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Monday, 12 March 2012

Creative Zii Sound T6

This is a premium 2.1 speaker set that is at the top of the Zii Sound T series. The sound is distributed across 2 satellite speakers for the mids and highs, and a bass on the woofer. The woofer is mentioned quite frequently in many of the reviews I've read. A few of the reviews mentioned that the bass tend to be overpowering. (I've set them up and I find myself turning down the bass volume balance at the woofer to only 10 o'clock, a third of the way to full volume)

The powerful volume that this set of speakers can pump out is also often mentioned in the reviews. It is praised for undistorted bass and clear highs even at high volumes. A few reviews also commented on muddy and weak mids.

I bought it at the Creative shop at Marina Square at S$445 at from the already discounted $495 (usual price was $650). There was an I.T. show 2012 going on at Suntec City Convention Centre, and this was the show price that Creative offered on the pair of speakers. 

The friendly sales guy showed me the T3. I must say that the T6 sounds much better than the T3. I think it mainly has to do with the fact that it has dedicated speakers for the mid-range frequencies. The difference between the models was like an additional dimension of sound. There was depth in the sound in T6 that was lacking in the T3. 

An added bonus on the T6 is that it featured a bluetooth connectivity option. I know that wireless audio streaming and the Apt-X audio codec is a big thing with Creative's wireless technology recently. I know wireless is the buzzword when it comes to internet/home networking/TV/audio nowadays. I know we've all been using it in our tv remotes, wifi connections. I've even played with wireless mics where its using an FM transmission and reception devices and plugged into a regular radio that is tuned to the transmitting FM frequency. My church uses wireless microphones for singers too. 

We are all used to wireless in one-way or another, but when the sales staff got me to pair my Samsung Galaxy S2 to the T6 and play a track from my mp3 collection, I was really impressed! Something inside me wondered at the possibilities when I realised I could play music from my phone and walk anywhere in the room (within the 10-metre Bluetooth range of course), and I felt a sense of freedom just thinking about it. 

The sales staff told me that I can input audio with 3 different inputs: wireless Bluetooth, 3.5mm aux-in jack, and via a USB cable. I realised that for the last option means that there must be a soundcard inside the circuitry for USB to work. I wonder if the T6 could be used on a system without a soundcard.

I asked for tech specs, about frequency response curves, and the sales staff did not know. I asked to see the packaging, to try and find any labels on the box that gives any hint of frequency response. There was none. 

I told the staff I needed time to consider the purchase, and I went immediately to scour the internet for reviews on this product. Here's some links I found:

The first link I posted actually put one of the cons for the fact that the main sound (either from aux-in or USB connection) does not mute when Bluetooth audio source is receiving and playing. I was overjoyed because this means that the T6 is acting like a 2-input mixer. Being a musician having multiple sources of inputs, I can immediately think of a few uses for this. For example, I could play a track through bluetooth and jam/practice/play along with it either from my Triton LE with on-board sounds going into from the T6 aux-in or playing on my virtual instrument in FL Studio through the USB connection from computer into the T6.  

I also could not find any information on the frequency response. The Ziisound T6 is touted as being audiophile grade in quite a few reviews and articles, but it is disappointing that I cannot find even a simple indication of the range of frequencies that it can handle. Even the tech specs in the manual talks only about the amplification and power of the device and the frequency and range of the bluetooth signal transmission. Nothing was mentioned about frequency response curves.

When I finally made the decision to buy it, however, it was based solely on the sound of the T6, and not the wireless Bluetooth capability. Nevertheless it was a huge plus! It was based solely on my ears, from what I heard of the sound. I decided I could mix my compositions and audio content decently with this pair of speakers.

Well, I have already made the purchase. I've brought it home and set it up. I do realise a certain lack of definition in the mids. Feels like there is still a small gap of some kind, that almost begs for another pair of satellite speakers to fill that gap. Nevertheless, the sound is still quite pleasant, and I believe I can work with it. 

The bass is very tight, and the subwoofer is quite solid and well built, on top of being aesthetically pleasing. Also, most of the reviews about the overly strong bass is true. When I set the bass balance it to the default 12 o'clock position it tends to be too overpowering for my purposes. I have positioned my subwoofer on my work-desk, which is made of glass. The subwoofer of my previous Altec Lansing 2.1 speakers (vs2421) was also placed as such. When I played music and movies through that set of speakers, the subwoofer tended to vibrate and shake the table, and it sounded diffused and 'unfocused' as a result. However when I play from my T6, the bass remains deep and tight. It did not cause the whole table to vibrate.

There's this feature where the top pair of speakers can be swivelled outwards about 45 degrees. In this configuration, the listener is supposed to be able to enjoy a pseudo surround effect. This may be a bonus for consumers wanting to watch a movie through the speakers, but it isn't a plus for me. It results in the sound coming out always having a very small amount of reverb. The fact that the speakers configuration options use  the default Windows 7 features, means I have no way to turn off the reverb. There isn't a dedicated Creative Zii Sound Control Panel here. I'll have to consciously ignore that reverb and get do a mental offset of the reverb in my head.

All in all, except for a little bit of inconveniences here and there in the features, the set still sounds good, and I got a good price from the exhibition promotion.

See pictures of my unboxing in the next post!