The Audigy Pro 4 is almost certainly the last of the Audigy line and represents an incremental change from Creative's previous Audigy cards. The card is a refinement of the technology Creative has been developing over the past few years aimed at creating features that balance leading-edge game audio technology with music creation capabilities. The Audigy 4 is not a card to tempt existing Audigy owners, for that Creative has its X-Fi based cards close to release, but it is a strong package both in terms of hardware and software.
Creative's website has a comparison chart detailing the differences between the Audigy 4 and previous cards, the only difference listed compared to the Audigy 2 ZS is the signal to noise ratio, with an extra 6dB, due to the new professional quality Cirrus Logic DAC CS4398 chips. Sound quality is obviously rather important in sound cards but for a card that is probably more attractive to gamers who happen to dabble in music production, you'll have to decide whether this is worth the extra £30 or so.
It takes a bit of a stretch of imagination to consider this card as a whole generation above the 2s. Presumably using the numeral 4 was a marketing decision, looking on the board itself reveals the model number to be SB0380 where my Audigy 2 has the model number SB0240. Obviously the number three is so last year.
A quick run down of the specifications includes 64 hardware 3D voices for games that like to pile on the noises. EAX Advanced HD (EAX 4) for multiple environmental effects, up to 7.1 speaker set up and the stereo 'enhancement' technology, CMSS. For the musician, there's ASIO support for low-latency, three audio inputs and SPDIF as well as optical digital in and out connections. There’s also Creative’s own digital connection to communicate with its range of digital speakers.
The break out box is the same as with the Audigy 2 ZS Pro, decently built and rather large. Included in the package is a remote control for the Creative Entertainment Centre application (this can also be used with WinDVD and PowerDVD0. The software includes Cubase LE (a slightly nobbled version of Cubase SL 1), Fruity Loops Studio 4 Creative Edition, Wavestudio Lite and the games Hitman Contracts and Thief: Deadly Shadows. This is a generous offer, even if the music applications are all cut-down versions. There's enough here to entertain and to be creative with, I hardly need to mention that the card has the infamous 48kHz clock rate, not so problematic for games but music applications using the low-latency ASIO drivers are fixed to either 48kHz or 96kHz.