Labs Audigy Platinum 5.1 10/10. Date Posted 24/06/2002.
Sound Blaster Live was a fantastic card in all it's different varieties.
The Audigy builds on the success of the Live range, adding several new
features, but not messing with what made the Live so popular. This incarnation
of the Audigy, the Platinium 5.1 offers many features both for musicians
and also for consumers on-board Dolby Digital decoding. The Platinium
also comes with an Audigy Drive. The Drive fits neatly into a drive bay,
given instant access to many of the audio ins-outs. In addition it gives
you extra ports, such as the SPDIF coaxial and optical digital interfaces
which are not found on the PCI card. The Drive also offers mini MIDI ports
so you can sync your existing MIDI gear to it. A remote control is included,
so you can control your computer. However, the remote is not that good,
and only works if pointed directly at the Drive. If you do wish to use
the remote control, I would recommend buying a learning remote control,
and use that instead. Most importantly, there is also an SB1394 port on
the PCI card and on the Drive. This is essentially Creative Labs version
of the hugely successful IEEE1394/Firewire interface, that enables connection
of digital video cameras etc. to your computer. The inclusion of Firewire
gives you a good reason to upgrade from a Live to an Audigy, since buying
a separate Firewire card will cost you £50 alone.
Installation of the Audigy took about ten minutes and went very smoothly.
Sound cards have previously been notoriously difficult to install.
tried using the Firewire port with my Apple iPod MP3 player. It took five
minutes to setup and it worked very well, using MediaFour's Windows XPlay
software. I suspect many users will buy the iPod together with the Audigy.
I am sure that Creative Labs would prefer you to buy their Firewire enabled
Nomad Jukebox 3 MP3 player, instead of the iPod! As with the Live you
have built in EAX effects such as Echo, Reverb etc. which are produced
by the Audigy's built in CPU, thus not placing a burden on the computer's
CPUs. It's fun to use, especially if you're playing games. What's especially
useful for musicians is that you can now access these effects within audio
applications, and use them as if they were plugins, but obviously without
the CPU overhead. Just like the Live you also have access to SoundFonts,
so you can load up new instruments to be played by the Audigy's synth.
The size of SoundFonts is only limited by the amount of RAM you have.
Something else for the musician are the new ASIO drivers for the Audigy,
something that the Live was always lacking. These drivers are specials
because they are very low latency, for example if you're trying to play
virtual instruments live with a MIDI keyboard. In other words there is
no noticable delay between triggering a key and hearing the output.
overall sound playback quality of the Audigy is extremely good, relying
on a 24 bit 96 kHz DAC. There is no hiss or background noise. If you want
even better quality audio, you can of course bypass the internal DAC by
using a digital output. Unfortunately although the sound card can cope
with a digital 24 bit 96 kHz signal, it can't record and playback such
an analog signal. In other words, unless you have an external ADC and
DAC (which supports 24 bit 96 kHz), you will not be able to record at
24 bit 96 kHz. You'll have to stick to CD quality audio 16 bit 44.1 kHz
(or 48 kHz). This is the one area where competitors like Terratec have
the edge. I guess you can only squeeze so many features onto a card.
this is a good sound card, and I can't think of much that is wrong with
it. Creative Labs had the market virtually to itself with the Live, and
I can see that continuing with the Audigy.