Click here to read part one of this review
Bundled on the drivers and applications CD is Creatives Gold Mine Experience
which is basically a showcase of the new hardware effects on offer from card.
At the moment few games support them but in the future the promise of further
immersing the player in games makes Advanced HD an exciting prospect. Heres
a quick run down on the effects on offer ...
Obstruction - In the same way that you cant see objects around corners
you also cant hear noises as well when there is no direct line to the source.
The obstructive effects simulates this into the environmetal sounds. In the
example you hear a motor running around the corner of the cabin and how it becomes
more of an ambient sound as you move around the building.
Occlusion - Sound waves travel through various materials in different
ways affecting the final noise reaching your ears. For example hearing the music
outside a club is very different from how it sounds inside, the occlusive effects
simulate this. In the example you hear a motor running somewhere around the
cabin and as you move in the sound becomes gradually duller reflecting the effect
of the brick walls.
Exclusion - This effect is a simulation of a sound coming in through
an opening and how you hear it as it gets closer. The demo has a mine cart travelling
towards you through the tunnel, initially the noise it makes is occluded but
as it gets closer you can hear it before you see it.
Environmental Reflection - Real life sound waves bounce off nearly all
surfaces creating secondary waves reaching the listener. In an enclosed space
this is particularly noticable and while an echo can be simulated environmental
reflections can spatialise the effect in 3D to create a more convinicing environment.
In the demo a crow flies overhead with the reflected noise moving along the
canyon as the crow does too.
Environmental Panning - When approaching an environment such as a cave
you can hear the difference despite its being a distance away. This effect simulates
this by creating a false environment and placing it appropriatly using the speakers
so it appears to be in front. In this case the bats flying out of the cave indicate
its position and the environment inside.
Environment Morphing - This is a really nice effect, often in games
moving from one location to another can cause a sudden change in audio effects,
for example stepping into a large hall while firing a gun might be accompanied
by an abrupt application of reverb. In reality of course the change is a lot
more subtle and gradual, environmental morphng smooths the transition between
the borders. In the example you pass into a cave with the echoy effects gradually
Extreme Effects - Hard to explain but basically this shows off the ability
of the card to generate complicated effects such as multiple reverb effects
... see the screen grabs, their descritption is better than mine!! The demo
has a ghost minor coming towards you laughing in an evil manner.
As far as exciting bits of kit go soundcards have never really
rated too highly, that said the recent influx of interest particularly in
the multichannel stakes has bought the newer generation of cards to the top
of manys wish lists. Compared to a 2-channel card the audigy is a masterpiece
however the difficulty comes in decciding whether the new features offered
by the audigy warrant an upgrade if you already own a 5.1 card.
Firstly there no doubting the superb advances made by creative
in audio playback quality, I honestly wasnt expecting to hear all that much
difference compared with Live! value I had before but the 24bit DACs really
do seem to improve the quality. There was no decernable noise at any volume
and reproducion of CD and MP3 audio was with unparalleled clarity and crispness.
The audigy also handles Dolby digital and DTS signals with equal aplomb, regardless
of whether its simply passing the AC3 signal through to an external decoder
or doing it itself movies sound superb. The podrace scene from Star Wars Episode
1 stands out above most, transporting you right into the middle of the action
while not being at all overpowering. In games too the reproduction and EAX
effects are so effortless and clear you find the experience being hightened
The extra features such as DREAM and time-scaling while being
fun for a while dont have any real lasting appeal and I also found the taskbar
and playcenter to be a little frustrating. You dont have to use any of these
of course so in some ways its nice creative at least made them available.
In terms of connectivity too the audigy offers all that you
could possibly hope for from a soundcard (particularly the digital out which
I'm glad to see becoming standard on most cards now) and more still in the
form of the SB1394 port allowing high-speed connectivity to other computers
- Superb clarity and crispness
- Great connectivity
- Promise of exciting new Advanced EAX support
- Firewire port as standard
- No frills bundle
- Few games currently support Advanced EAX
- Limited benefit in upgrading from other 5.1 cards
- No frills bundle !!
In closing I would say that theres no doubting the quality of
the audigy cards from an objective point of view and as my first true experience
of 5.1 sound I cant recommend the card enough as it really did exceed my all
expectations. However I cant help thinking I'd be a bit disappointed if I'd
upgraded to this from a different 5.1 card especially given the relatively high
price tag. There certainly are the advanteges such advanced HD and the firewire
port with potential in the future but do these really warrant the change? I
really want to give the Audigy a gold award as it truely deserves it if youre
upgrading from a 2-channel card but I have reservations about just how great
a step this next generation is for live! 5.1 users so a silver will have to