The bane of every laptop user’s life is the invariably tinny sound that comes through the built-in speakers, or the flat stereo sound via the headphone jack. Even though a considerable leap forward was taken when manufacturers were finally able to install decent 3D graphics adapters into laptops, the sound quality has always lagged behind.
But now Creative’s Audigy 2 sound card has moved out of the PC tower and on to the desk, with this USB version for laptops. Compact in size (about the width of two cigarette packets) it nevertheless packs a mighty punch when linked to a surround sound system.
Designed as the successor to the much lauded Extigy, it’s not just the size that has improved. For a start, the Extigy only supported USB 1.1 connections while the Audigy 2 NX has graduated to USB 2.0. The Extigy only decoded Dolby Digital 5.1 signals and the Audigy 2 NX has extended that to include 7.1 systems, although neither can handle the new DTS format.
The only major points that the Extigy has in its favour are a MIDI in and out port and the ability to decode games console sound, but the Audigy does have a large array of useful inputs and outputs.
There are four mini-jack audio outputs (three for speakers and one for the headphone). In addition there are line-in and microphone jacks, plus separate ports for optical input and output as well as a digital S/PDIF connector to link up to your home audio.
On the top of the box are three buttons for power, mute and CMSS 3D (Creative Multiple Speaker Surround) and the pack comes with a power lead and a USB 2.0 lead.
The Creative Media Source software that comes as standard with all Audigy sound cards is included here, together with a graphic equaliser, an EAX console, a Surround mixer and WaveStudio. Your basic 16-bit laptop audio is not only upgraded to 24-bit but you have the full surround sound experience, either through your speakers or via headphones.
It doesn’t end there. If you’re a serious PC gamer, the Audigy 2 NX supports 24-bit EAX advanced HD effects, DS3D and A3D which will make those first-person shooters really rock. DVDs will also sound great as the Media Source software has built-in Dolby Digital EX decoding, although you will have to provide your own DVD playback software.
Finally, musicians can receive the full benefits of their MP3 collection and can record up to the highest possible resolution of 24-bit / 96kHz in stereo using the Analogue-to-Digital Converter.
An added luxury is the remote control, which allows you to record and play back to your heart’s content from the luxury of your armchair.
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