Microlab FC50 2.1 Speaker Review
It takes something special to have us interested in a 2.1 speaker set, and the Microlab FC50 certainly ticks all the boxes.
Unquestionably the design of the satellite speakers is the primary focus. We're so used to 2.1 setups being a booming bass box and then the most minimal effort, square box possible for the satellites, that the work Microlab have put in to the design of the satellites makes us smile. Rather than being minimal effort, they are minimalist. A centrally positioned speaker with the plastic surround expanding upon the cone design. The stands are as solid and stable as the satellite design, and in all they're very nice. The subwoofer is more of a regulation affair, with a MDF box containing the 5" bass speaker and connections for the power, audio input and satellite speakers. It's very sturdy and the textured vinyl coating provides a nice counterpoint to the gloss black satellite speakers. Finally, the RF remote control for the volume and bass is a nice, unexpected, touch and saves you having to use the volume control on the back of the subwoofer.
Sound quality is obviously extremely important, and the FC50 is a bit of a mixed bag. As you can see from the "High Clarity - Close Distance" label upon the subwoofer, the FC50 is designed to give you clear sound reproduction when you're near to them, and they certainly do that. The satellite cables are very short, at around four foot long, and so you're rather limited in your placement options. If you use them as the speakers on your computer then you're very likely to be within touching distance of them, and this close the sound is very good with the subwoofer rather dominating proceedings, but backing off the bass a little allows the excellent satellites to give you exceptional clarity and great midrange and high-end response. We utilised our standard array of game tests, from the outstanding BioShock Infinite and jungle insanity of Far Cry 3, to the tense atmosphere of Hitman Absolution and the sandbox Sleeping Dogs. With a neutral sound profile everything from gaming, music and films are projected very well with only minor tweaks to the equaliser needed for your own tastes.
As you move away from the FC50 though the satellites struggle to overcome the subwoofer. Even turning the bass down with the remote it becomes a struggle to maintain a balanced sound scape. This would be less of an issue if the bass was hard and tight, but it's a bit woolly and indistinct. More of a general rumble than the percussive pounding in your chest. This is definitely a system designed to be used near to you, rather than use it as a boost for your television or a sound system at a party. We tried a variety of films and television programs through the FC50 and found that 'softer' documentaries and movies worked much better than those of the action variety, largely because of that disappointing bass performance.
Other problems are small, but there. We'd like longer cables on the satellites. Cable is really cheap so there is no excuse to provide so little. We've used mice with longer cables than this. The volume control on the subwoofer isn't the biggest quality item we've ever seen. Ours just went round and round which hardly inspired confidence. Also of variable quality is the wireless remote. It's very light and cheap feeling and it's also the only way of tuning the bass volume without resorting to external equalisers. There is no indication of how loud either the volume nor the bass is beyond your own ears, as the dial turns and turns without a stop point.
If you are planning to use the FC50 as a desktop audio solution for your computer, there are few more impressive ones around. With the ability to tame the subwoofer using your equaliser, and because you're at the distance the FC50 has been designed to be used at, the sound quality is excellent. The short satellite cables and the quality of the two volumes controls is disappointing, but those aside the build quality is very good. At £70 you wont want for a more gorgeous looking speaker set, and as long as you don't expect it to fill a room with sound you wont be disappointed either. Because they're very good but within a tight set of limitations and with only average subwoofer performance, we're going to award the Microlab FC50 our OC3D Silver Award.