Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 NX – External Sound Card - Creative Audigy 2 NX

Score

Sections

With everything up and running, it quickly becomes apparent that the Audigy 2 NX has plenty of clever tricks up its sleeve, though quite a few of them are only available through the software provided with the device. Fortunately, you get a lot of this, and it’s generally excellent.


The centrepiece is Creative MediaSource 2, a well-designed program which offers media playback and management capabilities, along with sound recording and editing features. The playback and management features can even be accessed through a superb Windows Media Center-style, menu-driven interface that is controlled using the remote.


MediaSource 2 is packed with nice touches, such as the Smart Volume Management feature, which evens out volume levels across multiple music tracks – so you’ll never again have to reach for the remote when a particularly loud or quiet MP3 track pops up in your playlist. Audio cleanup options will also be appreciated by those who want to use the Audigy 2 NX to transfer tunes from their vinyl collection onto their hard drives.


Oddly though, whilst many of the NX’s less-publicised features impress, some of the headline features disappoint. DVD Audio support, for instance, sounds useful but is unlikely to prove so in the long run. The DVD Audio format is a 24bit/192KHz standard, but the Audigy 2 NX only supports 24bit/96KHz playback so the audio is down-sampled accordingly. And as the supplied DVD Audio demo clearly illustrates, it’s hard to spot any difference between a good CD audio recording and a DVD Audio recording anyway – even when listening through a top-class speaker system.


What’s more, when you’re listening to DVD Audio, the digital outputs of the NX are disabled (for licensing reasons). This means you have to use the analog speaker outputs, which may not impact on audio quality but is certainly an annoyance from a cabling point of view. Of course, none of this will surprise those who have already realised that DVD Audio is a format invented purely to fleece even more money out of gullible souls who already own their favourite albums on vinyl, tape and CD formats.


The CMSS system is underwhelming too. This is activated by pressing the relevant button on the top of the unit or on the remote, and its purpose is to playback stereo content such as CDs and MP3s using multiple audio channels. It works well enough, but whether it will actually increase your listening pleasure is debatable.


Finally, there’s the NX’s support for EAX. This is a system designed to add environmental audio effects to games, and there’s no doubt that EAX can add another dimension to games such as Doom3 and Half-Life 2 (when it finally arrives). However, the Audigy 2 NX handles EAX through software, not hardware. In other words, there’s just as big a load on your CPU when playing an EAX-enabled game with the NX as there would be if you were using a typical on-board sound system. If you’re a keen gamer who wants tip-top frame rates, you’ll be better off with an internal sound card capable of taking the load off your CPU.


Despite these failings though, it’s hard not to be impressed by the Audigy 2 NX. The 24bit audio playback and recording is great for musicians and audio enthusiasts, and sound output quality across the board is superb. Moreover, considering its broad range of features and its fantastic supporting software, at just £76.98 the Audigy 2 NX represents great value for money.


”’Verdict”’


The Audigy 2 NX may not be perfect, but its plus points definitely outweigh the minus ones. The sound quality is superb, and once you factor in the price and the fact that you can connect it to any number of machines, its appeal grows. If you want high-quality audio on all your PCs, including your notebook, the Audigy 2 NX will do the job nicely.

(table:features)

Back
Next