Desktop Theater 5.1 Review - Part 3

3. Features
The front panel includes controls for the following:

3.1 Creative Multi-Speaker Surround (CMSS) Modes
There are three modes:

1. Music 2. Movie 3. Stereo/4Point

These work for the analog inputs.

Music and Movie modes allow you to convert a stereo input to a 5.1 setup to give you a wider soundstage. Music replicates the front stereo to rear stereo, while Movie Mode uses the rear channels to produce a ProLogic like effect.

The last mode, FourPoint literally converts my $500 Theater 5.1 system into $160 4Point system. =P

I usually use the FourPoint mode when playing SBLive! DS3D/EAX games. Only the first two modes make use of the center speaker.

3.2 Dolby Surround Modes
There are three Dolby Surround modes, depending on which inputs (analog or digital) are used:

  1. Dolby Digital AC3,
    using the SPDIF inputs
  2. Dolby Pro Logic (Analog),
    using the front stereo analog inputs, and
  3. Dolby Pro Logic (Digital),
    using the PCM stereo digital input (from SPDIF)

3.3 Other Functions
There are three other buttons to handle Audio Mode, Speaker Test and Mute. Audio Mode allows you to select Left Only or Right Only inputs (for karaoke VCDs)

Speaker Test, produces a white noise signal successively through each of the speakers so you can adjust the individual volume levels. Mute does exactly what it says it does: =)

There are also 4 volume knobs: master, center, subwoofer and surrounds. And to round off the front panel, a power switch.

The only odd thing missing is the rear delay setting, which delays the sound output

3.4 Connectivity with Encore DVD
I am sure that most people will be buying this system to complement their Encore DVD (or equivalent hardware DVD setups) and on that front, it is good. The Encore SPDIF plugs right in, and works great just out of the box.

One of the things that I didn’t like about the Encore when I was using the stereo analog (downmixed) stream was that the speech didn’t seem to synch with the screen. The lips seemed to be moving at a totally different phase from the audio/dialog. This is no longer a problem with the Theater 5.1.

3.5 Connectivity with Sound Blaster Live!
This is where I have some problems with the system. Aside from the two analogue stereo inputs (front and rear), there is just no other way to hook up the SBLive! with the system.

"... the SBLive! lacks the horsepower (and license from Dolby) required to ENCODE AC3 signals in real time, so the Digital D-IN output was our last hope to getting more than quadraphonic sound from the SBLive!. But this was not meant to be."

There is no way to hook up the much-hyped about Digital D-IN output on the Live’s daughtercard to this unit to get true 5.1 channels. I think you can use the stereo PCM output (SPDIF) of the Live!'s daughtercard to connect to the Theatre5.1, but the Live will only be outputting stereo.

I think it is already an over-discussed point in the Creative SBLive! newsgroups that the SBLive lacks the horsepower (and licence from Dolby) required to ENCODE AC3 signals in real time, so the Digital D-IN output was our last hope to getting more than quadraphonic sound from the SBLive!. But this was not meant to be.

Another problem I have is the inability to mix AC3 5.1 sound from the Encore with the two analogue stereo inputs from the SBLive! (DS3D/EAX)

You have to choose from one of the following options:

CMSS Mode

Dolby Digital AC3

Remarks

Music On You can get all 5.1 channels from the AC3 input but the rear analogue input is ignored, and is merely a replica of the front stereo analogue inputs
Movie On You also get all 5.1 channels from the AC3 input and again, the rear analogue input is completely ignored, but is derived by processing the front analogue stereo inputs (a la Dolby ProLogic)
Stereo/ FourPoint On You can get both front AND rear analogue inputs but you lose the rear channels from the 5.1 stream (so you are basically left with 3.1 AC3 *blech*)

This is not really an important feature just an inconvenience for future games (if any) that has DS3D within the game and AC3 for the FMV. You will be required to toggle between FourPoint when playing a game, and switching to Music/Dolby Digital when watching the FMV.

 

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