by January 1, 2000 0 comments

The card generates very realistic environmental audioA few years back, stereo systems were the rage as they offered the ability to split the sound of different instruments onto different speakers, giving a more realistic output. So you’d hear drums playing from one speaker, while the Cello and piano would be heard from another. This gave way to 3D Surround Sound, where the sources of sound moved at relative angles with respect to the listener, thereby adding more realism. However, this was still not realistic enough, as the sound didn’t have any sense of space and its surroundings. Enter the world of environmental audio. This technology not only takes into account the direction of sound, but also the environment in which it’s produced. For example, the sound of someone walking through a concrete tunnel would be different from when the same person walked on a soft, carpeted floor. These are the type of effects promised by Creative’s latest sound card–the Sound Blaster Live! Platinum. After testing the card, we discovered that it lives up to its promise.

The card is a part of the Sound Blaster Live! family. What’s different are the bundled goodies that allow you to utilize its potential of creating environmental audio. It’s packed with a plethora of software for digital audio creation, speech recognition, and Internet music. 

The card comes with the Live! Drive–a front-end console that provides connectivity for a wide array of analog and digital devices, ranging from general consumer accessories to sophisticated hi-fi equipment for professionals. It contains jacks for SPDIF input/output, MIDI input/output, line or microphone (mono) input, and a headphone output. You also have knobs for volume control and microphone. The Live! drive fits into a 5.25” bay on your PC.

Adding environments
The variety of sounds that you can generate with this card is not restricted to the environments given with it. You can create your own environments by changing digital effects like the amount of reverb, chorus, flanger, etc. Within these, there are lots of other factors that can be changed, such as the decay time, air absorption, echo rate, etc. Your customized effects can then be saved and recalled at a later point. 
We tested the card for most of its environmental audio features. For the audio output, we used the Cambridge SoundWorks Desktop Theater 5.1 speaker system. 

With keytar you choose your guitar and play it using your keboard The card comes with a number of demos that demonstrate its features and their effects in different environments. These include demos for music, special effects, positioning, games, modeling, and of course, sound in general. So you can hear music as played in an alley, auditorium, concert hall, etc. You can hear a dog bark in a forest, or a carpeted hallway. You can hear other effects like being in an arena, a sewer pipe, underwater, and lots more. The difference is easily discernible as you change from one environment to another. 

The Live! Platinum card supports up to 1,024 voices that make the music sound far richer. You can load up to 32 MB of wave table sample sets for professional music reproduction. The card comes with sample sets of 2, 4, and 8 MB–you can also get these from third-party sources that specialize in creating sound fonts. 

So where can the card be used? The plethora of applications it comes bundled with provide an answer. You can use the card to create your own music, add live animations to your MP3 files, and record your own music by connecting various instruments to the Live! drive. You can also enjoy the latest games that have been designed with environmental audio extensions (more on this later). The card comes with three game titles–Thief: The Dark Project, Descent 3, and Need for Speed IV: High Stakes. You can create your own audio CDs or convert the titles in them to MP3 format. You can use its Internet telephony software to talk to anyone across the world, or just call up anyone directly. Here are a few popular applications.

LAVA! music
LAVA! stands for Live Audio Visual Animation. It’s an application that allows users to create and play back a visual montage that animates music files such as MP3s with synchronized 3D images. The application can be launched from the Creative media player while playing an audio file. 

Voice-activated PC
The card comes with two speech-recognition software called IBM ViaVoice and ProdyParrot. Prody is a parrot, which flies around your desktop helping you with common tasks. IBM ViaVoice is very easy to configure and works well. 

Sing along
Soft Karaoke software lets you use your microphone and sound card to sing your heart out. It provides the lyrics on the screen along with the background music as you sing it. 

Key cording

Sound Blaster Live! Platinum

Sound card. Rs 16,900
Features: Environmental audio; 1,024 PCI voices; can load up to 32 MB of samples.
Pros: Good sound quality; comes with a good collection of software; good for professional work.
Cons: Expensive; needs a Surround Sound speaker system.

Source: Compuage
21/A Film Centre
68 Tardeo Road
Mumbai 400034. 
Tel: 22–4913986-90 
Fax: 4919069 

Keytar is an application that lets you select any type of guitar and use your keyboard to pluck the strings. You don’t need to be a guitarist to learn how to do this.

Besides this, the card also comes with a lot of other software. There’s Mixman Studio that allows you to mix and match various music files like a DJ does. The Creative Digital Audio Center software lets you convert your audio CD tracks to MP3 format in just a few seconds. The playback quality is also pretty good. Sound Forge XP sound-editing software allows you to cut, paste, and edit sound files, add effects like reverb, echo, flange, etc, and save them in all popular audio formats. 

Can you afford it? 
Given the number of features and software bundles, the card is a good buy. But if you truly want the sound quality to come out, you’ll need a good speaker system with Surround Sound, like the Cambridge SoundWorks Desktop Theater system. This will add another 28 k to the amount. So, if you’re a sound freak or an audio professional willing to spend this much to get the ultimate in sound quality, this card is definitely for you.

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