It's Been a Long Time
When it became apparent that Aureal was no longer going to be a major player in the PC sound market, a lot of audiophiles and gamers started to worry about the future state of computer audio. Thankfully, a few notable companies refused to stand by and watch Creative Labs dominate a market that could benefit from more diversity and innovation - even though it looked like Creative had already conquered the audio arena, leaving nothing to the runners up.
There are few products out there that are very innovative in terms of features and differentiate themselves from Creative's Sound Blaster Live! Aureal's own Vortex2 SQ2500 trumped the Live! in 3D audio imaging but left a bitter taste in our mouths when Aureal filed for bankruptcy. Users were hung out to dry with driver support and the fear of leaving Creative Labs grew. Nevertheless, many refused to take the Creative route and went for other solutions. One of our favorites, which received Editor's Choice, is the Hercules GameTheater XP. In terms of features, the GTXP edged out the Sound Blaster Live! Platinum for two thirds the price.
Still, years went by and Creative only had its Live! series to offer. Although it had a few products based on the Live!, they were all packaging the same card, with extra side features thrown in for variety. The sound card itself didn't change, and that meant all the features that were now close to three years old, showed signs of Creative's possible demise. Another nail in the coffin: Creative no longer sold its line of graphics products in North America and retreated to European markets.
Then, rumors started to spread that Creative had a secret weapon - codenamed Audigy - in the works, but no one knew exactly when it would be released or what it would offer. Time moved forward, and so did the competition. Philips joined the bandwagon and offered a slew of products based the VLSI/Philips Thunderbird DSP. The result? Gamers everywhere were thrilled by the Philips' Acoustic Edge and its ability to process music and audio in ways you've never heard of before.
Put simply, the Sound Blaster Live! just wasn't cutting it any longer.
You didn't think Creative Labs would let others take over the business it helped create did you? Today, we'll take a close look at Creative's long awaited Sound Blaster Audigy lineup.
The Audigy Lineup
This time around, Creative is launching the entire Audigy lineup at the same time. You should be able to find the lower-end Audigy MP3+ in the same time frame (one to two weeks) as the high-end Audigy Platinum eX. Regardless of which one you decide to go for, all flavors will ship with the same physical sound card, sporting the same Audigy DSP.