External Sound: Creative Labs Extigy

The 24 Extra Bits

Before going any further, however, we'd like to make a couple of small things clear. In fact, ever since Creative Labs first rolled out the Audigy, they have been making claims about their communications card, which is questionable, to say the least. First of all, they claim that it is capable of 24 bit sound sampling at 96 kHz. The 24 bit logo appears all over the place - on the box, on the installation CD, even on the product itself. Yet it has been confirmed, even by Creative Labs' own technicians, that neither the Audigy nor the Extigy are capable of recording or playing 24 bit sound at 96 kHz. There is actually entry-level support that the card automatically downmixes to 16 bits / 48 kHz to process the sound. So why is the 24 bit logo featured on packaging for products such as the Extigy or the Audigy cards? Then there is the fact that this same logo indicates a signal-to-noise ratio of 100 dB, where our tests have shown that neither the Audigy nor the Extigy are capable of levels above 90 dB - and even this is less than optimal, for both analog and digital.

In the computer world, it is currently accepted that the theoretical performances claimed are often better than the true figures, but this does not apply to the audio world. This means that a professional who buys a card that claims to have a 100dB SNR is entitled to expect a result that is within 1 or 2 dB more or less than that. Once again, this is not the case for either the Audigy or the Extigy. Finally, the Extigy also has an EAX Advanced HD logo. This is very strange because this product only supports EAX version 2.0, but no higher. Creative Labs explains this with the fact that the Extigy is delivered with Audio Clean Up, Time Scaling and Dream modules that are capable of handling music but not games. So it refers to a version of an EAX Advanced HD working at reduced capacity! Furthermore, these are software modules that are unable to take advantage of the Extigy hardware.

In conclusion, of the four logos on the box, only the Dolby Digital logo has been proven to be totally justified and relevant. It is a pity that Creative Labs seems to feel the need to "exaggerate" the characteristics of its products in this way. Certainly, both the Extigy and the Audigy are innovative sound cards that are technologically advanced when compared with the competition. Their real performance is perfectly sufficient to make them attractive and competitive. They have no need to make dishonest marketing claims that embellish their advantages.