by Sergey Samarin
02/23/2005 | 03:28 PM
Creative Labs, which is considered to be one of the leaders in the market of multimedia solutions for PCs, is opening new market opportunities in this field. By launching their new Inspire Monitor M80 sound system they are intending to reserve a spot in the semi-professional acoustic solutions market.
This new product is positioned as a budget monitor set for home studios and its attractively low price point should inevitably arouse wide interest. At least, I felt very much inclined to get myself a system like that for my home office, because the standard Inspire Monitor M80 is now selling for about $65!
The speaker set started conquering the market in Asia, and has already made it to Europe. The US market, however, seems to be still waiting for it, because according to pricewatch.com, it is not yet available in the US stores. So, be patient and get ready to welcome the new product. And hopefully our review will help you get a better idea about it before it even arrives into the market.
Creative Inspire Monitor M80 in a retail box
Inspire Monitor M80
16W RMS per channel
Supported frequency range
62 ~ 20,000Hz
Signal to Noise ratio (SNR)
156mm x 243mm x 195mm
Of course, these are just the official claimed specifications of the product which will hardly give you any realistic idea about its features. So, now that we went through the traditional official procedure and highlighted the specs, I suggest that we go straight to the detailed features and functions discussion.
The package includes:
Creative Inspire M80
To tell the truth, M80 doesn’t look impressive enough for a professional acoustic system. The satellites are pretty small, which makes us suspicious about their ability to really “rock”. However, I have to admit that the design of these speakers is very thorough and accurate. The system is designed in wooden cases and is decorated with nice-looking lining.
Mid-frequency diffuser with a typical cap
Each satellite is equipped with a twitter and midwoofer. As you can see from the picture above, both speakers are installed into special plates, which improve sound focus. Besides, there is a conical cap in the middle of each mid-frequency diffuser. But you shouldn’t worry much about the aesthetical looks of the monitors: the front side of the speakers is covered with decorative thread panels.
Control wheels on the front of the monitor
The controls are located on the front panel of the right satellite. Among them are: volume regulator with power-off function, bass and treble controls with mid-range locks. When the system is on, there is a blue LED lighting up. Another important thing is the headphones jack on the front panel of the same satellite, which is a very convenient feature I should say.
Back panel of the right satellite
On the rear panel of each satellite there is a phase inverter port, which amplifies the low frequencies. All the major system connectors are located on the rear panel of the right satellite.
The manufacturer provided Inspire Monitor M80 with two analogue input ports. The first one marked as Input A looks like a mini-jack connector, as you can see from the picture above. The second port, marked as Input B is an RCA connector. Note that the system is bundled with a special cable with a minijack plug on one end and RCA plug on the other. This is definitely very helpful when you have to connect the system to different sound sources.
And what about the digital input ports, you may ask? Here is the answer: besides Inspire Monitor M80, Creative Labs also released an enhanced system called Inspire Monitor M85-D. Its only difference from our today’s hero is the availability of digital input ports (a coaxial port and an optical port). The built-in hi-quality Digital-to-Analog converter supporting 24bit/96kHz, is just another evident indication of the major application for this type of system. So, if anyone needs broader connectivity for a sound system like that, then they should definitely pay attention to M85-D. Note, that the latter product costs more and is currently selling for around $100.
The transformer is removed from the speaker case
It would also make a lot of sense to mention that the step-down transformer of the system PSU has been removed from the speaker case and is now external. This allows to eliminate the EMI it may have produced on the speakers. The power cable is very long. It is long enough to reach even the most remote wall outlet.
Now that we discussed all the functional and constructive peculiarities of the system, let’s run a few benchmarks.
To test the acoustic performance of the given system we took a test CD-disk of the IASCA association. This disc is universal. It contains phonograms, which allow making subjective and objective evaluation of the tested acoustic system.
We equipped our testbed with Creative E-MU 1820 sound card. To measure the frequency response of the sound system according to the sound pressure in real time we used a Euraudio PRO600S audio analyzer with an external calibrate microphone. The results are given on a picture below:
The measured frequency response shows the real range of the reproduced frequencies
The maximum acoustic pressure reached 102.7dB (this is a peak value we detected at certain frequencies). The unevenness of the frequency response rate is not that dramatic (it is about 5dB), which indicates almost no acoustic distortions or dissonance.
The system boasts very wide dynamic range. The sound picture doesn’t lose any of the smaller components. It means that the system is really accurate at playing complex classical compositions, except for the number of low-frequency instruments. The entire musical scene appears perfectly precise with the easily identified all sound sources.
Despite relatively small size, the system made a very good impression. I think I can state that Creative Inspire Monitor M80 is ready for absolutely any type of musical content, which makes it a universal solution. The system boasts excellent macro-dynamics and provides good feeling of volumetric environment. Among the drawbacks we revealed during our test session, I can mention the absence of any tangible power reserve. However, the acoustic sounding wasn’t suffering from any excessive workload with all the resulting echoing effects and resonance.
I would like to say in conclusion that I liked Creative Inspire Monitor M80 at first glance, as soon as I took out of the box. When I connected it to my system and played around with it for a while, I got even more certain about it. I can state that Creative Labs once again proved to us: they know how to win new market segments, it’s not that hard. I would recommend this sound system solution for home semi-professional systems as an excellent choice.