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Home Theater Quality Sound: Creative Labs DDTS-100

Atmosphere

We tested the decoder in 5.1 and 6.1 with all the available Dolby and DTS standards associated with Creative Labs' Gigaworks S750 in comparison with a system using a Pioneer VSXAX3S 7.1 amplifier and Mission Idoines speakers, in other words, top-of-the-range Hi-Fi. For playing the Dolby Digital 5.1, we chose "Toy Story 2" and for the DTS, we opted for "Tracked,", in Dolby Digital EX "Lord of the Rings" and "Star Wars Episode II," in DTS ES Matrix "Die Another Day" and in DTS ES Discrete "Haunted." First of all, the decoder did not audibly alter the sound balance. The same clarity as the original is preserved. Compared to a computer software decoder in which Creative's external Extigy sound card is connected to these same Gigaworks speakers, the sound is clearer when fed through the DTTS-100 and is much more like the control system, the home theater system.

Each standard present on a movie soundtrack was correctly handled by DDTS-100 and the decoding was also compliant. As for the surround sound positioning, there was no difference between our control equipment and the device on test. In both cases, the seventh channel does not really contribute much. It simply ensures better rear coverage and thus less volume needed for compensation. At any event, the decoder does not really go higher than 6.1. Although there is a perceptible difference between Dolby Digital EX and 5.1, it's not overwhelming. Only the DTS ES, Matrix or Discrete actually made it possible to clearly identify the side channels and the separate rear channel. Secondly, the movie itself if what really makes the difference. A high-quality DTS 5.1 sound track as in "Tracked" is much more impressive than the Dolby Digital EX of "Lord of the Rings."

Nevertheless, what concerns us here is the quality of the decoding and it must be admitted that it's hard to fault the DDTS-100. The only complaint is that in DTS, whether ES or not, the sharp sounds are too apparent. It's pretty easy to compensate for this, of course, on lowering the bass level. Settings always need to be adjusted. Otherwise, the level of each channel is always right and the position is precise with excellent change from one channel to another - impressive. There is also a weird phenomenon in Dolby Digital EX. While for the other digital format, recognition is automatic, this standard needs a button to be pressed. Yet in the case of "Lord of the Rings" the decoder adjusted itself automatically to EX while for "Star Wars", we had to adjust it manually.

The same applies for the upmix from stereo. Forget the Dolby Pro Logic II. Whether we were using 5.1, 6.1, or 7.1 speakers, the DTS Neo:6 in "home movie" position offers a synthetic surround mix that is very impressive, especially for television broadcasts. With six separate channels, the Neo:6 is capable of placing sound in the front center, the music soundtrack all around and the effects almost where they need to be. This changes the whole way in which you listen to the TV. The musical upmix did not impress me, however, because it made the music too diffuse and caused reproduction to deteriorate.