Creative doesn't often venture into one-piece speaker system territory. The only other Creative one-piece available is a pair of travel docks for the Zen and a pocket speaker for the iPod Shuffle. As such, you would expect, given the name of the new Creative ZiiSound D5, that it's a product similarly dedicated to the upcoming Creative Zii MP3 player.
You would be wrong, but that's not necessarily a bad thing (except that it may mean the wait for the Zii is a bit longer). Creative has customised the ZiiSound D5, apparently, with Apple technology in mind, with dock fittings and Bluetooth receiver to fit the iPhone and iPods. Bear in mind that both of these components are interchangeable, so when the Zii does finally hit the market, it's entirely possible that a matching dock fitting and Bluetooth receiver will be made available also.
Future possibilities aside, the ZiiSound D5 is a compact and sleekly utilitarian-looking unit, consisting of a dock, a touch-sensitive flat control panel and the pair of speakers that makes up most of its mass. On the back, there are two ports, power and aux, and a power switch. Using the Bluetooth receiver that comes with the unit, the Creative Bluetooth Audio BT-D5, you can connect your iGadget and stream music wirelessly. The speaker also supports A2DP Bluetooth, which includes smartphones and (when it arrives) the iPad. Other non-Bluetooth MP3 players can be connected too, albeit via a 3.5mm audio jack, and an additional USB receiver — the Audio BT-D1 — is available for AU$49.95 to connect other devices, such as laptops.
The Audio BT-D1 (left) is a USB Bluetooth receiver sold separately; the Audio BT-D5 (right) comes packaged with the ZiiSound D5(Credit: Creative)
The interface is almost ridiculously simple: on the ZiiSound itself, you have two touch controls, a connection control that starts the Bluetooth communication, and a volume control. Once your iPod is connected via Bluetooth, you interface directly with the player, rather than the dock, using it as the ZiiSound D5's remote. You can also dock the player, which charges it at the same time as playing media.
The set-up and integration between the speaker and both the iPod Touch and desktop PC with which we tested it was easy and seamless, and the speaker was able to communicate perfectly from across the room — a range of about 10 metres — with no dropouts. The touch controls are quite sensitive, which we liked (although some people might not) because it meant we didn't have to stab at the interface in an effort to get some sort of response. That said, the positioning of the volume control means that when you have your player docked, you might inadvertently swipe the volume up and down on your way to fiddle with track listings.
Bluetooth devices function wirelessly as the speaker's remote(Credit: Creative)
For its size, two 2.75-inch speakers, the ZiiSound has quite an impressive sound output. It's quite capable of filling a room, and the audio is crisp. Although there is no subwoofer, a speaker port at the rear of the unit gives low-end sound a bit of a boost, and the result is a clear, well-balanced sound at medium volume levels. Carl Orff's O Fortuna and Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear the Reaper both sounded full and detailed with no distortion, and the impassioned vocals on Concrete Blonde's Joey were strong and clean.
When you start to push the volume up to maximum, though, it struggles: top and bottom end lose a bit of detail, and there is a very audible speaker hiss. This is relatively normal for a speaker dock of this size, and the sound quality on lower volumes is excellent enough to make up for it.
The ZiiSound D5 is dedicated to one purpose: streaming audio wirelessly and with great sound. It performs this one purpose very, very well; but it has no additional features. No alarm clock; no digital radio; no coffee warmer. Without all the bells and whistles, you might think the AU$369.95 asking price is a little steep.
However, if you're after a wireless multimedia speaker that sounds fantastic and performs brilliantly, the ZiiSound D5 is an elegant and excellent example of its type.