Microlab FC360 2.1 Speakers Review


Microlab is a dedicated acoustics and computer peripherals producer, and since its formation in 1998 they have solely concentrated on producing high quality speakers. Peter Larsen is their designer and chief consultant. We have high hopes the FC360 will perform well, especially after our positive experiences last year.
Previously we have taken a look at Microlab’s Solo 6C Speakers and we were impressed with the quality, for the cost. Today is the turn of a more traditional looking 2.1 speaker system. They are effectively aimed at the everyday computer user … those of us who love to watch films, play games and enjoy their music.
The FC360 are not a dramatically styled product, they are rather understated with a simple black, box like design. This does mean they will suit many desktop environments whether you are a keen gamer or an everyday user.
Technical Specifications:
Amplifier:Output power: 54 Watt RMS
Power distribution: 15 Watt x 2 + 24 Watt
Harmonic distortion: < 0.3% 1 W 1 kHz
Frequency response: 35 Hz – 20 kHz
Signal/Noise ratio: > 75 dB
Separation: > 45 dB
Input sensitivity: 350 mV
Speakers:Tweeter driver type: 2.5″
Tweeter rated power: 15 Watt 4 ohm
Bass driver type: 6.5″
Bass rated power: 30 Watt 8 ohm
Interfaces:Output: 3RCA
Input: 3.5mm stereo, 2RCA
Power:Power supply: AC 220 V – 240 V ~ 50 Hz, 200 mA, or 100 V – 120 V, 460mA version
Package Contents:FC360 Amplifier
FC360 Satellites x 2 pcs
FC360 Subwoofer
3.5mm stereo – 2RCA cable
User manual
.
The FC360 Speakers from Microlab ship in a large white box, which is deceptively heavy for its size. Couriers had clearly decided to play football with this box.
The speakers are protected inside heavy duty foam packaging. The satellite speakers are on top with the user manual and all the cables needed.
The standard input cable which plugs into the green speaker output on a sound card or motherboard, and the red and white RCA connectors into the back of Microlabs amplifier/control unit.
Both satellite speakers are wrapped within a soft fabric bag. This will protect further against surface damage during shipping.
The bottom of the speaker is covered with a protective plastic strip and the cable is wrapped in a transparent plastic sleeve.
These satellite speakers are certainly not small and stand at about 19cm tall and are over 10cm deep. They are built around thick MDF and are coated in a matt black paint, which makes them look very smart and stylish. The cables for these speakers are not that long, but should be fine for a PC oriented desktop environment.
Inside the box is a ‘Power Cube’, which is simply an amplifier and control unit combined in one. This is a very heavy unit and is clearly built to withstand some abuse.
The Power Cube has an On/Off button on top, as well as a cooling grill. At the front we have a volume control as well as a headphone output and a very useful input socket, allowing a user to plug in an iPod or similar media device.
On the back of the Power Cube there is a bass volume control, as well as input sockets and speaker and sub-woofer outputs.
The subwoofer features a 6.5″ bass driver, and produces around 30W. It measures 255 mm x 255mm x 287 mm. The subwoofer is made from MDF with a bass vent on the one side.
The completed line-up certainly looks very serious, and we are impressed with the understated styling. Simple, yet effective.
Audio reviews are subjective, as everyone has different expectations of what justifies ‘great sound quality’.
Today I will be concentrating on comparing these speakers with similar desktop speakers, rather than aiming for the ultra high end market. For instance, I have the Antec Soundscience Rockus 3D 2.1 speakers as well as my lovely old Logitech Z3 2.1 speakers and I will be using both of these speakers to gauge the quality and performance of the Microlab FC360 2.1 Speakers.
I must also note that for these tests unless otherwise stated we were using a Creative X-Fi Titanium PCI sound card, to ensure high quality sound reproduction.
Setting up the speakers was straightforward and the cables did stretch far enough for good stereo imaging, although I could envisage that the bass cable could be too short for some environments.
Before starting the review procedure I always like to acquire a general overview of the sound quality to get an idea of what these speakers are like before bedding in completely. Firstly, I played Radio 1 from the live stream at a fairly low volume, and I was initially very impressed with how well these speakers reproduced speech, the enunciation of voices was extremely focused. At this low volume there was certainly no additional noise produced from the speakers and the balance was great for positioning.
The first track we tested with was Magnetic Man – Perfect Stranger (Ft. Katy B) and the impact was insightful and weighty. The bass has a tight and punchy sound, and if turned up it certainly has the ability to vibrate and shake the floor and desk.
On a very positive note, if you configure the settings correctly, the bass won’t over shadow or overthrow the performance of the satellite speakers, which in themselves seem to have a broad frequency response.
Negatively, the sound staging is a little weaker than a few competing products. The satellite speakers can exhibit a ‘distant‘ feel, and when turning the bass down to its lowest setting we feel that the sound stage was thrown backwards. It is almost as if you are hearing the sound through a tunnel rather than a broad, wider soundstage space.
We then proceeded to test these speakers with a range of music, including high-quality recorded classical music, including some live professionally recorded orchestral works. We were pleasantly surprised because, firstly, there is plenty of depth to the sound that these speakers produce. When tuned correctly, the bass is subtle, but definite in its approach, and reproduced a fantastic double bass sound. If you like a strong bass presentation then these speakers will surely appeal.
Next, we tested the speakers within a gaming environment, primarily Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3. While the width of the soundstage still seemed to be fairly narrow, the sound quality and subsequent ‘realism’ was impressive. The bass has a punch that really did help to get the pulse beating fast but it needs to be configured fairly high.
Over the course of our testing we did also watch several films, notably Avatar and Taken, both in Blu-Ray format. The speakers did come alive with the quality of both of these, and there is plenty of spare volume in the amplifier which keeps you feeling fully-immersed in the sound, without losing any quality. Overall, they produced a very intimate and close-up soundstage during the films, but lack the width and depth that larger and more expensive 2.1 systems can produce.
In summary, these speakers are fantastic value for money. They are certainly not the best 2.1 system on the market but they have a quality and presence about them that lends well to intimate recordings. We were especially impressed with the bass reproduction … this did produce a good gaming atmosphere.
While Microlabs are still not that well known within the computer peripheral market, they are certainly proving to be serious competitors for the likes of Logitech and Creative. With the aid of audio guru Peter Larsen, they have not only created a brilliant 2.1 speaker system, but have done this at a very respectable price point.
The speakers produce an intimacy and warmth to the sound field that will allow you to enjoy many genres of music, and they certainly have the power when it comes to filling a reasonably sized room, thanks to the brilliant power cube amplifier.
Microlab have also added several very useful features, including a line input on the amplifier as well as a headphone jack. This allows the user to plug in a iPod or phone with ease, as well as plugging in headphones when it is getting late and you don’t want to upset the neighbours.
The biggest weakness with these speakers is the soundstage presence. They produce a narrow soundstage, and sometimes can ruin the immersive feeling of being placed within a larger environment. The amplifier also produces an annoying, audible clunk when first given power and when switched off.
These speakers are built to a specific price point and have certain limitations when compared against more expensive competing products. That said the sound is warm, enjoyable and they coped with a wide range of media playback. The biggest positive is the very modest asking price of only £47 at Overclockers.co.uk.
At this price they are certainly ‘Worth Buying’. If you want a larger sound stage presence and a more refined overall experience then be prepared to dig deeper into the wallet.
Pros:
  • Amazing value for money.
  • Great build quality.
  • Powerful amplifier for size of speakers.
  • Power Cube gives easy to reach input and headphone socket.
  • Impressive sound quality and punchy bass.
Cons
  • Narrow soundstage.
  • Satellites are distant sounding with some sound sources.
  • Amplifier takes up a lot of desk space.
  • Not the most elegant looking.
බලු කුක්කා නම් කියන්නේ: A bargain priced set of speakers with plenty of volume to fill a medium sized room.
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