More Than A SoundBlaster

Creative Labs - Sound Blaster Live! Platinum 5.1, Continued

Including a large software bundle isn't without its problems. During the first testing process, we found a few situations where the PlayCenter application, as well as the Launcher, randomly crashed for no apparent reason. Although they seemed to operate fine after a reboot, it was disconcerting that they crashed. Installing all of these applications will also take a toll on your system resources, and it was for this reason that we installed a driver-only configuration to run our benchmark tests.

Another issue to be aware of is that the SBLP does require the use of two IRQs in the configuration. You may or may not have to reserve an IRQ in the BIOS for use by the SBLP. This, of course, will depend on your motherboard and configuration. As we discussed earlier in this article, the SBLP uses one IRQ for the PCI card itself and one for the Sound Blaster DOS mode emulation. It is possible to disable the DOS mode emulation, but this can create more than a few problems, so I don't suggest it.

One of the best features of the SBLP is native EAX support. Like many other users, when comparing the EAX technology to the A3D technology, I still prefer the richer and more full A3D technology. I feel, in most cases, that EAX lacks the 3D sound positional depth that A3D provides. Because the SBLP does have native EAX support, you will notice that it does very well on the UTBENCH 3D audio test, which is to be expected. I look for the new EAX HD standard to be included with the Audigy to improve upon the original EAX technology and should provide better sound and performance. Overall, I would rate the EAX technology to be good, but not as good as A3D.

When playing DVDs, the SBLP really indicated why so many people choose this card. Using the included DVD application and the IR remote, I was able to pause and play the DVD without using the mouse or the keyboard. This is a very nice feature. The DVD pass through worked well and I found no issues when plugged into my home receiver in both the Dolby Digital and DTS sound modes. When using speakers connected to the PC, it is possible to reconfigure the digital jack on the bracket of the card to output the center channel as well as the subwoofer if you are not using a digital connection.

When playing games with the SBLP, I found no compatibility issues and found the sound to be very smooth. Overall, it sounded very good. When playing MP3 files, or any audio for that matter, it had a very powerful low end. This is always a favorable sign for me, as I like any sound card that is really able to put the "boom" into the low end.

Overall, I think the SBLP card is an excellent choice and lives up to Creative's reputation. It includes a great software bundle and supports almost everything you could want in a sound card. Many of the issues about this card focus on the price of the card itself. It was the most expensive card in this review, but with the release of the Audigy you can expect the price of the card to drop. With the massive included software bundle it will continue to be a good card to purchase with a new machine, as you get so many applications for the new or first time user. However, some users may prefer to look at other options, as cost might continue to be a factor.