Live! Experiences Review
The Live! And Live! Value
About a year ago, I made my first foray into PCI sound cards. I waited for the right time, despite the fact that Diamond Monster Sound, Turtle Beach, and Ensoniq PCI cards were claiming increased sound quality and better Plug-and-Play.
Much like internal ISA modems, I was rather skeptical about the inevitable transition to PCI slots and its impact on compatibility and reliability within my system. Then Diamond Multimedia released their updated Monster Sound 80 card, and I had an itch I couldn't scratch. However, it seemed I waited long enough, and the card I purchased was more than ready for prime time.
My first PCI sound card was Creative Labs' SoundBlaster Live! Value. I picked it up at my local Electronic Boutique after having read countless fold-out ads in PC Gamer and Boot (now MaximumPC) magazines. I remember being quite excited by its 4-speaker 'surround' sound support and 1000 Mips EMU10K1 DSP-based processor.
Sound Blaster Live! Value
I had already been using a DSP-based external analog modem, and I liked the fact that a firmware upgrade could completely transform it without the need to replace chips. With this Live! Value and its Digital Signal Processor (DSP) chip, new drivers could also add new features and functionality. Sure enough, I held onto this card for over a year, and through the use of Creative's Live!Ware software updates, the card just kept getting better and better.
However, as my Hi-Fi knowledge and requirements grew, I regretted my initial decision for not having purchased the much more expensive and full-fledged Live! card. Not only does this card have gold-plated back-plane connectors and the internal I2S input, it also includes a second card called the 'Digital I/O Card'. This card is like an internal 'break-out box' that fits into a slot but does not consume the slot itself - it's attached to the Live! card with a ribbon cable off the rear-edge 'Audio_Ext' connector.
At the time, it was the only Surround Audio card with this special feature connector and 'break-out card' with a myriad of digital and MIDI connectors, as compared to the trimmed down Live! Value. I later purchased a high-end Dolby Digital receiver for my home-theatre system - I really longed for some kind of Digital Optical S/PDIF connector. There's nothing cooler than using Fiber Optic cabling on a system.
CT4830 - Hunh?
Not too long ago, I dropped a wad of green on my Server PC and proceeded to upgrade it, with the intent of running some advanced game servers such as Unreal Tournament on top of my existing NT services. One of my peeves in any upgrade or clone-jobbie is to make sure that all ISA cards are converted to PCI.
As such, my trusted SoundBlaster AWE32 just had to go. Instead of hitting-up my local EB store, I dropped-by a small clone-retailer with hopes that I could buy some OEM parts. Alas, I made the stupid mistake of buying parts without first inspecting them.
My Live! Value OEM card had no drivers or audio patch cables. Not only that, It looked somewhat different than my Live! Value - a fifth back plane connector, and more surface-mounted chips. However, one thing of note was the pastel-colored plastic jacks - ugh!
I quickly jumped on the Internet, hoping to find some kind of info on this odd card. Several hours of digging, and some midnight oil burning left me with an undesirable taste in my mouth. My clone shack sold me a non-North American market Live! OEM card. However, closer inspection revealed mysteries that required further investigation.
Next: The CT4830 (OEM)