Only a year has passed since Creative launched a new standard in consumer sound cards with the Audigy, but already it is improving upon this with the release of the Audigy 2. To test the power of the SoundBlaster Audigy 2, Creative also gave us a look at its new 6.1-channel Inspire 6600 speakers.
The Audigy’s true 24-bit/96KHz DAC (digital-to-analog converter) and ADC (analog-to-digital converter) lends quality and depth to audio. The signal-to-noise ratio has been increased to 106dB for even crisper no-hiss sound quality and the card now comes with 6.1 channel surround sound support.
It’s also capable of processing the high 24-bit/192KHz quality of the emerging DVD Audio standard. DVD Audio discs can hold more information than CD audio and are capable of higher sound quality. Few devices that can handle DVD Audio are on the market yet, so the Audigy 2 saves you a small fortune if you want to listen to the best quality music. The card even has EAX Advanced for a better audio gaming environment and THX certification from Lucasfilms so it can provide cinema-quality sound at home.
Creative has enhanced the software bundle and included ASIO 2.0 (audio stream input/output) support for low latency on audio or MIDI recordings. This minimises the gap between the activation of a sound signal (such as a keyboard key) and you hearing that signal played back via the PC.
Setup is straightforward but a little more involved than for most sound cards because the package features an internal breakout box that sits in a 5.25in drive bay, so you’ll need a spare bay if you want to fit it. The box is useful, though, as it saves you having to reach round the back of your PC to plug things in and it comes with MIDI, auxiliary, S/PDIF, FireWire and optical ports.
The Inspire 6600 speakers include six all-black satellites and a large subwoofer. Using Creative’s Multi-Surround System, you can create a 6.1 sound field from any audio source. There’s a new volume control in the bundle with master volume, power switch, LED indicator, front/rear balance control and headphone jack.
The power levels are standard enough — the satellites churn out 8W RMS (root means square) and the subwoofer is capable of 22W RMS, but the new front centre speaker can handle 20W RMS for some extra oomph. Not bad at all for $299 speakers, and all the more impressive with the 6.1- channel support. It’s fair to say there’s currently nothing on the market to equal the Inspire 6600. n
In brief: We highly recommend the Audigy 2 card, but users wanting more speaker power might want to hold out until more powerful 6.1 speakers emerge. That said, if you’re on a budget, then, at the moment at least, you can’t go wrong.
Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 2 Platinum
Phone: (02) 9666 6100
Phone: (02) 9666 6100