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Like the PC Card Audigy we reviewed some months back, Creative’s new Audigy 2 ZS Video Editor is an attempt to append or adapt existing technology in order to cater for a niche corner of the PC market. As a combination of USB sound card and video capture device it’s a slightly strange contraption that may be perfect for some but only those with very specific requirements.
The box itself is about half the depth of the standard external Audigy sound card case with a shiny black front and the usual silver body. It feels fairly weighty for its size due to the extra electronics packed inside responsible for the video capture side of things.
Creative doesn’t normally skimp on its connections and the addition of video sockets adds to the party. Connections at the front include S-Video in, composite video in and line in together with the microphone input, headphone socket (mini-jack) and optical in and outs. There are also a couple of USB sockets with another two on the back enabling the device to be used as a hub.
The whole box connects to your PC via USB, so it’s rather ironic that the front of the device sports a Firewire connection. Having this though could be useful if your PC doesn’t already have a Firewire port. However, a better justification for this product would be for digitising and compressing analogue video footage.
Like other Audigy cards, the back of the device has three stereo line outs (as mini-jacks) catering for surround sound. There’s an additional stereo-out and stereo-in using phono plugs, SPDIF out, DIN and S-Video out with yet another set of stereo audio outs.
The number of connections enables the device to be connected to VCRS, DVD players and cameras without having to swap cables all the time. While certainly convenient it’s not quite as flexible as it first appears. For example despite the two sets of stereo line-in connections, only one set can be used at a time - not simultaneously. The video out connections can be used, with the supplied software, to attach a television letting you view the footage.
Considering that the recently released Audigy 4 has higher quality converters at a cheaper price the audio features are not the main reason to buy this box. It may be a fully fledged Audigy 2 but a word of warning; USB is still not the most reliable method for audio work. Despite the device control panel letting it be known that it was connected at high speed, the ASIO driver refused to work, complaining of insufficient USB bandwidth. This is obviously dependent on individual machines but I’ve run external hard drives using both Firewire and USB on my test machine with almost identical data rates. If ASIO is important for your work and you must use an external soundcard, Firewire is still the better option.