Creative – SoundBlaster Audigy 2 Platinum review

top-spec sound card for music-making and playback
Photo of Creative – SoundBlaster Audigy 2 Platinum
£160

Creative has refreshed its all-conquering Audigy soundcard and given the series the witty and humorous name of Audigy 2. At present you can buy a basic Audigy 2 or this Platinum version, and very soon there will be an EX model too, but at the heart of all three products there is the Audigy 2 PCI card with six mini-jacks, a FireWire port and a gameport on a separate bracket.

Although the Audigy 2 chip is an update of the original Audigy, it adds some important features. The most obvious is the support for 6.1 audio, or Dolby Digital EX. In addition to the sub-woofer, a satellite at each corner of the room and a central front speaker for movie dialogue, 6.1 audio adds a centre rear satellite too. At present 6.1 speakers sets are few and far between, however Creative has launched the Inspire 6700 6.1 speakers to cover that problem.

Audigy 2 also adds support for the new DVD-Audio format, but realistically we’ll have to see if the format grips the buying public or not before deciding whether that’s a particularly useful feature. The big news for PC users is that Audigy 2 supports recording and playback at 24-bit/96KHz in 5.1, and playback at 24-bit/192KHz in Stereo.

That’s a considerable improvement over the original Audigy, and the Signal-to-Noise ratio of 106dB is also good news for those of you who use your PC for music creation.

The Platinum unit supplied with the reviewed version of the card sits in an external 5.25-inch drive bay to give easy access to a long list of ports. You get coaxial SPDIF in and out, optical SPDIF in and out, RCA left and right in, large mic and headphone jacks with rotary volume controls, a second FireWire port and a small midi and midi out port. Creative supplies midi adapters so the larger DIN type connector will fit those ports.

There’s a stack of software too, with a system requirement for 4GB of hard drive space if you want to install the lot, including… (deep breath) Creative Media Source, Audio Stream Recorder 2, Creative Diagnostic, Mini Disc Centre, Creative Wave Studio, Speaker Calibrator, SoundFont Bank Manager, Surround Sound Mixer, Speaker Settings, Steinberg Cubasis VST, Native Instrument Traktor DJ, Ulead 5.0, Soldier Of Fortune II: Double Helix and Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. Phew.

Company: Creative

Contact: 01189 344322


Verdict
The original Audigy wasn't quite as technically advanced as the DMX 6fire from Terratec, but Audigy 2 addresses the shortcomings and adds Dolby Digital EX support too. This is a stunning product with a relatively high price tag, but despite that it is quite excellent value if you want outstanding sound creation and playback.