Many gamers are advocates for gaming headsets and won’t even bother setting up good computer speakers. And while it’s true that headsets offer a few bonuses – including not waking up your neighbors while you’re battling grotesque monsters from another dimensions at 2 am – investing in a solid speaker system does have its advantages.
The Sound BlasterX Kratos S5 2.1 gaming speakers and subwoofer set is packing not only in hardware, but also in extras. Additionally, it promises clear highs, detailed mids and deep bass for excellent sound experience.
Does it hold its own against the top computer speakers on the market? With fierce competitions like Audioengine A2+ and JBL SoundSticks III, Kratos S5 is definitely getting a run for its money. But with all its added features, flexibility and a powerful subwoofer to boot, it’s without a doubt a sound investment at $129 (£129, AU$269).
There are computer speakers and there are computer gaming speakers, and Kratos S5 definitely, aesthetically speaking, belongs to the latter category. There’s nothing stealthy about its boxy, nearly 8 x 5-inch satellites, which are both fringed on the front-bottom with Creative’s 16.8 million color Aurora Reactive lighting.
This lighting system isn’t actually reactive to sound and is purely decorative, but I enjoyed this little add-on nonetheless. When used with other Aurora Reactive lighting system-enabled peripherals, the ambient lighting enhanced my gaming experience personally.
At the helm is the subwoofer, which funnily enough looks completely nondescript. It hosts the variety of controls and ports all easily accessible in the back. These include the tiny LED button that lets you switch between five different Aurora Reactive lighting presets, a subwoofer level dial, the ports for the satellites, and three different input options, which I will get to shortly.
Both the speakers and the subwoofer are supposed to feature all wood enclosures, which isn’t obvious right off the bat due to the jet black paint. In fact, we thought they were made of plastic until we read the specs online.
Fancy trimmings aside, Kratos S5 does give you more ounce for your bounce as far as functionality.
This 2.1 setup comes with an audio control pod connected to a sub via a 4.5-foot long cable. A remote would have been great to mime a home theater setup, but this pod is certainly a nice alternative, giving you convenient and quick access to the power and volume control. Its smooth-turning dial lets you increase and decrease the volume effortlessly. And it features a 3.5mm headphone jack and a mic jack so you can sit back in a cushy chair while playing Counter-Strike with your headset on.
The subwoofer features its own dial to control the bass level as well as an auto standby button for energy saving. Most importantly, it has three audio inputs – a micro-USB port, a 3.5mm audio jack and an RCA input – so you can hookup this speaker system to different gaming devices as well as your Blu-ray player. These give this speaker system more flexibility than many of its competitors.
The downward firing sub features a the driver located on the underside of the unit. Such subwoofers may not be as tight sounding as forward-facing ones, but they’re supposed to be more stable and have a little more rumble, which Kratos S5 definitely has.
And of course, the system is customizable with the Sound Blaster Connect software (PC only) that offers even more light, sound and voice flexibility. It allows you to customize the lights, from the colors to the transition speed.
As far as the sound, it lets you do a plethora of audio tweaks—boost the base, adjust the EQ, increase/decrease the high end, minimize abrupt volume changes, and even widen the soundstage. For quick adjustments, presets are available on the Dashboard.
Setting up the Kratos S5 speakers system is a snap. You just need to connect the satellites to the subwoofer and then that to your computer via 3.5mm audio or USB, plug the system in, and you’re up and running.
Keep in mind that for higher quality sound, you should utilize the USB connection for 24-bit/96kHz digital audio playback. You will see a BIG difference; the sound might still a little hollowed out, but not to the same degree, and it’s just clearer and more detailed.
Do yourself a favor: download the Sound Blaster Connect software and take the time to do a few tweaks for punchier results.
The Sound BlasterX Kratos S5 speakers system boasts lots of volume for PC gaming and small home theater setups. The subwoofer packs a punch. Not only does it sound good, it’s also very responsive, especially when turned up to 70%, and has a lot of rumble owing to its downward facing driver.
It has a wide stereo soundstage. When you’re sitting front and center, games and movies definitely feel immersive. It must be noted that while Creative promises a virtual 7.1 surround sound feature, which you can adjust using the Sound Blaster Connect software, it falls flat on mimicking that effect. However, to be fair, it does widen the soundstage a little more and feel a tad more immersive.
At the default audio settings, the highs are hyped and even more so with the speaker system plugged in through its 3.5mm audio jack. The high mids are comparatively low, causing a hollowed out sound, and the low end is also a little quiet. Also, in some movies, voices are a bit muffled. However, all these can be adjusted with the software. Additionally, the sound is tinny via audio jack. But again, switch to USB and it’ll make a world of difference.
The only things to really complain about are the light hum and the digital distortion that are noticeable when the speakers are turned almost all the way up.
While audiophiles might not give the Sound BlasterX Kratos S5 a second look, its sound quality and experience is excellent for gaming and movie watching on your PC. As far as computer speaker systems go, we’d rank this 4 out of 5 and pin it with our recommended award for its gaming-quality sound and its added features.
There are better PC speaker systems out there, but you probably won’t get a sub or as many features, or you have to pay $50 to $100 more. With Kratos S5, you’re definitely getting more than your money’s worth.