Creative’s latest desktop computer speakers are tall and thin, leaving more room on your desk for the mess that naturally accumulates. They’re aimed at the high end of the budget market, with a list price of $149.99 USD (or around $120 at Amazon), putting them into the arena with beefier models like M-Audio’s Studiophile AV40. The T40’s have a few distinct physical advantages over the competition, and although the sound isn’t perfect, they’re not a bad value.
Features and Design
Measuring 4.6 in x 5.9 in x 12.6 in, the speakers are unusually tall for a desktop model. Each speaker has a pair of 2.5-inch full-range drivers and a 1-inch tweeter on front, as well as a bass reflex port on top rather than in the back like most other models. The charcoal gray and black plastic enclosure slopes back so they aim at your head, not your chest. Small stands screw into the bottom, increasing the footprint ever so slightly, and removable black fabric grilles hide the drivers.
The right speaker has three knobs on the front for bass, treble, and volume; we think all powered speakers should have tone controls, so kudos to Creative. Below those are a 3.5-mm headphone jack and a small blue LED power indicator. The power jack is on the back, as well as a 3.5-mm stereo input and a gold-plated RCA jack for connecting to the left speaker and a docking station port. Unfortunately, the speakers lack an output for a subwoofer.
Sadly, the tiny power switch is also on the back; we much prefer speakers that turn on from the front. We’re also bugged that the cable that connects the two speakers can’t be removed from the back of the left speaker — making our cable-chewing cat a serious threat to the T40.
The only included accessories, aside from the power adapter, are an RCA-to-stereo adapter and a 6.5-foot input cable that plugs into any audio source’s 1/8th-inch headphone jack and the back of the right speaker. You can also purchase Creative’s X30 iPod dock (price TBA, available June ’08), which incorporates the company’s excellent X-Fi sound enhancement system.
Image Courtesy of Creative
We hooked up our T40’s to our MacBook Pro and listened to some music (Apple Lossless files) and movies (straight from DVD). Then we booted up a virtual version of Windows XP and fired up Quake 4 as well. Here’s how the speakers fared.
On REM’s Hollow Man the bass drum has decent thump and the electric bass is strong enough, but the highs are a little washed out. Adjusting the treble only seemed to boost the upper mids, which really didn’t need it. Vocals are clear and plenty of power. This song works well over all.
On Miles Davis’s version of Summertime backed by a jazz rhythm section and the Gil Evans Orchestra behind him, Miles’s muted trumpet sounds a bit shrill and lacks clarity. Turning up the bass tone control helps out the acoustic bass nicely, but the orchestra balance isn’t as smooth as it should be. This song definitely sounds better on M-Audio’s cheaper Studiophile AV20.
Bob Marley’s Natural Mystic sounded decent with some help from the tone controls (both needed a little boost), though we really wished for either a separate subwoofer or larger drivers. The same goes for Stevie Wonder’s Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing, which also lacked detail in the percussion.
Movies and Game Testing
The dialog in movies like The Matrix and The Fifth Element comes through clearly, but explosions require the bass tone control to be up most of the way to have any impact, and even then we weren’t particularly impressed. The stereo imaging isn’t bad: the “bullet-time” scene in The Matrix and heavy shooting in Quake 4 sounded fairly realistic at close range even without the virtual surround trickery of speakers like the Bose Companion 5.
On their own, the T40 are a solid set of computer speakers that won’t eat up too much space on your desk. Of course, you can pay $400 USD for Bose’s tiny Computer MusicMonitors, but the T40 are far more budget-friendly. We’re jazzed by the on-board tone controls and optional iPod dock, too, making these a decent choice for music on your desktop. But if you want even better sound, we recommend M-Audio’s Studiophile AV line, which give you a bit more bang for your buck.
• On-board tone controls
• Small footprint
• Compatible with Creative’s new X-Fi iPod dock
• Overall sound tends to be shrill
• Rear power switch
• No subwoofer output