Manufacturer's website: www.creative.com
Average retail price (inc. VAT): £36 (OEM) - £51 (Retail).
-Output power :
6 Watts (RMS) per satellite.
17 Watts (RMS) subwoofer.
Total max : 41 Watts (RMS).
-Overall frequency response range : 40Hz - 20KHz.
-Input type: Double stereo 3.5mm audio jack (f/b).
It seems like only yesterday that I found myself reviewing Creative's DTT2200 5.1 speaker set as my first review for this site. Today I meet their younger brother the FPS1600's, a 4.1 (4 satellites and a subwoofer) speaker set which looks, at a glance, like the DTT2200's with the centre channel missing. Available for as little as £36 (OEM) though, less than half the price of the DTT2200's how good are they really? Let's find out...
Inside the box.
Quickly removing the tape from the box and tipping it upside down (I'm not very patient when it comes to unwrapping things!) revealed the following:
-Four 6W (RMS) satellite speakers and desktop stands.
These speakers appear identical to those supplied with the DTT2200 set in all ways bar two: they're made from a much cheaper looking black shiny plastic and the speaker wire is fixed to the back of these units. The cheap black plastic makes these speakers look as though they belong in their budget price bracket - a little disappointing but if Creative have to cut corners to be able to supply this set so cheaply then I'm glad they chose the aesthetics. Hopefully the sound quality will not similarly reflect the cost.
The two front satellites come with 2m of speaker wire, and the rear satellites 4m. This should be more than enough for the typical user of these speakers, though their fixed connections make lengthening the cables painful - something worth thinking about before buying.
-One 17W subwoofer.
Considering that this unit contains the amplifying circuitry as well as the subwoofer speaker it is surprisingly small: clocking in at only 189mm x 189mm x 190mm. Its wooden construction gives it a nice reassuring weight and unlike the satellites this unit has a quality feel to it, and in my opinion it looks very nice with that grill off (top right picture above). Its size may have advantages but how well can such a small subwoofer perform? We'll find out later.
-A remote on/off volume control and clip.
On the end of a 2m cable, this remote plugs directly into the subwoofer and is used to turn the speaker set on and off and control the volume. As with the DDT2200's the base control is on the subwoofer - a shame. This remote also lacks a front/rear balance control, not overly important as most soundcards handle this control well. I'm not quite sure why the clip is present, being attached to a 2m cable this remote isn't overly mobile and I picture most people leaving it the same place all the time. Still, it's a tiny piece of plastic so a question mark over its functionality is hardly important.
-A power supply, a special twin stereo jack analogue cable (for connection to your sound card), some little non slips pads, some stickers to label the satellite cables and guarantee documentation.
If you payed close attention through the last section you may have noticed that I didn't include 'one instruction manual' in the inventory of items found in the box. This is because the instruction manual is on the box! To be more precise it is found on the flaps of the box:
Installation as shown in the first of the two pictures above is fairly simple - plug all four satellites, the remote, the power supply and the twin audio cable into the subwoofer as labelled and then the twin audio cable into your soundcard. If you want to use all four satellite channels independently then you'll need a sound cable with separate front and rear speaker outputs - if not then you can just plug the front audio cable in. I tested these speakers with an SB Player 5.1 soundcard.
As usual my first test for any new speakers is to try them out with music - personally any speakers I own spend around 95% of their active life playing music and for me this is the most important test. With their small price tag I was expecting to notice a huge difference between these speakers and the DDT2200's I use every day - I didn't. The quality is very impressive, music is clear and crisp and the sub woofer performs amazingly well for its size at normal listening volumes. Turning the volume up does reduce the quality with the bass becoming separated. These speakers are never going to prop up a party, but they were not designed to either.
Being analogue speakers and not really having an interpretation on the music sent to them these speakers can only support the sound functions your soundcard does - fortunately my player 5.1 is fairly well spec'd so I decided to try some EAX supporting games next. As before sound quality is good and if you've only ever played first-person shooters with stereo speakers you'll notice a world of difference in the truly surround experience. I found the sweet-spot of these speakers to be quite small so careful setting up was required. Coming from a 5.1 setup I did miss the centre channel here.
My final test for these speakers was playing a DVD in PowerDVD. The surround sound was very good, as in the game test, though the centre channel was again missed.
At less than half of the price of their DTT2200 5.1 brothers this FPS1600 speaker set is a real bargain; for their price and their size the sound quality is very good. If you need a lot of volume or you can't live without a fifth channel then these are not going to be for you, but if you're after a small set of computer speakers with more functionality and quality than your average set you should seriously consider these.
- Nice and small.
- Quality feel and look to the subwoofer.
- Well balanced good quality output at normal volumes.
- Analogue only.
- 4.1 setup - I miss the centre channel of a 5.1 setup.
- Software and hardware compatibility required.
- Not great at high volume levels.
- The satellites look cheap.
Not quite special enough for a gold award, but at the price I don't hesitate to give them my first silver award...
A few words from SuperScrubber...
I'll be honest, like cheese I was somewhat sceptical about what a set of £40 speakers could offer in the surround sound stakes. For years I'd been under the impression that home cinema setups cost a fortune and for a long time they did however the FPS1600's just go to show how things have changed. At first you might feel somewhat disappointed by the small size of speakers but appearances can be deceiving and needless to say it wasnít long before I was very surprised by the rich, warm sound that the satellites and sub combined produce. This was my first experience of surround sound and using my old Live!Value it wasnít long before I had the podrace from Episode One coming at me from every direction, really immersing me in the action, fantastic. At sensible levels the speakers hold their own superbly with the bass effortlessly melting in with the high end although at increased volume there is a definite separation and tightening of the sound. Regular music is handled in a similarly competent fashion, again the bass is deep and punchy making you wonder how such a small box could make such a big sound. On the downside though the finish of the satellites isnít great and there are occasions when a track is just a bit too much for them. Add to that the lack of true 5.1 surround and you start to remember the low price, that said on the whole these are great value for money and certainly worth a look if youíre interested in surround sound but on a budget.
Note: The DTT2200's cheese has compared these to are in the middle
of being phased out.