Swans S200A Build Quality and Setup
It wasn’t so long ago that I was researching my first “real” set of speakers. At the time, there were a number of brands that caught my attention. Swans was one of them. But by the time I was ready to buy, they had kind of fallen off the radar and I ended up with another Internet direct brand. When I saw them at CEDIA last year, I noticed one of our reviews for a different product printed up and sitting on their desk (apparently one of their staff picked it up at another booth) I pointed at it and said, “That’s us.” Well, one thing led to another and now I’m looking at a set of their “hi-end” multimedia speakers.
The Swans S200As came packaged fairly well, single-boxed with styrofoam end caps and wrapped in a white cotton drawstring bag. The piano black finish, while extremely well done, doesn’t exactly love the white cotton so much. I ended up having to grab a black cloth and wiping off a bunch of lint. A black bag would have been much preferred. The oval shape is designed to reduce cabinet resonance.
Along with volume, there is also a treble and bass control.
There are no markings on the dials save a small dimple indicating where the
potentiometers are set. The dials go from about 7
to 5 o’clock. The bass control was a little scratchy at the low end
(meaning the dial felt as if it were dirty). The back of the amp has both RCA
and balanced inputs, a pair of speaker outputs for the other speaker, an on/off
switch, a permanently attached power cable (which seems at odds with balanced
inputs to me), and an inch and a half wide port. The amp casing is a very
attractive black brushed aluminum. The enclosure is constructed out of 5/8” mdf
and there is no bracing. The electronics are attached to the back plate as well
as both the sidewalls on glued on wooden braces.
The woofer/tweeter configuration is a little different with the woofer mounted above the tweeter. This has the odd effect of having the tweeter only at ear level if you raise the speaker up about 8 inches or if you lean back in your chair. The finish on these speakers are a gorgeous hand-rubbed piano black. There is also a reddish option called “piano scarlet.” The speakers have very thin rubber pads on the bottom which provide a good, solid connection to any desktop.
Supplier’s Note: Why HiVi Chose the Driver Configuration of the S200A’s – courtesy OZ Home Theater
There are actually several reasons for S200’s unique design:
- Because the S200’s are heavily used as multimedia products, these speakers are rarely stand-mounted in a traditional listening environment. In 90% of the installations our customers have described, the S200’s are sitting lower than average (from a picnic table to a computer desk). As a result – raising the 5.25” midbass woofer up off the underlying surface significantly tightens the midbass response and eliminates midrange bloat to achieve a more natural presentation (something that’s readily apparent in female vocals).
- An added benefit to the woofer placement in the S200 is a natural (i.e. physical) time alignment that results from the added distance from ear level to tweeter level (vs. ear level to woofer level). Due to the near-field listening application that is often utilized in the S200’s, this trait significantly strengthens the S200’s 2-channel image width and perceived depth (and does not affect the tweeter’s overall response due to the high dispersion characteristics of the silk-dome used in this application).
- The inverse mounting arrangement in the S200’s also has a nice aesthetic appeal. In combination with the solid aluminum bezel utilized on the front baffle of the S200, this arrangement results in a very contemporary and almost cosmopolitan-like feel from the S200’s…something that tends to help out in the WAF appeal. This is more of a personal observation than an actual design cue…in my opinion; the unique arrangement gives the S200 a sculpted look that is a refreshing change from the cookie-cutter mold of multimedia products.
Setting up the Swans S200A’s is fairly straightforward. If you have RCA outs on your soundcard, you can connect those directly to the amp. If not, there is a 3.5mm to RCA converter included. The RCA cables included with the speakers are pretty cheap (think DVD player included cables) so you might want to upgrade. The speaker terminals on the back of the amp are very nice and the unterminated speaker cable is more than adequate for the short run you’ll probably need. As with every other multimedia speaker set I’ve ever used, the one with the volume control is set up as the right channel. There is a little blue led that shines through the speaker grill on the right channel when the speakers have power.
I set the speakers on a set of stands that I have flanking my desk (mostly because there is just way too much stuff up there with two monitors, a printer, a modem, a router, and various and sundry office supplies). This separated the speakers by about 6 feet. I pointed each of them at my listening position (i.e. chair) which actually has the front baffle of the speaker hovering about an inch above the desktop. Since there is no “bass module” as you may be used to with the freebie speakers that seem to come with every new computer purchase these days, you won’t have to give up valuable leg stretching space under the desk. There is a little valley along the top that I absolutely LOVE… why? Can you guess? It makes setting up the speakers a snap. It is practically an aiming sight!