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Creative cut the cord on the rear channels of its GigaWorks ProGamer G500, added a wireless remote control, and rechristened the 5.1-channel speaker system the G550W. It’s a convenient solution, but it left our ears craving something better.
Transmitting audio without wires is a challenge, and Creative’s engineers deserve high marks for nearly eliminating much of the noisy hiss in this system’s rear channels. They’re much quieter than the Logitech Z-5450 system we reviewed in January; but to an audio purist, any amount of hiss sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard.
The G550W, like the Z-5450, isn’t truly wireless for the simple reason that no one’s figured out how to transmit electrical power through the air. But Creative’s system requires only one power outlet, for a box that houses the rear-channel amplifier and the wireless receiver. And because speaker cables are thinner than grounded power cables, Creative’s wiring is much easier to camouflage. (Actually, “thin” is a bit of an understatement: the cheap speaker wire provided is about as substantial as the hair on a Barbie doll.)
A module with an awkward top-mounted knob regulates volume (with independent control for the center and rear channels), bass, and treble. It also harbors a headphone output (or you can use selected Creative wireless headphones models) and a line-level input (handy for an MP3 player). This controller is tethered to the subwoofer, but Creative also throws in a wireless remote that’s compatible with selected Creative MP3 players.
Aside from the almost imperceptible hiss in the rear channels, the G550W sounds very good; the fat-sounding sub is particularly tasty. It’s both superior to and $100 cheaper than the Z-5450 (Logitech includes a built-in surround-sound decoder, which is redundant in a modern PC environment); but it’s a far cry from our favorite surround-sound speakers: the recently discontinued M-Audio LX4 system.
Month Reviewed: July 2006