been able to retain certain leadership over the PC Audio
market for the last decade or so, however present market
conditions are tougher than ever, the market has been
flooded with a variety of alternative products (which in the
end is not such a bad thing for the consumer) making it more
difficult to stand out over competition.
Probably that’s part of the reason late
last year Creative announced an update to its Audigy series,
the new 5.1 Audigy LS that would finally replace the
long-lived Live! while the Audigy and Audigy2 would also get
a replacement in the form of the Audigy 2 ZS.
The Audigy 2 ZS currently remains as
Creative’s flagship product, sensibly named after the
Audigy 2, the card has received a number upgrades
and added features however change hasn’t been drastic enough
to force over a new generation. Among the new features
offered in the ZS we have true support for 7.1-channels, THX
certification, DTS ES support (along with Dolby EX which was
already present), ASIO2 support and updated EAX HD
extensions, now on its 4th iteration, EAX has
received wide support by game developers in the last few
So it’s time to take a close look at the
Audigy 2 ZS, you will notice that inevitably we will find
ourselves comparing back and forth what’s been changed in
the new product, for reference sake you may also want to
original Audigy 2 review.
There seems to be no I/O ports
differences between the Audigy 2 ZS and the original Audigy
2, this means that the following configuration remains: 1
Line In, 1 Mic input, 3 Stereo Line outputs, 1 Digital
output and 1 Firewire/IEEE 1394 port plus the optional
Joystick/MIDI bracket. Although the Audigy 2 ZS differs from
the Audigy 2 in that it offers 7.1 output as opposed to 6.1,
the additional rear surround channel is carried over the 3rd
Stereo line output and as such, it requires proprietary
cabling to enable full 7.1 analog output.
All other 7.1 soundcards I’ve tested
feature 4 Stereo line outputs, so it’s somewhat irritating
Creative decided to go against what everyone else is doing
in this regard. Now in the other hand it was obvious that
Creative’s own Inspire 7700 7.1 speakers do include the
As with previous cards, there’s whole
load of internal connections available for the nostalgic
user not willing to move on ;). A few decent soundcards
released recently have begun to ditch these altogether and
it wouldn’t be such a bad idea for Creative to join the
legacy free crowd also.
Documentation & Drivers
The Audigy 2 ZS comes with a printed
Quick-Start guide that takes you through basic installation
of the soundcard. A more thorough PDF Manual is included on
the Installation CD with far more information than you could
ask for. Out of the box drivers support Windows 98 SE and
XP, although Creative still haven’t exactly got around
releasing proper unified drivers, at least the Audigy 2 and
Audigy 2 ZS share the same drivers (which can reportedly be
hacked to be used with other Creative Soundcards).
DRM support remains unchanged:
Output is always active except when playing DRM encoded
content, at which point it is disabled. This is a
requirement of DRM support otherwise the Audigy 2 would
simply not be able to play DRM encoded content, e.g.
DVD-Audio, as would be the case for other non-supporting
At the time of testing, the Audigy 2 &
Audigy 2 ZS were the only PC Soundcards to support
DVD-Audio playback (stand-alone DVD-Audio players also only
use Analog outputs).
It made the most sense to compare ZS
drivers with those from previous generations. The most
noteworthy addition is DTS-ES decoding support which is now
available. As far as I can tell this is the only DTS-ES
decoding solution available for the PC as well, which makes
it a rather nice feature in Creative’s over-sized hat.
New Drivers also add EAX 4 Advanced HD
support (available to previous Audigy’s also), although
there’s little in way of game support for that at the
moment. Overall, the drivers work great however like noted,
nothing much has changed since the Audigy 2.