Creative Technology Ltd. launched the latest product in its Sound Blaster Audigy 2 family at the CES and NAMM shows. Named Platinum eX, it is a package that adds comprehensive external I/O connectivity to the companys high-resolution, multichannel surround PC soundcard. Platinum eX, which ships in February, joins Sound Blaster Audigy 2 and Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Platinum, which were released at the tail end of 2002.
Creative Technologys Sound Blaster Audigy 2 cards allow consumers to experience Advanced Resolution DVD-Audio at up to 24-bit/192 kHz on their PCs, providing a level of home and office playback capability that has record labels very excited. With DVD-A playback capability coming to automobiles, the ultimate goal of entertainment companies such as Warner Music Group for a single playback medium and a single SKU seems to be fast becoming a reality. Now, one disc can be taken from the home theater to the car to the office, with multichannel surround playback in each venue.
The latest figures from the DVD Entertainment Group put the total of DVD playback devices, including settop players, videogame machines, and DVD-ROM drives, at more than 95 million households. With DVD players accounting for 40 million households, Creative Technology is looking at a vast potential market for these products.
According to the company, the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 is the only PC audio solution to enable Advanced Resolution DVD-Audio at 24-bit/192 kHz in stereo and 24-bit/96 kHz in 5.1. The new Audigy 2 chip, 24-bit/192 kHz D-to-A converters, and Advanced HD audio path result in a signal-to-noise ratio of 106 dB, according to the technical specification.
The card systems enable multichannel recording at 24-bit/96 kHz and deliver 16-bit/48 kHz multichannel, low-latency ASIO support. In terms of connectivity, the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 adds one SB1394 FireWire port to the PC, while the Platinum version adds a second SB1394 port on its front-facing Audigy 2 drive. Both Audigy 2 and Audigy 2 Platinum allow simultaneous digital and analog connectivity to devices such as MIDI instruments, external digital audio devices, and headphones. A remote control is included with the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Platinum.
The forthcoming Audigy 2 Platinum eX offers all the features and functionality of its predecessors, and adds an external I/O module with three analog stereo connections for 6-channel input, one mic input, optical and SPDIF digital I/O, full-sized MIDI I/O, two FireWire ports, and a headphone socket. Aimed at aspiring and professional musicians, the Platinum eX package is bundled with music creation tools such as Cubasis VST Suite, FruityLoops Pro CE, and ACID Style DJ.
Sound Blaster Audigy 2, the only standalone soundcard with THX certification, also handles playback of Windows Media Audio (WMA) 9 Professional, from the new Windows Media 9 Series, which is the first digital 5.1 surround sound audio codec offered for the Internet. The support of a discrete rear-center speaker additionally allows playback of 6.1 surround sound from DirectSound 3D games and Dolby Digital EX 6.1 cinematic sound.
As the company states in its literature, for PC gamers competing in any DirectSound 3D first-person shooter or racing title, the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 offers a competitive advantage, namely the ability to hear an opponent approaching from directly behind. The Sound Blaster Audigy 2 supports 64 3D-hardware voices and utilizes the Audigy 2 chip to generate high-definition EAX Advanced HD effects such as the companys Environment Morphing, Environment Panning, Environment Reflections, and Environment Filtering technologies. The soundcards are supplied with new game titles incorporating EAX Advanced HD support, including Hitman 2: Silent Assassin by Eidos Interactive Ltd. and I/O Interactive, and Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix by Activision, Inc. and Raven Software.
For those who enjoy their audio in a lower resolution, compressed format, Sound Blaster Audigy 2 includes the new MediaSource Player, an MP3 and WMA ripping application that offers a number of enhancing features. SVM (Smart Volume Management) matches volume variations across MP3 tracks; Audio Clean-up removes pops and clicks from MP3 and WAV files as well as recorded vinyl or cassettes; and CMSS (Creative Multi-Surround System) 3D plays back all stereo content, including MP3s and Internet audio, in 6.1 surround sound, creating a virtual surround experience with stereo speakers or headphones.