Creative D200 Bluetooth speakers
Creative has been turning heads with some of its recent audio products, with the ZiiSound D5 proving to perform very well, but not quite fitting every budget. The D200 speakers, then, might be more suited for those who want good quality audio without breaking the bank.
It's worth pointing out that unlike the larger D5, the D200 isn't an iPod dock. It is purely a set of Bluetooth speakers. At 40.6 x 10.1 x 9.3cm, the D200 isn't really designed to be a portable option and there is no battery, so these aren't the sort of speakers you'll be grabbing to provide your tunes on the beach.
They need a mains connection, which plugs into the back, as well as offering a 3.5mm aux input if you want to use them with a device that isn't Bluetooth equipped. Other than that, controls are kept to a minimum as you'd expect from a speaker - you have the Bluetooth connection button and volume controls and that's all.
The speakers are constructed from plastic with a glossy finish that will attract fingerprints and the front is all mesh, hiding the stereo speakers behind. On the rear of the D200 is a bass port that helps give the all important depth and substance to the speakers -something that is often missing from more compact units.
Pairing is simply a case of pressing and holding the Bluetooth button on the speakers and searching for the device with whatever source you choose - we tried a couple of phones and a MacBook and experienced no problems in making a connection. We then found the connection over Bluetooth to be solid, without any sign of dropping which some devices in the past suffered from.
However, the D200 are more than just a set of Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR speakers. They also feature apt-X, a codec that is gaining popularity and features on a number of Creative devices, including the Inspire Wireless S2 speakers we reviewed previously, and the ZiiSound D5.
The apt-X codec aims to improve the performance of transmitted music, claiming to be on a par with CD quality, assuming of course that your source is also of superior quality. However, to take advantage of the apt-X feature you'll also need a compatible transmitter, such as the one that comes bundled with the ZiiSound D5 (Creative BT-D5) which connects to your iPod dock connector, or the USB connector that comes with the S2 speakers (Creative BT-D1). Both are sold separately, but if this is a feature that appeals, you'll have to allow an extra £40 for this adapter. (As an aside, we also tested it with the Sennheiser BTD300i, which also works.)
Using one of the adapters makes pairing even easier. You simply plug it in, press the button on your D200 speakers and away it goes. You get a range of about 10 metres which should be ample for most London flats, but it will struggle if you plan to go roaming around your country manor with your phone transmitting in your pocket.
When it comes to performance, as we've found with recent Creative products, it doesn't disappoint. There is plenty of volume, so you'll be able to immerse your room in your tunes when friends come over to party. Whilst it isn't the most refined audio performance, it does have plenty of bass right through the volume range, from low levels through to more brutal high volumes.
There is detail and accuracy in the mid ranges, but it doesn't perform in higher ranges quite so well, as the bass punches through. Smaller speakers often leave you feeling a little disappointed with their brutal treatment of your music, but compared against a range of typical iPod dock speakers of similar sizes, the D200 holds its ground. Creative told us that the D200 has the same "sonic soul" as the D5 because it is tuned using the same criteria before it leaves the factory. It sounds good, but it isn't as good as its bigger brother.
The biggest shortcoming of the D200, perhaps, is that it is only a Bluetooth speaker. There is no radio, no dock for your iPod or iPhone, no clock or anything else: it is a utilitarian speaker without the freedom of batteries, which might mean it isn't as appealing as some other offerings out there, which have more features.
We found the D200 to be solid in its connection which not all Bluetooth speakers are and the sound quality is perfect for bedrooms, studies, or around the home, with the advantage of being able to connect to any Bluetooth source - most mobile phones and many laptops - as well as hooking up to a 3.5mm source if you need to.
This is competitive territory however, especially if you are an iPod or iPhone user, with a wealth of docks available to you. Yes, the inclusion of the apt-X codec does put this in the running to outstrip some of its plain 'ol Bluetooth rivals, but the fact you don't get the transmitter in the box is a bit of a let down: that's an additional luxury you'll have to pay for.