Copyright Michael Karbo, Denmark, Europe.

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    Chapter 12. Creative Sound Blaster

    The best sound function is achieved with a proper sound card, which is installed in one the computer’s PCI sockets. If I should mention a specific product, then there is especially one that occurs to me: Sound­­­ Blaster from Creative Labs. Let me start by telling you a little about the history of Creative.

    The Sound Blaster Story

    Since sometime in the 1980s, the company Creative has nearly been synonymous with sound in computers.

    Creative has during the years supplied one top class sound card after the other. It all started back in the 1980s, when there wasn’t very much sound in computers. Home computers from the companies Macintosh and Atari had excellent sound facilities for the use of musicians.

    In a normal IBM compatible computer, there was a little miserable loudspeaker, which could say bleep and not much else. But Creative changed all this. In 1987-88, the company presented its first and, at that time, very advanced sound card with A/D and D/A converters and an FM synthesizer. The cards were, however, much too expensive and had hard competition from Yamaha’s cheap OPL2 chip.

    This made Creative concentrate on finding cheap computer solutions, and in 1991 they collaborated with the company Microsoft, which approved the Sound Blaster card for used in DOS based computers.

    Then everything happened fast for Creative. More and more games came onto the market, all built on the Sound Blaster 16 standard. In 1993, Creative bought the company E-mu, which was famous for its high-end sound products. Which led to the development of much more advanced sound cards with real wave table sounds stored in the card itself (Sound Blaster AWE32 and AWE64 Gold).

    High Power sound

    In 1998 Creative introduced Sound Blaster Live! with the very advanced EMU10K1 chip, which nearly revolutionised computer sound. What was new was, that Creative put enormous computer power on the card itself.

    EMU10K1 Digital Audio Processor supplied just as much raw power as the Pentium processor of that time. This meant, that you could suddenly increase sound systems with functions, which were much larger and more calculation dependent.

    Figure 63. Sound processor from a Sound Blaster in Audigy2 cards.

    The sound processor offered a number of innovations:

  • The computer’s main processor (CPU’en) was relieved from working with sound. It wasn’t unusual for the computer to use 30% of its power for working with sound.

  • Use of SoundFonts (sampled sound, which is stored on the hard disk).

  • Digital ports.

  • Sound effects handled in a separate processor.

  • Targeted towards the Windows platform with DirectX/3d support.

  • Options for digital sound recording and mix (hard disk recording) with ASIO support.

  • Easy access for programming, Also with EAX (surround sound, Environmental Audio eXtension).

    All these functions together meant that Creative controlled the market again and defined the standards, which other manufacturers had to conform to. Later sound cards from Crea­tive have so to speak been built on the Live! cards’ success. Sound processors have become more powerful and the cards have many more options:

  • Onboard decoding of Dolby Digital and DTS with 5.1 and 6.1-lyd.

  • More powerful converters (96/24 and 192/24).

  • New SoundFont and ASIO 2.0.

  • EAX Advanced HD.

  • Support for DVD-Audio (in Audigy2 cards).

    So, we can see, Creative carries on the trend. The company is very much leading the market, and for each new version of the sound cards, new facilities are added and the quality continues to be improved. If you want an effective sound card, then it is difficult to ignore Sound Blaster!

    Figure 64. There are oceans of standards with which the best sound cards can work with.

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