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Cambridge SoundWorks FPS2000

FPS2000 Digital Speakers Review

Cambridge soundworks FourPointSurround FPS2000 Digital

If you're a gamer who craves 3-D realism or a music lover listening for clear high tones and bass without breakup, you should consider the Cambridge SoundWorks FourPointSurround FPS2000 Digital speaker system ($200 street). The FPS2000 is a significant step up from the Cambridge PCWorks FourPointSurround, with higher output wattage and all-digital four-channel sound, plus a subwoofer that provides terrific bass sound.

Most attributes of the original system are beefed up with this model, including slightly larger, heavier, and more powerful components. The new system is a more stylish black; the earlier model was white.

The subwoofer, which measures 6.5 by 8 by 13.8 inches (HWD), houses the system's four-channel amplifier for the four 3.5-inch cube satellite speakers (7 watts each) plus the subwoofer's own 25-watt amplifier. The FPS2000 also includes four table stands, two 18-inch tripod stands for optional use with the rear satellites, a volume/fader control with a 12-foot cable, and speaker cables.

To get the most from the FPS2000, you'll need a four-channel sound card that supports Microsoft DirectSound 3D with separate front and rear stereo line output jacks. The Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live! audio card, which we used in testing, is recommended by Cambridge (both were reviewed in After Hours, November 17, 1998). The Environmental Audio (EAX) surround sound and environmental modeling of the Sound Blaster Live! and FPS2000 system's power and clarity ably complement each other.

To test the FPS2000, we played a variety of music CDs, classical music WAV files, and Epic MegaGame's Unreal Special Edition 3D action game, the latter coded with support for Creative's EAX modeling. The results were all outstanding: The high notes were icicle-clear, the bass boomed without breaking up, and the surround and environmental effects were eerily convincing.

We liked the Cambridge PCWorks FourPointSurround and thought it was a good deal: The Cambridge FourPointSurround FPS2000 has upped the ante. Although the FPS2000's price is higher, it is easy to recommend for people who want clear and realistic PC audio.

Cambridge FourPointSurround FPS2000 Digital. Street price: $200. Cambridge SoundWorks, Newton, MA; 800-367-4434; www.hifi.com.

Great sound requires great speakers. It's a simple equation: No matter how much money you put behind the speakers in sound cards, receivers or any other audio devices, bad or even mediocre speakers will limit your sound. One who yearns for great sound must have great speakers--there's just no way around it.

Of course, in the world of PCs, it's more complicated than just buying speakers... There are a lot of different options: the standard two-speaker setup, four speakers, four speakers plus a subwoofer, and the 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound setup. All of these options serve different masters, and figuring out exactly which one suits your needs can be difficult. Most gamers will want to go for the four speakers plus the subwoofer; that's the recommended setup for A3D and EAX. Almost all new games support at least one of these positional sound APIs, so you'll want to take the greatest advantage of them--and for that, you'll want a four-speaker plus sub setup. Let's take a look at the set I have for you today: Cambridge Soundworks' FPS 2000. Let's see if it offers more than just a sinisterly cool black graphite finish...

Specifications

  • Satellite power output: 7 watts RMS at 10% THD per
    channel

  • Satellite dimensions: 3.5" x 3.5" x 3.5" with 2.5"
    throw driver

  • Subwoofer power output: 25 watts RMS at 10% THD

  • Subwoofer dimensions: 14.1" x 8.0" x 6.5" with 5.25"
    woofer

  • Frequency range: 50Hz - 20kHz

  • Accepts two stereo lines in for front and rear speakers

  • Accepts 2x S/PDIF input from Sound Blaster Live! via
    proprietary DIN connection

Notice that the satellite speakers are nice and small, with lots of different options (including Velcro!) for mounting them on walls or even under desks; finding a home for them in your gaming arena should be an easy task. The ultimate goal, though, is to achieve optimal A3D or EAX sound, so you'll want to set all four speakers up as you would a partial Surround Sound system (i.e., two in front of you and two behind you, all equidistant from each other). The enclosed manual helps you out here, so installation's minimal; you won't even need a tape measure or prescription medications (unless you are in to that type of thing).

As far as computer speakers go, the subwoofer that comes in the FPS 2000 package is a monster--large, powerful and ported properly to spread that bass goodness around. The other thing I like is that the subwoofer's encased in solid wood. This makes it nice and heavy, which helps distribute the bass, and it also cuts out nearly all vibration when you place it against a wall or in a corner. A lot of other setups come with plastic-cased subwoofers, and I find their vibrations quite annoying and much weaker-sounding. Great call on that one, Cambridge...

Performance

Amazingly, the speakers sparkle and rumble at the same time; they sound perfectly matched to either a SoundBlaster Live! or an Aureal SQ2500. The highs are crisp and sparkle with clarity, the middle ranges are voiced nicely to my ears and the lows rumble with depth and power. It's a nice balance for games; in fact, it's close to perfect. I didn't notice any clarity benefit with the Digital DIN output at medium to low volumes, though I did notice a difference at high volumes in comparison to standard 1/8th inch outputs... At really high volumes (in excess of, oh, 'high noon' on the volume knob), the Digital DIN connection sounded clearer than the standard stereo outputs. It was definitely noticeable, but I can't imagine anyone playing games at this level without suffering serious sensory receptor damage. Not that that's a bad thing...I wouldn't want to offend the gaming masochists.

The subwoofer also features a knob on the back that controls exactly how hard your spine shakes under its control. Feel free to crank it--I couldn't get it to blow the speaker even at the highest volumes, which is amazing considering the astronomical Total Harmonic Distortion ratings of the amp. 10% is really high compared to home audio components. Usually anywhere in excess of 50% of the total volume is a danger zone, but I didn't have any problems with these speakers at high volumes at all.

Hey, speaking of volume...the volume control sports a nice fader built right in behind the volume knob, which is nice if you can't get the front and back speakers equally distant from where you sit. I also like how Cambridge included a little Velcro pad to stick the volume control wherever you like; a lot of cheaper speakers give you a stick pad that wears off after a week. Cambridge also throws in some speaker stands (in case you need to set them on the ground and tilt them upward), an extra supply of Velcro (enough to strap a small child to the wall), proper labels to mark each speaker wire (which I failed to use) and an awful lot of wiring. Everything you could possibly need to set these speakers up--and a lot you don't--comes included, which leaves a lot of miscellaneous "stuff" to chew on when you finally lose your grip on reality. Bonus!

As far as games are concerned, these speakers are the best I've heard of those marketed specifically for games. Some of the higher-end 5.1 Dolby Surround setups are of a bit higher quality, but they aren't going to work as well with games as they do with DVDs, and they generally require a decoder and cost anywhere from $300-$500. Positional sound is what everyone wants in games, however, and this speaker setup provides an experience unlike any other set I've seen.

Conclusion

These speakers are great. With Digital DIN or just regular stereo 1/8th inch out, they sound amazing in just about everything I've tried. The subwoofer really pumps out the bass, especially when you set it up against a wall (or, even better, in a corner). The shotgun in Half-Life's freaking scary with the bass cranked--in fact, it commanded such respect that I just had to go "shotgun only" for the rest of the game. The only negative aspect of the FPS 2000 is the price. It'll set you back $199.95, which is a bit of a tall order for most people; I found it at Buy.com for about $150, which is a little better. That's the only negative for the gamer, however. If you are interested in watching DVDs on your computer in Surround Sound (and I do pity you for your poor judgment; DVDs are meant to be viewed on a big screen, with other people), this may not be the best speaker setup for you. If you're a gamer with poor speakers and don't particularly feel like staring at your monitor for two hours straight watching "Deep Blue Sea," though, congratulate yourself, and look into picking up a set of these speakers.
 

ctsy www.gamefan.com

 

 

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