A Prima Donna on PC: Creative Labs Audigy 2

THX, ASIO And SB 1394

The Audigy 2 is the first multimedia sound card to be awarded THX certification. This must be a good thing, except that nobody at THX or Creative Labs could (or would?) tell us what that means for a sound card. When asked "What are the technical improvements made to the Audigy 2 to obtain THX certification?'' Creative Labs answered:

"THX certification is kept purposely very secretive so that product manufacturers cannot 'claim' THX compatibility unless it has actually been tested. It is highly unlikely that we would release data on what we had to change to get it as this simply tells our competitors the areas that they need to focus on."

To find out more about THX and Audigy 2, see the interview with Franco de Bonis.

ASIO 16/ 48 Drivers

Though the Audigy 2 has 24 bit/ 96 kHz compatibility, the ASIO drivers on the CD are ASIO 1.0 and not ASIO 2.0. They are limited to 16 bits/ 48 kHz for recording, so there is no difference with the Audigy 1. And the effects engine is in 48 kHz only. So you can do 24 bit/ 96 kHz recording but not stay in this resolution to apply effects because if you do, the flow will be resampled in 16 bits/ 48 kHz. You can resample it in 24 bits/ 96 kHz later, but you'll have all the quality defects that resampling implies. With regard to latency times, we noticed no special improvement compared to the Audigy 1, which was, in any case, quite up to the mark in this respect. So you can work with latency ranging from 10 to 15 ms on an Athlon XP1800+. We should just add that with ASIO multimedia drivers, you can do 24 bit/ 96 kHz recording, but you will lose the advantage of the very short latency time.

Musicians who would have liked to use the Audigy 2 and ASIO 2.0 drivers will not be completely disappointed, because in early 2003 Creative Labs plans to release an Audigy 2 Platinum eX with a completely redesigned external input/ output rack and a card with 24 bit/ 96 kHz compatibility in all these areas.

The SB1394 Is Still There

Like the fist Audigy, the SB1394 port on the card and on the facing for the Platinum are used to plug and play peripheral devices requiring fast data transfer up to 400 Mbps. Peripherals with this standard are coming in thick and fast. There are DVD camcorders and external burners, and much more. Another advantage is that you can network up to 63 PCs. In practice, this function is more likely to be used for games networks on two, three or four workstations.

We tested the Audigy 2 SB1394 port with an external hard disk and a CD-RW burner, with no trouble at all. The peak transfer rate we found was 7 MB/s, which is adequate but a bit below dedicated IEEE1394 controllers.