ShockWave SU-201 Review

Propane - 2010-06-23 15:05:17 in Speakers/Headphones
Category: Speakers/Headphones
Reviewed by: Propane   
Reviewed on: July 6, 2010
Price: TBD

Introduction:

Pretty much everyone loves a decent pair of speakers. Whether you're listening to your music, a movie, or playing a video game, you typically want the best quality audio you can get, and if the set looks cool too, then so much the better. There are a lot of mainstream companies most people will be familiar with, but the set of speakers I have today come from a relatively unknown company in the U.S. of A. called ShockWave. They are based in Beijing and produce lots of speakers, but what they have sent me today are the SU-201's, a 2.0 (2 speakers, 0 subwoofers) set that is on the inexpensive side.

 

Closer Look:

The packaging that the SU-201's come in is fairly standard but not "child proof". It was great to not have to break out the scissors just to get to the product. There is no documentation included and only a cardboard cutout that gives the packaging some "flare". The majority of the text is in Chinese and there are no directions or features listed on the box.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The speakers themselves are rather small and white in color. They sit on clear plastic bases that are permanently attached. There is no indication of which speaker is left and which is right, which is a major oversight as games and movies can rely heavily on stereo audio being oriented correctly. On the back of one of the speakers is the volume control which is also a major oversight as every time I want to adjust the volume on the speakers, I have to pickup and turn the speaker around. There just isn't any better way to do it without it feeling awkward. However to minimize the impact of this the speakers can be turned up and the volume control on your notebook  can be used to increase or decrease the volume. Finally, the cord has both a USB and 1/4" TRS jack on it. Unfortunately, the USB is just for power, even though the front of the packaging would lead you to believe otherwise.

 

Specifications:

 

Features:

 

All information courtesy of ShockWave @ http://www.shockwave.cn/?action-viewnews-itemid-280

Testing:

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.

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Devices:

 

 

Music:

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.

 

Movies:

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:

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.

Conclusion:

The ShockWave SU-201s were less than impressive and a letdown. The sound quality was only marginally better than what comes with my laptop, and they require power provided by the USB port while a second TRS connection is needed for the audio. The layout of speakers is also disappointing due to the location of the volume control dial. As the volume is increased on the SU-201s, distortion takes over and whatever you are listening to becomes nothing more than a muddy mess. Some people will likely enjoy the ring of light that is visible around the speakers, but these are secondary in my mind to sound quality. These speakers do appear to be on the bottom end of ShockWave's product lineup, so hopefully some of their other offerings put the 201s to shame.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: