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xRobert Richmond

Abit SP-50 Home Theater System

February 2003

Page Three

Contents
Page One: Specifications / Installation
Page Two: Testing Methodology
Page Three: Sound Quality / Software & Accessories

Sound Quality  
Two distinct environments were chosen for testing the SP-50's sound levels and frequency response. A small 12' x 14' room provided testing that closely simulates the dimensions of a personal office or perhaps a small bedroom. A larger 12' x 24' room was utilized as an example of a den or multimedia room. A reference level for each test is based upon a Dolby Digital Philips 5.1-channel receiver with its poly-propylene speaker network consisting of two 6.5" fronts, two 4" rears, one 3" x 5" centre, and one 8" subwoofer. The primary system is rated at 320 watts (PEP peak) with the subwoofer rated at 200 watts (PEP peak). While the Philips system should, in theory, outclass the smaller Abit SP-50, the reality of the situation is far different to what most would expect.

The smaller room testing offered clear results when comparing each of the systems. Both offered nearly the same sound pressure levels, though the SP-50 clearly won out for clarity and frequency response. The Abit speaker system also proved to generate nearly zero "white noise", even within such a closed environment. The well designed channel separation characteristics of the SP-50 also allowed for it to easily surpass the much more expensive Philips system in terms of spatialization and cross-channel fading effects. This superiority became most evident during gaming, especially for first-person shooters like Unreal Tournament or Quake 3.


As expected, the larger room changes the testing results. The Philips system proved to offer superior sound pressure levels when utilizing the same input source level. The Philips also took a lead in response to lower frequency sounds. Regardless of decibel output, the major difference between each system is the superior channel separation aspects of the SP-50. The Abit design offered vastly improved per channel directivity, especially at higher frequencies. The design feature most attributable to this difference is Abit's implementation of true metal cone speakers. These small, metal speakers are better suited to delivering sound above the 2KHz range compared to the more traditional full-range woofers found within the Philips reference system.


Software / Accessories
The included software bundle represents the normally expected package available with most of today's better sound cards. Yamaha's S-YXG50 synthesizer provides MIDI decoding, while ForteMedia's EzAudio is included for basic CD and wave file playback. The most impressive feature is Abit's implementation of WinDVD 2000.

The base software DVD/VCD/MPEG-II decoding package is extended with the capabilities for 6-channel audio, plus a specialized infrared remote is provided for ease of use from your favourite couch or recliner. The ability to extend the remote's functionality to other favourite multimedia applications would be a great addition, but the controller currently works only with Abit's custom WinDVD software and for Microsoft PowerPoint presentations.

WinDVD 2000 provided clear, quality playback during testing with a nVidia GeForce-2 GTS Quadro.  PowerDVD is generally utilized within the testing lab due to its superior control interface, though WinDVD is still easily tweakable through
DVD-Genie's advanced configuration interface.  The setting of particular interest in DVD-Genie is the enabling of low-frequency decoding as an alternative to the AU-10's control panel setting of low-frequency enhancement.  Using WinDVD's internal option allows for better positional directivity compared to the AU-10's generic driver routine.


Final Thoughts
Having used a variety of high-end audio equipment from many of the top manufacturers, I can thoroughly recommend Abit's SP-50 home theater system to anyone seeking an impressive sound immersion experience. The superb clarity and minimal distortion of this offering scales well beyond my initial expectations. Add in the value of Abit's AU-10 6-channel sound card and WinDVD remote control, and the value becomes even more evident. While some will likely opt for the speaker-only bundle for a more powerful audio processing solution, such as Creative's Sound Blaster Audigy, the AU-10 is more than capable of meeting the needs of DVD viewers and most casual gamers. The SP-50 is no exception to the quality I have come to expect from such a well respected manufacturer as Abit.



Robert Richmond

   

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