Creative's I-Trigue PC speaker line has never been short on good looks--Creative's design department long ago figured out that black, white, and brushed aluminum look really cool in sparse arrangements. That's where a lot of companies stop, but the I-Trigue line has always boasted powerful, if not always accurate, sound. The $150 Creative I-Trigue L3800s are no exception in the beauty or power departments, and these 2.1 speakers sound crisper than past models, which earns them a higher rating. We still prefer the Editors' Choice-winning Logitech Z-2300s, but the Creative I-Trigue L3800s score points with a wireless remote, complicating what was once an easy issue. Where before we would simply recommend the Z-2300s to anyone asking about 2.1 PC speakers, now we must qualify that statement. It you want the best audio quality and the ability to connect to a game console, the Z-2300s still win. But if you really want that wireless remote, you don't lose much with the I-Trigue L3800s.
Like past I-Trigue speakers we've reviewed, such as the L3450s, the L3800s feature a frequency response of 30Hz to 20KHz and an output of 9 watts per satellite. Nevertheless, Creative has found a way to make the sound of the satellites mesh more seamlessly with that of the 30-watt subwoofer. Once again, the speakers feature so-called lateral-firing transducers, in which each satellite has two smaller drivers facing forward and a midtone driver facing out, supposedly creating a wider stereo field. This design has always seemed a bit gimmicky; the physical placement of the speakers ultimately determines the width of your stereo image, regardless of the two drivers pointed away from your ears.
Like the I-Trigue L3450s, the L3800s include an easy-to-use, wired Audio Control Pod. The pod, which connects directly to the subwoofer, features controls for volume, bass level, mute, and power. It also has a headphone jack and a 1/8-inch input for MP3 players. It doesn't have a game console adapter, however--a feature we appreciated on the Logitech Z-2300s.
With the bass set just over halfway (a snazzy LED on the Audio Control Pod displays the level), the I-Trigue L3800s proved their musical capabilities on a wide array of tracks. They allowed the subtleties to shine in the very strange mixes on Animal Collective's new album, Feels. They also pumped out the low end in satisfying measures on the world-dance pop of M.I.A.'s "Sunshowers." At extremely high overall volume levels, the L3800s suffered from minimal low-end distortion, but this occurred at volumes most listeners won't often use (we hope).
At full volume for the sub and a high volume overall, Chapter 28 of Batman Begins was a near-religious experience. We freely admit we like the movie a lot, but the low-end rumble, if not always overpowering, was tight and clear, which is far more satisfying. Gaming with Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy produced similarly pleasing results. Again, the I-Trigue L3800s' sound integrity didn't quite compare with the Logitech Z-2300s' at extreme volumes and the low end, but the difference wasn't great enough that you'd notice the breakdown during regular use at reasonable volume levels.
The L3800s trump the Z-2300s with their wireless remote control. Of course, you can use it like a standard remote, but it gains added functionality when coupled with any of Creative's Zen line of MP3 players. With the two paired up, you get total control over the music: track skipping, play/pause, volume, bass volume, and power. These are all useful features, but they also render the wired control pod redundant except as a connection port.
The wireless remote is a key feature of the I-Trigue L3800s; no other 2.1 speaker set in this price and quality range has one. It's such a simple feature, but for Media Center PC owners especially, it might be the deal sealer.