I'm a bit weak in the sound cards area, so I have a question for you folks.
I'm planning to get an SB Live! card, and have to choose between Live! 1024 (latest plain Live! model) and Live! Gamer 5.1. I don't give a flying saucer about the S/W bundle (I already have all I need), so that's not a reason for me.
I would like however to play some DVDs on the rig. I currently have a pair of good powerful speakers, and I'm planning on getting a pair more (for the rear channel).
Question is : is there anything I will miss by getting the standard Live! version (as opposed to 5.1) while playing DVDs, given my speakers setup?
Also, are there any limitations on what speakers I should get for the rear channel given that I already have the front pair? Do they have to be of the same power rating? If they don't, will I be able to adjust rear channel volume independently to avoid sound distortion? What about games? Will I be able to compensate for speakers power rating by setting different volumes on front/rear channels?
Again, don't shop my head off if the questions sounded naive : I'm really not strong in this area...
1) All the SB Live cards with 5.1 in the name use identical hardware. The cheapest is the $66 5.1 OEM (search at pricewatch).
2) The non 5.1 models are missing the spdif connector for 5.1 speakers and stero recievers.
3) The value models lack the header for the optional live drive which fits in a 5 1/4 bay allowing easy access to connectors and an optical port.
4) You won't be missing anything. Unless your front speakers are really far appart you are not going to notice the difference between 4.1 and 5.1. Personally I went with the 5.1 OEM just incase I want to hook my computer to a home theater system sometime in the future.
If you have a high-quality 3 peice system and you add a high- quality 2 peice system it will sound wonderfull. My friend with the Live 5.1 Platinum (the remote is not worth the price) uses a cheap 2 peice system for the rear speakers. The cheap speakers sound "thin and airy" but the overall sound is still better that just the 3-peice. (This is just a quick fix for him until his Kilpch 5.1 speaker arrive). I just purchased a 2-piece Altec Lansing ACS95 and work quite well with my existing 3-piece system. They are only 5watt each put that is more than enought for DVD and gamming.
6) When you set up your system you will need to balance the volume controls between the front and rear speakers. You can do this in software as well as using the speakers volume control knobs. This is especially important for 3 Games. Simply use the 3D sound Demo to place a sound source directly to your left or right and ajust the volumes until it sounds as if it is directly beside you.
7) Conclusion: 5.1 is nice but not nessary, 5.1 OEM is cheap, you are not going to have any problem using two sets of speakers as long as both are high quality, ACS95 make good rear speakers and if you are shopping for computer gear online visit www.pricewatch.com
First of all, thanks for the comprehensive response, Strife.
But I got some more questions, if you don't mind... :-)
1. What versions of Live! (and I mean both retail and OEM) DON'T feature the digital I/O add-on board? (the one you stick in place of PCI/ISA card, not the LiveDrive thing)
3. You mentioned 4.1 vs 5.1 channels. 5.1, I understand. But 4.1 ? How the hell do I connect the ".1" thing? I'm currently staring at the ins/outs page in a downloaded SBLive! manual : I see "Line Out (powered front spks or amp)", I see "Rear Out (powered front spks or amp)". That's all. Or is it that the ".1" comes from the 3 piece systems you mentioned? If I understand correctly, the such system will try to "create" a subwoofer (?) channel from the available L/R channels. Hit or miss? :-) But this way, the "re-created" ".1" channel wouldn't really be a true subwoofer channel... Care to provide any further explanations?
4. My current 2 piece speakers are actually 2-way each (woofer/tweeter). Can you provide any input regarding such a statement? :-) (I mean is it good or bad, furhter comments, etc.)
5. What ARE the actual diffs between OEM and retail models?
to my knowledge, none of them do as the addon I/O board is no longer avalaible with the boards, only the LiveDrive!. (which will come with the Platinum) you can Purchase these Boards at Creative or find another add-on board like Hoontech's SB DB-III.