Crank It Up With Dolby Digital Sound Cards

An EMU10K1 audio processor-standard in all Sound Blaster Live cards-powers the $499 Platinum package. It includes a Live Drive, which occupies a drive bay in your PC and lets you connect various analog and digital audio sources to the front of the system instead of to the rear. The Platinum also has a great software bundle and an infra-red sensor for the wireless remote control-nice for DVD movie playback via PC.

Philips's Acoustic Edge, with its ThunderBird Avenger sound chip, offers fewer connection options than the Platinum. It ships with standard media applications for MP3 ripping and audio and video playback.

MP3 files and CD music sounded clear with the shipping versions of both cards, as did Dolby Digital 5.1 files. Both are well equipped to handle Dolby 5.1's six-channel playback or 3D audio. While each claims to deliver Surround Sound from stereo and monaural media files, the Philips did so more competently.

If you need a card with an array of audio inputs, grab the Platinum. If you're looking for an affordable 5.1-channel option, try the Acoustic Edge.

Acoustic Edge

PRO: Great 5.1-channel emulation.

CON: Fewer connections than the Sound Blaster offers.

VALUE: Excellent Dolby 5.1 sound.

List price: $TBA

Sound Blaster Live Platinum 5.1

PRO: Extensive connectivity options.

CON: Pricey, fewer analog channels.

VALUE: Fine 5.1-channel sound.

List price: $499

Creative Labs

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