Cyber Acoustics CA3550 review

Price when reviewed

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Cyber Acoustics CA3550 review

Choosing stereo speakers can certainly save you money, but the Altec Lansing VS2320 is a false economy. Without the aid of a subwoofer, the compact speaker design means there’s barely any bass below about 100Hz, while the low frequencies it does manage to emit are vague and slightly distorted. The rest of the frequency spectrum is much better, with more high-frequency detail than we’d expect at this price. The design is plain but well conceived, with a headphone output and auxiliary input on the right speaker.

However, the single tone control doesn’t do anything to overcome the sonic shortcomings. We’d also prefer the cable that joins the two speakers to be a little longer. The lack of bass means the VS2320 can’t compete for sound quality, but for situations where there’s no room for a subwoofer they are, at least, a low-cost option.

The Creative i-Trigue 3330 has no shortage of bass, and its futuristic design livens up the desk while just stopping short of looking tacky. A wired remote provides a big volume knob, headphone socket and subwoofer level control, although we’d prefer to have these features built into one of the satellite speakers to keep things tidy. An internal power supply would have been better too; the chunky adapter risks obscuring neighbouring power sockets.

The 3330’s sound quality gave less reason for criticism. Bass was full-bodied and there was plenty of detail and presence at high frequencies, although the bright tone sometimes sounded aggressive. Close scrutiny revealed a rather bumpy response from the subwoofer, which made low frequencies a little unwieldy, but overall sound quality was among the best of the 2.1 sets. However, at £40 it doesn’t represent the best value here.

We’re not so enamoured with the design on the Hercules XPS 2.160, but at least the volume control, headphone out and auxiliary input are neatly incorporated into the right satellite. Sound quality was disappointing, with a murky tone and a distinct lack of presence. Playing a sine tone sweep from 20Hz to 20kHz (the typical human hearing range) revealed a bumpy ride, with some frequencies reproduced much louder than others and a notable thinness in high frequency reproduction. At least there was no shortage of deep bass and the speakers delivered a good volume level before too much distortion kicked in. As such, they make a pleasing racket for in-game sound effects.

The Cyber Acoustics CA3550 suffered a similar fate. The design isn’t very appealing – the oversized blue lights on each satellite might appeal to PC modders, but not to anyone else. The satellites’ design is impressively thin, but it transpires that this is just for show and, in fact, only the chunkier bottom half of the satellites emit any sound.

Despite having the largest subwoofer of the group, the CA3550 failed to reproduce deep bass, and overall its sound quality lacked any sense of space and depth. There’s a sizeable gap in the frequency response where the subwoofer and satellites meet up, resulting in weak lower-mid frequencies and, hence, a lack of warmth.

The Logitech X-230 displayed no such problems, producing the warmest tone of the five sets here. High frequencies weren’t as pronounced as with Creative’s set and bass wasn’t quite as deep, but the overall tone was more even and balanced. The only problem we encountered was that our sine tone sweep caused the subwoofer to rattle. Fortunately, we didn’t notice the same problem during music-listening tests. With an attractive, unassuming design, plenty of volume and a lower price than the other subwoofer-based systems, it’s the obvious winner here.

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