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Cambridge DTT3500 Speaker System
Page 1 of 6
Author: bktoh
Date of review: 15-June-2001
Type Of Review: Miscellaneous

I still believe that Creative’s acquisition of Cambridge Soundworks was one of their best decisions ever. PC speakers were traditionally "thin-y" sounding.

Up till the mid-90s, most of the ones bundled with your PC were tiny 10-buck jobs that could deliver a sound from your soundcards, but forget all you knew about audio fidelity. But then, soundcards in those days were traditionally hissy and prone to electro-magnetic interference from other components, such as hard disk access, mouse movement etc, so it didn’t make much sense to partner them with respectable audiophile equipment.

But with the advent of the SB16 and its derivatives, including the venerable AWE64 Gold with gold RCA line outputs and digital coaxial output, I suspect Creative realized that they needed a better speaker system to reveal the clarity of their soundcards. After all, these cards had the potential to capture CD quality audio.

True, you could always partner the soundcards with decent hifi amplifier and speakers, but that was an extremely costly solution for a PC. In addition, the desktop real-estate was immense. What they needed was a compact audio system that could still deliver a respectable audio performance. Enter Cambridge Soundworks.

The big and colorful packaging with the huge subwoofer sitting on top of it.

Cambridge Soundworks, founded by Henry Kloss, was already highly successful as a dedicated mail-order firm that dealt specifically for designing high performance hifi speakers with great value for money. After the acquisition, Cambridge Soundworks set about the task of designing their first few dedicated PC speakers and the results were astounding.

Even with its entry-level system, the PC Works showed incredible detail and stereo separation, with respectable bass performance. And best of all, the price was quite affordable. If you were a little more critical of audio quality, you had the option of moving up to the SoundWorks or the MicroWorks, with better subwoofers and satellite drivers. The rest, as they say, is history. These days, manufacturers routinely bundle in a Cambridge Soundworks speaker system when selling their PCs.

Cambridge Soundworks was also instrumental in creating the four-point surround speaker standard, such as the original FPS (later renamed FPS 1000) that was launched at the same time as the Sound Blaster Live.

Since then, Cambridge Soundworks have also broadened their speaker range and branched into complete home theater solutions with the Desktop Theatre systems, beginning with the DTT 5.1, which I had reviewed a few years ago. Their affordable designs have also made them ideal candidates for partnership with the newly launched Playstation 2 which had DVD playback capability. Creative was quick enough to realize that it formed a very large potential market and quickly modified the DTT2500 to work with optical inputs.

But the pace of technology waits for no man, and other competitors have swiftly entered the marketplace with comparable offerings.

When we all first got wind of Creative’s new top-of-the-line home theater speaker system for the PC, we all had high hopes. After all, Altec Lansing and Videologic had all upped the ante by incorporating THX certification and DTS decoding respectively into their premier speaker system. I had expected Creative to retaliate with a system that would provide these additional features and silence the competition, once and for all.

Sadly, this was not the case. When the specifications of the Desktop Theater 3500 were unveiled, they seemed almost under-whelming.

But my disappointment doesn’t imply that Creative had designed a bad speaker system. On the contrary, I was extremely impressed with the acoustics and performance of the extremely compact system. It provided an evolutionary step up from its predecessor, the venerable DTT 2500. And knowing Creative’s need to keep costs (and hence, prices) down, the decision not to incorporate additional features may make economic sense.

So read on, as I put this latest flagship speaker system from Creative through its paces.

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