Videologic Speakers

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VideologicPrice – £235 for Sirocco Crossfire
Price – £250 for DigiTheatre
Price – £150 for DigiTheatre Decoder

Introduction

Crossfire speaker set

Videologic are currently redefining the face of multimedia. We
already know of their PowerVR technology, which has met with mixed
results, but many of you maybe unaware of their relatively new
series of speaker systems.

They have attempted to cover, and I think very successfully met the
demands of, each entry point in the market. For the hard core
gaming elite they have the Sirroco Crossfire, and for the more
movie mad users out there they have created the Digitheatre.

In this review I shall be looking at both products in their own
separate contexts in order to help you make the decision of which
set would be better for you…

Sirroco Crossfires

Digitheatre
Digitheatre Speaker Set

First up we have the new Sirroco Crossfires. The original
Videologic Sirroco speaker system comprised a 3 piece set of two
satellite speakers and one sub woofer, as well as a truly monstrous
amp that drives each of the speakers individually (in fact there
are two amplification circuits for EACH speaker).

With the arrival of such 3D audio API’s as A3D and EAX, it was
clear that a two speaker set up would not be able to do them full
justice. As a solution they came up with the innovative four
speaker system that is the Crossfire.

They use the same amp, which is not a bad thing as it does provide
a level of power and response only seen in traditionally much
higher end systems, and instead of driving each part of the speaker
individually (one amp circuit for the woofer and one for the
tweeter) they now drive both parts of the speakers from one
amplification circuit.

This may seem like a cop out, but in doing this they have reduced
any extra cost and are able to provide four speaker sound with only
minimal design changes.

In order to reflect this the speakers themselves are much smaller
units, yet overall the volume level is similar to the original two
speaker system. The subwoofer used is the same as in the standard
Sirroco system though.

The speakers themselves, while deceptively smaller, don’t have a
significantly lower quality or volume output and still have a truly
phenomenal frequency response range. Being as small as they are
they don’t have much of a bass response though, but that is the
reason for the separate subwoofer. This also helps separate the
multitude of frequencies in any given sound better across the
speakers, allowing each one to perform at its best.

The amp, and specifically the inputs, are where the real ‘gaming’
implications exist. The amp itself has 3 separate input channels
which are selectable from a nice big knob on the front. The primary
input has four input channels – front left, front right, rear left
and rear right.

When coupled with a soundcard that can output separate front/rear
left/right outputs (such as the Vortex2 based Sonic Vortex2 from
Videologic), each speaker outputs only the specific audio
information sent to it, thereby providing true 3D positional audio
effects.

With more and more games taking advantage of 3D audio technology,
titles will sound increasingly more realistic and authentic when
heard on the Crossfire system.

As a side note, there is also one other connector on the back of
the amp which has a very special function, but I will come back to
that later…

DigiTheatre

Decoderbox2
The DigiDecoder

The Digitheatre is a product aimed squarely at the DVD-Video
market. The basic premise behind Digitheatre is a system capable of
reproducing the full 5.1 Dolby Digital (also known as AC-3, which
is the compression type) signal that exists on DVD-Video discs.

It is unsurprising to find then that the system consists of five
speakers, four for front/rear left and right, one centre channel,
and a dedicated sub woofer. Also included is the ‘black box’ (more
formally known as the DigiDecoder) that takes the AC-3 feed and
converts it into the full 5.1 Dolby Digital sound stream.

The connectivity of the system is fairly impressive, and at first
the new owner may be thoroughly confused. Not to worry, Videologic
supply a very well written manual that explains the entire system
and how to get the best out of it.

To go into a little detail, the output from the DVD decoder
(whether it be from a dedicated SP/DIF or an optical output) is
plugged into the DigDecoder. From there the signal is processed and
fed out through five RCA style jacks which connect directly into
the amp that is housed in the sub woofer unit. It is from these
five separate signals that each speaker is driven in order to
recreate the Dolby Digital effect.

The speakers themselves are of reasonable quality but do not
compare to those found in the Sirroco speaker sets. They are good,
especially for a system of this price, but they cannot fully
compare to those used in the Crossfire system. The upshot is that
an extra speaker can be added without significantly impacting on
the price.

The amp used in the sub woofer is also of lower quality than the
Crossfire amp, yet will still pump out thumping bass to really make
those explosions feel real. It truly is a relative scale when
comparing the two products as both are really very good in
comparison to the current market offerings, and it seems almost
terrible to have to describe either of them as being “not quite as
good”.

The final component is the DigiDecoder. This little black box is
based around the latest Zoran DSP, which co-incidentally can be
found in many higher end AC-3 decoders that are used in cinemas
worldwide, and cost many times more than the cost of both speaker
packages put together.

The decoder accepts co-axial style SP/DIF, TOSLINK optical and
standard 2 channel RCA inputs, although the SP/DIF and TOSLINK
inputs can not be run at the same time, as the system will only
accept one digital input signal.

From these inputs the audio can be accepted as either a digital or
analogue input (depending on the connectors used), and appropriate
processing is performed.

There are a range of output modes including Dolby Pro-Logic (the
analogue precursor to Dolby Digital), 4.1 surround, and even 2.1
surround (where the other channels are virtualised into the other
speakers).

You can also adjust the volume and delay settings for each speaker,
thereby customising your experience to your own tastes.

The DigiTheatre is another impressive system, and after spending
many hours watching DVD movies I have found it hard to listen to
the audio tracks on anything less that the DigiTheatre.

Conclusion

Both speaker sets are truly magnificent and deserve a great deal of
praise.

There is however one interesting solution that I have kept back to
surprise you… As I have stated, the Crossfire system is extremely
good for listening to music and true 3D positional audio, and the
DigiTheatre is suited for those who want to get the best out of
their DVD’s.

Wouldn’t it be cool then to be able to create a hybrid system that
took the best parts from each? I certainly think so .. as do
Videologic.

Do you remember that I mentioned
there was another input connector on the back of the Crossfire
amp? What Videologic have cleverly done is to allow a user to
utilise the four inputs on the Crossfire amp and correspond
them to the four outputs of the DigiDecoder.

Now what about the fifth and the sub? Well thanks to the
DigiDecoder the fifth (centre) channel can be virtualised, thereby
creating 4.1 surround. Okay but that still doesn’t explain the sub.
The extra input on the Crossfire amp is a direct feed to the sub
woofer, and can therefore provide the .1 required to create 4.1
surround.

This is certainly clever, and it is this way by design rather than
accident, and to save you buying both sets in order to create this
hybrid they also sell the DigiDecoder as a separate unit.

It seems that one could now have the best of both worlds, should
your budget stretch to it. If not, then merely analyse what you
listen to most on your computer.

If you would rather enjoy playing games in true 3D positional audio
and listening to music on your PC then the Crossfire is more the
product for you. If you tend to be more fanatical about your DVD
movies, but still want a rich audio experience from everything
else, then the DigiTheatre will be more suited to you.

8 for DigiTheatre
/10

9 for Sirocco Crossfires
/10

Review

by Pete, Contributor

Source : Eurogamer

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