- Introduction - I had been thinking of buying a new set of computer speakers, or speakers I could use with my laptop anyway, for a few weeks, since I figured out a way I could get my TV to act as a monitor for my laptop and have whatever I have shown on my laptop, appear on my TV. However I had alot of problems trying to get my TV to work with the audio cables and I soon realised that it seems this isn't possible, as the a/v ports for plugging in external audio sources, are all specifically to be used for other specific a/v channels, so basically I couldn't get my TV to play audio through its own speakers. I had a eureka moment one morning when I woke up and stared at my old, dusty and rather shabby looking desktop computer speakers, as I realised this would solve the problem, hurrah! Obviously, these speakers were both quite old and I didn't feel they offered the best sound and they didn't look too good and got kind of in the way, so thats when I started to think about buying a replacement set. I spent ages looking around online for a replacement that would offer all I wanted and I pretty much gave up, you wouldn't think it would be so complicated but it honestly was... anyway fast forward to Wednesday afternoon and when I went to take my break at work, I spotted an Argos sales catalogue/brochure in the staff room and had a quick flick through it. I got to the computing section and there they were, Creative Inspire 280 computer speakers on sale, great! So I thought I'd have to check it out later that day and indeed I did. I thought not to get my hopes up, probably it'd turn out that they'd be powered by batteries alone (which I wouldn't like), or that they'd be very big and would get in the way of my TV, or there would be reviews online which would criticise them for offering tinny sound or something like that. However, that wasn't the case and given the cheap price (their down to £9.99 in the sales, which is ending about now), I decided to reserve them and I went into town and picked them up the following day. Hurrah! Now on to more information about them... - Who Makes Them? - These are Creative speakers. Creative is a well known company that produces IT/digital entertainment products, including a range of MP3 Players, webcams and video cams, headphones and of course speakers. Creative are also known as the company that produced the 'Sound Blaster' sound card of the 1990s which I remember somewhat fondly too, so I like to think that Creative are specialists in audio electronics and as such, its right to presume that such a product should offer pretty decent audio quality. The fact that these speakers are made by Creative and offered at such a price definitely appealed to me. - How Easy Is It To Set Them Up? - In one word - very! you simply open the box (luckily they don't come in that awful transparent, nigh on impossible to cut open packaging!) and pull the speakers out and then connect the mains adapter by plugging one end to the back of the left speaker, put the plug into a plug socket of course and then the 3.5mm phono jack plugs into the headphone port of whatever item you want to use the speakers with. Next, simply press the power button on the side of the right speaker, it should then light up in green, you then simply play whatever your wanting to listen to, a music or video file for example and adjust the volume and tone knobs as necessary and there you go, thats it all set up and running!. Of course you might spend a while adjusting the positioning of the speakers, testing out if it sounds better with a bigger space between each speaker (I have to say I didn't feel there was a major difference), seeing where they look best in the room etc. but thats all up to you, basically it is quite quick and simple to set up and start using though. - What Do They Look Like, Are They Compact & Good For Travelling? - The speakers are in shiny black and their pretty stylish looking, this is another thing that definitely appealed to me. Judge by the photos below but I know I certainly feel that they don't have a 'budget' look about them, indeed they look like they could have cost alot more than ten or even fifteen pounds. Some reviews claim that these speakers are compact and I would agree that their certainly not unnecessarily large, however I wouldn't say that their particularly small either. I think these are well suited to be used with laptops and desktops but due to their height, I don't think their so small that you would really want to travel with them much, they would take up a fair amount of space in a back pack and you can't power them with batteries, so their not really much use for travel purposes. If I were to use them with my MP3 player, the MP3 player would look pretty tiny next to them but its fine, I didn't want to use them for travelling anyway, so that doesn't bother me too much. It is a bit annoying that they are as tall as they are, given I was really originally looking for speakers that were shorter, so that they wouldn't block the picture on my TV but thats a fairly small complaint I guess, they are fairly narrow and the main thing is the audio quality, which I'll go on to mention below. As it happens, I've figured out a better place to put them, so that they don't block my TV, so the size isn't such a big problem for me personally. The speakers are both slightly taller than a regular DVD box, basically. I know it frustrated me that I couldn't find any reviews online, or photos, that explained, or better demonstrated, the size of these speakers, measurements in mm or cm im afraid I didn't think helped much, im not very good at understanding measurements but hopefully that helps give you a good idea how tall they are. - What Features Do These Speakers Offer? - 1 x headphone/phono 3.5mm jack, for connecting the speakers to your audio source, such as a laptop or desktop, an MP3 Player, hifi, portable CD player or whatever. This jack should fit any headphone port on such an item. 1 x mains adapter, for powering the speakers. This is a UK 3 Pin plug, of course. I had read online a review that seemed to indicate that either this speaker model or another very similar one, only came with a European style 2 Pin plug but I can say that mine came with the correct 3 Pin one, so you shouldn't need to worry about that, though if you had to, you can probably buy an adapter for the plug somewhere (just check the voltage corresponds first, if that is an issue, of course!) Along the right hand side of the right speaker, you'll find the main controls, which are as follows:- Volume control (a knob), Tone control (if your playing music, you can adjust this and it adjusts the emphasis on the bass), Power button (when the speakers are plugged in and this button is pressed, it lights up in green, to let you know that their powered and working) and finally, a headphone port, so you can even plug in headphones to listen to the audio that way (though quite why you'd want to, I don't know but its an extra option, so, there you go). - Audio Quality - Right well thats all well and fine but probably the most important thing is whether or not the sound quality is any good. Is it? well, in a word, yes! ok lets not get too carried away, of course if your looking for high quality cinematic audio for playback of movies on your computer or through a TV, then you'll be wanting the full 5.1 setup with multiple speakers and a sub-woofer, if having that completely all round sound is particularly important to you. I wouldn't say that the audio playback on these speakers represents the best possible cinematic playback but for the price, it is very good. I've already used these speakers to play back some music tracks from my laptop, which all sounded pretty crisp and clear and using the 'tone' knob I was able to adjust the amount of bass and fiddle about to get the best possible sound out of what was being played. I've also used the speakers to play the audio from the movie Cloverfield last night, which tested the quality of audio possible for playing back long video files and I thought that worked quite well. As I say, it doesn't sound very tinny or crackly, as some cheap speakers can sound. I have increased the volume on the speakers to near the top end and I didn't notice any obvious decrease in the quality of the audio, indeed it can play audio really quite loud, so I have no complaints about the quality of the audio playback, I thought that it did sound that bit clearer and crisper than my tired old speakers, which were at least six years old, so I suppose that doesn't say a great deal but I'm certainly happy with them anyway. - Anything Else Worth Mentioning? - I like the fact that the speakers do come with a good long cable, which gives you plenty of room for positioning each speaker and for getting the mains adapter to reach the plug. Also if your interested in buying these at Argos during the current sale, you get a free cradle with it too, which looks just like a small bit of plastic to me really but the sheet with instructions on it seems to indicate you can use it to hold Ipods and/or Creative MP3 players. - Official Manufacturers Website - If you want a look at the more technical specifications about these speakers, then have a look at the Creative listing for this product here:- http://uk.europe.creative.com/products/product.asp?category=4&subcategory=7 89&product=14094&listby=usage - Conclusions - I am very happy with my purchase and I would recommend these speakers to anyone looking for replacement speakers for a similar purpose, for using with a laptop or desktop, for playing back music and/or video files (including movies). Baring in mind that these speakers can be bought as cheaply as for £9.99 or otherwise for around the £15-£20 mark at the most, I think that these offer very good value for money, with a nice, quality stylish design and a good amount of features with good audio quality (although, as I say, obviously don't expect the full surround sound experience but for the price I feel its very good), I mean what else could you ask for really?. If your looking specifically for speakers to bring with you on holiday, a small set for plugging in to an MP3 player and packing away into a handbag or small bag or something, then this isn't really the ideal solution, they can't be operated on batteries alone but otherwise, I feel this is a very good buy thats well worth considering. Please be aware that this review, as about all my reviews will be, is also posted on Ciao UK under my username there, which is the same name, IzzyS. I hope that this review was useful, thanks for reading and for all R/R/Cs.
Creative's Inspire 280 speakers are great for home listening and deliver outstanding results with MP3 players. Compact and neat, in classic black, they are the choice for stylish entertainment. Their high-quality amplified drivers with rear bass ports deliver sound that feels so much 'bigger', with rich bass, a clear, penetrating mid-range and impressive high-end detail. For people who want a straight forward speaker solution that combines traditional Creative quality with ease of use, Inspire 280s are the natural choice.