So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Creative SBS A500
- Good value, powerful bass, relatively versatile sound range
- Lack of definition in upper treble ranges, bass is occasionally muddy
An affordable 5.1 speaker set that delivers respectable quality. This isn't a high quality audio product, but its relatively low price makes it ideal for casual users.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
Creative's SBS A500 is a 5.1 PC speaker system. At a very affordable price and with respectable quality, it represents great value, however users looking for a more detailed or extensive sound range may be better served by a higher end product.
Sound quality on the A500 could best be described as relatively good - that is, considering its price point, the audio is actually quite respectable for a 5.1 system. Bass is definitely dominant, with a large sub capable of producing deep and rumbling low notes, although there is a slight amount of muddiness at times. The mid range is well represented; it's reasonably clear without overpowering the other ranges. Treble is one of its weak points though, with the higher frequencies generally being quite flat and lacking in finer detail.
Volume is quite powerful, and pleasingly there's very little distortion until the highest levels. A knob on the back of the sub controls the bass volume, but this can be somewhat inconvenient to adjust depending on where the sub is placed. It's advisable to find a comfortable bass setting before positioning the subwoofer, rather than adjust it on the fly. Additionally, a wired volume and on/off switch is attached to the sub, and able to be placed on the desk for convenient volume adjustments.
The surround effect is good, and although the individual sound card and PC used with the speakers will generally have more of an influence on this, we found it quite easy to achieve a pleasant surround environment with minimal effort. Our major qualm with the speakers and their positioning is the design. All five speakers are identical in design, with the exception of cable length on the rear pair. The vertical nature means that positioning the centre speaker can be difficult if your monitor is too close to the desk.
As with the Creative A300, the A500 speakers are a good mix of quality and affordability. They're certainly not high-end speakers, and audio enthusiasts will most likely be better served by other products. That being said, for users looking for an affordable 5.1 set of PC speakers suitable for a variety of tasks, including gaming, movies and music, these speakers are well worth checking out.
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