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Creative Labs SB Audigy Player Review

The Audigy is Creative’s latest Soundcard range, a long overdue upgrade to the aging Live! range and coming in a year where Creative have faced some of their stiffest competition since the Aureal Vortex 2 was released; rather than just the Aureal DSP to deal with they now have Philips PSC 70x plus several other soundcards based on the Cirrus Logic 4624 & 4630 DSP (Several of which we’ve reviewed here). So is Creative onto another winning range again with Audigy?

As you’ve probably heard me say before, all latest drivers & any relevant BIOS Updates were installed. Before getting really into the review I’d just like to point out that being that this is the Player version of the Audigy I won’t be going into details such as Recording & similar given that this edition of the Audigy isn’t really intended for such, rather the Platinum & Platinum Ex are.

Installation & Manual

The printed manual of the Audigy Player consisted on a basic Quick start guide with basic installation instructions, while the complete manual was included on the CD in PDF format; it covers basically everything you’ll need to know about the soundcard. Pretty much like the two  Live! Cards I’ve owned before, the Manuals are well written & thorough.

Installation of the SoundBlaster Audigy wasn’t difficult, hardware wise at least – uninstalled the Game Theater XP software, shut down the PC & removed that card from my system. I then inserted the SoundBlaster Audigy into the now free PCI slot. I then connected the MIDI/Gameport bracket to the Audigy via the MIDI/Gameport connector near the centre of the Soundcard. You may recall in our review of the TerraTec SiXPack 5.1 it also featured a separate MIDI/Gameport bracket – in comparison the cable length of the SiXPack 5.1’s bracket was about 10.5 inches, whereas the Audigy’s is around 6 inches.

This shouldn’t really be much cause for concern unless you intend to insert the MIDI/Gameport bracket into a free port that’s not adjacent to the Audigy. That said, you aren’t required to connect the MIDI/Gameport bracket at all – the Audigy can, & does function just as well with or without it.

Upon booting up Windows 2000 & XP the Soundcard was detected & appropriate Drivers requested. I cancelled out of those & proceeded to load the Installation CD. The CD loads up with a quick Creative Intro, then onto your Language choice. Selecting the first option available – SoundBlaster Audigy, allows you to install Drivers for the Soundcard, along with several other Utilities & Applications from Creative. This is where the problems begin.

After going through Language & EULA (End User License Agreement) you are given 3 options as regards to Setup Options;

My main problem with these options is that regardless of what one you select the Drivers must get installed. As I always do whenever possible I selected Custom Installation, options available being:

As you can see, there is no option regarding Driver Installation. This is some cause for concern, in my opinion, because should you wish to go back at a later date & install something else from the above listing it will attempt to over-write your existing Driver installation, particularly important if you’ve upgraded your Drivers. As fate would have it I had installed the newer Windows 2000/XP Drivers onto my system when I then needed to go & install Creative PlayCenter.

During the re-installation of the older CD Drivers towards the end of the install process I was prompted with 3 error messages & 1 Windows File Protection error as a result of this. To verify my Drivers weren’t affected I removed them via Add/Remove Programs & downloaded the latest ones from Creative. When I tried to install these I was prompted that I needed to have the CD Drivers installed first & then the Installer quit.

Once more I had to reinstall the Drivers from the CD, reboot then Reinstall the latest Drivers I’d downloaded. Why? Because of Creative’s messed up Installation CD (I wonder what genius was responsible for this “wise” decision, don’t you). Hopefully Creative will do 2 things in a short space of time;

1.       Issue any updated Installation CD with the option to not install the Drivers during the installation process – This merely need be an option in the Custom Installation menu. As from my experiences (& others) this would alleviate many unnecessary headaches & problems.

  1. Post Full Drivers for download on the Creative Website. It should not be a requirement to have the CD Drivers installed in order to update them. With all of the other Soundcards I’ve reviewed in the past year or more the Audigy is the only Soundcard I’ve received which requires this.

A workaround to this is to copy the contents of the CD to your Hard Drive & edit the audio.ini, setting & setting WinDrv = 0. That said you should not have to this something awkward like this to simply avoid installing the Drivers, its plain stupidity on Creative’s part as far as I’m concerned. After installation Device Manager displays the following 3 new Devices as having been installed.

Full Tech Specs for the Audigy on the next page, if you want to bypass those, go directly here.  

 



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