Sound Solutions

Published Date
01 - May - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - May - 2005
Sound Solutions
If any of you ever happen to be at Jasubhai Digital Media, more often than not, you would be greeted with a warm smile unless you bump into some of the drones working at the Test Centre. Strike a conversation with any of them and within no time, jargon would be thrown at you; sure to make you feel 'inferior' and left out. Thanks to my understanding of technicalities and jargon, I am often spared, but not always!

Luckily for me, fate does present me with one of those rare moments, wherein I can land some punches to make my point clear, 'I am the Agent 001'. This month, fate offered me with such an opportunity.

Our guys in the Test Centre were conducting a speaker comparison and wanted to buy the best sound card available. Did someone say the best available? Well that's my hunting ground, isn't it? So it was decided that I would look out for the best available sound cards to drive those 7.1 speakers, which the guys could be testing very soon.
If I remember correctly, in the days of Pentium-II, sound cards were a rage, more so the SoundBlaster range from Creative. Though there were a few others, such as Yamaha and Aureal, it was Creative that sold like hot cakes.

The Audigy 2 ZS conforms to nearly every standard and will make a difference when watching movies, playing games or just listening to music

Interestingly, things have since moved fast and there is barely a sound card market  to speak of, thanks to the integrated revolution brought about by Intel's AC'97 standard that integrates a rudimentary sound solution in all motherboards.

Integrated solutions themselves have evolved from the stereo on-board solutions offered in the early stages to high-definition audio on the new 915 and 925 chipset based motherboards-good for casual everyday use. As for audiophiles, these integrated solutions hardly deliver. So let's tumble down the rabbit hole and see where it all leads to.

My first destination was a small shop on good old Lamington Road. Imagine my shock when my very first inquiry turned out to be a dud.  I was told that they don't stock sound cards any more but the 'next big shop' might just have one.

So I moved on and found out that only Creative cards are available and are certainly worth the money. Here's a word of advice: Creative has stopped making the 'Vibra' range and if you do come across one, don't buy it; it is bound to be old stock.

I asked for a 'Live' series card and was presented with a 7.1 card. As far as I could remember, the 'Live' series was a 5.1 card. Soon enough, I received some more gyan and  realised that the new 'Live' cards are 7.1 capable while 5.1 cards have been discontinued.

The new Live 7.1 card costs Rs 2k; not bad for a 7.1 card. Point to be noted: the newer card does not have a separate 'Digital Out' connection. The Mic/Line-In connector serves as Digital Out and you need a Digital I/O module to use it. This 7.1 card supports EAX and EAX Advance standard, so it's good for gaming too! Thanks to the lack of support for standards such as THX and Dolby, the Live 7.1 card was not suitable for the Digit Test Centre.   

My sources inform me that there is a duplicate 'Live' card on sale too. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't get the shopkeepers to tell me how one can distinguish between the two. For now, as a thumb rule, if you happen to come across a 'Live' card for around Rs 1.4k, be warned that it's not the real one.

The next on my list was an Audigy series card and I was promptly offered an Audigy 2 Value card. This card does support Dolby Digital EX, EAX and 24-bit DVD audio.           The Audigy Value card is available for approximately Rs 5.5k.

I had to ask for a better card and I was presented with the Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro-just the onse I was looking for. This card supports THX, Dolby Digital, DTS ES 6.1, 24-bit DVD audio and EAX Advanced HD effects.

Moreover, the Audigy 2 ZS also conforms to nearly every standard and will make a difference when watching a movie, playing games or just listening to music. This card also supports ASIO 2.0, a standard for interfacing software on a PC to any audio hardware. The external I/O module comes in handy when connecting various instruments to your PC. Considering the needs of our Test Centre, I bought   the Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro at a whopping Rs 14k.

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