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Benwin BW2000 Speakers

by Drew Dunn

Benwin advertises their flat panel multimedia as "The new shape of sound". These speakers are indeed, very flat. As is popular today, the system is separated into two satellites and a "subwoofer". The satellite speakers measure about 5 by 7 inches and are about an inch thick. Each speaker comes with a detachable stand for placing the speaker on a desk. The subwoofer is a compact unit, about 5 inches wide and deep and 7 inches tall. All of the controls for the system are on the subwoofer which provides power for the entire system via a plug-in transformer.

The speakers use new technology developed by NXT that departs from traditional cone shaped speakers. The flat panel speakers use a rigid, flat diaphram that is almost as large as the speaker itself. While the ideas behind the way these speakers work is somewhat complicated, they distill down to this instead of moving one relatively large paper or plastic cone in a pistoning motion, the flat panels create small areas of vibration, each independent of the other. That means that there is less mechanical resistance to motion, especially as frequencies increase. The result is a loudspeaker that provides nearly 360 degree dispersion, something that traditional loudspeakers cannot do.

That being said, the tough question is, how do the speakers sound? After listening to them for a day, I can confirm Benwin's claims of 360 degree dispersion. The speakers sounded just about as good facing away from me as they did facing towards me.

I was surprised by the quality of sound from what is a fairly inexpensive set of speakers. Mid and high-range sounds were very clear and crisp, something that I had not expected. The system suffered at the low end. The problem is that the subwoofer isn't really a subwoofer at all, but more of a low-midrange driver. The speaker is just too small to generate convincing bass. With the bass control turned to maximum, I felt that the level of sound from the subwoofer just didn't have enough impact. However, given the cost of these speakers and the good mid and high range performance, I believe that Benwin made a reasonable tradeoff.

I tested these speakers on a Linux powered Pentium II 300MHz system with a SoundBlaster 128 sound card. I listened to a half dozen audio compact disks, ranging from popular to classical music. I also listened to the speakers while playing ID Software's Quake II. The speakers had good directionality in the game, as good, if not better than my Microsoft Digital Sound System speakers. In fact, the Benwin satellite speakers sounded better to me than the Microsoft satellites. Unfortunately, there is no standard for connecting multimedia satellite speakers. Each manufacturer uses a proprietary cabling system, so, as much as I desired, I could not replace the Microsoft satellites with those from Benwin.

The controls on the subwoofer module are clearly labeled and intuitive. There is a power switch, volume and bass controls and a switch labeled "3D". The accompanying manual described the 3D Surround Sound as "a different sound experience". My experience was that by enabling the 3D feature, some out of phase information was sent to each speaker to attempt to increase the size of the sound stage. In practice, it achieved that effect, but at the expense of adding substantially more high frequency audio, causing the sound quality to become quite harsh and unpleasant.

Overall, I was happy with these speakers. No, they aren't the best speakers that you can buy, but for about US$100, they most definitely hold their own against other speakers in that price range. And because of the satellites' small size, they can find a place on even the most crowded desk.

Benwin: BW2000
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