After deciding I needed an upgrade for my computer speakers. I recently acquired the Swan M50W 2.1 speaker system. Prior to this I've probably only owned four different computer speakers, this over the past 18 years or so. I've had Altec Lansings, both 2.0 and 2.1, and most recently the Audioengine A2s. While I've always been satisfied with what I had, eventually I would get the upgrade bug.
When the upgrade bug hit with the A2s there were a lot of options and a lot of different speakers I was interested in. However, due to space limitations I really couldn't go with anything much bigger than my current A2s. Although there were plenty of speakers just as small or smaller than the A2s, there didn't seem to be many that could be considered an upgrade.
I then came across the Swan M50W. The price and and size of the speakers were right, and most importantly they had some glowing reviews. I was a little hesitant to get them at first mainly because if I had a choice, I'd prefer not to have a subwoofer as it's just an extra piece of equipment I need to find space for. It is something I can live with though and since the speaker size, price, and reviews fit the bill, I decided to go for it.
Half the fun of getting new gear is the unpacking process. The set is delivered in a box within a box. All told it weighs about 40 lbs. Upon opening the main box, the set is held in place by top and bottom pieces of styrofoam. The top piece serves as a tray to hold the accessories, i.e the cables, power chord, volume control, and the Swan signature white gloves. When lifted, the top piece of styrofoam reveals three white bags containing the pieces of the set.
Both the speakers and subwoofers are solidly built, constructed of wood and plastic. Small but substantial is how I would describe them. This is probably one of the best looking computer speaker systems you can buy and pictures don't do them justice. One review I read said it was a shame that most people would probably place the subwoofer on the floor since it was such a good-looking piece of furniture. To this I will agree. The grills on the speakers and subwoofer are removable although I haven't tried taking them off yet.
Set up of the system is fairly easy although only a single cable is used to connect the PC to the subwoofer. Since my sound card is a Xonar Essence STX which uses left and right RCA cables, I needed to use an adapter. Standard stereo wire is used to connect the subwoofer separately to each speaker which attaches via clips. The volume control for the speakers also needs to be attached to the subwoofer. It's basically a wheel/dial about 2 1/4" in diameter attached to a long cable so that it can be placed on your desktop. Lit around the middle, when the speakers are active it is blue. Pressing down on the volume control mutes the speakers and changes the color to red. The subwoofer has its own volume control. When first turned on, the system defaults to mute.
Now, how does it sound? I can honestly say these are the best computer speakers I have owned. That may not be saying much since I mentioned that I've only had a few different sets of computer speakers over the years, but my ears tell me that these speakers sound really good. They are significantly better than the Audioengine A2s which I thought and still think are good speakers. One big improvement though is the bass obviously, since the M50W has a discrete subwoofer. The A2s' design supposedly compensates for lack of a subwoofer, and while they have bass, it can sound boomy and artificial when compared to the real thing.
With the M50W, I had forgotten what it's like to be able to control the bass manually. I'm not much of a basshead so I keep the subwoofer volume relatively low but still have no problems hearing it as well as occasionally feeling it at my feet. I can't imagine that it wouldn't be able to provide enough bass for those who like to crank it all the way up.
As for the sound from the speakers, crystal clear and full is probably the best way to describe it. They're extremely detailed and work well with all genres of music, and vocals really shine. Little speakers aren't supposed to sound this good. Of course the better your source material, the better they are going to sound but that holds true for all quality audio equipment whether it's speakers or headphones. Note that I haven't really tried them with games or movies as my main use for them is music.
While their primary purpose is for near field listening I personally think they provide adequate enough sound to fill the entire room. They can also go pretty loud although there is no set max or min volume because of the way the volume control is designed. You just spin it clockwise to make it louder and counter clockwise to lower it. You just keep spinning until it reaches its peak volume (which I haven't done) or until there's no sound.
There are only a couple of things I don't like about the M50W. First, the power switch is located on back of the subwoofer. Since I have it under my desk it means I need to get down on the floor to turn it on and off. Second is the volume control for the speakers. I'm just not crazy about the whole wheel device. It's something else that takes up space (albeit small) and something else that needs to be connected which means I have another cable hanging off my desk. And what if it breaks somehow? Will replacements be available?
Are these the best sounding speakers ever made for computer use? Probably not but I'm sure they give some other bigger and more expensive brand name speakers a run for their money. I bet there are even quite a few full size speakers that don't sound as good as these. For their price and above all size, you probably can't do much better than the M50W when it comes to a 2.1 system.
Here are some pics. Apologies for some blurriness.
The well packed box within a box
Bags just waiting to be untied.
Maybe it's me but I just don't understand the whole white glove thing. The included gloves are rather small and I have pretty small hands as it is. I kept them on for a short time but took them off as it was easier to do the set up without them.
Untying the second speaker.
The speakers revealed. The tops of both the speakers and subwoofer come with a protective film.
The subwoofer and speaker side by side.
A detailed shot of the back of the subwoofer.
A shot of my desktop with the M50W in place. The volume control can be seen in front of the left speaker. Note that the manual suggests that the speakers be placed at least 35" apart. I obviously fall a little short on space but I still think the speakers sound fine where they are.
The M50W speaker next to the Audioengine A2 for comparison purposes.