ShockWave SU-201 ReviewPropane - July 6, 2010
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Speakers are difficult to test as all qualities are subjective, unlike processors and other computer hardware where definite numbers can be determined. To test these, I will do my best to determine a quality of sound, from one to ten, in several different situations including gaming, music, and movies. I will compare the quality of the SU-201 to the built in speakers on my 15" MacBook Pro, a Razer Piranha gaming headset, and a generic stereo from Panasonic I have had for almost ten years. This should give myself a solid view and a diverse enough view to be able to determine quality well.
- Apple MacBook Pro 15" Generation 3
- 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo
- nVidia GeForce 8600M
- 2GB PC2-5300 DDR2 SO-DIMM SDRAM
- 120GB SATA Hard Drive (5400 RPM)
- AirPort Extreme 802.11 a/b/g/draft-n
- 8x Slot Loading Super Drive
- Razer Piranha
- MacBook Pro Built-In Speakers
- Panasonic Stereo
The music I played was all 320kbps MP3 or FLAC and spanned several genres. The SU-201s were very weak and sounded very twangy, but it was an improvement over the MacBook's built in speakers. Also, as the volume was increased, the quality decreased. At very high volumes, the sound was very distorted especially in the low end.
The movie I used to test the speakers was Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and many of the same problems from the music testing persisted in the movie testing. Explosions can sound distorted and lacking and conversation can be twangy. Additionally, you loose some of the information since you aren't using a 5.1 system and the SU-201 doesn't do any surround emulation.
Gaming with the SU-201's was very similar to gaming with the built-in Mac speakers; they are just not very good in this case. The game I played was Portal, so having directional sound wasn't as important as in other games like Modern Warfare.
There were a few other things I noticed during testing of the SU-201s, such as needing to have both the USB and TRS cords plugged in. The front of the package made it seem like the USB was there for USB audio and the TRS was there for things like CD players, however this is not the case and was a major let down. This means I had to waste a USB port on my computer to even get them to work. Also, there are rings of blue light around the driver. These look nice, but aren't mind blowing, although if you turn the volume up high enough, they will start to dim along with the music. I'm not sure if this is a feature or just a result of there not being enough power available.