Genius SP-U115 Colorful USB Powered Stereo Speakers Review @ ModSynergy.com
By: Michael Phrakaysone

The marketplace today is dominated by portable machines such as notebooks, netbooks, tablets, and the like. Everywhere you go you see these types of portable computing devices, from inside schools, financial institutions, corporate offices, you name it.  There's a common scenario that these devices are being utilized for, it's not uncommon to see notebooks for example, being used for multimedia presentations of all kinds such as a PowerPoint presentation with an embedded video clip. 

Far too often though, these portable devices suffer from poor sound quality, the integrated speaker in these devices are practically useless unless people are huddled around the device.  They offer tiny sound output, even from within a small room, equivalent of listening through a tin-can in some cases.

What if there was a way to overcome this very weakness that all portable devices suffer from, but you were on a seriously tight budget?  For those of you who are seeking such a solution, something so basic that you have little need from something expensive, don't have outrageous expectations, but still want something that is far better than that tiny integrated speaker inside your desktop, notebook, or portable solution, this review is for you.

I've reviewed and tested many audio solutions over the course of 10-years, but they were mostly from the midrange to the very expensive, however, never tried something inexpensive.  Today's review changes that as I look at a simple USB speaker solution that costs only $15.74USD. 

I was very curious to what one could buy for $15.74USD and if something so inexpensive could enhance the audio experience in various scenarios such as the PowerPoint multimedia presentation, or even simply replacing the tiny speaker on your notebook, netbook, desktop as you watch YouTube videos.  I know some people who have speakers with no volume knob and that their speakers have so little output that it's amazing they were even bundled with their machine. 

Genius is a name you might remember. Not too long ago I reviewed their portable Bluetooth stereo speaker and was pleasantly surprised to how well it sounded for something compact.  It'll be quite interesting to see if the new Genius SP- U115 Colorful USB powered stereo speakers with 1.5W of RMS (continuous) power can continue that element of surprise.  This specific model is offered in four different color combinations which include black, blue with black, red with black, and lime green with white accents.

About Genius

Since 1983, Genius has been a leading peripheral brand internationally recognized for offering a diversified product line that succinctly embodies our brand philosophy of accessibility, creativity, and innovation. Our unwavering commitment to these core values is evident in our wide range of peripheral offerings, including: computer mice, keyboards, web and security cameras, speakers, gaming peripherals, remote controls, headphones, digital cameras, digital camcorders and digital photo frames. Genius also holds the U.S. patent for mouse scroll-wheel technology. Genius has expanded from computer peripherals into consumer electronic products that include mobile phone accessories, Bluetooth headsets, digital cameras, digital photo frames, iPod speakers and EeePC mice.

Create Infinite Value With a Magic Touch

Our business model, the conglomeration of OBM and OEM is run very effectively, which not only created unprecedented sales revenue growth for five continuous years for KYE but also created tremendous profit to our customers and shareholders. KYE expects to continually grow in the coming future.

Competition is everywhere in the IT industry. To cope with this challenge, KYE will keep enhancing its core technology not only in Pointing Devices, Digital Imaging and Gaming products for PC, but also developing more accessories and components for mobile phones.

KYE has envisioned this trend, and will “Create Infinite Value with a Magic Touch”. We believe this can be accomplished through the Magic Touch of KYE products, which can bring convenience, efficiency, and entertainment to all of us. We expect this trend will enable us to reach double-digit sales growth in the next ten years.

Mission: Create a Totally Free Environment & Enjoyment

To envision and to fulfill our goal of creating an agile wireless world, KYE has dedicated its major resource in core wireless technology to design and innovate a totally free environment of personal interface products. Since the boundary between IT industry and consumer electronic field is not as clear as before, our target market is not only in the IT field but also in the mobile phone segment. Therefore, KYE stipulates “Create a Totally Free Enjoyment & Environment” as its mission.

Based on this mission, KYE has numerous product and marketing plans this year so you will see many new innovative products (wireless input device, digital camera, home theater, .etc). We expect these new products will bring more fun to the user, so all of us can benefit from it.

Genius SP-U115 Colorful USB Powered Stereo Speakers Overview

Don’t be limited by a power adapter, Genius releases cute mini speakers, SP-U115, whose power is supplied through a USB port from a desktop/notebook. They use 50mm speaker drivers for loud and clear sound performance for a total of 1.5 watts RMS. Four glossy front covers to choose from: shiny black, sapphire blue, ruby red, or grass white. It has a convenient knob on the side to adjust the volume. Just insert the USB plug to a PC/notebook for power and the 3.5mm audio plug into music playback device, such as a PC, notebook, MP3 or CD player and enjoy music with the SP-U115.

Genius SP-U115 Colorful USB Powered Stereo Speakers Features

Key Features

  • Power supplied by USB port from desktop/notebook
  • Selected 50 x 50 mm speakers for clear sound
  • Glossy front panel
  • Volume control
  • Works great with any computer system using a standard 3.5mm audio plug
  • Compatible with Win7, Vista, XP, Mac OS X or above

Genius SP-U115 Colorful USB Powered Stereo Speakers Technical Specifications

  • RMS (Watts): 1.5W
  • Total peak power: 3W
  • Driver unit-Satellite:  50 x 50 mm, 8 ohm
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio:  80dB
  • Frequency Response:  150Hz~20KHz
  • Power Source:  USB
  • Volume Control:  YES
  • Headphone Jack:  YES, 3.5mm
  • Dimensions: 69x111x70 mm
  • Speaker Body Weight: 400g

First Impressions

This is my second Genius product review, so I was excited in seeing if the SP-U115 would continue the positive impressions of the SP-960BT Bluetooth speaker I had reviewed earlier.

The Genius SP-U115 Colorful USB stereo speakers comes in a very compact box measuring approximately 6.1" x 3.0" x 4.9" and weighs only 457g or 1.008lbs.

Genius Speakers Audio

The SP-U115 comes in a very simple and colorful box for lack of a better description.  An image of the SP-U115 Colorful USB powered stereo speakers is plastered on the front along with an image of a man playing an electric guitar beside.  Abstract music volume equalizer design sits behind in the background.  The product description is placed in a red color horizontal bar while the model number is focused just above. Green icons below advertise the features of the SP-U115 which include 1.5W RMS power, meant for music, PC/MAC compatible, volume control, 3.5mm audio plug, and USB powered.  

Coming to the rear face of the box we see even more product information and features of the SP-U115.  In multiple languages on the lower half of the box we find out that this is a Stereo USB powered speakers with volume control.  More product shots demonstrate what the SP-U115 would be used for, in this case, the SP-U115 is plugged into a notebook computer with electric guitar music being played back on the speakers.  Also advertised is the fact that these Genius USB powered stereo speakers have a glossy finish for added style, and a volume control dial for added flexibility. Towards the right corner of the box we find the Genius logo and Quick Response Code matrix barcode that Smartphone's can read and will direct them to product information o the Genius website.  I find it somewhat funny that the specifications on the side of the box are a little different from that found on the website.

Opening up the box will find the following package contents inside...

  • Genius SP-U115 Colorful USB stereo speakers
  • Multi-language user’s manual

Genius USB Speakers

There's not much you should expect in terms of bundle for a simple $15.74USD product.  You get what you need and nothing more, just the USB powered speakers and user's manual.  The SP-U115 is packaged inside with some simple bubble wrap so the body and glossy finish remains unharmed.

The user's manual comes in a leaflet that can be unfolded to see instructions that explain how to connect the speakers the computer or notebook using the 3.5mm audio plug and USB cable for power, as well as the controls of the unit including the volume dial, all offered in 23 different languages.

You'll immediately see the 3.5mm audio cable and USB power cable sticking out from the back of the stereo speakers.  I don't know why they are different lengths but the 3.5mm audio plug measures about 45" or 1.143 meters in length, the USB power cable measures about 57" or 1.4478 meters, and both should be sufficient for most intended applications.  The speakers have about less than 1 meter gap between them at best if measuring from cable end to cable end.  

The Genius SP-U115 Colorful USB powered stereo speakers are able to supply 1.5-watts of continuous power (RMS) and have a total peak power of up to 3-watts.  Each speaker measures 50x50mm (8ohm) and provides a signal-to-noise ratio of 80dB while able to deliver a frequency response in the range of 150Hz~20KHz. 

I found it funny how the website has the frequency response as 200Hz~18KHz, but I would trust the box specification more.  I also found it interesting how the website worded the specifications, it has an entry that reads Headphone Jack: Yes.  If I didn't know any better, I would have interpreted this as the SP-U115 provides a headphone jack on the actual speaker for those nights when you don't want to wake people up.  Unfortunately, the SP-U115 does not have a physical headphone jack on the speaker, they were instead describing the 3.5mm audio cable itself as the headphone jack.

Visual Overview

If you look at the side profile of the Genius SP-U115, you will notice that it lightly resembles that of a right triangular shape, though it curves and flows upwards to the top of the speaker.  SP-U115 measures about 2.8" x 2.8" x 4.4" (one speaker) and therefore is portable enough to dump into the laptop carrying bag for use at various locations.

For a better example of its size, the SP-U115 is give or take about the size of a 355ml Coca Cola can, therefore it compliments a portable machine quite well in terms of its size.  Genius has chosen what they feel is a fair compromise between portability and being able to deliver in the audio quality department. 

This specific size has given Genius the ability to stuff a 50x50mm (8ohm) speaker driver inside of the SP-U115 in order to deliver stereo sound with up to 3 watts of total peak power, but with a continuous RMS output of only 1.5W.  This would mean that the SP-U115 should be able to shout much louder than that of the small little speaker on any laptop or portable machine out on the market today.  When compared to the Bluetooth Genius SP-960BT reviewed earlier, that one technically is louder at already 4-watts RMS continuous output.  Side by side, one should notice the difference between the two in terms of how loud they can reach.

The only thing that stuck out like a sore thumb to me was the SP-U115's signal-to-noise ratio of 80dB.  The best way I can explain or illustrate what signal-to-noise ratio is would be that it is an indicator of how loud external noises are introduced (crackle, hum, hiss, etc) relative to how loud the volume of the music is.  Or you can look at it as how well the speaker manages to prevent background noises from entering into the music up until it reaches a specific decibel.  We'll see if this affects its sound quality.

Front

Stereo

The SP-U115 is constructed entirely out of hard plastic construction, with the only other material being the speaker itself.  For added styling, Genius decides to give the Colorful SP-U115 the no speaker grille treatment allowing the speaker driver to be fully exposed.  It looks to be that of a paper cone with a silver accented front to give it more style.  A Genius logo sits on the lower center of each speaker.  The front face has that glossy look.

The portable speaker is quite sturdy as the hard plastic construction would suggest aside from the speaker driver itself, it won't flex or break easily.  The only thing you have to be careful of when transporting it is the exposed speaker driver as there is no speaker grille.  It you manage to poke it, it will be ruined. 

The Genius SP-U115 weighs exactly 400g or 0.88lbs, and that is including the cabling.  The speaker is solid and shaking it reveals that nothing inside is loose or rattling inside, always a good sign.

Sides

Volume

On the right side of the main speaker there is a simple volume dial that allows one to adjust the volume up or down.  Below this volume dial is the bright blue LED indicator light to signify that the unit is powered and in operation.  This light is always on, and is very bright.  At night that it becomes a problem.  A quick solution is cover the LED with tape to lessen or eliminate the effect.

Bottom

ABS

At the bottom of the Colorful USB stereo speakers are two plastic notches that raise the speakers up a bit.  Unfortunately the biggest problem with the SP-U115 is that there are no rubber feet underneath to prevent the SP-U115 from tossing and turning.  The whole unit being plastic and the weight of the cables can and will make the speaker move around on the surface of tables, desks, etc.  If you can find the right balance, the SP-U115 won't move, but still the exclusion of something so simple yet needed is unacceptable.  You're going to have to buy your own rubber feet at your local dollar store instead.

Rear

Bass Port

Coming to the rear of the Genius SP-U115 we find a simple rear panel where the cable exits and a simple rear port, though I find it hard to believe the rear port will make any difference in this particular setup.  

Using the Genius SP-U115

I suppose you can look at the Genius SP-U115 USB powered stereo speaker in two different ways in terms on how it is powered.  The small amp inside is powered by the lone USB cable, so you don't need an external power source, that in itself is convenient. 

However, if it's only possible to power these via USB, then the application for which it can be used for becomes very specific and limited because you can only use it on portable computers, machines, devices that have an available USB port. 

MP3 players for example don't have an USB port, iPod, iPads, iPhone's, Sony PSP don't have an available USB port that can supply power.  For this reason the application becomes specific to only a laptop/netbook and or a desktop PC/MAC machine.

The only other way you can use the Genius SP-U115 USB powered stereo speakers for any other device without an available USB port is if you can supply power to the speaker with your own USB wall charger.  Depending on how you look at it, it would have made more sense for Genius to have supplied an USB wall charger as part of the bundle in order to make the SP-U115 more versatile and able to work on any device.

Or Genius could have deleted the 3.5mm audio plug cable and made this purely a USB only speaker, power and audio through USB, but that would be limiting as well, I suppose you can't have your cake and eat it too.

A thing of note is that the Genius SP-U115 is always on, as indicated by the bright blue LED which cannot be turned off.  There is no power ON/OFF button on the device as well, the only way to turn on the speaker is by removing the USB cable.  Genius should have added a simple ON/OFF slider at least, this means if using it on a laptop machine, the speaker is drawing energy from the laptop even if not being used until it is unplugged from the laptop.

USB 3.5mm

How does it sound?

To be honest I was not expecting much from a $15.74USD audio device, let alone a speaker system. I remember going down this road before many years ago when I was very young and purchased my very first computer and it came with cheap speakers that I could hardly hear.

With the Genius SP-U115 Colorful USB powered stereo speakers, I can honestly say I am surprised with how it sounds considering the price.  If you're looking for good but really inexpensive speakers, the SP-U115 is one to look at, it's pricing and performance puts it in no-brainer territory.  It definitely solves the issue of uninspiring speakers that come on notebooks and integrated on Dell towers.  It would be wonderful for those of you doing PowerPoint multimedia presentations for a small group of people using your notebooks with integrated speakers, you owe it to yourself in using something such as the SP-U115, because the audience will actually be able to hear.

Let me first off say that in terms of pure audio quality, the Genius SP-U115 Colorful USB powered stereo speakers is not better than the Genius SP-960BT portable Bluetooth speaker I previously reviewed.  That is not to say it's bad, because for the price its surprisingly enjoyable.  But the differences are noticeable right away between the two.  These 1.5W RMS SP-U115 can get loud, but not quite loud as the 4W RMS Bluetooth SP-960BT portable speaker.  A little distortion can be heard at full volume, though I envision you won't hear it as there's not much distortion to be had if there is no real low and mid-range.  Though these are significantly louder than any integrated speaker solution such as that inside of my Samsung netbook and also better in the process (low, mid, and high) in every way.  You will notice the difference immediately.

My Samsung netbook has internal speakers that can get somewhat loud for a single person, but not in the same way as these SP-U115 Colorful USB powered stereo speakers can go.  The Samsung netbook speaker honestly sounds like a tin-can, it's shrill to the ears and purely treble with no other dynamics, I want to shut them off when I hear them.  The SP-U115 Colorful USB powered stereo speakers sound much better and there is a clear difference to the speaker inside the netbook.

The Genius SP-U115 has good vibrancy to its sound that makes it feel enjoyable.  For cheap speakers, these sound pretty good and is much more fresh and more lively than other cheap speakers on the market that are bundled with pre-made PC's.  If you're not expecting something grand, then you will appreciate the SP-U115 for what it is. 

SP-U115 has decent dynamics to its sound, could be a little warmer but it offers good details in vocal music and some instrumental music.  The details could be better showcased, but for what it is and how inexpensive it is, can I really complain harshly?  It's likely sufficient for most Average Joe's out there. The lows are much better than internal speakers you would find on any notebook, netbook, desktop.  Yes you can hear the attempt at bass, but please don't mistake me, it lacks real impactful bass.  If my Samsung netbook speaker has 0% bass, then these have maybe 10%, better than nothing.

Bass Rating (From 0-10, 10 being the best): 2/10

The SP-U115 excels more in its detail in the highs.  Whereas my Samsung netbook has a nasty piercing high-end that made me want to turn it down, the Genius SP-U115 has good amount of treble and highs that are not piercing.  The midrange is passable but I find it a little bit muddy and therefore some detail is lost, the lows like I said are there, though don't expect forceful bass.

These as mentioned, excel in making the vocals priority, but have enough low and mid-range that it can provide a perception of fuller sound quality.  Other cheap speakers lack these types of characteristics to its sound and it becomes evident very quickly as the sound is often muddy and detail is suppressed.  The SP-U115 is not as muddy nor is it not as detailed, again I'm surprised at what it can do for $15.74USD.  It's not like I ever wanted to shut the speaker off! 


What's Missing?

It would have been fantastic if there were a power ON/OFF button, manual treble and bass adjustments, rubber feet to prevent sliding, separate USB wall charger for added compatibility with all devices, but for under $20 I suppose they had to compromise.  The good thing is that most of these mentioned above are manageable without. 

Where To Buy

The Genius SP-U115 can be found right now on Amazon for $15.74USD without shipping.  I've seen it go on sale at Amazon.com for $12.99 so I suggest waiting for it to go on sale if you're interested.  The product is sold and shipped directly by Amazon and not by a third party.

If you are thinking of purchasing the Genius SP-U115 Colorful USB stereo speakers, please use our Amazon link below, it will help us out.

 

Conclusion

For under $20USD, the Genius SP-U115 Colorful USB stereo speakers are worth a look, but when on sale at Amazon.com for $12.99USD (before shipping), I think these are a no brainer for the type of performance to price ratio it offers.  They might be even great for your children as they come in four different color combinations.

If you are thinking of purchasing the Genius SP-U115 Colorful USB stereo speakers, please use our Amazon link above, it will help us out.  Thank you.