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(Review) Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 4 OEM

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(Review) Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 4 OEM
Published by deathvirus_me
12-02-2007
Talking (Review) Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 4 OEM

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 4 OEM



Well , I finally got my minor upgrade , and was able to sneak in a sound card too . Now , you all are already aware that the XFi series of sound cards are at the top right now , but even then , they’re still quite high priced . So I had to choose a sound card that was performing and in my budget . I had the Audigy 2 ZS in mind , but was not able to find it . Instead was offered the Audigy 4 OEM , slightly higher priced . I was in doubt whether this is another chip that uses software cycles to emulate EAX (like the Audigy Value or the SB Live 24 bit 7.1 cards) , but upon unveiling it I found it infact uses a similar chip than that used in the Audigy 4 Pro , the CA10300-IAT .


Well , that was the story , and man was I eager to plug this one in . But before I move onto that , here is bit about the card itself :

Packaging :

• The sound card
• Sound Blaster Audigy 4 Installation and Applications CD
• Digital Audio Cable
• Quick Start Entertainment Center Manual , Audigy 4 Manual
• IR Receiver , Remote Control
• A Sound Blaster demo CD (must hear)

Main Features :

• EAX Advanced HD 4.0 (24 bit) , 192 KHz, 106dB SNR
• 7.1 Channel Speaker system support
• Dolby Digital Ex Support
• CMSS Audio Technology
• Remote Controlled Audio System and Entertainment Center
• ASIO 2 support
• Advanced Res DVD Audio
• SPDIF I/O , Sound Fonts
• Full OpenAL Support

Entertainment Center Tools :


Haven’t tried the remote yet , but surely the functions seem good enough .

First Impressions :

Well , the box isn’t very impressive , but the bundle will make u jump in joy . I couldn’t expect a value or OEM card to have so many things bundled with it . Anyway , here are some additional details ; the card has 6 external ports and 2 internal ports , out of which 1 internal port is a Digital Input Audio Connector . The installations is very basic , and simple ofcourse . Just clear up the PCI slot u want to plug this in , and fit it on, boot up , insert the CD and follow the on-screen installation guide . The first CD install the drivers along with various utilities ,and Creative Media Source . The second CD includes some HD sound content , to actually portray the capabilites of the sound card . This , although is optional for basic operation of the sound card , is a must install if you want to see what actually your sound card is capable of .

The following applications are bundled along with the driver cd :

• Creative Audio Console
• Creative Speaker Settings
• Creative Surround Mixer
• Creative EAX Console
• Creative Graphic Equalizer
• Creative MediaSource DVD Audio Player
• Creative SmartRecorder
• Creative Speaker Calibrator
• SoundFont Bank Manager
• Creative WaveStudio
• Creative System Information
• Creative Entertainment Center




Detailed Information :

Now , the most basic thing that would come into your mind , is why invest in a “Sound Card” , when the current on-board solutions support HD audio ? Well , to be honest , the current onboard sound solutions are not enough for the current demands . For a general user it might be more than enough , but for building a performing PC , u would want to free up every bit of resource u want to squeeze out that last bit of performance u can . And for this , either you’ll have to go for a very high end motherboard , which actually has a fully dedicated sound processor , or get yourself an additional PCI or an external sound card .

So here I am , bragging about minor technicalities about an add-on sound card . But did u ever wonder , why so many variants of a sound card ? Similar to graphics card , the sound cards too have different classifications . For example , if your budget is very tight , and your still using an old motherboard (say the old Intel 845 based) , getting a cheap “Audigy Value” will ensure u a 7.1 channel support . But then , if u get a Audigy 2 ZS instead , what difference will it make ? Well , the difference is quite a lot . Infact particularly here , the technical details differ by miles . But lets not get into that , and to keep things simple , the better the sound card , the lower the CPU utilization without compromising quality i.e. By this I mean to say , that suppose u enable EAX on an onboard HD audio solution , it might take up 15% of the CPU cycles , while the same effect using a Audigy Value might require only 10% of the cycles . So simply , the better the card , the less the CPU cycles occupied , thus resulting in a much better CPU performance .

Anyway , lets skip to some benchmarks shall we . No this time I cannot use 3DMark or PCMark . Instead I’ll be using RightMark 3DSound v2.3 . It simply runs the sample’s u want to , and present the output as a graph depicting CPU utilization . The typical start screen is like as follows :


So I ran some sample , and noted the output graphs and here are the results :

1. 8-64 buffers , 44100 Hz









2. 8-64 buffers , 96000 Hz








I’ve gotta say , WOW . That’s really mean for a card under 5k’s , and an average of 0.5% CPU utilization even using a very high sound quality setting .

Conclusion :

This card offers a superb value to performance ratio . U can turn up all the sound effect u want to , and still don’t have to worry about any performance loss . Couple it up with a good 5.1 speaker system (ofcourse something better will do even better) , and you’re set to have a rocking sound experience . Even though the current scenario is ruled by the XFi series of cards , u can surely give this card a try . The advanced features bundled with the negligible performance hit , this card can surely be preferred over any other card , considering the price i.e. The only negative point that i can find to mention is that the card lacks a "game port" . But is it that important anyway ?

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References
http://www.creative.com/products/product.asp?category=1&subcategory=205&product=14103

  #1  
By TheGamer on 13-02-2007, 04:49 AM
Re: (Review) Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 4 OEM

pratim you could give some on-screen driver installation pics instead of so many rightmark pics .... include the pics highlighting the features like the CMSS 3D page,MediaSource,and the size of the Sample HD song ....
Nice ... good buy
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  #2  
By deathvirus_me on 13-02-2007, 06:56 AM
Talking Re: (Review) Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 4 OEM

Ok .. i'm going to update the post ... the reason for so many rightmark pics -> the card does damm good even at very high sound quality ..
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  #3  
By Strider on 13-02-2007, 08:08 AM
Re: (Review) Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 4 OEM

It seems a huge one.. Lots of capacitors

Best value for money though.. Good review dude
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  #4  
By Sam RuleZ on 13-02-2007, 01:08 PM
Re: (Review) Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 4 OEM

Nice review m8!!!!

Btw...correct me if I'm wrong...the difference between the quality because of a digital pre-amp is hardy 2%-5% , right?? So.....irrespective of the CPU utilization, at the same software settings is there any diff. in quality??

And yea, Creative RuleZ then it comes to value-for-money pre amps
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  #5  
By TheGamer on 13-02-2007, 03:38 PM
Re: (Review) Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 4 OEM

Quote:
Btw...correct me if I'm wrong...the difference between the quality because of a digital pre-amp is hardy 2%-5% , right?? So.....irrespective of the CPU utilization, at the same software settings is there any diff. in quality??

And yea, Creative RuleZ then it comes to value-for-money pre amps
Well , in case of mp3s , you won't notice any difference between on-board sound fidelity and a soundcard's fidelity , because mp3 is a compressed format . So pre-amp however powerful it maybe on the card ,sounds the same as on-board ones . But the real quality difference comes in when EAX kicks in . An altogether dedicated hardware chip with its own frame-buffer works wonders when generating EAX . The on-board lacks this hardware engine and hence EAX quality lacks .....(also a lot more cpu cycles get wasted to software-render the EAX effects)

And if you have some high fidelity uncompressed DVD-audio ... try listening to it with and without a soundcard ... you'll notice the difference Difference in Timbre , treble , bass management , true frequency isolation for surround effect etc etc .... It all differs with a good soundcard as this one . I'm so used to my audigy 2 that whenever i go to my friends place and hear on-board i feel the songs lacking in something .....
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  #6  
By deathvirus_me on 13-02-2007, 05:34 PM
Re: (Review) Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 4 OEM

Quote:
Btw...correct me if I'm wrong...the difference between the quality because of a digital pre-amp is hardy 2%-5% , right?? So.....irrespective of the CPU utilization, at the same software settings is there any diff. in quality??
Quote:
Well , in case of mp3s , you won't notice any difference between on-board sound fidelity and a soundcard's fidelity , because mp3 is a compressed format . So pre-amp however powerful it maybe on the card ,sounds the same as on-board ones . But the real quality difference comes in when EAX kicks in . An altogether dedicated hardware chip with its own frame-buffer works wonders when generating EAX . The on-board lacks this hardware engine and hence EAX quality lacks .....(also a lot more cpu cycles get wasted to software-render the EAX effects)
Well , a sound card will always "sound" better than the onboard .. the bass will be much deeper , the treble much sharper .. even with compressed MP3's .. but even more compressed "rm" (etc. etc.) files will hardly make a difference ..

Quote:
And if you have some high fidelity uncompressed DVD-audio ... try listening to it with and without a soundcard ... you'll notice the difference Difference in Timbre , treble , bass management , true frequency isolation for surround effect etc etc .... It all differs with a good soundcard as this one . I'm so used to my audigy 2 that whenever i go to my friends place and hear on-board i feel the songs lacking in something .....
Yeah ... its more like watching low quality compressed AVI to HD quality WMV's ... the later will run much better on a card that can actually decode it ... pretty much the same .. the basic objective of the "sound card" is to give more depth without compromising performance
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  #7  
By Sam RuleZ on 14-02-2007, 07:52 AM
Re: (Review) Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 4 OEM

k, thanx for the explanation guys....Btw..I was comparing it with ur Old SB live! 5.1

Anyways congrats on the card!!
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  #8  
By pixelpainter on 14-02-2007, 04:40 PM
Re: (Review) Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 4 OEM

Awesome review, really informative... I have an onboard card, and this is valuable info for me... I guess I need to break down and upgrade a bit
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  #9  
By TheGamer on 14-02-2007, 07:08 PM
Re: (Review) Creative SoundBlaster Audigy 4 OEM

Quote:
Awesome review, really informative... I have an onboard card, and this is valuable info for me... I guess I need to break down and upgrade a bit
well soundcards are really cheap(specially for you guys in usa) .. your friends and shopkeepers there will probably tell you to get Creative X-Fi .. Don't ... Instead get an Auzentech X-Meridian (sadly its still not available in India) .. you'll forget creative .. the best soundcard money can buy right now .. and its cheaper than X-Fi platinum... For more Info on Meridian go to the sounds section in guru3d forums or visit driverheaven.net

And if you are a tweaker from heart and would love to tweak out all those frequencies individually at hardware level then pick an audigy2zs real cheap and install kX drivers ...
Visit kX : Official kX Project Site -- News
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