Creative designed its MegaWorks 650 multimedia speaker system for its popular Audigy 2 sound cards. The THX-certified 6.1-channel ensemble one-ups 5.1-channel kits with a rear-center satellite, the 6 in 6.1. With the extra speaker, the 650 can take advantage of Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES DVDs, as well as enhance imaging in video games that use EAX Advanced HD or DirectSound 3D. But there's a catch: the 650's high price ($299) puts it in direct competition with Logitech's Z-680, a top 5.1-channel package with digital inputs and a better controller.
The six sealed, wall-mountable satellites are identical. Each has a single 3.5-inch driver, while the dual-ported, downward-firing subwoofer contains an 8-inch woofer. According to the manufacturer's specs, the 650's amp delivers 75 watts to the front-center speaker, 70 watts to each of the other sats, and 150 watts to the sub. The system's final component is a lackluster wired controller. The flat, finger-unfriendly remote employs status LEDs rather than a more informative screen.
The speaker cables attach to the sats via wire spring clips and plug into the subwoofer-based amp with RCA-type connectors. Some multimedia speaker systems are compatible with standard speaker wire, offering greater flexibility.
We tested the 650 with a variety of DVDs, games, and music. When we fired up the hovercraft chase scene from Die Another Day, bullets whizzed seamlessly across the back of the soundstage, and explosions roared around us. The rear-center speaker slightly enhanced our movie and game experiences. For example, it gave Soldier of Fortune II an additional ambient dimension. But extra positional cues didn't noticeably help us with our gaming. Overall, the system used its sixth sat lightly, and improvements were always quite subtle.
When playing music, the 650 held its own. The mild-mannered sats never sounded brash, but they didn't create an especially deep soundstage. They also could have blended better with the sub, which boomed slightly, most obviously during bass-intensive passages. In the end, we prefer the Logitech Z-680, but the 650 is a fine choice for die-hard gamers and DVD buffs with an Audigy 2.