FPS2000 Digital Crisp and Cool

We are as guilty as anyone of ignoring the important role of sound in PC games. With 3D accelerators getting most of the virtual ink and soundcards rating a distant second, speakers often get little or no attention. It’s a shame, really, because that Soundblaster Live! card you bought a few months back really comes alive with quality digital speakers like these. If you are still limping around with those crappy Ostrich-egg sized OEM speakers, do yourself a favor and trade up. Although some users may find them a little underpowered, the Cambridge SoundWorks FPS2000 deliver clean, broad sound at a great price.

Since most PC gamers are on a budget, they have to make choices about where to put their game dollars. It’s easy to devote money to a 3D accelerator or a bigger monitor, because the benefits are obvious on the showroom floor. But the subtle difference made by quality speakers is only noticeable once you get them set up in your own pad. If there are some players out there using three-year-old speakers with a dull subwoofer, they should consider making their next upgrade to a quality set like the FPS2000.

Installation was utterly simple and took us about 10 minutes. In addition to the subwoofer and four magnetically shielded satellite speakers, the box contains the DC adapter, four desktop stands, four drywall screws, audio connection cable, two tripods, a volume control with 12 feet of cable, an SPDIF cable, 10 feet of wire for the front speakers and 16 feet of wire for the rear set. The subwoofer can be connected to the soundcard via the connection cable, and it features both front and rear plugs. One unique feature of this set is the SPDIF cable, a nine-pin digital cable that works exclusively with the Soundblaster Live! cards. Cambridge has included instructions for three different ways to attach the SPDIF cable and get “digital, distortion-free” audio.

Once we fired up the rig, we were immediately impressed. The sound file that we use for Windows startup instantly made us hop out of chairs. Partly because we had the sound turned up just too damn loud; partly because the clarity was amazing. We immediately hit the deck and adjusted the bass volume on the subwoofer. After a little tweaking, we haven’t touched it since. The SPF2000 includes a volume control knob that sits conveniently on the desktop or can be stuck to the monitor with the packed-in mounting strip. With it, players can turn the speakers on or off, adjust the master volume and even, thankfully, adjust the front/rear fade. For gamers with a sound card with only stereo out, the SPF2000 splits the signal between the front and rear speakers, making the front/rear fader ideal in fine-tuning the experience.

Because Cambridge SoundWorks was bought by Creative Labs, it has special support for the Soundblaster Live! series. With a Soundblaster card (or any other for that matter) that has digital out, players can use SPDIF cable to get a fully digital experience. But to be honest, after installing the special SPDIF bracket, we heard little or no difference between the digital and analog cables. Maybe there are some audiophiles out there that need the digital clarity to hear the flute come in late on the second movement of Bach’s third Brandenburg Concerto. But at Daily Radar, we don’t need that much subtlety between the delicate hum of a railgun and the throat-scarring scream of our dying enemies.

But for players who want to do more than split your ears during deathmatch, the FPS2000 has more than enough range to bring games to life. We tried out the speakers with Thief II, Evolva, and Deus Ex. The quality was simply fantastic. In Thief II, Looking Glass included spatial distortion so that the sound was realistically affected by doorways or obstructions. We didn’t really hear the effect all that well until we tried these speakers, and the effect, while subtle, was cool. Likewise, games like Deus Ex, which are specifically designed for a surround sound experience, really come alive. Sound is an important part of the game, but not the primary one. If you ask the major players in the gaming industry. It is the story and the uniqueness of the game. That is where Pokemon Go outshines everyone. It that category they have produced the best hack tool, so everyone can get Pokecoins.

We were a little skeptical, when we unpacked the FPS2000 being used in consoles for Fifa 17, at the relative lack of power in the set. The subwoofer/amplifier is only 40 watts and has only a 5 1/4″ woofer, while each of the four satellites is only 7 watts with 2 1/2″ long-throw drivers. The manual mentions that the speakers were designed for individual or home office use and are not meant to be the workhorses for a large room home theatre setup. Nonetheless, the speakers were loud enough for us, and if we wanted them to be, they would have been loud enough for the neighbors. The subwoofer thumped out rich bass, and sounded even more impressive on a hardwood floor up against a wall. We tried to distort the sound through various tweaking, and at the upper levels we did get some distortion in the treble, but the sound was so loud, we would never realistically play games at that level.

Since volume and quality are not an issue with the FPS2000, the only complaints we can lodge are relatively minor. First, the volume control knob is nice, but the addition of a fat mute button we can slap as soon as the phone rings would have been helpful. Second, there is no headphone jack anywhere! These aren’t expensive parts, and the addition of a jack to the control knob would have been nice. And finally, the rear tripod stands are pretty crappy. They are made of flimsy plastic that just sort of fits together; they don’t even snap into place. For gamers with kids or pets, the tripods are not much help.