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New PCMCIA Soumd Card--Creative Soundblaster Audigy 2 ZS Notebook

Discussion in 'Soundcards' started by MS, Dec 24, 2004.

  1. MS

    MS Guest

    Anyone here tried it? How well does it work? Any problems?

    I see it has SoundFont capability? Does it actually store Soundfonts in
    hardware memory, or is it that a software Soundfont synth comes with it?

    Does it have built-in hardware wavetable MIDI sounds? If so, are they any
    good? (Probably not as good as the sounds one can get from Soundfonts and
    software synths these days, but I'm still curious about it.)

    I'm glad that Creative is making this PCMCIA sound card. (I just discovered
    it on the web tonight.) If it works well, it's really the best kind of
    solution for notebooks.

    There used to be two good PC card sound cards, the Roland SCP-55, and the
    EMU (now owned by Creative), I think numbered 8710, or something like that.
    They both did have good hardware wavetable MIDI built in, and that was the
    only way to get decent MIDI on notebooks in those days, as it was before the
    days of softsynths, and the built-in FM synthesis sounded terrible (and
    before USB). Unfortunately, when Windows XP came along, the software wasn't
    updated for either of those cards, they wouldn't work in XP, left
    completely unsupported.

    Now there are many options for notebooks, with many USB and Firewire
    external modules. Creative has made a few of those external devices--I
    think first the Extigy (too big and non-portable to carry around with a
    notebook, IMO.) Then the MP3 Plus. I have that, nice small portable USB, bus
    powered. Not as many features as others, but it works. Then the Audigy NX
    came along. Small, not much larger than the MP3+, with more features, but I
    was surprised it needed an AC brick for power, not powered by the USB port,
    which greatly reduces the portable convenience factor.

    But a PCMCIA card is more convenient, no external boxes to carry around,
    fits inside the notebook. (I wish they built good soundcards into
    notebooks!) It doesn't look like it has an external box that it needs to
    hook into (which would be another thing to carry around), it just has a part
    that sticks out of the notebook at the end, with the in and out ports. (No
    MIDI in and out ports like on the cards mentioned above, but these days
    there are many USB devices that can do that, as well as MIDI keyboards that
    can hook directly into the USB port, without an adapter.)

    I think there might be one or two other PCMCIA sound cards available today.
    One I've heard of is the Echo Indigo I/O. Supposed to be quite good. I think
    much more expensive than this Creative device though. ($129 plus shipping on
    Creative web site, $115 and free shipping from Amazon). It would be
    interesting if someone did a comparative review of the couple PCMCIA sound
    cards available today.

    In any case, if anyone has used one of these, please review it for us. :)
    Thank you.

    Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year to all!
    MS, Dec 24, 2004
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  2. MS

    Kevin Guest

    Thanks for your thoughts. I'm considering the Audigy, and it will be USB'd
    into my docked notebook. I have some higher freq distortion on most MP3's.
    I know my little 2.1 Labtek is very consumer grade, but it sounds so good
    most of the time. It's playing a cd now, and has the same high freq speaker
    rattle. So my plan was Audigy with a $300 2.0 or 2.1 computer speaker.
    Then someone recommended a good 5.1 system. Or maybe wifi into my home
    stereo system. So may choices, and I'm not sure what to do.

    It is very convenient to stay notebook at home, for when I pick up and go,
    nothing got left behind.
    Kevin, Dec 24, 2004
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  3. MS

    Shylirin Guest

    The hardware does the mathematical extrapolations, the actual sound
    recordings are stored in the computer's physical memory (RAM).
    This technology isn't used anymore. :)

    Shylirin, Dec 27, 2004
  4. MS

    MS Guest

    Well---how well does it work? Do you use the card?

    Your general review of it?
    MS, Dec 27, 2004
  5. MS

    MS Guest

    Is that better than a purely software Soundfont synth, such as are available
    as DXI or VST plugins?
    MS, Dec 27, 2004
  6. MS

    xevious Guest

    Does it have built-in hardware wavetable MIDI sounds?
    Ho yes it is used in club and bar !!!
    xevious, Dec 27, 2004
  7. MS

    Shylirin Guest

    I've never used it myself. I have an Audigy, but could ask some other folks
    who have used it to see how they feel the performance is. I've personally
    never had any problems with my Creative products, but know of some of the
    complaints, such as Creative not having all of their software available for
    download in case of lost disks/CDs (but most can be found on drivers.com,
    for anyone who might need these!). You might try google for some unbiased
    reviews as well! Sorry that I haven't had a chance to review the card

    Shylirin, Dec 28, 2004
  8. MS

    Shylirin Guest

    This is definitely better than purely software, as it sounds much better due
    to the recording used as the base. Also, it should be better since it can be
    used to produce truer sound depending on how much sampling and extrapolation
    you do. Most people never use that level of functionality, though...

    Shylirin, Dec 28, 2004
  9. MS

    MS Guest

    I'm not sure you understood my question. (Responding to your response at

    I asked if the Audigy notebook card uses hardware memory in the card to
    store the Soundfonts. You said no, but the hardware does the mathematical
    extrapolations. (Are you actually familiar with the Audigy notebook card, or
    are you speaking in general about Soundblasters?)

    I asked if there was an advantage to the chip in the card doing the
    "mathematical extrapolations", rather than that job being done by the
    computer's CPU. You replied that it was much better, due to the samples
    used. I don't think you understood my question.

    There is software you can use to play soundfonts (mostly in the form of DXI
    and VST plugin synths), that work with any card, they do not require a
    Soundblaster card. Of course, they are using the computer's CPU and RAM to
    store and play the Soundfonts, not being tied to a particular sound card.
    But there is no difference in the sounds, in the samples!! That all depends
    on which soundfonts you choose to use. You could use the exact same sounds,
    exact same soundfonts, regardless of which of the two playback setups you
    use--Soundblaster card, or soundfont-playing software with any sound card.

    It sounds like you are comparing to using soundfonts vs using something
    else, like the default Microsoft GS Wavetable synth in Windows. I was asking
    about using soundfonts vs. using soundfonts. Same sounds either way. My
    question regards whether there is any advantage to using the Soundblaster's
    built-in support for soundfonts, over playing soundfonts on any sound card
    using a software synth that can load soundfonts. What would you say to that?
    MS, Dec 28, 2004
  10. MS

    David Chien Guest

    If anyone buys one, please post re: how slow of a notebook it will
    actually work in (if you have an older <600Mhz laptop around). I want
    to know if you can use in some of the smaller portables.

    David Chien, Dec 28, 2004
  11. MS

    Shylirin Guest

    Yes, I am familiar with the tech specs on it (never used it in my notebook
    though), and yes, that is correct.
    It's better than using entirely the system processor, because it offloads
    some of the processing onto the PCMCIA card.

    VST is just there to manage MIDI instruments or devices (such as
    soundfonts), you still need a synthesizer to produce the sound (talked with
    my professional MIDI guys to confirm this, as they work with the software
    all day). The Creative cards take actual sounds and manipulates it to
    produce more realistic sounds. The advantage is that you have less
    dependence on the CPU to do the processes (i.e., increases system speed),
    plus the more realistic sounds mentioned above. Software synthesizers can
    drain your system's resources, especially when using more professional grade
    musical creation tools. Creative invented Soundfonts, and made them an open
    standard, so that other cards also use Soundfonts. Creative designs it's
    hardware around the idea that Soundfonts will be used. As other companies
    can use the same technology, to determine which card "sounds" best to you,
    try listening to them to see which sounds best to your ear. If I remember
    correctly, Creative has one of the best signal-to-noise ratios on the
    market, and the better the signal-to-noise ratio, the better the sound
    quality for a given level of sound. So... any software plus any sound card
    may not produce the best quality sound.

    I was replying in a general sense, since Creative is not the only company
    that utilizes RAM to store the Soundfonts and the chip on the card to do the
    mathematical extrapolations. I was meaning to state that storing the
    Soundfonts on the actual hardware sound card was not as good as the current
    general technology, which is to store the Soundfonts in RAM and use a
    chipset (on the card) to do the extrapolations.

    Sorry if this isn't coming across well... it's not coming out quite like I
    would like it to. I hope this helps better than my other posts... :)

    Shylirin, Dec 29, 2004
  12. MS

    MS Guest

    I don't think you know what you are talking about. Have you ever used VST
    synths? Are you involved in music creation? Your statement "you still need a
    synthesizer to produce the sound" doesn't make sense. There are VST
    synthesizers, including ones that an load soundfonts, as well as other

    It sounds like you are a spokesman for Creative. Do you work for them?

    In asking around about soundcards, including forums that people who create
    music write to, trying to decide between this Audigy PCMCIA card and the
    Echo Indigo I/O, most people who work with music advised against using any
    soundblaster card, that they have a lot of problems in that area. I ordered
    the Indigo I/O card today.

    (For instance, look at


    and do a search for "Soundblaster", and see what the writers' responses are
    to SBs. (In fact I posted there similar to here, asking to compare the two
    PCMCIA cards.)

    (Cakewalk is a producer of one of the most popular pro music production
    software, "Sonar", as well as consumer level versions).

    One of the things mentioned is that the given specs for SB cards are often
    not true, such as that S/N ratio, that they exaggerate their specs.

    Of course I don't know for a fact that what anyone writes on the Internet is
    true. But it seemed to be the overwhelming opinion among people working in
    music production, to stay away from Soundblaster cards, and there was a lot
    of praise for the Indigo I/O, which has been out longer, and many music
    people have used and liked. (Not that they tried the Audigy 2 ZS Notebook,
    but gave a general warning about SB cards.) So I went with the Indigo, which
    has a great reputation among musicians, even though it cost more.

    I'm not saying that would be the choice for everyone. For instance, someone
    who wants surround sound (gamers, etc.) should go with the Audigy. Also,
    someone for whom digital I/O is important. Any anyone who wants to save
    money, as it costs considerably less. (I paid $163 for the Indigo I/O
    (including shipping), which is about as low as it can go. The lowest I've
    seen for the Audigy notebook is about $115, so that's a $50 difference,
    certainly something to consider. (The list prices show a $100 difference!
    $229 vs $129)

    I'm glad Creative came out with a PCMCIA sound card, expanding the range of
    choices for notebook users. And reading about it gave me the impetus to
    purchase such a card. But in the end, I decided that for my uses I'd more
    likely find the Indigo I/O more suitable, even though it costs more.

    Again though--you shouldn't pretend to know about something you know nothing
    about. Your first sentence below--"VST is just there to manage MIDI
    instruments", shows a complete lack of knowledge about the subject. It's
    quite OK not to know about something, but don't pretend that you do. VST and
    DXI plug-ins do a lot than "just manage MIDI instruments or devices". That
    is a completely erroneous statement, and by making false statements like
    that you might mislead others who aren't familiar with this, and are trying
    to learn, as you sound like you know what you are talking about, but you
    don't. Please be more careful about that next time.

    (To see some VST plugins (including freeware, demos, and ads for commercial
    software), go to:


    and many other sites.)
    MS, Dec 29, 2004
  13. MS

    MS Guest

    Size really has nothing to do with it.

    "Older" might. I think I've read "at least 1000 mHz" as a requirement, I
    don't recall for sure.

    If you look at the web site about the Creative card for which I gave the
    URL, there is a tab called "requirements", in which you can see the minimum
    requirements. (And usually in those listings, companies err on the low side
    in stating the requirements.)

    It is a cardbus card, and all the newer computers have that. However,
    laptops of a few years ago, although they had PCMCIA slots, were not
    compatible with Cardbus, which is a newer standard. If you have an older
    laptop, you should investigate that before buying.

    If you do have one of those older non-cardbus laptops, and are using an OS
    not newer than Windows 98 or ME (the following cards will not work in XP),
    you might see if you can find a used Roland SCP-55 or EMU 8710 for sale.
    MS, Dec 29, 2004
  14. MS

    Shylirin Guest

    I don't think YOU know what you are talking about. I not only do creation,
    but know people who do much more than I do and have setups that are beyond
    anything I will ever do. I am not a spokesman for Creative, I don't work
    for them. You asked about the Creative card and why it might be the better
    way to go. I know the technical on the Creative card, never used that
    particular one myself, but know a couple of folks who do. So I commented on
    why you might want the Creative card. I did say that it wasn't the only
    card out there, and that you should listen to others and pick one that
    sounds best to you. I don't do my work on a notebook, so all I can offer
    for information is what technical I know, and how my friends like theirs. I
    am pleased to hear you have ordered a card you like and feel comfortable
    with. I like my Creative card. To each their own. I know NOTHING at all
    about the Indigo card... and don't know anyone who uses it, so I can't
    comment on that card.

    I do know who Cakewalk is, and I've worked with the software. Didn't like
    some of the user interface, but I find that is true of many programs.
    Never had a problem with this on any of my cards, no one else in the field
    that I know personally said they had an issue with this.
    I agree... different cards are better suited to different people and
    different applications.
    Notice I said VST, and NOT VST plugins. There is a difference. You do know
    that you have to have hardware involved to do anything with sound, correct?
    VST is software. It integrates with your hardware (whether that be your
    MB-integrated sound chip, MIDI instrument, or sound card). If you have no
    sound card, sound chip, or MIDI instrument, you get doodly-squat if you just
    load the VST software. Ergo, VST software manages your sound hardware,
    soundfonts, provides software functionality, etc. Using an integrated sound
    chip and VST software alone, or an attached MIDI instrument will cause the
    CPU to take the brunt of increased processing. Using a sound card will
    reduce the workload on the CPU. The particular card we were discussing even
    comes bundled with Cubasis (in the Platinum Pro package, according to
    Creative's site), which is a software program from Steinberg, who invented

    Again... I know what I am talking about. You seem to have a misuderstanding
    of how the hardware-software interface works, and what is hardware based vs.
    software based. Perhaps I have not expressed myself well in this thread and
    oversimplified some information, but that in no way implies I don't know
    what I'm talking about. It rather implies that I felt you had a higher
    level of understanding. Also, since I don't do the *really* high-end type
    of sound manipulation, I always check my sources to make sure there isn't
    anything I'm leaving out. You may not like my information, but they get
    paid to understand and utilize the technology available. And to answer the
    next question, they get paid for professional music creation, not technical
    support or computer repair. I have no problem letting anyone know my
    limits, note that I have stated I only know the technical aspects of the
    Audigy PCMCIA card, and rather plainly stated that I have never used it so
    couldn't give you a "how do you think it sounds" review.

    I wish you all the best with your new Indigo card. I would like to hear how
    it works once you get it installed in your system, and again, I'm happy
    that you have found something that sounds well to your ear as well as (I
    presume) has some good functionality. I've always found that getting the
    right mix of functionality is the hardest bill to fill, and seeing what else
    is out there can't hurt. I might even get interested in a notebook system
    myself and get away from my base desktop setup.

    Best wishes,


    *snipped for brevity*
    Shylirin, Dec 30, 2004
  15. MS

    MS Guest

    Well, as I said, look at the forum there, and do a search on "Soundblaster".
    See for yourself what people who work heavily in digital music production
    think of Soundblaster cards.
    You really don't know anything at all about this, and you still pretend you
    do! VST all has to do with plugins--softsynths, samplers, effects, etc, that
    you plug into a VSTi capable host application like the Steinberg products.
    (Cakewalk-Sonar uses DXI plug-ins instead of VST. However, it comes with a
    "wrapper", that can comvert the VST plug-ins to DXI.

    So, can you please explain the "difference" between VST, which you were
    talking about, and VST plug-ins, which you were NOT talking about? I'm
    sorry, but there is no way to discuss VST without discussing plug-ins,
    because that is what VST is about.

    You are completely ignorant of this, yet pretend to know about it, which is
    the height of arrogance. When you are not familiar with something, the best
    thing to do is to learn about it. Yet you didn't even bother to look at the
    URLS I gave you, but still pretend that you were right before. Why not just
    say something like "sorry, I made a mistake", rather than insisting that
    what you wrote before was correct, which it isn't? And you make it worse
    with that statement above, that you were referring to VST, not VST plug-ins?
    (There is no VST without plug-ins. It is a protocol for plug-ins.)
    Well--you couldn't load any software at all without hardware. If you didn't
    have a computer (hardwarre), and you got a software CD, what would you do
    with it? Eat the CD? (LOL) Use it as a coaster to put your coffee cup on?
    (Oh--that would be interfacing with hardware too--the coffee cup!) Of course
    software interfaces with hardware, and is meaningless without hardware. Of
    course if you have no sound card, your sound software won't make any sound.
    But what's the point? That's so obvious to anyone who has ever touched a
    computer, it sounds ridiculous to state it, silly and childish. Yes, your
    sound software will not make any sound without a sound card, it won't even
    say "doodly squat". (But what computer doesn't have a sound card?)
    Very profound statement! (LOL) Yes, all sound software plays through sound
    hardware. Again, silly to say. It sounds like you keep on repeating very
    obvious statements to make it look like you know something, when these are
    things that everyone knows, even obvious to a five year old child!
    Another statement of great profundity! Software "provides software
    functionality". Wow, that's great to know! I wouldn't have known that
    software provides software functionality, if you hadn't told me that. Since
    you have no idea what VST is, you bless us with the divine wisdom that it
    "provides software functionality!
    Not true. Much higher CPU load playing MIDI through a soundcard, than
    through an attached MIDI instrument. The latter is not much of a CPU load at
    all, since the synthesis takes place in the MIDI instrument, the computer
    just sends MIDI messages to the MIDI instrument, which converts those
    messages into sound. With a sound card, the computer itself is involved in
    synthesizing the sound, a very much higher use of the CPU. In fact, some of
    the oldest PCs, x86 chip, running DOS, could play MIDI (provided you had a
    MIDI interface) through a MIDI instrument. I was doing it, I had the DOS
    versions of Cakewalk, Band-In-A-Box, etc. Those computers sure could not
    have run softsynths, however, which just started to be possible with the
    Pentium chip.
    Right--I thought that you were supposed to eat the software CDs, or use them
    as coasters. (Although I guess those are still interfacing with hardware.
    ;-) ) Of course all software interfaces with hardware. Again, you are
    childishly repeating an obvious statement to everyone, and you think that
    makes you sound smart!
    I'm sorry, but there is no separation there. Anything done on a computer
    involves both hardware and software.

    If you are referring to using a hardware synth (MIDI out going from the
    computer to an outboard MIDI sound module) , or to software synthesizers, of
    course the latter uses much more computing power, but it is possible with
    today's computers. (Of course, both possibilities involve software and
    I guess I'll have to take some lessons from you, so that I can become
    brilliant like you, with a "higher level of understanding", so that I can
    comprehend that software interfaces with hardware!
    Now you are admitting that you don't know much about this. You asked someone
    what is VST, they were probably busy and gave you a quick answer, that you
    didn't understand, but you pretend that you know what it means, and keep
    making a fool of yourself by making statements that sound more ridiculous.
    Wouldn't it have been better just to have said that you were not familiar
    with that? That wouldn't be anything to be ashamed of, most people in the
    world do not know what VST is. But the arrogance of pretending to know about
    something you know nothing about is what makes you sound like a fool, like
    your statement above that you "were talking about VST, not VST plug-ins".
    Why don't you run that statement by your "sources"?
    You pay them to give you misinformation? Ha Ha. If these "sources" are
    really people involved in music production with computers, they probably did
    not give you misinformation, but you did not understand what they said, and
    then you invent what you think they said. Why even post about something you
    know nothing about, and then ask other people for information, to include in
    your posts. (Furthermore, you didn't understand what they told you, yet
    pretend that you do, in making totally erroneous statements.)
    Pleeeazzze. Why didn't you just say you didn't understand something then,
    rather than pretending you do?
    Thank you.
    Well, I haven't heard it yet, so I cannot say it "sounds well to my ears".
    However, as I said, in asking around a lot in music forums, there were only
    very excellent reviews of the Indigo card (the Echo company's products are
    geared towards musicians, while Creative's are geared towards the general
    public) from people who have used it. I didn't find anyone who had used the
    Audigy PC card (which is much newer), so I didn't get a review of that.
    However, as I said, there were many negative statements about Soundblasters
    in general. The overwhelming advice was "go for the Indigo", so I decided to
    do that, even though it cost more. As I said, not the right choice for
    everyone, but that's what I decided to go with.

    Happy New Year to all!
    MS, Dec 31, 2004
  16. MS

    Shylirin Guest

    ..> See for yourself what people who work heavily in digital music production
    I am sure that many people have their own opinions. I know Creative isn't
    popular in a lot of ways. You'd be unpopular too with some of their
    business practices. You have your opinions, others have theirs, I have
    mine. I like my card, 'nuff said.

    Now you are admitting that you don't know much about this. You asked
    Still not getting it. I was saying that I don't do this professionally. I
    DO NOT have a really awesome setup (much as I wish I had the talent to make
    it a profession). I have a lower-end setup that I like. I use it. No, I
    didn't ask someone what VST was. I didn't need to. To repeat: I do work
    with music. I know people who do it better. We talk, like professionals.
    They have more experience. It's like having a Master's but working with a
    Ph.D. Working in a vacuum usually doesn't work well. I've never claimed to
    be the Ph.D. I made the statement so you would know that I'm not the only
    one agreeing with my statements. I agree to disagree with you. 'Nuff
    said... I stick to my information, regardless of your opinion. I can still
    put together a working setup and understand how to use it.
    No, and no. I'll let you know as soon as you get one of those wild guesses
    correct. I don't pay anyone. They get paid for contracts, same as many
    pros. If you'd like a number to help you, my "Ph.D" peers are three in
    Happy New Year to you as well.

    Now for my last statement on this "I know more than you" issue. I've never
    met you. I don't know who you are. I've never heard a thing you've
    created. We surely don't use the same hardware, and I'd bet money we'd
    never agree on what software works better for different applications. I
    made the mistake once of replying on this subject and you can bet I won't do
    it again. (BTW, that is NOT an "I was wrong" statement, to make that clear
    before someone gets the wrong idea.) I won't continue this argument on this
    newsgroup. I don't like to read arguments, and will not contribute to
    more. If you want to continue this, you can meet me in email. Also, I would
    have gladly read your link just to see where in the world you're getting
    your information, but it wouldn't load. You can bet I'll try again later.

    I am going to drop any further replies to this thread. You are welcome to
    continue replies through email as suggested above. I wouldn't want to give
    the impression that "I'm too good" to continue to support my information.
    I'll happily agree to disagree with you in further silence on the ng, and
    vociferiously in email.

    Best of luck.

    (Who is back from a nice vacation playing with ion drives and Tesla coils)
    Shylirin, Jan 6, 2005
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