I’ve recently left an employer where I spent four years doing a job I loved, and I had a week off at home to sort of kick back and relax before the new job started. So I was really excited that during that time my Saitek A-250 2.1 speaker demo unit arrived. Being that I had a week off, this was the ideal time to dive into reviewing the A-250. That, and I knew I’d be listening to a lot of music on it as I got the 4 years spent at my last employer out of my system.
The first thing that you notice is the looks of the A-250. The designers of the unit had clearly been watching science fiction movies while coming up with the concept for the unit. The image that went through my mind when I pulled the unit from its package was that of Hammerhead, the alien from the cantina scene in Star Wars IV: A New Hope.
The A-250 is a sleekly designed unit with the left outlined in metallic red and the right speaker outlined in copper. What’s really interesting is that the designers chose to have the drivers painted a bright red, which stands out like flaming eyeballs behind the black grilles of the tweeters. The rest of the unit is a shiny black, with the LCD display centered on the upper half of the front of the A-250. The sub-woofer is located on the bottom of the unit, with the active base located on the center rear of the unit, behind the LCD display.
Aside from the looks, what makes the A-250 unique is a 2.4 GHz wireless transmitter that can be used to transmit songs from the PC to the speaker unit. The wireless transmitter is a USB device that doesn’t require software installation. Merely power off your PC, plug the wireless transmitter into a USB port, and power on the machine. Once the machine is up and running, turn on the A-250, and then press the blue button on top of the wireless transmitter. The transmitter and the A-250 will establish a connection automatically, so long as the A-250 is within the 30-meter range of the transmitter. I found the automatic wireless connection to be extremely stable, and connected the PC to the A-250 through multiple walls, outside, and even inside a closed cabinet (I told you I had time on my hands that week). The only interference I had came once while using my microwave, which sits only a few feet from my PC.
When it comes to reviewing speakers, design and new, unique features are great. But when it comes down to it, what really matters is whether a unit is capable of “bringin da noise”. As I said earlier set-up is easy, and whether you’re using the unit with an AC adapter or the 4 “AA” batteries needed to power the unit remotely, the A-250 generates a good sound.
As I mentioned previously, the subwoofer is on the bottom of the unit. However, the sound from the 3-inch subwoofer is still excellent as the bottom of the unit is raised from the surface is placed on by small rubber feet. I found no distortion from the subwoofer, with the exception of a small amount when it was cranked up to the max volume while sitting on my concrete patio. Placing it on my patio table eliminated the distortion.
The sound quality from the dual 1” tweeters was quite good. I wouldn’t put it up against my 5.1 home theatre system, but for a small unit, both volume and quality of sound were excellent. Because of the unseasonably warm winter we’ve had, I’ve spent time on my patio preparing for garden season, and having the unit outdoors was great. It’s not weatherproof, so that’s something to keep in mind, but the media control buttons (play/pause, skip forward/reverse, volume +/-) means no more going in the house to change songs. The wireless sound quality is better than Bluetooth, but maybe not quite as good as Wi-Fi.
When using it for gaming, it stands up as a decent mid-level 2.1 system, and that the output will satisfy most gamers who don’t need their chair to vibrate when they get taken out with a rocket launcher playing Unreal Tournament.
The A-250 comes equipped with both USB and 3.5mm jack audio ports for the times when you want to connect directly to a PC. I found no detectible lag time in output between the unit being plugged in to the PC and using it wirelessly. Also, battery life seems to be in the 20-25 hour range, which is longer than I expected, considering the volume the unit is capable of.
There are a couple very minor drawbacks to the A-250. While it works terrifically with Windows Media Player, iTunes, MusicMatch Jukebox, and the like, it does not offer support for Macintosh computers. Additionally, the unit only connects to audio playback devices like iPods through the 3.5mm jack audio port. This means you can play your music through it, but the media control buttons on the top of the unit become useless. It would be nice to see a firmware upgrade to resolve these issues. Finally, I found that when the A-250 was placed on top of my monitor (the only space I have available for it on my desk), I couldn’t read the LCD display as it is tilted slightly skyward on the front of the unit. Also, it would be useful if the unit had the ability to display the song title being played, whether from PC or portable audio unit.
All in all, the A-250 is an excellent audio product, and certainly worthy of the Editors choice rating it has received.
Whether youâ€™re looking for high quality gaming audio in a small package, or a portable speaker unit for working in the yard, you canâ€™t go wrong with the Saitek A-250.