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Creative Labs D200 wireless Bluetooth speaker review: Creative Labs D200 wireless Bluetooth speaker

Creative Labs D200 wireless Bluetooth speaker

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Headphones, Bluetooth speakers, mobile accessories, Apple, Sony, Bose, e-readers, Amazon, glasses, ski gear, iPhone cases, gaming accessories, sports tech, portable audio, interviews, audiophile gear, PC speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
4 min read

As the iPhone/iPod audio docking systems move into a more mature phase, Creative is hitching its wagon to Bluetooth in its bid to differentiate itself in this crowded category. Bluetooth compatibility allows the wide range of A2DP devices--which includes iPhones, iPads, recent iPod Touch models, most recent smartphones, and many PCs--to stream audio wirelessly to the speaker. On the PC speaker side, Creative has the $150 Inspire S2 Bluetooth system, and now it's bulked up its audio line with several Bluetooth-enabled iPod speaker options, including the D200 reviewed here. It retails for $130.

7.3

Creative Labs D200 wireless Bluetooth speaker

The Good

Small speaker bar with integrated Bluetooth for wireless audio streaming; compact design ideal for shelf placement; plays bigger than its size would indicate; solid build quality; easy to move around the house.

The Bad

No dock for charging iPhone or iPod; no battery option.

The Bottom Line

The relatively affordable--and compact--Creative D200 Bluetooth speaker offers wireless audio streaming and reasonably good sound for the money.

There really isn't a whole lot to the D200. It's rather compact, measuring 3.9 inches high by 15.9 inches wide by 3.7 inches deep and has a nice heft to it, weighing in at 3.6 pounds. Unlike the wraparound speaker grille of its step-up sibling, the $300 ZiiSound D5, this model only has cloth on the front of the unit, covering the speaker drivers. The speaker shell has a nice, glossy black finish that, as you might expect, is something of a fingerprint magnet (yes you will find yourself polishing this speaker with a cloth from time to time).

From a distance, the speaker looks simple and understated, much like a small center-channel speaker in a home-theater setup. There's an auxiliary minijack input on the back for connecting other audio devices with an optional cable, and the requisite power button. On top of the unit you'll find volume up/down controls, plus a Bluetooth button. When you hold that button down for a few seconds, a blue light flashes indicating the speaker is discoverable and in pairing mode.

As mentioned earlier, if you own a stereo-compatible Bluetooth-enabled phone, PC, iPad, or portable media player (the D200 supports the A2DP and AVRCP profiles), all you have to do is turn your device's Bluetooth on, wait for it to search and find the D200, input the PIN (0000), then hit play on your music; the music will stream wirelessly to the speaker so long as you're within about 30 feet of the D200. You can then use your phone/media player as a remote, controlling what music you want to play from the palm of your hand.

What happens when a call comes in on your phone? The music pauses and when you hang up, it starts again where it left off. Alas, you can't use the D200 as a speakerphone, but that's not the end of the world.

As for sound, this model doesn't perform as well as the step-up Zii Sound D5 (which is, in fairness, more than twice as expensive), but we were still fairly impressed. With a Bluetooth connection, your digital music gets more compressed than it already is, but some companies like Creative infuse it with some extra technology to optimize the sound (Creative uses something called the apt-X audio codec). We should also point out that the quality of the music matters less when you're dealing with a smaller speaker that doesn't accentuate the flaws created by compression. In other words, bigger and better speakers will highlight the flaws of your digital music. By comparison, ignorance is bliss: when listening to the D200, it's pretty hard to tell you're listening to music streamed wirelessly via Bluetooth.

The little speaker plays pretty loud and can fill a small- to medium-size room with sound. Its bass is a little thinner than the D5's and you don't get quite as much detail, but the difference between the two speakers isn't huge.

Like a lot of these smaller speakers, the D200 is stronger in the midrange and tends to do best with acoustical arrangements and ballads and less well with hip-hop and bass-heavy material. Still, it's got a little kick, and plays bigger than it looks. (For our tests, we kept the volume on the speaker at about 80 to 85 percent from the top and then adjusted the volume via the volume control on our phone).

As we said, at $130, this model costs significantly less than the Zii Sound D5 and in terms of sound quality, compares favorably with speakers in the $125 to $150 price range that are missing the Bluetooth-streaming capabilities (although most of those competing models have an iPod/iPhone charging dock). No, it doesn't have a battery option for portable use like the $80 Creative D100 does. But if you're looking for a compact Bluetooth speaker that you can easily move around the house, the D200 offers decent bang for the buck.

7.3

Creative Labs D200 wireless Bluetooth speaker

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7