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Creative MegaWorks 510D 5.1 system review

 

Music Playback

 

For testing music playback I used a variety of sources, including Episode II: Attack Of The Clones soundtrack (192Kbps MP3), Medal Of Honor: Allied Assault (128Kbps MP3), The Empire Strikes Back (CD), Lord Of The Rings (CD), Sing When You’re Winning (CD), Kiss Of The Dragon soundtrack (CD), Black Hawk Down soundtrack (CD) Band Of Brothers soundtrack (CD), & several others. As with most speaker systems your impressions may vary depending on the types of music you listen to, with my preference being instrumental soundtracks for the most part.

Perhaps the most immediately impressive feature of the system while listening to my music was the mid-range, which was a great deal more detailed than before & I found myself picking out instruments & other subtleties that I simply could not before due to a generally muddy mid-range, e.g. I could now pick out what seemed to be a snare drum playing in the A Journey In The Dark track (Lord Of The Rings).

The bass performance was also very noticeable & extremely good as regards both the satellites & subwoofer output. Obviously, this will be of most benefit for styles/tracks which use a lot of low frequencies & added a lot more punch to tracks such as Tribal War (Black Hawk Down), As If You Said Nothing & Symphony For Isabelle Parts 1, 3, 10, 13 & 18 (Kiss Of The Dragon) – in particular the Kiss Of The Dragon soundtrack sounds a lot more muddy on the Inspire 5300 when it comes to bass. While there’s not particularly inspiring as regards treble it is at least very clear & comparatively should still outperform most cheaper systems anyway. Listening to some other favourite tracks such as Coast Guard Rescue (The Perfect Storm), Points: Band of Brothers Requiem & Escape from Torture (Rambo II) providing to be a great pleasure to listen to.

Overall the 510D is a joy to use for music playback, though if you prefer somewhat more prominent treble you might want to check into alternative systems.

 

DVD Playback

 

Lacking a decoder, the MegaWorks 510D is limited to whatever decoder you may have available to use when it comes to audio playback with DVDs. In the case of PC DVD playback I used PowerDVD XP, which was limited to 2 Speaker output & S/PDIF Output in the OEM release I have installed. When set to S/PDIF Output the SoundBlaster Audigy was performing AC-3 decoding via it’s Drivers. I also tested the system using the Sony DVP-NS305 DVD player in my living room with SoundBlaster Extigy (Acting as Dolby Digital decoder). Of some note is that given my hardware/software limitations only the Dolby Digital tracks were tested for playback purposes as I‘ve no DTS decoder.

To test playback I used a dozen or so DVDs including Saving Private Ryan, Pearl Harbor, Lord Of The Rings, Black Hawk Down, The Matrix, Brotherhood Of The Wolf, Se7en, Harry Potter & The Philosophers Stone & several others.

Similar to my thoughts on the Inspire 5300 before, the system lacked a volume control for the Centre channel so it may well limit the usefulness of the system with standalone decoders unless they offer a way to adjust the volume level for that channel – which may otherwise result in it being too over (Or under) powering as compared to the other channels. This should not really be an issue if you’re connecting to a PC soundcard, which (should) include a separate volume slider in their mixer for the Centre channel & thus will allow you to increase or decrease the Centre channel for more natural sounding output, which doesn’t over or under whelm the other channels whenever dialog, explosions or whatever else is being played. For what it’s worth I don’t recall coming across a 5.1 capable PC Soundcard that doesn’t allow this.

As is with the case with playback in other areas, DVD viewing was a joy with the MegaWorks. Output with the subwoofer (Not just limited to the LFE channel it’s worth noting) in movies was excellent, providing very deep, tight bass without becoming noticeably boomy or distorted. Scenes such as the D-Day landing or final battle in Saving Private Ryan were a great showcase for what the subwoofer was capable of & clearly was a significant improvement over systems I’ve used before. The subwoofer fitted in well in both environments I had the pleasure of using it in, the PC room & the living room.

The satellites were equally well suited to DVD playback providing very detailed mid-range playback, with excellent vocal reproduction & nice transitions between the satellites. The improved imaging of the satellites also provided a somewhat more immersive audio environment, though this will depend on the films you watch of course, suffice to with many action films you’ll feel a bit more drawn into them. Some scenes where this is noticeable would be (again) the D-Day landing in Saving Private Ryan where you are nicely surrounded by weapon fire & explosions from all channels or the bullet-time scene on the Rooftop in The Matrix. Bass performance is another strength of the satellites with such low frequencies (Down to 150Hz anyway that is) being reproduced to similar great effect in various scenes, e.g. the helicopter rotor blades in The Matrix when freeing Morpheus.

The power of the system wasn’t particularly diminished either in the living room or PC room, i.e. whether you are a few feet away or a dozen feet away the system was perfectly capable of providing me with high quality playback that simply filled the room.

Overall the MegaWorks is a great system to use for listening to DVDs with, providing good positioning & great sound quality, particularly when it comes to lower/mid range frequencies. As mentioned earlier you do need a software/hardware decoder though.

 



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