Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy2 NX

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A quite good external USB audio solution – Brian

SUMMARY: A quite good external USB audio solution

Beauty

The heart of the Audigy2 NX

The kind folks at Newegg have sent out a Creative Labs Sound Blaster
Audigy2 NX
for us to have a look at today.

I’d like to start off with a quote from the retail packaging:

Revolutionize your PC and Notebook Music, Gaming, and Movies with the Ultra-Premium Sound of Sound Blaster Audigy2 NX with Remote.

I found this to be a very good device for all three. I would have liked to test this out with my laptop, as the Audigy2 NX seems that it would be well suited for this type of application, but my laptop doesn’t meet the
hardware requirements to use this with it.

The Audigy2 NX is an external, USB 2.0 connected sound card. Built into this small device, are a double handful of really neat features and functions. For the physical size of the Audigy2 NX, it surprised me
with it’s capabilities.

Let’s look at what ships with the Audigy2 NX;

Contents

Across the top back, are the power adapter, audio cables, USB and power cables. Below that, is a software bundle including a Microsoft demo CD, the Creative Installation and Applications CD, a DVD – Audio Sampler disc,
and a Feature Showcase Demonstration CD. In the middle of them is the manual, which folds out not unlike a road map into a poster sized sheet.

In the front are the remote control, the Audigy2 NX, and a case badge.

Audio cables

The cables are actually quite long, with the USB cable being 58 inches (1.4 meters) long, and the audio cables a bit longer at 62 inches (1.5 meters) long.

A2 top

A bit closer of a look at the Audigy2 NX…

Remote CU

…and it’s IR remote control

As the remote control uses IR technology, a direct line of sight to the Audigy2 NX is necessary.

Specifications and Features:

System requirements:

  • Intel P/// 500MHz or AMD Athlon/Duron 600MHz or higher
  • Windows 98SE/ME/2000 SP3/XP SP1
  • 128MB system memory
  • 600MB free hard drive space
  • Cd-ROM drive
  • USB 2.0 port

Additional System requirements for DVD-Audio:

  • Intel P4 1.3 Ghz or equivalent AMD or faster processor

Technical:

Channel Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-Weighted)

  • Front/Rear/Centre/Sub: 102dB @ 2Vrms
  • Headphone/Side: 96dB @ 2Vrms
  • 24-bit/96kHz Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC) for various analog inputs
  • 24-bit/96kHz Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) for up to 7.1 channels output
  • Supports Sony/Philips Digital Interface (S/PDIF) format input signal of up to 24-bit/96kHz quality
  • Recording/Playback: up to 24-bit/96kHz*
  • SoundFont 2.1 Support for Midi playback

* USB 2.0 audio support is required for 24-bit/96kHz Multi-channel playback, and simultaneous playback and recording. USB 2.0 is only supported in Windows XP
and requires online software update from Microsoft and Soundblaster.com when available.

Connections and Controls:

  • USB connector
  • Line In
  • Mic In
  • Optical S/PDIF In
  • Line Out (Front/Rear/Center/Sub)
  • Optical and Coaxial S/PDIF Out
  • Master Volume Control
  • Mic Volume Control
  • LED Indicators; Power, Dolby, Mute, IR, CMSS

Convenient Music Playback with Remote Control:

Creative Remote Center lets you play back and adjust the settings of your DVD-Audio, MP3s/WMAs or CDs at the click of a button of the handy remote control. And you’ll be enjoying your audio entertainment with absolute ease.

Here’s a look at all of those ports mentioned above:

Rear ports

Along the back of the unit…

Side ports

…and the side of it

Connect

Image courtesy of Creative

The image above gives a quick overview on how you might connect everything to the Audigy2 NX. As there are multiple scenarios and methods to hook up speakers to this device, referring to the Support
page at Creative HERE
should answer any questions you might have on connectivity.

The Audigy2 NX ships with Creative’s Mediasource suite of software. Incorporated in this, are several features, including equalizers, speaker settings, bass management and boost,
and more. The EAX HD console included offers several different effects options, even karaoke.

{mospagebreak}

Performance

After disabling the onboard SoundStorm audio on my Abit NF7-S motherboard, I connected the Audigy2 NX as outlined in the included manual. Connecting, and
installing the drivers and applications went easily and smoothly.

The Audigy2 NX was actually detected immediately by Windows XP Pro SP1a, but to get the full benefits, you will want to install the applications (and newer drivers) that are
included on the CDs.

Once I started actually playing some games, and a music CD or two, I was very impressed with the audio capabilities this little device has.

Sounds were much clearer and crisper than with the SoundStorm solution built into my NF7-S. Set up in surround sound, and playing some Unreal Tournament 2004 amazed me with the amount of
detail in the audio that I’d never heard before.

I fired up “No One Lives Forever 2”, and played the first couple of levels through. In these levels, you’re making your way through a small village in Japan to complete a mission.
The village is guarded by a clan of ninja girls, and as you make your way around in stealth mode, you can hear bits and pieces of conversations between them.

With the Audigy2 NX hooked up…I was able to hear all of the conversations, very clearly…not just bits and pieces.

Curiosity got me to put a music CD in, as I thought of what might be a good recording to see if this detail carried over into audio CDs. On Iron Maiden’s 1985 LP “Powerslave”,
there’s a bit of spoken vocal in the final track on the album (“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”). Usually I cannot hear this part over the bassline and subtle guitar work on my PC,
(I can in the car, or if playing the CD on the stereo). This time, on my PC, I could clearly make out Bruce Dickinson’s voice: “One after one by the star dogged moon, too quick for groan or sigh….

I feel like I’ve been gaming with cottonballs in my ears up until now, after using this product. =P

CONCLUSIONS

A2 box

Image courtesy of Creative

With the trend towards smaller form factors, and laptops becoming more and more prevalent, an external sound device like this one is an easy (if not the only, in the case of a laptop) way to enhance the audio
capabilities of these machines.

With the Audigy2 NX, Creative offers a product that offers features parallel to high end internal sound cards, in an external USB 2.0 device. The SoundStorm audio built into the NF7-S is a fairly good package, but
this makes it seem very weak at best. The difference in clarity and response I heard was amazing.

This is an ideal solution to those who only have a laptop, and want to be able to upgrade the sound capabilities of it. And it’s very easy to configure and use.

I’d like to thank Newegg for letting us look at this item today.

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