External Sound: Creative Labs Extigy

In Use, Continued

The Extigy is at its best when decoding 5.1, thanks to its Zoran chip. Whether on a PC or accompanying a full-sized DVD player, it performs miracles and offers excellent positioning quality. When attached to loudspeakers such as MegaWorks 510D, the result is a feeling of total immersion in movies. Tests performed on the movies Saving Private Ryan and Matrix were very conclusive and show that the Extigy is not only a high-quality external sound card, but also an effective external decoder, which takes up little room. It can thus be used easily with a games console, a DVD player, or a PC. It should be noted, however, that unlike the Audigy cards, the Extigy only decodes Dolby Digital, and not DTS. This is mainly due to the fact that DTS works with variable flow that can exceed that of the USB port. Despite everything, the quality of the Extigy's Dolby Digital decoding remains much better than that of any other card that performs this operation through the software, such as the Audigy.


At first glance, the Extigy does not appear to be of particular interest because it is marketed as primarily a PC product, so this type of usage is rather unspecific. It is unlikely that novice users who don't want to open up their PC and install a new card would choose such a complete, top-of-the range product. It is more likely to be used with a laptop, because you cannot add a PCI card to one of these. But portability is not the Extigy's greatest asset, especially as it requires power. Yet for a price of $149.99, you get an external decoder with the same functions and features as an Audigy Platinum, though without the SB1394, of course.

Anyone who wants to keep their PCI sound card for games, yet still have high quality 5.1 decoding and the possibility of extremely accurate recording, should consider buying the Extigy. But for games players who are serious about performance, it would be better to hang on to an internal sound card. The Extigy gobbles up too much of the processor's resources for usage of this type.

To summarize, the Extigy could also prove to be a very advantageous solution in terms of value for money if you are looking for an external AC3 decoder to use with a DVD player or games console. The price of $149.99 is unbeatable in the home cinema market, where premium decoders cost more, and are often of lesser quality.