When you’re building a new computer, it’s easy to skip on something like a speaker system because it’s not crucial and you can always use headphones in the meantime.
But Creative’s gaming brand, Sound BlasterX, has a new 2.1 audio kit that can give you loud dynamic audio, gorgeous RGB LED lighting, and room-shaking bass for just $160 ($130 for now) with the Kratos S5. This Sound BlasterX package also comes with dedicated controls and a headphone jack so that you can get Creative’s 24-bit/96KHz audio even in the middle of the night.
But for $160, the Kratos S5 can belt out some serious sound at a fair price, and it has what it takes to complete your gaming rig.
What you’ll like
Thunderous, room-filling sound
I tested the S5 in a couple of different place, including my family room with vaulted ceilings. That room has a lot of cubic feet to fill, but the Kratos never struggled to overwhelm the space with powerful sound during key moments. In a game with dynamic audio like PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, the sound of a plane flying overhead fooled my wife multiple times into thinking an actual aircraft was right above our house. Gunshots also popped with a realistic loudness, and the S5 never crackled or lost clarity even with these sudden bursts of sound.
The 2.1 setup also comes with a substantial subwoofer that lends credibility to the sounds of a 747. It was powerful enough to rumble my living room. It also added a harsh, violent edge to the gunshots.
Bringing this system into my much smaller office amplified those results. it was more than loud enough, but I love that I can feel confident about cranking up the volume without fear that the speakers will begin losing clarity. That just doesn’t happen with the Kratos S5.
Cool and useful extras
In addition to the sound, I really like the Sound BlasterX lighting. The company’s RGB LED lighting system, which it calls Aurora Reactive Lighting, looks as good or better than a lot of competitors like Razer or Logitech. On the Kratos, each satellite speaker has an array of downward blasting LEDs that can output any color of the rainbow. The effect is that a wild spectrum of color dances across your desk, and you can of course have complete control over how that works through the Sound BlasterX app.
But a more useful feature is the dedicated volume knob. This is small, circular device that connects to the Kratos system. You are supposed to set it on your desktop for instant volume control. If you have always controlled your PC’s volume from the software options, you may not fully appreciate just how convenient it is to have a hardware option instead — and especially the nice dial that comes with the S5.
This knob also includes a headphone jack, which means that you can get Creative’s amplified audio through any headset whenever you want. This is nice for playing games at night when you are trying to keep quiet. It’s also useful to have a headphone jack sitting right on top of your desk with its own dedicated volume control. That’s something I never want to do without in the future.
Finally, Creative Labs also includes an adapter to hook up a TV or DVD player to the S5. It doesn’t have an HDMI port, which is a bummer, but it’s nice to at least have some kind of option to get this working in a home theater.
What you won’t like
Cables and space
For the price, the Kratos S5 is an excellent audio package. But you will have to dedicate quite a lot of desk space to each speaker. Additionally, you’ll have to run cables back and forth, and it’s kinda annoying to have the volume knob add another cord that has to run across your desk alongside the keyboard and mouse. This is one of the reasons I really liked the Sound BlasterX Katana, which is Creative’s PC under-monitor soundbar. That does a lot of the same stuff in a more compact solution.
The Kratos S5 2.1 speaker system is an ideal audio solution for your gaming PC. It can go from detailed quiet moments to a cacophony of gunfire, roaring engines, and explosions in an instant without losing any precision. That makes it another easy recommendation.
Creative Labs provided GamesBeat with a sample unit for the purposes of this review.