It’s been fun to watch Creative evolve over the years from a sound board manufacturer into one of the world’s most interesting developers of audio accessories for mobile devices. One year ago, the company shocked the world — and us — with ZiiSound D5, an elegantly designed Bluetooth speaker with a floating iPod/iPhone dock in the back. Subsequently, Creative has released two considerably less expensive Bluetooth speakers with different features: D100 ($80) and D200 ($130). Since we received these two systems well after they were originally released, we’re not going to give them full reviews, but here are the key things you need to know about them.
With price tags that are less than a third or a half of D5’s, it shouldn’t come as a shock that these systems are not sonically equivalent either to Creative’s high-water mark or each other—but given that the D100 can be had for $65 and the D200 goes for only a little over $100 online, they’re extremely appealing. Both work equally well with iPads, current iPhones, and current iPod touches. They each contain Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR wireless chips with 33-foot stated broadcasting distances and incredibly simple pairing features: connecting is as simple as selecting the speaker in the iPod, iPhone, or iPad’s Bluetooth Settings menu—no PIN code is needed. Only one iOS device can have an active connection to either D100 or D200 at a given time, and you’ll need to manually toggle between iOS devices, a common enough limitation of Bluetooth.
Though the D5, D100, and D200 are all minimalist designs, D100 is the most functional and least beautiful of the bunch. The shell is matte plastic with a glossy back and a fabric front; it either comes in all black, or a mixed white shell with your choice of pink, blue, or green fabric faces—effectively, the design language suggests, it’s a wireless speaker for kids or budget-conscious buyers. With a 13.25” front that tapers down to around 11.6” at the back, with a 4.5” depth and peak 4.5” height, it feels relatively light and has only three buttons on the front, plus a rear-mounted power switch. It’s powered by four self-supplied AA batteries for up to 25 hours of play time, or the included wall adapter.
Sonically, the D100 is surprisingly robust for its price—it literally equals the SuperTooth Disco we reviewed yesterday in overall audio quality, making more of fewer drivers thanks in part to a superior amplification system. D100 has only two speakers inside, but the only differences you would hear between this $80 unit and the $150 Disco are ever so slightly better treble in the latter system, offset by distractingly annoying high-pitched scratching and static in Disco’s audio signal. D100 can be turned up loud enough to be dangerous at near distances, and fill a small office with sound from a corner. While D100 lacks for some of Disco’s frills—carrying case and integrated rechargeable battery, primarily—the fact that the street price is less than half of SuperTooth’s says something. It actually sounds as good as any sub-$100 Bluetooth speaker we’ve tested, though the cheaper-feeling, bigger shell is an offset.
By comparison, the D200 is a more expensive, larger version with a bigger wall adapter—but no battery option. Like D5, it’s dependent on wall power, and designed to look really good sitting in one place. The jet black D200’s casing is largely glossy plastic with a partially matte back and a finer fabric front grille, an upgrade that makes this unit look almost as nice as the boxier, flashier D5, complete with silver pill-shaped volume and Bluetooth pairing buttons. It’s large, too: nearly 16” wide before tapering down to 12.5” at the back, but only 3.1” deep and 4” tall—volumetrically comparable to the D100, but seemingly made to feel heavier and sturdier.
Creative doesn’t specify what sort of speaker drivers are inside D200, but there’s no question that it delivers even better-sounding audio—superior detail, richer bass, and noticeably crisper treble than the D100—in part because of improved audio hardware, and in part because of the AptX audio codec it supports. As with the D100 and sub-$100 speakers, wirelessly streamed music sounds about as good through the D200 as you’re going to going to hear through a sub-$150 speaker; it can get a little louder than the D100 and remain as clear at its peak as at the middle of its range. The only obvious miss here is the lack of a battery pack, which would have made D200 seem less like a wannabe D5 and more like a comprehensively better D100, as the name would have implied.
There are a couple of cautionary notes that should be mentioned, one small, the other potentially large. Both D100 and D200’s volume controls work solely to adjust their own volumes and not the iOS device’s, an issue that is small here given that Creative’s speakers both sound quite good regardless of the volume and the type of music they’re playing. The larger issue is that their low prices come with the prospect of premature failure—though we haven’t had any issues with our review units, we’ve seen reports online that some D100s and D200s stop working after extended periods of daily use. While their low prices make this less than shocking, we’d strongly advise purchasing them if at all from a retailer with good customer service and a reasonable return policy.
Overall, both of these Bluetooth speakers deserve equally strong general recommendations on the basis of their extremely impressive sound quality, good looks, and great values for the dollar. If it wasn’t for our concerns about their longevity, they would have rated even higher; they offer amongst the easiest pairing experiences and best-sounding wireless streaming we’ve heard from units at their price points.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPod touch 2G/3G/4G, iPhone/3G/3GS/4, iPads