Gadgets, Toys and Such - Page 1

By Wilfred
Hardware One

 Creative Surround Station

The Surround Station is really a clever (or should I say creative?) creation. I will explain why.

The huge box that the set came in.

The first Creative Sound Blaster Live! card supported 4 speaker surround audio since its launch. Then, to sweeten the deal, Creative bundled the FourPointSurround speakers from their Cambridge SoundWorks subsidiary which really popularize the adoption of this new form of PC multimedia entertainment.

Though the speakers were of good quality and sold affordably, coming even with rear stands of their own, they never made it into the homes of many - simply because there existed difficulties of getting a good setup for the rear speakers.

Usually, the cables that comes supplied within the Cambridge SoundWorks speakers were in 3m and 5m lengths - the rear 5m being barely sufficient. Users sometimes made do by running cables across the floor, creating a minefield to trip upon. It was a big no no for many.

Unrelenting, some (like myself) bought audio cables, improvised crude extensions and ran them across the walls of the room anyhow. Indeed, most hoped for a more elegant and simpler solution. Entertainment is supposed to be painless after all.

How I Think The Idea Was Conceived...

At many of Creative’s demo booths, they used stands that stretched from the front with overhanging speaker arms for the rear satellites. I did not imagine the company actually making a retail product out of this, but yes, they modified their showroom creations so that they became foldable when not in use.

You probably cannot come to terms with the fact that Creative now sells ‘furniture’, but it made good business sense. If nobody is going to make this and help them sell their speakers, they had to undertake it themselves.  

One of the higher positions to anchor the rear speakers
The usual listening position that I would use.
The SurroundStation fully retracted.

The product is sold for S$109, coming in a huge but neatly packed box with warranty card and a setup guide. It is compatible with the entire range of Cambridge SoundWorks speakers, namely the FPS1000, FPS 2000 Digital, DeskTop Theater 5.1 and DeskTop Theater DTT2500 Digital, so you shouldn’t have to worry if you procured these systems.

The set is heavy, very heavy, but just from the looks of it, you know they created the stands with the same Creative pride. Each part of the assembly was packed in bubble foam and separately boxed.

Installation was fairly straight forward. The setup instructions were clear and simple. The only tough part getting the parts together was the weight and clunkiness.

The instruction guide on the setup procedures.

You will need to toy around with only 2 screws and the rest will just snap into place. The heavy base plate gives the sturdy stands a good grounding in case you placed heavier than expected speakers on the arms. Also, I did not encounter much difficulty fitting my 17” monitor within the constraints of the setup, but owners of bigger monitors may want to pay more attention to the exact measurements (about 40cm allowance).  

The 'cross bar' measuring about 40cm across will be what users should be concerned with - ensure the monitor fits.
The multi-level knob allows you to easily adjust elevation levels of the rear speakers.
The joint on the arm which allows you to fold the arm in two.
A reminder and word of caution for those who might bang into a lowered speaker arm.
The heavy base plate which holds the stand and uses the monitor's weight to stabilise the outreaching arms.

After the basic structure is in place, you will need to thread the speaker wires through the hollow in the arm piping. I don’t weave sweaters nor thread needles in my free time, and I found this chore particularly strenuous. It was done after some 20 minutes of coercing the wires through. Next I attached the rear satellites using the nuts provided onto the speaker arms. I was done. Whew!  

The satellites as mounted on the rear. Doubly secured with rubber bands, just in case!

Next was actually to test out my new setup. I found the speaker arms a little short and does not reach sufficiently far back as I would have liked. I made do. Watching Terminator DVD on my PC, I found the best experience when the rear speakers were at my ear level. Though it was a tat too close, that was far better than having the satellites fire down from a 50 degree angle at the next stepping.

The enclosure limited the ‘Dolby Digital’ experience to only a single user that sits within it. And for the aesthetic aspect, the arms can be rotated back to a vertical position and foldable.

So if you think you can live with the limitations I brought up and don’t think it will be an eyesore in your room, the SurroundStation is a good attempt by Creative to meet users’ need for better speaker placement.

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