INFORMED REVIEWER OVERALL RATING: 8/10 See below for modular rating from a 1.0 system and beyond.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of audiophile grade sound bars and sound docks – so it was with great excitement that I started to review the new Creative D5XM and DSXM modular sound system in a world exclusive 3.1 setup – that’s three Creative D5Xm’s and a single Creative DSXM subwoofer.
All other interview sites that have reviewed this bar have generally done so in a 1 speaker, 1 subwoofer format. We are bringing you a world exclusive by reviewing the speakers in all of there modular forms. That is a 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 setup in addition to a 1.1, 2.1 and 3.1 setup.
The speakers have to connection – via bluetooth or via a 3.5mm stereo input. In this modern day and age of convergence I found it sad that the speaker bar was missing an optical or hdmi in. This should at the very least been an option in terms of being able to buy an additional modular input box… however as it stands this is relatively restricted in terms of what you can plus into it. Bear in mind that the only remote control option that you have with these devices is with your mobile phone… if you are using a windows 8 phone then you have to adjust the volume manually on the right hand speaker for any adjustments. If you are adjusting with and iPhone then it is possible to turn the volume up and down although in general it seemed as though this had to be done whilst music was playing to be effective.
When individuals buy these types of sound bar they don’t want to be limited to a single type of use. And although these speakers can be connected to a TV through a 3.5mm cable and do a good job of it there are too many technology options that are missing in terms of digital inputs and new technologies such as HDMI arc.
Whilst we are on the connectivity issues it’s worth bearing in mind that the master speaker is the right one. Now given that most people who will want to use this with a TV would likely want to use the middle bar as the main input its a crying shame that you can’t adjust which speaker provides the analogue input… you would either need to have the right speaker very close to the TV or you would need to by a 3.5mm extension wire which would defeat the object of buying these wireless speakers.
They use the APTX codec offering “CD-quality wirelessly over Bluetooth®, enabling users to lose the wires without compromising on audio quality.”
As a 1.o speaker the sound is great, what really stands out it on its own it really doesn’t feel as though it needs a subwoofer. The speaker is ported at the back and the sound is great. Compared to other speakers that I have used the sound is clear, and the seperation superb. Not bad value in terms of sound quality at even at £280. If you are buying these speakers though you are probably doing so with the intention of upgrading… so where do you go from here? A second £280 speaker or £160 subwoofer – the subwoofer is obviously cheaper… but is it the better option.
Adding a second speaker really brings this system to life. One way that I would describe the creative system is as sounding “full” in its many different guises… the speakers really seem to throw sound and fill the room. Adding a second speaker is superb… the crystal clear sound becomes multi-dimensional… and the full sound of 1 speaker becomes fuller with significantly more definition.
However – and here’s a really disappointing part. I have 3.1 of these speakers and I have noticed that adding a second and third speaker always leads to some distortion in the left speaker. This is really easy to replicate – use the creative central app – do a room calibration test with one speaker and see how clean the frequency response is, do the test again with a second speaker added and you will notice that the left speaker always has some level of distortion. What is the distortion like in the real world? Well you can really only hear it a loud volumes… but it did get irritating listening to loud episodes of breaking bads. Personally I’m surprised, creative normally have seriously high standards coming out of there labs.
However, this isn’t too much of a fly in the ointment at lower volumes and as such the sound is breathtaking even with just the 2 speakers.
Essentially adding the second speaker provides width and depth… at a level previously unheard of in sound bars, and I believe the presentation is quite simply the best you will find without wired connection needed between speakers at the price of £560. And perhaps even at wireless. We compared to the Sonos playbar – and we found the creative speakers to be more details – and you don’t get the width with the £599 Sonos.
At low volume these speakers are absolutely beautiful in this setup – the speakers really fill the room even at low volume… the creatives have real talent in terms of throwing sound.
Presentation improves again adding a third speaker. You really do start getting into wall of sound territory here and this is particularly useful to create a close up enveloping sound in addition to a really wide sound in very wide rooms. The dangerous part is as soon as you buy a 3rd speaker you will be tempted to get a fourth speaker – well I am anyway – why? Well I use a 2.0 speaker setup in my bedroom at the moment and a 1.1 setup in the living room. Although the speakers are easy enough to configure into new setups I wished that I had a more fixed solution in the living room.
However it really does have to be made clear that as great as the modular system can sound with film and TV it has really been made with using with bluetooth devices such as iPhones and iPads… if you’re looking for a soundbar which will act in a multifunctional manner take a look at the Philips HTL9100 (Great and TV and gives wireless rear surround, not so great at music) or the Sonos Playbar (which at its most expensive wireless setup ousts even the £1000 setup reviewed here). Both show technology which seems plain missing from the creative modular sound system.
There are 6 speakers available for use in this setup and I wish creative added the option to use some of the speakers at least as rear channels when needed. It would add great satisfaction to an excellent sounding system.
So 3 speakers = wall of sound, an even fuller sound than 2.0… however before going 3.o I would always go down the 2.1 route – there’s more value to be had.
Ddepending on the positioning of the subwoofer this can add depth and bass. However this to me is less convincing than adding a second speaker. The bass produced is taught and powerful, however I have heard better subwoofers for the money. One of the most frustrating elements is that I feel that when calibration is undertaken with an iPhone or android phone instead of adjustment of the bass level through graphic equalisation I believe that adjustment of the subwoofer volume should be undertaken digitally as per modern multi-channel amplifiers. Overall though £160 for a wireless subwoofer is good value for money – and if its bass your after this unit can deliver in spades. If you want accuracy, dynamic-ism, depth and width go for the second speaker every time.
This is a near optimal setup… bass and width. The subwoofer is a luxury that I can personally live with. Bit of a spoiler here I have decided to keep all of the speakers that I’ve purchased. I currently have a 2.0 setup in my bedroom and 1.1 in my living room. I am considering purchasing a second speaker for my living room to create a 2.1 setup… which would give me 4.1 speakers and the flexibility I need between rooms. Shame party mode can’t be undertaken with 4 speakers! However for now the beauty is that moving a single speaker between rooms is a doddle and in reality its only laziness that is driving me to consider buying a fourth speaker.
The return in investment here isn’t enough I think – yes, you get a wall of sound, but are you better of investing your money on an iPad or Android tablet if you only have a phone? Tough call. If you want the ultimate this is obviously the setup to get… if you’re coming from a 3.0 setup this is a no brainer, from a 2.1 setup I would think long and hard about this.
My main challenge here again is the right speaker being the master speaker…. It’s can be hard to get positioning right if you are using a wired connection – you should be able to choose which speaker manages the wired connection but I guess that would add a layer of complexity.
If money is no object then this is the setup to get – however £1000 could get you a lot of hi-fi elsewhere… especially if you are looking for more than just a 3.1 sound system with no digital input outside of bluetooth.
I really wish creative built a system that would let you go a step further… the option to buy an AV centre and have left and right rear channels. However there are many front on wish this wouldn’t work – the sound calibration seems to be about graphic not volume equalisation. It would however have been nice to be able to work in a 6.1 config given the number of speakers on offer… being able to use on or 2 units as rear channels… in this world we’re looking for devices that converge… it feels like the creative speakers are very geared to listening to music rather than watching films. Although there are some equalisation setting for films in the iPhone and creative app.
Reviewing the app (iPhone)
The app is ok to use – the calibration isn’t particularly cutting edge in that it measures equalisation and not other things like volume and distance (when you’re sitting between a number of speakers you want the volume of each speaker to be perfect based on where you are set). If you have split the units into 2 or more systems then on the iPhone there is no way of renaming one of the bluetooth systems so that it is more recognisable (you have 2 or more Creative D5XM entries), although you work out the hierarchy on your phone moderately quickly.
Equalisation is very easy to adjust and you have your standard creative features such as crystalisation, CMSS and normalisation. In addition there are options such as “Vocal” , “Cinematic” as well as Night options. One of the major bugbears that I had was not always being able to adjust the volume unless I was listening to music – which often meant physically walking to the device. The option having a physical remote is irritating at first too – although you do get used to this.
There’s so much more that could be done with app… I still feel that there is so much more that can be done with the system – however if its just sound quality you are after this may well be your first port of call.
They look great – definitely audiophile grade and they seem to melt away into the design of any room.
It possible to link all speakers so that they are playing the left and right channel at once… superb if you want the same music playing across the house. Of course if you want different music in the house later you can split the speakers!
This is a unique product. The room filling “wall of sound” is at times absolutely stunning. I would be willing to pay more for a better subwoofer as for me it isn’t quite taught, tight and crisp enough. However the competition is so hot that I’m not sure if these speakers will fly of the shelves. This is because there are more convergent items coming to the market with more inputs and more function. To me there are too many comprimses that I am having to make with this system in the living room – such as needing to plug the TV into the right speaker in a wide room, so minor distortion at higher volumes which is easily replicable through doing Creatives own
There is however no denying the talents of this bar as an audio player for use with mobile devices… I’ve moved 2 of the soundbars into my bedroom and I am beyond satisfied with the sound quality and purpose in that room. Movies are very watchable in this instance as you might be using and iPad. Music sounds magnificent, bass is kept at bay by simply not adding the subwoofer.
So the fact that I have purchased and am keeping these speakers (for my bedroom at least) means this system is overall no slouch. In terms of value for money and overall rating in it various guises I would rate:
1.0 setup: 8/10 Good value, great sound and the option to upgrade
2.0 setup: 10/10 One of the best sounding setups out there – even at £560
3.0 setup: 8/10 – £840 is a lot of money to pay, only buy at this price if this is really the solution you need.
1.1 setup: 9/10 – although we’ve heard better subwoofers at £160 for wireless and given the extra depth we think its enough for an extra point.
2.1. setup: 9/10 Probably the best overall setup – I don’t feel the need for the extra bass though and feel 2.0 is more than adequate
3.1 setup: 8/10: £1000! really do your homework and check this is what you need… but there’s no doubting the flexibility!
OVERALL RATING: 8/10