The $729 Digital BA7500 set from Boston Acoustics looks like a standard four-channel array of speakers plus a subwoofer; this set, however, uses digital coaxial input (a primary connection type for digital components) to create a virtual central channel of sound from the front pair of speakers. In contrast, the Creative Labs Cambridge SoundWorks DeskTop Theater 5.1 DTT3500 Digital set has six speakers plus a mini-remote.
I played various Dolby Digital 5.1 clips in digital mode. The Boston speaker set nearly equalled the sound produced by the six-channel, $899 Creative Labs set. Both delivered movie theatre-quality sound when paired with my Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live! Platinum 5.1 card, but the Digital BA7500 set's virtual channel couldn't match a real central speaker.
In informal four-channel and "surround sound tests of music files, ambient-sound games, and other "audio, the Creative Labs set sounded slightly better. Both sets produced precise 3D audio with games. The DTT3500s did deliver crisper sound, especially at high volume. The Boston set distorted the clips slightly, but its subwoofer pumped out low frequencies with more power.
Boston Acoustics "Digital BA7500
Distributor: HiFi & Video Marketing
Phone: (02) 9319 6490
Cambridge SoundWorks DeskTop Theater 5.1 DTT3500 Digital
Distributor: Creative Labs
Phone: (02) 9666 6100