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Interview With Franco De Bonis, Continued

A Prima Donna on PC: Creative Labs Audigy 2
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Q: Audigy 2 offers full support of 24/ 96 for playback and recording,

excellent overall sound quality, DVD Audio support and Dolby Digital EX decoding; what's next?

I think a built-in microwave and coffee machine would be awesome ;-) Seriously, I can't answer this question, but rest assured that Creative is committed to showing the world that Sound Blaster can deliver features that make a real difference to the audio playback of a PC in terms of quality as well as enhancement, and to enable users to do new and amazing things with audio.

Only last week I visited our group of top engineers in Scotts Valley. We call this group the "ATC," which stands for "Advanced Technology Center." I work for Creative and you could say that I should be used to it all, yet I was amazed at the technologies that I witnessed. Some of the stuff will not be ready for at least 12 to 18 months. This just proves that there is far more to audio than CD or MP3 playback!

Q: The THX certification of the Audigy 2 seems rather unclear to most

of the users when it come to soundcards, can you tell us a bit more about it?

OK, I can see how some people may not understand the relationship between THX and the PC. Therefore, for a full explanation, allow me to start from the very beginning.

THX started their Quality Certification campaign in Cinemas. However, they didn't just certify the audio systems in the cinemas. To THX, quality audio starts at the recording stage. Therefore, they incorporated programs that would certify the recording devices used during filmmaking and the studios used to process the audio tracks. This is why you will often see movies that carry the THX logo. It basically means that if you watch a "THX" audio certified movie in a THX certified cinema, you are guaranteed a quality audio experience.

In the late 80s, a new phenomenon happened that started to greatly reduce cinema customer attendance. VHS swept across the world, and more and more people started watching movies at home. In response to this, THX wanted to port their quality audio experience into the home, so they started the same certification program for home-audio amplifiers, etc.

In the late 90s, THX started to expand the program to the PC, in recognition of the massive growth of PC-based recording products and the expected huge installed base of DVD-Video playback. Creative's Sound Blaster Audigy 2 is the first stand-alone sound card to achieve THX certification. The testing methodology is extremely stringent and very well protected to ensure that no audio device supplier can "claim" THX without having been tested and officially certified by them.

In essence, what this delivers to our users is an assurance of quality from the recording itself to the playback, whichever platform that may be. The folks at THX have put their stamp of approval on Sound Blaster Audigy 2, which makes the user's decision to buy our product that much easier.

Conclusion

With the Audigy 2, Creative has shown how skilled it is in multimedia sound cards, and has gone even further into product versatility. The Audigy 2 is a total success both for its features and its sound restoration capacity. We cannot say it enough: its converters and analog outputs are a model of their kind for most non-professional usage. And promoting DVD Audio is another good point, though it means others in the PC and hi-fi industry should work at making this support as affordable as CD Audio. Dolby Digital EX and the capacity to restore sound in 6.1 is also very welcome, though we would have liked DTS decoding, if only in 5.1. Most Home Cinema buffs will agree that more quality is better than more channels, though they are not mutually exclusive. Apart from this detail, the Audigy 2 is without any doubt a must-have multimedia sound card.

But this quality and all this innovation come at a price, literally, which is what you will pay for the card. Not everyone can afford to shell out $199 just because they feel like it. For someone who only plays games, the Audigy 2 is the very best sound card. But they will only be using a small portion of its capacities: the EAX Advanced HD, CPU performance and surround sound quality. All the other functions, however attractive, make it work out to be very expensive. So, our gamers would be better off with the Audigy 1, which has all the advantages of the Audigy 2 in games, with a slightly lower sound quality. On the other hand, if you use your PC for playing music or watching DVDs (as gamers may do), then you have no reason to hesitate, provided you use speakers worthy of the Audigy 2. And you will be satisfied with the Audigy 2 Platinum and its IR remote control and digital inputs/ outputs. Amateur musicians will also love its converters, the full 24 bit/ 96 kHz support and the ASIO drivers.

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