Creative has pushed Bluetooth speakers hard, with a range packed full of options. They’ve been pushing the apt-X codec, promising lower latency higher quality Bluetooth audio from their line of speakers and docks. Sitting at the top of the line is the ZiiSound T6, which Creative describe as “premium”. Should they be top of your list for speakers?
First things first, the ZiiSound T6 are wireless, so their intended source of music is a Bluetooth device - a phone or PC. Creative are pushing their Bluetooth transmitter dongles to supply the source, but they will work with any A2DP Bluetooth device. There are two dongles on offer, the BT-D1 and the BT-D5, the former being USB, the latter featuring an Apple Dock connecter. Using the dongles means you can take advantage of apt-X for enhanced quality, unless your source device is already packing the technology, which few are.
The BT-D1 comes supplied in the box and offers up a hassle free set-up: you pretty much plug it in and get going once you have plugged in the wires on the speakers. The BT-D5 (£39.99) works in much the same way, you simply plug it into the bottom of your iPhone or iPod touch (or iPad even) pair it with a press of the button and you’re off. The dongles are the same as Creative have used on other wireless systems, including one of our favourites the Inspire S2 Wireless.
The ZiiSound T6 is based around a three-driver subwoofer. On the rear of the subwoofer you’ll find most of the connections. You get the power input which drives everything, the connections for the satellite speakers, a stereo audio unput, USB (type D) for a wired connection to your PC, the connection for the control pod and finally a bass level dial.
The control pod sits on a 2m cable, so to a certain extent this dictates positioning of some of the components. The satellite speakers themselves have 3m cables, so you could get a 6m separation if you stick the sub in the middle. When we said wireless, of course, we meant that the source could be wireless, rather than the entire setup.
The control pod offers a number of important elements. The top is a large rotating volume dial, while the base provides the system power, source and Bluetooth buttons, as well as two 3.5mm jacks, one for an aux input, the other for your headphones. Although functioning perfectly well as standalone Bluetooth speakers, the control pod suggests deployment in the PC accessory market, so the pod will sit on your desk within easy reach.
The satellite speakers are distinctive, offering up two speakers on a desk stand. The top speaker can be swivelled by up to 45 degrees, so you can (most likely) direct the bottom speaker towards you and have the top speaker firing directly back to create your sound stage. Of course, setup will depend on your room and what you’re connecting up, if you are opting to use the T6 as a standalone system with your iPod, the direction of the speakers will help you create that room-filling result.
The build quality is good overall and we’re quite taken with the design. The fact that the subwoofer is a solid construction is a real boon, having seen a number of systems where the subwoofer looks cheap and nasty: that’s not the case with the ZiiSound T6. The satellites too, although quirky, are stable on their stands and everything has a rubber base (or feet) so there is no problem with things sliding around the place once put.
Creative want you to use this as a wireless system so the first port of call is that Bluetooth connection. As we’ve found before, the connection was reliable, with no dropping of the signal. It also gives you full control options, with the control pod volume driving the master volume on our test Mac. The volume dial is very sensitive and we often found ourselves punching up the volume from the brush of a hand when reaching across the desk. A little more resistance would make it a better experience overall.
The T6 is a loud set of speakers, capable of sustaining pounding bass at high volumes without much sign of distortion, so our first reaction was that of shock and awe. After blinking back the tears and grabbing a breath of air the second thing that hit us was the bass level. That dial on the rear of the subwoofer may well become your best friend: we’re normally pushing the bass up a notch or two, but on the T6 the bass will completely destroy things if you let it run away unabated.
One of the slight annoyances of the system is that we wanted the bass increased for music, where it really adds life to some tracks you might have previously dismissed as being a little insubstantial, but when it comes to movies you might want to turn it down again as the booming male voices get a little freaky and details get lost. Throughout the testing of the T6, we've been nudging the bass up and down on that dial.
But that’s a caveat you need to be aware of, because once you get the bass under control and at a level that is fitting for the delivery you want, then the ZiiSound T6 come into their own. If you like bass heavy music then you’ll appreciate what the T6 can do. They’re better suited to larger setups than just a computer desk: it would be a real shame not to employ the T6 to supply your room-filling party tracks -something they’ll do with aplomb - and use the BT-D5 with your iPhone as a remote unit while you walk around serving dirty margaritas. Creative do supply a remote, but it lacks the quality of the rest of the system, as it is just a cheap plastic model.
There is a place for heavy bass and loud volumes and in the case of the T6 you can temper them both, resulting in a great set of speakers. The apt-X Bluetooth performance is very good although some of the finer detail is marred in the mid-range. If you opt for the USB wired connection you’ll be able to configure the speakers for a virtual 5.1 effect which we found to be surprisingly good and an ideal choice for gaming and movie watching. On the Mac, the USB wired connection meant losing master control and having to rely on application volume control.
The price is pretty high (although online discounts can be found), but there is no doubt that you get impressive delivery in terms of volume and bass from the ZiiSound T6. The control pod is useful but the volume dial is just too sensitive and we preferred to use the keyboard shortcuts on our computer to set the volume more accurately.
We like the looks and we enjoy the performance but there will be those that find that the T6 are a little overbearing. Deploying them in a multi-role arrangement did lead to some frustrations with setting the bass level and it would be really good to see that on the control pod too for easy tinkering in future updates. Overall the Creative ZiiSound T6 will best suit someone with a larger room they need to fill with thumping bass and want the simplicity of a wireless connection.