A Prima Donna on PC: Creative Labs Audigy 2

Creative Labs Inspire 6700

Inspire 6700s are the first 6.1 PC speakers on the market. We ran our tests on a set of Megaworks 510D and 210D for the center surround channel, then on Inspire 6700s, which are supposed to be the perfect match for the Audigy 2.

They consist of five speakers with 8 RMS watts each, a center channel of 20 RMS watts, and a subwoofer of 22 RMS watts. The bandwidth is stated as ranging from 40 Hz to 20 kHz with a signal-to-noise ratio of 75 dB. The connections are all at the back of the subwoofer. There are three analog inputs, one of which is a triple combination for powering the center channel, subwoofer and center surround channel. Creative supplies a special cable for connection to an Audigy 2. If you have another card like the Fortissimo III 7.1 with four separate analog outputs, you'll have to dig into your pocket and set your mind to connecting the 6700 properly to your sound card. The Inspire 6700 has a switch to change from real 6.1 mode to emulated 6.1 mode and back, so you can use these speakers with a 5.1 card of Audigy 1 or other type and benefit from the center surround channel. The sound from the 5.1 surround channels is then mixed to the center channel. The result is quite good for music and some movies, but, as usual, you lose in 3D positioning. Creative has also taken pains with the remote control, which, though still wired, has an overall volume control and another for the low frequencies, plus a headphone input.

The subjective listening tests showed that Creative Labs has taken trouble with quality compared to the Inspire 5300. High frequencies have been overhauled and are much clearer and truer and saturation less noticeable when you turn up the volume. Medium ones have also improved; they are quite detectable but a bit less marked, so as not to drown out the other frequencies. The subwoofer uses SLAM technology and turns out deep, percussive low frequencies, but does not really reach the floor of 40 Hz claimed. We found it a bit under 50 Hz, which is not to be sniffed at. The stereo image and distribution are very adequate. In short, Inspire 6700s are excellent 6.1 speakers with a good quality/ price ratio. That said, though there is no doubt as to their intrinsic quality, we do wonder whether they are the "perfect match" for the Audigy 2. Don't forget that Creative Labs' new sound card restores sound of a quality far beyond what has ever existed in multimedia sound cards, so it deserves something a bit more effective, more like hi-fi. Anyway, don't worry, in early 2003 Creative Labs is bringing out a top-range Megaworks 6.1 speaker system at the price you would expect. It all comes down to money, and if you don't want to go mad, Inspire 6700 is a perfectly adequate solution.