CS PlayWorks DTT3500 Digital

Mar 29th, 2001 | By

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CS PlayWorks DTT3500 Digital


Date
: 03/30/01 – 12:16:11 AM

Author
:

Category
: Sound

Manufacturer: Cambridge SoundWorks

Price
DTT3500 Speakerset : $300
SB Live! Platinum 5.1 Soundcard : $200

Introduction

Who doesn’t like playing games with stunning effects and thrilling image quality? And who doesn’t enjoy viewing a DVD movie from time to time? But think about the following questions : How can you fully enjoy a good movie without almost falling out of your chair when a Rambo blasts another helicopter out of the air? What’s a great game without proper sound? Well, I’ll tell you, without a decent soundsystem all these so called superb games and movies would be worth jack shit!

Yeah, can you remember the good old days when we were satisfied with just the PC speaker? I sure can. But since then, things have changed a lot! Nowerdays, we all need at least a 4.1 speakerset or we start complaining about bad sound and stuff. Now don’t you deny that guys :)

Creative Labs and Cambridge SoundWorks have put their heads together again to bring you the most versatile Dolby Digital speaker solution for DVD movies, games and music, the DTT3500 Digital speakerset. At least, that’s what they claim it to be! Let’s find out if it really is that good or not …

Specifications

The PlayWorks DTT3500 Digital Speakerset

Technical

  • Surround satellite power: 7 watts RMS per satellite (4 surround satellites)
  • Centre channel satellite power: 21 watts RMS
  • Subwoofer power: 30 watts RMS
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz 20 kHz
  • Cable length: 3 m / 9ft cables for front and centre satellites and subwoofer 5 m / 16 ft for rear satellites

Inputs

  • Optical Dolby Digital S/PDIF input
  • Coaxial Dolby Digital S/PDIF input
  • Front Line In stereo minijack
  • Rear Line In stereo minijack
  • DIGITAL DIN for Sound Blaster

Package Includes

  • Dolby Digital Decoder/Amplifier incorporates 24-bit Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC)
  • Silver, Black, Blue, and Champagne Gold Decoder/Amplifier Face Plates
  • Contoured wooden subwoofer
  • Remote control with batteries
  • Centre speaker with angled stands
  • Four main satellite speakers with individual stands
  • Two tripods for surround/rear speaker floor stand
  • Wall-mounting accessories and cables
  • Power Supply Adapter
  • User Manual

The Subwoofer

A Satellite

The DTT3500 Digital is engineered to be a high end speaker system with real Dolby Digital 5.1 technology. Off course, the most important parts of a speakerset like the DTT3500 are the speakers themselves. You can have a wonderful great looking Dolby Surround speakerset, but if the speakers suck, then the sound quality will suck too and you will feel the need to throw it out of your window and get another one. You might have noticed that, with dimensions of 204(W) x 250(H) x 375(D) mm, the 30 watts RMS subwoofer is quite a nice and good looking wooden bass box! The 4 satellites (front – rear) measure 89(W) x 89(H) x 89(D) mm each.

The Decoder/Amplifier Front View

The Decoder/Amplifier Rear View

The Decoder/Amplifier Side View

The Dolby Digital Decoder/Amplifier controls and amplifies every piece of this speakerset. The Decoder incorporates 24-bit Digital-to-Analog Convertor (DAC) and can upmix stereo sources to surround sound for movies by using Creative Multi Speaker Surround (CMSS). I’ll explain this a little bit more. Peeps who use2-channel stereo sources (the red and white connectors) will be able to experience surround sounds instead of just the plain boring 2-channel sound. Pretty cool feature actually! The DTT3500 package comes with an impressive amount of speaker and audio wires and connectors so you won’t have to go the a local store to get some additional ones.

When you open the package, I believe you will say two things! First you will say: ‘Man, this package contains some damn professional material!’. After that you will think : ‘Damn, this package really costs a shitload of $$$’ We will try to find out if the DTT3500 is worth all of your hard earned $$$ in our test section of this review …

First, let’s take a closer look at what should be the perfect partner for the DTT3500 Digital, the SoundBlaster Live! Platinum 5.1. Because without the right sound source, the DTT3500′s Dolby Digtital Decoder can’t unlock its full potential.

SB Live! Platinum 5.1

  • Synthesizer Chip : EMU 10K1
  • Synthesizer Type : Wavetable (Scalable PCI)
  • Polyphony 64 (with 8-point interpolation)
  • ROM size : NA
  • RAM size : Based on system RAM, up to 32MB
  • Sample Sets : 2, 4 and 8MB
  • Synthesizer Effects : Reverb, Chorus, Flanger, Pitch Shifter, Distortion, etc
  • MIDI Channels : 48
  • Duplex Type : Full Duplex
  • Max. Recording Depth : 16-bit
  • Max. Recording Rate : 48 KHz
  • Max. Playback Depth : 16-bit
  • Max. Playback Rate : 48 KHz
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio : >96 dB
  • Soundfont Support
  • Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 Support
  • General MIDI
  • MPC3
  • Plug & Play
  • Full EAX Support
  • Microsoft DirectSound
  • Microsoft DirectSound 3D & Derivatives
  • PCI 2.1
  • AC97
  • MPU-401 UART
  • Microphone In, Line In, Line Out (Front)/Speaker Out, Line Out (Rear),
  • MIDI/Joystick Port, MPC3 CD Audio In, Auxiliary In, S/PDIF In, Telephone
  • Answering Device (TAD) In
  • Live!Drive with Live!Drive IR
  • 4 Speaker Support
  • Live!Ware Upgrades
  • Creative MultiSpeaker Surround
  • Creative Environments
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 decoding

The Live! Platinum 5.1 soundcard

As the specs show, Creative has designed a soundcard that kicks some serious ass. All the features a modern soundcard should have, like support for the Dolby Surround 5.1 signal, compatiblilty with A3D and EAX DirectSound 3D, etc. are supported by the SB Live! Platinum 5.1. The soundcard has a native Dolby Digital Decoder and comes with the Live! Drive. This way you can easily connect and control MIDI instruments, Minidisks, headphones and more. The heart of this SB Live! is the EMU10K1 audio processor. This chip allows you to experience real-time audio and use some nifty real-time effects. What’s really important these days, is the use of EAX in the soundcard. EAX is actually a collection of innovative audio technologies that allows the listener to enjoy a premium audio experience in DVD movies, music and especially the games!

These are the most important things you need to know about the SoundBlaster Live! Platinum 5.1. Later in this review, we’ll see what happens when this soundcard and the DTT3500 Digital combine their forces.

Now let’s see how easy/hard it is to install this speakerset …

Installation

First, we need to install the soundcard which is so easy that I’m not going to say another word about it. Setting up the speakers is another matter, and will most likely take much longer than installing the soundcard. After I opened up the package and unpacked every piece, I just got lost in wires and parts. Thank god Creative always supplies those nice and detailed manuals.

You should start by setting up all the speaker on the right place. You need to place the speaker in the correct 5.1 configuration as shown in the manual. That is 2 satellites behind the listener (left/rigt rear), the 3 remaining satellites in front of the listener (left/rigt front and center speaker on top of the screen) and finally the subwoofer somewhere at your feet. Now you can start wiring the setup. As I already mentioned before, there’s enough cable to place to speakers throughout your entire house.

The Live!Drive

Ouch … too close man :)

All wires from the speakers have to be connected to the decoder box rear panel. If you take a look at the rear panel of the box, you will immediately see where exactly, so that shouldn’t give you any problems.

Check out al the inputs and outputs

Now, to know which input source to use may be a little bit harder. There are 5 possibilities :

  • Optical Dolby Digital S/PDIF input
  • Coaxial Dolby Digital S/PDIF input
  • Front Line In stereo minijack
  • Rear Line In stereo minijack
  • Digital DIN for SoundBlaster

Optical In / Coaxial In can be used to connect a Playstation 2, DVD player, CD player, Minidisc player, etc. The rest of the inputs are mostly used to connect PCs (soundcards) to the DTT3500 decoder box. You will find an input for nearly every sound device on the DTT3500.

If you are finished connecting the inputs and the outputs to the decoder box, you should be all set to start enjoying your DTT3500.

Cambridge SoundWorks included a nice toy into this system : a wireless remote control! This way, you can sit back, relax, enjoy a movie and alter the volume at the same time. It’s a pity that this gadget only makes the DTT3500 even more expensive!

DTT3500 Remote Control

SB Live! Platinum Remote Control

Software Included With The SB Live! Platinum 5.1

Let’s say that Creative tried their best to include some really professional software in the Live! Platinum 5.1 package. Here’s a list :

Creative PlayCenter 2

This software provides fast encoding and decoding of MP3 and WMA files. You can rip music from audio CDs, customize and compile playlists and transfer them onto a portable digital audio player like a Minidisc player.

Creative Utilities

Creative includes 2 useful utils to their software bundle : Creative Recorder and Creative Surround Mixer. By using these utils, you can record .WAV files from multiple audio sources. The Surround Mixer software integrates all of your audio inputs to allow you to create a custom listening environment. With the Surround Mixer, you can also control your speaker configuration, add super-environment presets and position audio sources.

Games

Creative has bundled 2 rather old games to allow the user to experience the DTT3500′s gaming capabilities. In my review sample I found MDK2 and Rage Rally.

Mixman Studio

Mixman Studio makes a musician out of everyone. You can create your own music quickly and pretty easily.

Cubasis VST (CE)

Cubasis VST (CE) acts like an Audio and MIDI recording studio. You can record, arrange, mix and add effects to all your musical ideas. Really cool stuff dudes!

Future Beat 3D

Future Beat 3D allows the 3D music freaks to mix 3D music on their PC. You can create your own musical masterpiece in only a few minutes.

Other Software

Creative also included MediaRing Talk and PixMaker to the software bundle. MediaRing Talk is, as the name already implies, an Internet voice communication software that allows you to make PC-to-PC calls over the internet. PixMaker can come in handy when you want to make 360 interactive scenes and webpages. (Haven’t tried that one out yet)

Testing

System Setup

- AOpen HQ45 case
- Asus CUSL2 Motherboard
- P3-850 @ 1GHz
- 128MB PC133 RAM
- 20GB Western Digital 7200rpm UDMA100 IDE harddrive
- Toshiba 8x DVD-ROM drive
- Creative Live! Platinum 5.1 soundcard with Live!Drive
- Cambridge SoundWorks DTT3500 Digital speakerset

How did we test the soundsystem? Well, we actually just used it like you guys will use it at home. But then, we have pushed it to the max because otherwise we don’t know how far the speakers and the soundsystem will go. Let’s see IF/HOW the sound system stood up to our tests …


Games Test

We tested the DTT3500 soundsystem by playing games like Quake 3 Arena, Unreal Tournament, Red Alert 2, etc. The sound quality was actually really nice and the 5.1 effects were amazing, but when we turned up the volume a bit, the DTT3500 started getting a really hard time. The tweeters started to freak out and the subwoofer couldn’t keep up with the bass anymore. But in order to get such distortion, you need to turn the volume up to nearly the maximum level. A normal user won’t do this every day because it’ll just make you completely nuts, but because we want to show you where the speakers start to fail, turning the volume all the way up is just what we got to do, right!


Music

Music has become an extremely important part of our life these days. We all know the famous MP3z and we all use them, right?! We played all kinds of music through the DTT3500. From Beethoven and Strauss to Limp Bizkit and Metallica and from soft dance music to the hardest high-bass techno songs available. The ‘quiet’ music like the classic music and the softrock songs played really wonderful, but the high-bass songs became totally scrambled when I turned up the volume. At this point, I was convinced that the DTT3500 is slightly underpowered and produces less sound quality than I had hoped for.


Movies

After looking at several movies by using the DTT3500 soundsystem, I must say that it does a great job here. I had no problems with the sound quality when I turned up the volume, but still I couldn’t quite feel the bass like I did with other less expensive 5.1 soundsystems.

Good

- Dolby Digital 5.1
- Wireless R/C
- Great Software Bundle
- Amazing Looks (kinda futuristic)
- EAX, A3D, etc. is hardware supported!

Bad

- VERY EXPENSIVE
- Underpowered
- Poor Sound Quality For The $$$

Conclusion

There isn’t much more to say about the SoundWorks DTT3500 Digital Soundsystem! The DTT3500 is way too expensive, the sound quality is poor and it’s ‘slightly’ underpowered. Does this mean the DTT3500 stinks? Well not really, there are a few pluses to this package like Dolby Digital 5.1, the remote controller, a really professional look and all the EAX, A3D, etc. effects are supported. But we just expected a great deal more out of these $300 speakers than just the looks.

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