Review: ZiiSound Gets Creative With Wireless Sound Combos
By Matthew Lentini | Monday | 07/11/2011
Not compatible with a home network for greater wireless control; limited control and automation; building up a greater, modular system can get expensive
The D5x and DSx are an iPod/iPhone dock and wireless subwoofer respectively, and make up the higher end of Creative's rebuild of last year's slew of home audio with a more 'premium' feel than the company's typically Logitech-esque computer peripheral range. They throw in apt-X Bluetooth for CD quality wireless music streaming, but the biggest feature is the 'modularity' that allows multiple speakers in the range to be thrown together in one of the simplest upgradable, wireless set ups on the market.
|Creative ZiiSound D5x|
On its own, the D5x isn't very impressive as a $350 speaker, not fulfilling the bass tier for those going for the full sound spectrum. Throw in a DSx for an extra $180 and you've got yourself a real micro sound system happening. And it's as easy as that to extend the sound, fulfilling Creative's modular wireless promise. This ethos wirelessly brings together multiple speakers at the touch of a few buttons to extend the sound system across multiple channels, rooms and set ups.
|Don't let the air intake on the back end fool you, you'll be wanting the DSx to pull in the bass|
If you've got two D5xs, you can create a 2.1 set up with the subwoofer in tow by making the left speaker the left channel and vice versa. If you're looking to extend the sound to another room, you can make your extra D5x push out the same stereo sound as its counterpart, but you're limited by the range of its Bluetooth strength.
The touch controls on the unibody design are a nice touch that lend sleek sophistication to the unit while making it simple to navigate - though setting up can get a bit finicky. Connecting the speakers involves setting each one up to detect nearby devices as you would have other Bluetooth devices search and connect. You hold down a button on the D5x and the DSx until a light begins to blink, indicating it's searching. From here, the two connect, and you're ready to go.
|Touch controls are sensitive and the lack of physical buttons make the design more appealling, fitting as a simple TV soundbar.|
Though in practice, I found myself restarting the process a couple of times to make it work, unwittingly not realising there was a final button to press to set it up. My own error, though switching between instruction manuals for the two separate speakers and being told in one to read the other and vice versa is a bit of a nuisance. In any case, the instructions are much clearer on the Creative website, and the speakers are practically foolproof from here.
The sound quality is great for the size and more than decent for the price, though it doesn't deliver the most neutral sound. Without a subwoofer, the sound has a slight edging towards a tinny sound without much warmth. DSx in tow, bass is a bit too enthusiastic rather than natural, and the two speakers feel as though they're trying to punch above their weight at times. Though a little tweak of the bass strength knob around the back of the sub and you end up with a strong suite of sound to boost your music across a room with sound that's lively and atmospheric.
Connectivity options are fair, but there could be more to justify the pricetag. Powered by apt-X Bluetooth which is optimised for streaming music without skimping on quality, compatible devices will stream music from a fair distance anywhere in a large room (but not across the house). For every other Bluetooth device, you're limited to typical Bluetooth quality. You can technically hook these up to your home theatre, but through the 3.5mm jack. The auxiliary cable lets you plug in any smartphone or music player, but can also be used to plug into a TV if it has a headphone jack, or into a receiver. The supplied cable is pretty short, so you'll probably want to have your own handy if you're looking to hook up a TV.
|The dock hides away around the back and stays discrete while nothing's docked|
From design to sound, the D5x fits the mould of a soundbar to compliment your TV set up. It can sit neatly below the screen, complimenting a typically black, glossy flatscreen frame with its matte grey and black finish and minimalist fascia. The D5x will do its own legwork to reinvigorate the flat sound of a display if you'd otherwise stick with the default, in-built speakers in your TV set, while the DSx will add depth to the sound gamut, warm vocals and the mid-range, and give a real crunch to the deeper sounds without distorting. If you've set the speakers up in an open room with good acoustics, these speakers can easily upgrade your mini-theatre set up without breaking the bank.
The speakers are mainly targeted at the iPod-connect market, with a dedicated dock and adapter for turning Apple devices into wireless music streamers. The small transmitter slots into the end of iPhones and the like to wirelessly feed music to the speakers from anywhere in typical Bluetooth range - so unfortunately you can't go walkabout in the house with your iPhone pocketed and still expect to stay connected. The transmitter slots neatly into a groove in the back end of the D5x to turn into a stable dock for connected devices if you wish to go wired. A thumbs up to the dedicated groove which is a lot cleaner than most iPod docks that otherwise leave an ugly, metal connector awkwardly sitting in limbo while nothing's connected, killing the design aesthetics.
Additional USB transmitters can be bought to stream music off computers if they don't have stereo Bluetooth built-in.
Creative has been ambitious in its leap into the wireless music streaming market, and has done so with a quality product. But its limitations put it a step too short to compete with some of the bigger sound systems in its pool. Music docks like the Zeppelin and Sonos do the same thing only better, and achieve great sound without needing to be linked to a separate subwoofer for the low-end rumble. That being said, the fact that Creative offers this choice and flexibility at a cheaper price point is very appealing, and all in all they're good sounding speakers for the stylish home on a bit of a budget. But if you're really on a budget, the cheaper D3x speakers are probably the way to go.
Apr/May 2011 issue
reviews the hot new iPhone attach device, the Zeppelin Air. And we look at what's going on in the tablet space...