality 3-inch mid-range driver and a 1-inch “silk-domed, ferrofluid-cooled” tweeter. This design is provided to ensure that the mid-band and treble frequencies are reproduced accurately.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that the two satellites are not identical, but rather, mirror images of each other. They are designed to be placed with the small tweeter ports toward the inside of the lateral sound field. Typical desktop placement would have the satellites placed about five to six feet apart, equal distances from the computer monitor, with the listener in the front center, and with the subwoofer on the floor underneath a desk or table.
SP2500 two-way, bi-amplified satellite speaker, for right-channel
Regarding the technical terminology, “two-way” means there are two separate speakers or “drivers” in a speaker enclosure, and “bi-amplified” means there are two independent amplifiers for the mid-range speaker and tweeter in each enclosure, to help ensure that each has “headroom” for accurate audio reproduction.
I was particularly curious about the term “ferrofluid-cooled,” as related to the tweeters. I guessed correctly that “ferrofluid” referred to a fluid with iron metal in it, but I was still curious to learn more, and with regard to its application to hi-fi speakers, I found an interesting and informative explanation on Wikipedia.org:
“Ferrofluid is a suspension of very small (typically 10 nm) iron oxide magnetic particles in a very low volatility liquid, typically a synthetic oil. A wide range of viscosity and magnetic density variants allow designers to add damping, cooling, or both. Ferrofluid also aids in centering the voice coil in the magnetic gap, reducing distortion. The fluid is typically injected into the magnetic gap and is held in place by the strong magnetic field.” (Ref: Wikipedia.org, from article titled, “Tweeter.”)
The 2500 subwoofer design utilizes a “4th order band-pass” subwoofer design, rather than the “ported bass-reflex” design that is commonly used in competing systems, as schematically compared in the accompanying drawing from Corsair. In the SP2500 band-pass system, the driver unit is placed in a sealed chamber. This is also known as “acoustic suspension,” and it allows the driver to create bass tones with very low levels of distortion.
Image of SP2500 subwoofer, with base port on right-hand side
With the SP2500 design, the subwoofer driver unit “fires” into a separate, ported chamber, which creates an acoustic filter that only passes a set range of frequencies; hence, the name “band-pass.” This design is intended to reject frequencies outside this band, to reduce audible distortion. Additionally, this subwoofer design has greater power handling capabilities than ported bass-reflex designs.
Corsair also suggests that their design has a better transient response, meaning that sudden, dynamic changes in audio are delivered with far greater “punch, attack and clarity.” Finally, as an observation and measurement, there is much substance to the SP2500 subwoofer speaker in cabinet design, as it weighs about 20 pounds.
The back of the subwoofer includes several connectors, including power cord, left and right speakers, controller, and line input by means of red and white-coded RCA sockets. There’s also an AUX1 optional 3.5mm stereo plug socket. Input source is selected with the controller described below. The subwoofer back panel also includes two removable panels for qualified repair access.
Comparison of SP2500 subwoofer design with typical ported base-reflex design
User control of the SP2500 speaker system is by means of a wired “Desktop Digital Control Unit.” This controller has the following components: a 1.8” TFT (thin film transistor) liquid crystal display, on-off button, turn-and-press selection knob, and buttons (left to right) for selecting combined volume, menu, and subwoofer volume. The controller is connected to the subwoofer with a 6-foot long cable and a standard 15-pin D-SUB connector, similar to a VGA monitor connection.
Connectors. The controller includes three external connectors:
On the top left edge, there is a micro-USB port, which provides a connection point to a computer, for possible future firmware updates, such as additional DSP programs or equalization (EQ) profiles.
On the top right edge, there is a 3.5mm stereo female input connection, which is labeled as the AUX2 input. This can be used for connection to the computer audio output instead of connecting to the line-in RCA or AUX1 input connections on the back of the subwoofer.
On the bottom right edge, there is a 3.5mm stereo output for connecting stereo headphones. As is industry practice, if headphones are connected, speaker output is muted. When trying out headphones with the SP2500, to ensure that the main speakers were muted, I had to press hard on the input plug to ensure it was inserted completely.
SP2500 system controller, with LCD screen and knob-toggle control
Controller Settings. The most interesting features of the controller are the selection of Program and Equalization settings. To find these settings, press the lower-center Menu button, and then turn the knob to scroll the light blue highlighted background color to Program or EQ, and then press the knob to select. At this point, the light blue background color will change to half height, and the highlighted area will show the options for Program or EQ, which change by rotating the knob. Similar to before, the chosen option is selected by pressing the knob. Here are the Program and EQ options, with brief descriptions:
- None – default
- Late Night – lowers the subwoofer output, directs more bass tones to satellites, and applies dynamic compression to help prevent sudden volume changes
- Wide – provides more spacious sound by simulating that the satellite speakers are farther apart
- Karaoke – reduces or eliminates vocals in songs – works best if vocal tracks are mixed to the center
- Dynamic Pop – applies dynamic compression and enhances the bass and treble sounds
- *Stadium, Concert Hall, Club and Theater – applies reverb, delay, and echo to simulate huge, large, medium-large or medium-sized environments
- Reference – default, with no equalization applied
- Mod X tm – modifies the typical “X Curve” of films shown in theaters, to provide equalization that’s more appropriate for home listening
- *Classical, Pop, and Jazz – EQ setting tuned for these musical genres
- *Action and Drama – Action makes explosions sound great, and Drama helps provide clear dialog
- *FPS and Action Gaming – FPS is ideal for dialog in multi-player games, and Action Gaming is for situations where relating to other players is via automatic weapons.
- Headphones – applies improved mid-frequency equalization for use with inexpensive headsets – probably not needed with high-quality headsets
*The asterisked menu items include third levels of item selection.
- 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)
- 8" 120W (IEC60268-5 24-hour continuous rating) subwoofer with durable rubber surround
- Fourth-order closed bandpass enclosure design
- Bridged dual 60W class-D amplifiers with integrated DSP for 120 Watts of power (measured via FTC "RMS" method)
- Ultra-efficient integral power supply with 100–240 Volts AC input
- Bi-amplified, two-way design with detachable audio cables
- 3" 40W (IEC60628-5 24-hour continuous rating) midrange drivers
- 1" 16W (IEC60268-5 24-hr continuous rating) ferrofluid-cooled silk diaphragm tweeters
- 56W per satellite (measured via FTC "RMS" method)
- 40 Watt midrange class-D amplifiers with integrated DSP
- 16W tweeter class-D amplifiers with integrated DSP
Performance and Summary
I was very pleased to experience the rich “live” sounds of flight simulator programs such as Flight Simulator X, Prepar3D, and X-Plane, as produced by the SP2500 system. In the right setting, a generally more expensive 5.1 surround sound system might be desirable for some users, but the SP2500 is outstanding for its 2.1 capability.
The controller settings provide significantly more adjustments and sound options than I’ve experienced with other PC sound systems I’ve operated over nearly 23 years of flight simming.
The product documentation is outstanding, as provided in an impressive 8.5” x 11” booklet, with identical contents provided in seven languages. The furnished collection of cables are heavy duty and long enough to support many arrangements of components.
This system is designed to provide significantly higher product and sound quality than typical desktop computer speaker systems, and though higher priced than smaller systems, its value difference justifies its higher price. The list price of the SP2500 system is $250 US, though at time of writing, the product was selling for $190 US on two popular online retail websites.