Creative has raised the stakes again with the Audigy, this time from 16- to 24-bit sampling.
Creative more or less invented the concept of the sound card for the PC masses, and its product line-up has dominated ever since, to the point where several other cards in this Labs look like variations on the Sound Blaster theme.
Creative has raised the stakes again with the Audigy, this time from 16- to 24-bit sampling. It paid attention to an area that was lacking: noise performance. Indeed, a large printed document is included in the box certifying that the Audigy delivers a 100dB signal to noise ratio (measurement parameters are not mentioned). The Audigy is available in three versions. In addition to the present one, the Audigy Platinum has its breakout box to fit in a computer's 5.25in drive bay, selling for $100 less. Both these versions come with an infrared remote control.The Audigy Digital Entertainment is the other card, selling for $249.
Despite the breakout box, most of the Audigy's processing occurs on the card. Indeed, the analog outputs are via 3.5mm stereo sockets on the back of the card, with only headphone output provided on the box. But the box does add an extra analog input (doubling as a microphone input), plus full coaxial and optical digital inputs and outputs, and dedicated MIDI ports.
The 24-bit processing is internal.We could find no way to make the unit accept (at full resolution) 24-bit digital input, nor to deliver it. Still the noise performance of the unit was impressive. However, we must quickly add that all our measurements were performed via the card's connections, not the box's. Why? Because the noise performance using the former was between three and four decibels better than the latter. Due to this, we recommend that the box be used for digital connectivity, and not for quality purposes alone.
If you're wondering whether the Audigy is a real upgrade over the Live!, take a look at the comparative figures that show much better noise performance, much flatter frequency response, and excellent digital in/out handling. It isn't the 24-bits but an improvement on the unit's analog circuitry that delivers this. The card-only package is also excellent value.
This Review appeared in the March, 2002 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine