Sound Blaster Pro

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Sound Blaster
ManufacturerCreative Technology
Introduced1990; 32 years ago[1]
TypeConsumer sound cards

The original Sound Blaster v1.0 and v1.5 (CT1310, CT1320A/B) were released in 1989 as the successor to their Game Blaster. First announced in September 1988, the Sound Blaster had an 11-voice FM synthesizer which made use of the Yamaha YM3812 chip, often referred to simply as the OPL2 chip - this was the same chip used in the Ad Lib card, so it was 100% Ad Lib compatible. This meant that all games which supported Ad Lib would produce similar audio output quality on the Sound Blaster. Sound Blaster 1.0. But what made it different was the "DSP", or Digital Sound Processor, which is what Creative Labs called the "digital audio" part of the card.

Sound Blaster Pro

Sound Blaster / Sound Blaster Pro

This brand new feature brought the ability to play back mono sampled sound at up to 22 kHz sampling frequency (about the same as FM radio quality, so quite poor by today's standards), and record at 12 kHz (which was similar to AM radio quality - even worse).

In reality, this transformed DOS games, as this sampled sound was used to introduce sound effects into games while simultaneously playing music via the OPL2 (FM synthesis) chip. For backward compatibility with the earlier C/MS a.k.a. Game Blaster card, the C/MS chips [as they became known] were installed in sockets on the board.

Another key selling feature of the Sound Blaster was its inclusion of a game port. Back in these days, PC owners would need to spend around $50 to buy a game port adapter or a multi-I/O card that had a game port if they wanted to use a joystick with their PC. By adding this feature to the sound card, it freed up an expansion slot and at the very competivie price tag the Sound Blaster was being sold for, it was an easy decision for prospective sound card buyers.

The CT1320B (Sound Blaster 1.5) was a cost-cutting measure. Having recognised that C/MS was unpopular, they replaced the two C/MS (Creative Music System/Game Blaster) chips with sockets - you could still purchase the C/MS chips for $29.95 if you wished and install them into these sockets.

Sound Blaster 2.0 (CT1350)

In 1990, the CT1320C and CT1320U were launched which were also a Sound Blaster 1.5. These models dropped the C/MS chips completely, otherwise the card was similar to the Sound Blaster 1.0. In October 1991, Sound Blaster v2.0 (CT1350) was launched which added support for "auto-init" (automatic initialising) DMA which allowed the card to produce a continuous loop of double-buffered sound output. The sampling rate capabilities were also increased to 44 kHz (CD quality) for playback, and 22 kHz for recording.

This new CT1350 used fewer, more tightly integrated components, as hence was a physically shorter card than its predecessors.

Sound Blaster 1.0/1.5 (CT1310 and CT1320)

CT5330

The changes from v1.5 to v2.0 were all in the DSP chip - this meant that existing owners of prior models could upgrade to a v2.0 card by purchasing the v2.0 DSP chip from Creative.

Most Creative Labs boards have their board revision number etched in the bottom-left of the component side of the board. One member on Vogons reported that Creative Labs' board revisions appear to be pretty logical in their structure. The first two digits represents the major and minor revision of the board, and the last three digits refer to the year (in the 1990s) and week number it was signed off. For example, the first Sound Blaster Pro 2 (CT2600) board revision is 49219. The second revision is 69237. This means the first was rev 4.9 which was signed off in week 19 of 1992. The second was rev 6.9 which was signed off in week 37 of 1992. 8-bit mono 22 kHz playback, 13 kHz recording. CMS chips soldered on board gave backward-compatibility to their Game Blaster. Yamaha OPL2 FM synthesizer chip. Plug & Play: No It was the first sound card on the market to have digital sample playback capability. The CT1310 is not known to actually exist as a model beyond Creative's literature.

Its predecessor was the CT1300 which was the CMS/Game Blaster. The CT1320 is sometimes called "Sound Blaster 1.5". CMS chips were now socketed in order to be more economical for Creative Labs. CMS chips optional. Sound Blaster 1.5 came with DSP version 2.00.

Mixer Chip: CT1335 DSP Chip: CT1351 Bus Interface Chip: CT1336A Known DSP Versions: 2.01, 2.02 Plug & Play: No . Known as "Sound Blaster 2.0" or "Sound Blaster Deluxe". Better circuit board layout and dropped another old CMS chip from the board. DMA channel "auto-init" mode allowed the card to play continously without pauses or crackling (something suffered on v1.0 and v1.5 cards). Due to these changes in the DSP programming (now up to version 2.01), some games companies had problems with 100% game compatibility with this card. The SB2.0 came with a new mixer chip, CT1335. This was the first variant of mixer chip found on Creative cards. It was succeeded by the CT1345 found on the Sound Blaster Pro and the CT1745 found on the Sound Blaster 16.

CT1335 provided 8 levels of software volume control for Master, MIDI and CD sources, and 4 level for Voice source. The output mixing path took signals from the Voice, MIDI, CD and PC speaker sources. Quick Shot licenced the Sound Blaster 2.0 for their own card which they called Sound Machine. It had model number "QS803", and FCC ID HE90S803. See below for pics. Model number CT1330 released in May 1991 was the first Creative card to comply with Microsoft's "MPC" standard. It added a mixer to provide a crude master volume control, high pass and low pass filter. It used a pair of Yamaha YM3812 chips to provide stereo music, although this was rarely used by games.

CT1680

It was fully Sound Blaster and Ad Lib compatible. The Pro also was the first card from Creative Labs to have a CD-ROM interface on-board. Most Pro cards support only the Panasonic (Matsushita/Panasonic) CD-ROM drives. The Pro is still an 8-bit ISA card, as all the previous Sound Blaster cards are, even though at first glance it looks like a 16-bit card because of the 'AT' section on the connector, but note that these are not wired to anything. v2.0 of the Sound Blaster Pro, the CT1600, got an upgrade from the Yamaha YM3812 (OPL2) chips to a single new Yamaha YMF262 (OPL3), which was backward-compatible with OPL2 and played stereo with 20 voices across 4 FM operators.

CT1600

Also, the Pro's MIDI UART chip was upgraded to full-duplex and offered time-stamping features.

At this point, it was still not Roland MPU-401 compatible which was a common standard used by a lot of professional MIDI equipment at the time (more on that later). As before, the CT1600 was fully Sound Blaster-compatible and Ad Lib compatible. A version of the Pro for the IBM PS/2's Micro Channel Architecture was released called the CT5330. There were also two OEM versions of the SB Pro 2.0 called CT1680 and CT1690.

CT2600

Introduced: 1992 FM synthesizer: Two Yamaha YM3812 OPL2 chips (early models) or Single YMF262 (later models) Mixer Chip: CT1345 DSP Chip: CT1341 (DSP Versions: 3.01) Bus I/F Chip: CT1336 CD-ROM Connectors: Panasonic and Mitsumi Plug & Play: No.

The CT1345 mixer chip is the middling variant of mixer chip found on Creative cards. It succeeded the CT1335 found on the Sound Blaster 2.0, and was superceded by the CT1745 found on the Sound Blaster 16. CT1345 was the first stereo mixer for Creative. It provided 8 levels of software volume control on both left and right channels for Master, Voice, MIDI, CD and Line-In sources, and 4 levels for the Microphone output source. The output mixing path took signals from the Voice, MIDI, CD, Microphone and PC speaker sources. The following games titles support dual-OPL2 (SB Pro) only on a Sound Blaster Pro 1.0:.

Hi-Octane (also Pro Audio Spectrum 16). Ultima Underworld. SoundBlaster Pro Windows 3.1 and DOS Driver Updates for CT-1330 only. For the above set of drivers, If you have not already installed SB Pro drivers into Windows 3.1 and DOS, you must first download and install the drivers from the files SBP2WU.EXE and SBP2DU.EXE. FM synthesizer: YMF262 (OPL3).

CT1330

Mixer Chip: CT1345DSP Chip: CT1341 (DSP Versions: 3.02)Bus I/F Chip: CT1336 (board 49219 and 59234) or CT1336A (board 69237) CD-ROM Interfaces: Panasonic and Mitsumi Known Board Revisions: 49219, 59234, 69237, 89414 Plug & Play: No FCC ID: IBACT-SBP2PS .

This is the "Sound Blaster Pro II", introduced in 1991. A new single OPL3 chip replaces the old dual-OPL2 arrangement. Lower interference than CT1330 (SB Pro '1') due to the new analogue low pass filter. Output quality is quite good, with low noise level, no audible distortion and packs a lot of power in the bass section. Perhaps a bit too bass'y compared to higher quality sound cards. In the mixer settings, the low pass filter is on by default. This can be deactivated with the SBP-SET utilities included in the drivers.

CT1690

Sound Blaster Pro, CT1330[edit]

This filter is supposed to be applied to digital audio, not FM.

For the above set of drivers, If you have not already installed SB Pro drivers into Windows 3.1 and DOS, you must first download and install the drivers from the files SBP2WU.EXE and SBP2DU.EXE. Introduced: 1992 FM synthesizer: YMF262 (OPL3) DAC: YAC512 Mixer Chip: CT1345DSP Chip: CT1341 (DSP Versions: 3.01, 3.02)Bus I/F Chip: CT1336 (board 39212), CT1336A (board 39313) Known Board Revisions: 39212 (SB Pro 2 MCV) , 39313 (standard ISA) CD-ROM Connectors: Panasonic and Mitsumi Plug & Play: No . The CT1680 is an OEM version of CT1600, sold to computer manufacturers for integration into their PCs. Introduced: 1992 FM synthesizer: YMF262 (OPL3) DAC: YAC512 Mixer Chip: CT1345 (board 29304) or CT1345-S (board 69237)DSP Chip: CT1341 (DSP Versions: 3.01, 3.02)Bus I/F Chip: CT1336A (board 29304)Known Board Revisions: 29304, 69237Plug & Play: No. The CT1690 is basically a CT1600 but with a Sony CD-ROM interface. The CT1336 chip is the bus interface chip. Introduced: 1992 FM synthesizer: YMF262 (OPL3). Mixer Chip: CT1345 (board 19310), CT1345-S (board 29323)DSP Chip: CT1341 (DSP Versions: 3.02)Bus I/F Chip: CT1336A CD-ROM Interfaces: Mitsumi Known Board Revisions: 19310, 29323 Plug & Play: No .

The CT2600 is very similar to the CT1600, i.e. it's a "Sound Blaster Pro II". It came in two revisions: 19310 and 29323, both released some time during the CT1600's revisions. The 19310 version got the older mixer chip, CT1345 (no 'S'). The later board revision, 29323, got the new CT1345-S mixer chip.

Sound Blaster Pro 2, CT1600[edit]

On the Mitsumi CD-ROM interface side there is also a Mitsumi-branded controller chip.

Introduced: 1992 FM synthesizer: Creative CT1341 DAC: YAC512 Mixer Chip: CT1345DSP Chip: CT1341 (DSP Versions: 3.02)Bus I/F Chip: CT1336Known Board Revisions: 49229 Plug & Play: No. For IBM PS/2 Model 50 with MCA (Micro-Channel Architecture).

For wireless streaming:. Compatible Bluetooth devices that support the Stereo Bluetooth Profile (A2DP).

  • For playback or recording via microSD slot:.
  • microSD or microSDHC cards up to 32GB formatted in FAT/FAT32.Common audio formats such as MP3, WMA and WAV.(MP3 and WMA up to 320kbps).
  • For one-touch pairing:. NFC-enabled devices.
  • For phone calls:. Compatible Bluetooth smartphones that support the Hands-Free Profile (HFP).

For direct connection to Line-in jack:. Analog audio devices with a 3.5mm output or RCA output. For Sound Blaster Control Panel:.

For Windows® OS. Intel Core™2 Duo processor 2.2 GHz, AMD Athlon 64x2 Dual Core or equivalent processorMicrosoft® Windows 10, Microsoft Windows 8.1 32-bit or 64-bit, Windows 8 32-bit or 64-bit, Windows 7 32-bit or 64-bit1GB RAM600MB of free hard disk spaceAvailable USB 1.1, 2.0 or 3.0 portInternet connection (optional).

Sound Blaster Pro 2 MCV, CT5330[edit]

Intel Core 2 Duo processor 2.8 GHzMac OS X 10.6 and above1GB RAM600MB of free hard disk spaceAvailable USB 2.0 portInternet connection (optional).

Third generation Sound Blasters, 16-bit ISA cards[edit]

Sound Blaster 16[edit]

Sound Blaster 16 (CT2940)

The next model, the Sound Blaster 16, announced in June 1992, introduced:

  • 16-bit CD-qualitydigital audio;
  • An MPU-401 compatible UART via game port;
  • A connector for the Wave Blaster, a 'Wavetable' daughterboard (Wavetable synthesis).

Eventually this design proved so popular that Creative made a PCI version of this card. Creative's audio revenue grew from US$40 million per year to nearly US$1 billion following the launch of the Sound Blaster 16 and related products. Rich Sorkin was General Manager of the global business during this time, responsible for product planning, product management, marketing and OEM sales. Moving the card off the ISA bus, which was already approaching obsolescence, this meant that no line for host-controlled ISA DMA was available, as the PCI slot offers no such line. Instead, the card used PCI bus mastering to transfer data from the main memory to the D/A converters. Since existing DOS programs expected to be able to initiate host-controlled ISA DMA for producing sound, backward compatibility with the older Sound Blaster cards for DOS programs required a software driver work-around; since this work-around necessarily depended on the virtual 8086 mode of the PC's CPU in order to catch and reroute accesses from the ISA DMA controller to the card itself, it failed for a number of DOS games that either were not fully compatible with this CPU mode or needed so much free conventional memory that they could not be loaded with the driver occupying part of this memory. In Microsoft Windows, there was no problem, as Creative's Windows driver software could handle both ISA and PCI cards correctly.

Sound Blaster ViBRA16[edit]

Vibra based card with FM radio: SoundForte RadioPlus SF16-FMP2 by MediaForte

The Sound Blaster ViBRA16 was an inexpensive single-chip implementation of the Sound Blaster 16 for the OEM market. Creative Labs also used this chip for the Sound Blaster 32, Phone Blaster and Phone Blaster 28.8 (VIBRA + modem, CT3120 and CT3220.) and many other value-edition cards. External Yamaha OPL3 FM music synthesis was retained in earlier boards built around the ViBRA16 or ViBRA16s controllers, whilst the later (and more common) ViBRA16 boards used CQM (Creative Quadratic Modulation) developed by E-mu Systems. This series included the ViBRA16 (CT2501), ViBRA16s (CT2502, CT2504), ViBRA16c (CT2505) PnP and ViBRA16XV (CT2511) chips. The primary advantage of the ViBRA16 was the inclusion of a 14.4 Kbit/s telephony Modem; it also functioned as a telephone.

Fourth generation Sound Blasters, 16-bit ISA cards, dynamic sample-based synthesis[edit]

Sound Blaster AWE32[edit]

Sound Blaster AWE32 (CT3990)

Released in March 1994, the Sound Blaster AWE32 (Advanced WavEffects) introduced an all new MIDI synthesizer section based on the EMU8000. The AWE32 consisted of two distinct audio sections; the Creative digital audio section (audio codec, optional CSP/ASP chip socket, Yamaha OPL3), and the E-mu MIDI synthesizer section. The synthesizer section consisted of the EMU8000 sampler and effects processor, an EMU8011 1MB sample ROM, and 512KB of sample RAM (expandable to 28MB). To fit the new hardware, the AWE32 was a full-length ISA card, measuring 14 in (360 mm).

Sound Blaster 32[edit]

Sound Blaster 32 ISA (CT3930)

A derivative of the AWE32 design, the Sound Blaster 32 (SB32) was a value-oriented offering from Creative. Announced on June 6, 1995, the SB32 became the new entry-level card in the AWE32 product-line (previously held by the AWE32 Value.) The SB32 retained the AWE32's EMU8000/EMU8011 MIDI-synthesis engine and built-in instrument ROM, but dropped the onboard RAM, the Wave Blaster header, and the CSP port. The SB32 used the Vibra chip to reduce component count, which meant bass/treble/gain control was limited compared to the AWE32. The loss of onboard RAM is offset by the inclusion of 30-pin SIMM RAM sockets, which allow up to 28MB RAM to be installed and used by the EMU engine.

Sound Blaster AWE64[edit]

Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold (CT4390)

The AWE32's successor, the Sound Blaster AWE64 (November 1996), was significantly smaller, being a "half-length ISA card" (that term is misleading — see the pictures for size comparison). It offered similar features to the AWE32, but also had a few notable improvements, including support for greater polyphony, although this was a product of 32 extra software-emulated channels. The 30-pin SIMM slots from AWE32/SB32 were replaced with a proprietary memory format which could be (expensively) purchased from Creative.

The main improvements were better compatibility with older SB models, and an improved signal-to-noise ratio. The AWE64 came in two versions: A standard version (later rebranded as Value) with 512KB of RAM and a Gold version with 4MB of RAM and a separate S/PDIF output.

Fifth generation Sound Blasters, PCI cards, multi-channel and F/X[edit]

Ensoniq AudioPCI-based cards[edit]

Ensoniq AudioPCI

In 1998, Creative acquired Ensoniq Corporation, manufacturer of the AudioPCI, a card popular with OEMs at the time. It was a full-featured solution with wavetable MIDI (sample-based synthesizer), 4-speaker DirectSound3D surround sound, A3D emulation, and DOSlegacy support via a terminate-and-stay-resident program. It was cheap due to lack of hardware acceleration. It is full-duplex but at least in MS Windows cannot play back several sources at once.

Creative released many cards using the original AudioPCI chip, Ensoniq ES1370, and several boards using revised versions of this chip (ES1371 and ES1373), and some with Creative-labeled AudioPCI chips. Boards using AudioPCI tech are usually easily identifiable by the board design and the chip size because they all look quite similar. Such boards include Sound Blaster PCI64 (April 1998), PCI128 (July 1998), Creative Ensoniq AudioPCI, Vibra PCI and Sound Blaster 16 PCI.

An ES137x chip contains 3 stereo sample rate converters, some buffers and a PCI busmaster interface. Analogue interfacing is done by a codec chip, which runs at a fixed sampling frequency of 44 (Ensoniq Audio PCI) or 48kHz (Creative's versions). (ISA soundcards had not resampled but switched between different time bases.) ES137x do not support SoundFonts but a filter-less MIDI engine with wavetable (sample table) sets of 2, 4, and 8MB size.

Sound Blaster Live![edit]

Sound Blaster Live! (CT4830)

When the Sound Blaster Live! was introduced in August 1998, the use of a programmable digital signal processor in PC-audio was not unprecedented, as IBM had already done that with cheap Mwave sound- & modem-cards and Turtle Beach with their professional Hurricane soundcards.

The Live! was built around Creative's new EMU10K1 chip, which contained 2.44million transistors and was advertised of processing a flashy 1,000MIPS. The EMU10K1 (and its successors) did not use on-card RAM/ROM storage for instrument samples, instead it used a PCI busmaster interface to access sample-data stored in the host-PC's system memory. A/D- and D/A- converters as well as analogue mixing is done by an AC'97 chip running at 48kHz sampling rate. All members of the SB Live! family have at least four-channel analog audio outputs and a 15-pin MIDI/Joystick multiport.

For game titles, EAX 1.0 (and later 2.0) (environmental audio extensions, which briefly competed with the now defunct A3D 2.0) added hardware-accelerated acoustic effects. The EMU10K1 provided high-quality 64-voice sample-based synthesizer (a.k.a. wavetable), with self-produced or third-party customized patches or "Soundfonts", and the ability to resample the audio output as input and apply a range of real-time DSP effects to any set of audio subchannels present in the device.

The first model and flagship of the SB/Live family was the SB Live! Gold. Featuring gold tracings on all major analog traces and external sockets, an EMI-suppressing printed circuit board substrate and lacquer, the Gold came standard with a daughterboard that implemented a separate 4-channel alternative mini-DIN digital output to Creative-branded internal-DAC speaker sets, a S/P-DIF digital audio Input and Output with separate software mappings, and a fully decoded MIDI interface with separate Input and Output (along with on mini-DIN converter.) The Gold highlighted many features aimed at music composition; ease-of-use (plug-and-play for musicians), real-time loopback-recording of the MIDI-synthesizer (with full freedom of Soundfonts, and environmental effects such as reverb, etc.), and bundled MIDI-software.

The mainstream model was the Sound Blaster Live! Like the Gold, the Live featured multi-speaker analog output (up to four channels), and identical music/sound generation capabilities (without the bundled MIDI software and interfacing-equipment.)

Later versions of the Live!, usually called Live! 5.1, offered 5.1-channel support which adds a center channel speaker and LFE subwoofer output, most useful for movie watching. The Live! 5.1 could also use one of the 3.5mm jack ports as an SPDIF out, which allowed the connection of an external decoder.

Creative also released a Sound Blaster Live! Player 1024 edition, which is identical to the regular Sound Blaster Live!, but with the addition of some extra software.

Sound Blaster PCI 512[edit]

The Sound Blaster PCI 512 (CT4790) is an EMU10K1-based sound card designed to fill a lower cost segment than the Live! Value. It is capable of most of the Live! Value's features aside from being limited to 512 MIDI voice polyphony (a software-based limitation), lacking digital I/O, removal of expansion headers, and only stereo or quadraphonic output support. The card's circuit layout is somewhat simpler than that of the Live! series.[17][18]

Sound Blaster Audigy[edit]

Sound Blaster Audigy Player

The Sound Blaster Audigy (August 2001) featured the Audigy processor (EMU10K2), an improved version of the EMU10K1 processor that shipped with the Sound Blaster Live!. The Audigy could process up to four EAX environments simultaneously with its upgraded on-chip DSP and native EAX 3.0 ADVANCED HD support, and supported up to 5.1-channel output.

The Audigy was controversially advertised as a 24-bit sound card. The EMU10K2's audio transport (DMA engine) was fixed at 16-bit sample precision at 48kHz (like the EMU10K1 in the original Live!), and all audio had to be resampled to 48kHz in order to be accepted by the DSP (for recording or rendering to output.)

Sound Blaster Audigy 2 (September 2002) featured an updated EMU10K2 processor, sometimes referred to as EMU10K2.5, with an improved DMA engine capable of 24-bit precision. Up to 192kHz was supported for stereo playback/record, while 6.1 was capped at 96kHz. In addition, Audigy 2 supported up to 6.1 (later 7.1) speakers and had improved signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) over the Audigy (106 vs. 100 decibels (A)). It also featured built-in Dolby Digital EX 6.1 and 7.1 decoding for improved DVD play-back. The Audigy 2 line were the first sound cards to receive THX certification.

Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS (September 2003) is essentially an Audigy 2 with updated DAC and op-amps. Audigy 2 ZS uses the Cirrus Logic CS4382 DAC together with the op-amps and can produce an output SNR of 108dB. There were a few slight printed circuit board modifications and 7.1 audio support was added.

Sound Blaster Audigy 4 Pro (November 2004)[19] was an Audigy 2 ZS with updated DACs and ADCs, the new DAC being the Cirrus Logic CS4398, boosting the output SNR to 113dB. Other than a breakout box, it has no distinguishable difference from the Audigy 2 ZS. The DSP is identical to the Audigy 2 ZS's but Creative put an "Audigy 4" sticker to cover the chip, making it appear as if it is a new chip. The Audigy 4 Pro is not to be confused with the Audigy 4 (Value) which contains lower quality DACs and does not have golden plated jacks. The Audigy 4 (Value) is more in line with the Audigy 2 Value series. The Audigy 4 had a shorter life span than its predecessors, due to the short window between it and the next-generation Sound Blaster X-Fi.

Sound Blaster Audigy Rx (September 2013) is similar to the Audigy 4 but with a dedicated 600-ohm headphone amplifier and a PCIe 1x interface.[20]

Sound Blaster Audigy Fx (September 2013) also features a 600-ohm amplifier and a PCIe interface, but lacks the EMU10K DSP.[21]

Sound Blaster X-Fi[edit]

Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer Fatal1ty Pro

The X-Fi (for "Extreme Fidelity") was released in August 2005 and as of 2012 came in XtremeGamer, Titanium, Titanium Fatal1ty Professional, Titanium Fatal1ty Champion and Elite Pro configurations. The 130nmEMU20K1 (or EMU20K2 for Titanium series models) audio chip operates at 400MHz and has 51million transistors. The computational power of this processor, i.e. its performance, is estimated as 10,000MIPS, which is about 24 times higher than the estimated performance of its predecessor, the Audigy processor. Beginning with the 2008 Titanium models, newer X-Fi cards switched from PCI to PCI Express x1 connectors. With the X-Fi's "Active Modal Architecture" (AMA), the user can choose one of three optimization modes: Gaming, Entertainment, and Creation; each enabling a combination of the features of the chipset. The X-Fi uses EAX 5.0 which supports up to 128 3D-positioned voices with up to four effects applied to each. This release also included the 24-bit crystallizer, which is intended to pronounce percussion elements by placing some emphasis on low and high pitched parts of the sound. The X-Fi, at its release, offered some of the most powerful mixing capabilities available, making it a powerful entry-level card for home musicians. The other big improvement in the X-Fi over the previous Audigy designs was the complete overhaul of the resampling engine on the card. The previous Audigy cards had their DSPs locked at 48/16, meaning any content that did not match was resampled on the card in hardware; which was done poorly and resulted in a lot of intermodulation distortion. Many hardcore users worked around this by means of resampling their content using high quality software decoders, usually in the form of a plugin in their media player. Creative completely re-wrote the resampling method used on the X-Fi and dedicated more than half of the power of the DSP to the process; resulting in a very clean resample.[citation needed]

Sixth generation Sound Blaster Sound Core3D cards[edit]

Sound Blaster Recon3D[edit]

Sound Blaster Recon3D

The Recon3D series was announced in September 2011 and includes the Recon3D PCIe, Recon3D Fatal1ty Professional and Recon3D Fatal1ty Champion. The cards use the new integrated Sound Core3D chip, which features the Quartet DSP from the X-Fi series as well as integrated DAC, ADC and I/O interface in a 56-pin package.[22] The Asia-only Recon3D Professional Audio is basically a Recon3D PCIe with some extra accessories such as cables.[23]

The Recon3D series of sound cards do not support ASIO.[24]

The Recon3D comes with a bundled software called the SBX Pro Studio. SBX Pro Studio allows users to adjust the amount of virtual Surround, Crystallizer, Bass, Smart Volume and Dialog Plus for their Recon3D sound cards.[25] The Recon3D also has got the Crystal Voice feature that reduces the pickup of background noises like the hairdryer or vacuum cleaner when a beamforming microphone is used.[26]

Reviews have been generally positive, but pricing and small model differences have raised questions. Especially the low and mid priced models Recon3D PCIe and Recon3D Fatal1ty Professional have only cosmetic differences, but considerable price difference: the Fatal1ty Professional, adds a beamforming microphone, some red LED lights and a metal shroud over the board, but has no real hardware improvements.[27][28]

Sound Blaster Z-Series[edit]

The Sound Blaster Z-Series was announced in August 2012 and includes the PCI Express x1 cards, Z, Zx and ZxR which use the same Sound Core3D chip as the previous Sound Blaster Recon3D series.[29] The Z-Series improved sound quality over the Recon3D series by including more dedicated audio hardware such as Op-Amps, DACs, and ADCs.[30]

A Sound Blaster Z sound card
  • The Sound Blaster Z is the baseline card of the series. Some of its main features are Cirrus Logic 116dB signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) digital-to-analog converters (DACs), a dedicated headphone jack with 600 ohm amplifier, and is bundled with a Beamforming Microphone that captures sound in a specific direction. One can switch between listening with headphones and desktop speakers in the Sound Blaster Z Control Panel. This card has a red color theme with a red LED light on the board. In addition to the red model, there is an OEM version that lacks the LED light, metal shielding and bundled microphone.
  • The Sound Blaster Zx card is identical to the Z[29] (exact same card, exact same card SKU/Model (SB1500) on card itself, compared side by side in store), with the only notable change compared to the baseline "Z" being the addition of the desktop ACM (Audio Control Module). The Zx & ZxR were both bundled with the Audio Control Module (ACM) which is basically an extension cord for headphones. The ACM contains both 1/4" and 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks, a potentiometer headphone volume knob, and a built-in dual-microphone Beamforming array. The ACM uses a red color theme that matches the card. The entire package (Card and ACM) carries a separate model number of SB1506, which is different than the base SB1500 printed on the included card (as the card is just a SB-Z now bundled with accessories).[31]
  • The Sound Blaster ZxR is the top of line sound card of the series and uses an entirely different card from the Z and Zx. Some of its features include TI Burr-Brown 124dB SNR DACs, two swappable op-amps, a 600ohm 80mW TI TPA6120 headphone amplifier, and 192kHz stereo pass through. The Sound Blaster ZxR comes with a daughter board which provides optical S/PDIF input and output, and two RCA inputs that feature a TI Burr-Brown 123dB SNR analog-to-digital converter (ADC); it has its own Sound Core3D processor and takes up a second expansion slot in the computer if installed. The ZxR can record up to 24-bit/96kHz. The ACM and two boards (main and daughter) have a black color scheme with no LED lighting.

Sound BlasterX AE-5/Plus[edit]

The Sound BlasterX AE-5 was announced in June 2017, the first discrete sound card made by Creative in five years since the introduction of the Z-series. The card is the first in the Sound Blaster series to use a 32-bit/384kHz SABRE 32 Ultra DAC (ES9016K2M), along with a custom-designed discrete headphone amplifier (1W output power and low output impedance of 1 Ohm so it can provide high damping factor for virtually any dynamic headphone). The card has an additional RGB lighting courtesy of a MOLEX power connection and accompanying RGB LED strip.[32][33] In late 2017, a white colored model of the sound card called the Sound BlasterX AE-5 Pure Edition was released with 4 RGB LED strips instead of one with the standard black model.[34]

In 2020, the AE-5 Plus was released which is similar to the previous model, but the sound card comes with hardware Dolby Digital Live and DTS encoding.[35] There is a white colored Pure Edition released alongside the standard black model.[36]

Sound Blaster AE-7[edit]

The Sound Blaster AE-7 was released in July 2019 alongside the Sound Blaster AE-9.[37] It is equipped with an ESS SABRE 9018 DAC,[38] and it features an ACM (Audio Control Module), which connects to the sound card via two of the audio ports available on the card itself.[38] It doesn't feature RGB lighting, contrary to the AE-5, and it doesn't require external power either.

Sound Blaster AE-9[edit]

The Sound Blaster AE-9 was announced in December 2018, targeting the audiophile audience.[39] This soundcard is equipped with an ESS SABRE 9038 DAC,[40] and it features an external Audio Control Module which connects to the sound card with a mini-HDMI cable,[40] containing an XLR port for a microphone and a toggleable 48+volt phantom power rail; the sound card itself features replaceable operational amplifiers. The sound card with the external DAC consumes 75W, and thus is the first sound card from Creative that requires auxiliary power, using a 6-pin PCI-E connector to supply power to the external DAC.The card was officially released on July 10, 2019 to celebrate 30 years since the introduction of the original Sound Blaster.[37]

USB audio devices[edit]

Sound Blaster X7
  • Sound Blaster Extigy
  • Sound Blaster MP3+
  • Sound Blaster Audigy 2 NX
  • Sound Blaster X-Fi USB
  • Sound Blaster X-Fi HD USB
  • Sound Blaster X-Fi GO! Pro
  • Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro
  • Sound Blaster Digital Music Premium HD
  • Sound BlasterAxx SBX 8 / SBX 10 / SBX 20
  • Sound Blaster Play!
  • Sound Blaster Play! 2
  • Sound Blaster Play! 3
  • Sound Blaster Omni Surround 5.1
  • Sound Blaster R3
  • Sound BlasterAxx AXX 200
  • Sound Blaster Roar
  • Sound Blaster Roar 2
  • Sound Blaster E1 / E3 / E5
  • Sound Blaster JAM
  • Sound Blaster X7 Limited Edition
  • Sound Blaster FRee
  • Sound Blaster X3

Sound BlasterX Series[edit]

The Sound BlasterX series was announced at Gamescom 2015.[41]The Sound BlasterX brand consists of USB audio devices, gaming headsets, gaming mousepads, gaming speakers, a discrete sound card, a gaming mouse and a gaming keyboard.

BlasterX Acoustic Engine[edit]

A Word About Board Revisions

The Sound BlasterX H3, H5 and P5 come with the BlasterX Acoustic Engine Lite software. The BlasterX Acoustic Engine Lite software comes with preset audio profiles for different game types. The settings in the profiles are not adjustable unlike the BlasterX Acoustic Engine Pro.[42]The BlasterX Acoustic Engine Lite software is only available for Windows PC.

Drivers

The BlasterX Acoustic Engine Pro allows users to adjust the amount of effects and save them. It also has Scout Mode and Voice FX. Users can bind key combinations to enable/disable BlasterX Acoustic Engine, Scout Mode and Voice FX.

There is also an equalizer tab in the software.[43] Users can load profiles and create profiles in the equalizer.The BlasterX Acoustic Engine Pro software is available only for Windows PC.

Sound BlasterX gaming headsets[edit]

The Sound BlasterX H3, Sound BlasterX H5 are headsets with 3.5mm audio jacks. The Sound BlasterX P5 is an earphone with an inline microphone. They come with an audio/mic splitter cable. The Sound BlasterX H3, H5 and P5 come with a software called the BlasterX Acoustic Engine Lite.

The Sound BlasterX H7 is a gaming headset with USB and 3.5mm jack connectivity. It has a maximum playback bitrate and sample rate at 24-bit / 96kHz and supports 7.1 virtual surround. The Sound BlasterX H7 comes with the BlasterX Acoustic Engine Pro software.

Sound BlasterX USB audio devices[edit]

Drivers

Unlike the Sound Blaster E5, it does not have built-in microphones, rechargeable battery and Bluetooth connectivity. BlasterX Acoustic Engine profiles can be saved onto the device in Windows and used on a Mac computer. There is no Mac OS X software as well as Android iOS apps for the Sound BlasterX G5.

More Images

The Sound BlasterX G1 uses the BlasterX Acoustic Engine Pro software like the Sound BlasterX G5. It has 4-pole headphones and a microphone audio port. It has a maximum playback bitrate and sample rate at 24-bit / 96 kHz and supports 7.1 virtual surround. Its headphones amplifier supports headphones with impedances from 16 ohms to 300 ohms.[44]

The Sound BlasterX G1 does not have the SB-Axx1 audio chip and is not able to save profiles from the BlasterX Acoustic Engine to the device. It is able to save profiles from the X-Plus Configurator running X-Plus Mode. The X-Plus Configurator software is only available for Windows PC.

The profiles in the X-Plus Configurator apply equalizer settings tuned for certain games.[45]

The Sound BlasterX G1 does not support "What U Hear".

Connectors[edit]

External connector[edit]

Sound Blaster cards since 1999 conform to Microsoft's PC 99 standard for color-coding the external connectors as follows:

ColorFunction
PinkAnalog microphone input.
Light blueAnalog line level input.
Lime greenAnalog line level output for the main stereo signal (front speakers or headphones).
BlackAnalog line level output for rear speakers.
SilverAnalog line level output for side speakers.
OrangeS/PDIF digital output (sometimes used as an analog line output for a center and/or subwoofer speaker instead)

Up until the AWE line in 1994, Creative cards have short text inscriptions on the backplane of the card, indicating which port does what (i.e. Mic, Spk, Aux In, Aux Out). On later cards, the text inscriptions were changed to icons. With the latest cards from Creative, the cards were changed to use numbers as the ports are flexi-jacks and can have different functions assigned to them at run-time (i.e. changed from speaker output to mic in), but a color overlay sticker is included with retail units to help consumers identify the commonly used functions of the ports in their default modes.

Internal pin connector and jumper[edit]

A lot of audio/data pin connectors and jumpers-setting is present in the internal body of the sound blaster, different from card to card, and along the years of productions.[46]

Most common pin connector:

  • Audio CD-IN, CD SPDIF and AUX-In
  • CD-ROM drive connection
  • PC speaker
  • TAD (Telephone Answering Device) connector
  • MB_PRO (Modem Blaster connector)
  • Wave Blaster Header

most common pin jumper setting (especially before plug-and-play features):

  • Sound Card Base Address/IRQ/DMA
  • Line or Speaker output
  • MIDI
  • Joystick

Driver software modification (soft mod)[edit]

Some drivers from the Audigy 2 ZS have been soft-modded by enthusiasts. These can be installed on Creative's older cards, including Sound Blaster Live!, Audigy, and Audigy 2. It has been claimed to offer improved sound quality, hardware acceleration of higher EAX versions in games, 64-channel mixing for Audigy 1, and an overall improvement in the card's performance. Several forum posts across the web have reported favorable results with this technique, excepting Live! users where the drivers only add the ability to use the newer software applications (i.e. the newer mixer applet). Comments on forums from developers of the software mod have said that Live's hardware is not capable of EAX3 nor 64-channels of hardware sound mixing.

Later, in 2004, Creative released updated drivers top-to-bottom for the Audigy through Audigy 4 line that put these cards basically at feature parity on a software level. As of 2006, the entire Audigy lineup uses the same driver package. DSP decoding at the driver level on other cards than Audigy 2 ZS and 4 is still not supported by official drivers, but it works with soft-modded drivers on the other cards with hardware DSP (like Audigy 2 6.1).

When Windows Vista was released, there was only a single beta driver for the Creative Audigy series that was usable on the operating system with minimal functionality and frequent instability reported by users. A Creative Forum activist named Daniel K. modified drivers from the X-Fi and applied it to the Audigy and Live! series, restoring most if not all of the features that came with the original XP setup CD in Vista. X-Fi drivers have noticeably better sound quality under Vista, and more bug fixes because of the newer build (last modified version is 2.15.0004EQ April). He managed to enable the X-Fi Crystallizer to work on Audigy series cards in software, however because of the patents involved, he was forced to remove all the modified drivers and DLL patch.

Creative then released a newer official Audigy Vista driver (2.18.0000 as of 28 July 2008) due to public and consumer pressure. However, some form of agreement between Creative and Daniel K has been achieved, as he returned to the Creative forums, posting updated versions of his modified drivers. He released the final version of his modded driver package as of January 12, 2012.[47]

Audio effects processor[edit]

NameBit depthEAXTransistorsNotes
EMU80000.5 million
EMU10K116-bit2.02.44 million350 nm, 335 MIPS, 32 DirectSound3D sound channels
EMU10K216-bit3.04 million200 MHz, 64 DirectSound3D sound channels
EMU10K2.524-bit4.04,6 million180 nm, 200 MHz, 424+ MIPS, 64 DirectSound3D sound channels
EMU20K124-bit5.051 million130 nm, 400 MHz, 10,340 MIPS, 128 DirectSound3D sound channels
EMU20K224-bit5.0?65 nm, Fixes bugs in EMU20K1, PCI Express, embedded RISC processor
Sound Core3D24-bit5.0?Integrated analog codec and digital I/O
SB-Axx124-bit5.0?Found in some Sound Blaster USB audio devices

Compatibility with Linux[edit]

All recent Linux distributions support Sound Blaster Cards via kernel drivers. In case of non-Plug-and-Play ISA cards, a configuration file in /etc/modules must be reconfigured, writing for example with Sound Blaster 16 card installed: snd-sb16 isapnp=0.

X-Fi series cards have basic support in Linux, but the advanced features like signal routing, relay control or external I/O consoles are not supported.

Support for the newer Sound Blaster cards (Z and AE series) was added to the kernel during 4.19–4.20 release timeframe.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ ab"75 Power Players: Back at the Lab...". Next Generation. Imagine Media (11): 73. November 1995.
  2. ^"Creative Music System / Game Blaster clone".
  3. ^Scisco, Peter (October 1989). "Sound-board Duet". Compute!. p. 10. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
  4. ^[1][dead link]
  5. ^"Archived copy". queststudios.com. Archived from the original on 14 November 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^"CT1310 model number for the Soundblaster 1.0 - a myth?". Vintage-computer.com. Archived from the original on 24 December 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  7. ^"Creative Worldwide Support". Support.creative.com. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  8. ^ abEnglish, David (June 1992). "Sound Blaster turns Pro". Compute!. p. 82. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
  9. ^Weksler, Mike; McGee, Joe (October 1993). "CGW Sound Card Survey". Computer Gaming World. pp. 76–83. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  10. ^"Bumper Crop". Computer Gaming World (advertisement). December 1993. p. 131. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  11. ^Leinecker, Richard (December 1989). "Blast the PC Sound Barrier with this Creative Card". Compute!. pp. 88–90.
  12. ^Sound Blaster Optional Hardware & Software Catalog, Creative Labs Inc. (Page 2)
  13. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-25. Retrieved 2013-11-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^"Sound Blaster"(PDF). Ibm-pc.org. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  15. ^"Soundblaster MCV". Ps-2.kev009.com. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  16. ^"Creative/Tandy Multimedia Sound Adapter, 849-3030". Vintage-computer.com. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  17. ^"Creative Labs Sound Blaster PCI 512 Sound Card". Amazon.com. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  18. ^[2][dead link]
  19. ^"Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 4 Pro". Reviews.cnet.com. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  20. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-09-28. Retrieved 2013-09-23.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-09-29. Retrieved 2013-09-23.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^"CREATIVE UNLEASHES SOUND BLASTER RECON3D - A NEW AUDIO PLATFORM POWERED BY SOUND CORE3D - THE WORLD'S FIRST QUAD-CORE AUDIO AND VOICE PROCESSOR" (Press release). Creative Technology Ltd. 2011-09-01. Archived from the original on 2013-02-04. Retrieved 2013-05-10.
  23. ^"Sound Blaster Recon3D Professional Audio Sound Card". Asia.creative.com. 2012-09-16. Retrieved 2013-02-13.
  24. ^"Creative Worldwide Support". Support.creative.com. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  25. ^"Creative Revises Sound Blaster Recon3D with SBX Pro Studio". Techpowerup.com. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  26. ^"Audio Made Clever :: What is CrystalVoice?". Creative.com. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  27. ^"Creative Labs Sound Blaster Recon3D PCIe Fatal1ty Professional review". Expert Reviews. Retrieved 2013-02-13.
  28. ^"Creative Sound Blaster Recon3D Fatal1ty Professional PCI-Express Sound Card Review". Compreviews.about.com. 2012-02-01. Retrieved 2013-02-13.
  29. ^ ab"CREATIVE INTRODUCES THE SOUND BLASTER Z-SERIES - A NEW RANGE OF ULTRA HIGH-PERFORMANCE SOUND CARDS DESIGNED FOR FUTURE GAMING AND ENTERTAINMENT AUDIOR" (Press release). Creative Technology Ltd. 2011-08-15. Archived from the original on 2013-05-10. Retrieved 2013-05-10.
  30. ^"Creative Sound Blaster ZxR PCIe Sound Card Review". 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2013-05-10.
  31. ^"Creative Sound Blaster Z and Zx Sound Card Review". 2015-02-03. Retrieved 2019-05-14.
  32. ^"Hands on: Creative Labs' Sound BlasterX AE-5 ups the audio for gamers". PC World. 2017-06-12. Retrieved 2017-11-03.
  33. ^"Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5".
  34. ^"Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 Pure Edition".
  35. ^"Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 Plus".
  36. ^"Creative Sound BlasterX AE-5 Plus Pure Edition".
  37. ^ ab"Creative celebrates 30 years of Sound Blaster by launching AE-9 and AE-7 PCIe sound cards for audiophiles and gamers". 9 July 2019.
  38. ^ ab"Sound Blaster AE-7". Creative Store - United States. Retrieved 2019-07-27.
  39. ^Solca, Bogdan. "Creative Labs showcases new Sound BlasterX AE-9 audiophile soundcard". Notebookcheck. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  40. ^ ab"Sound Blaster AE-9". Creative Store - United States. Retrieved 2019-07-27.
  41. ^"Creative Launch Sound Blaster X - Pro Gaming Audio Gear". Vortez.net. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  42. ^Wong, Marcus. "Creative's new Sound BlasterX gaming headsets bring Ultra-realistic gaming experiences to today's gamers". HardwareZone.com.sg. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  43. ^"Sound BlasterX H7 Headset Review". Pcgameware.co.uk. 2016-06-06. Archived from the original on 2016-07-16. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  44. ^Daniel Brown (2016-04-20). "Sound BlasterX G1: portable sound card for gamers". Wovow.org. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  45. ^"Creative Worldwide Support". Support.creative.com. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  46. ^"Pin Assignment of I/O Jacks and Connectors on Sound Blaster Devices". support.creative.com. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  47. ^"SB Audigy Series Support Pack 4.0 (01/12/2012) - Final Version". Forums.creative.com. Retrieved 2013-02-13.
Notes
  • "Creative Announces Sound Blaster 32" by Creative Technology on Usenet, June 23, 1995, retrieved January 5, 2006

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sound Blaster.
  • "Programming the AdLib/Sound Blaster FM Music Chips". Archived from the original on 2011-07-20. Retrieved 2011-07-20.
  • "Sound Blaster 1.0 Principles of Operation". 2019-01-19. Retrieved 2019-08-06.
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