Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The Future of Creative and the Sound Card Market

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the they-still-make-sound-cards-huh dept.

Media 351

Hanners writes "Elite Bastards investigates the future of Creative Labs, and in particular their PC sound card business, which is facing a number of big challenges during 2007. Windows Vista has seen some large changes to the driver model required by audio devices, the abilities of on-board solutions have improved somewhat, and the amount of competition in the market place has ballooned. So what does all of this mean for the traditional leader of this market? As well as outlining all of these issues, they speculate as to what measures Creative may need to take to thrive once more in this changing market."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Just pulled out my sb live (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18415329)

Changed a mobo and it's limited on pci slots... the onboard sound (not even sure what chipset) was picked up by ubuntu and works just dandy.

2 words for my business (4, Interesting)

RingDev (879105) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415331)

2 words that would make me go out and pick up a Creative card...

Linux Drivers

-Rick

Re:2 words for my business (5, Funny)

brouski (827510) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415357)

Hell, I'd be happy with Vista drivers.

2 words for the website... (0, Offtopic)

alexandreracine (859693) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416055)

slashdot effect

Re:2 words for my business (5, Insightful)

Joe U (443617) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415445)

2 words that SHOULD make you go out and pick up a Creative card...

Stable Drivers

Creative drivers have a tendency to, um...putting it nicely, SUCK horribly.

Re:2 words for my business (4, Insightful)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415579)

With the move by many motherboard makers to integrate EVERYTHING, I am surprised that Creative has last this long producing stand-alone cards. There will always be a need for high-end audio, though, so if Creative loses the low-end, they could continue to produce high-quality audio cards for the discerning gamer and audiophile.

As for Vista, maybe it is just me and lack of desire to ever want to touch it, but I don't see it as a deciding factor. At no point has a new M$ release 100% replaced the previous version. There are still DOS, Win3.1/95/98/ME/NT and 2K systems out in great numbers. Many of the newer integrated chipsets do not have drivers for the older OSes. BUT, thanks to the ubiquity of the SoundBlaster card, those older OSes can still have audio. I don't see this as a huge and growing market. No, it is a dying market, but the need still exists.

Live on, Creative!

Re:2 words for my business (2, Informative)

Applekid (993327) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415647)

"There are still DOS, Win3.1/95/98/ME/NT and 2K systems out in great numbers. Many of the newer integrated chipsets do not have drivers for the older OSes. BUT, thanks to the ubiquity of the SoundBlaster card, those older OSes can still have audio. I don't see this as a huge and growing market. No, it is a dying market, but the need still exists."

Provided they find old cards. Sound Blaster Live and above have no legacy support. Does Creative still even produce any Sound Blaster 16 cards, or has the stock in all stores just been sitting there all this time?

Re:2 words for my business (2, Insightful)

paeanblack (191171) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415901)

There are still DOS, Win3.1/95/98/ME/NT and 2K systems out in great numbers.

Do you really think anyone still running DOS/Win3.1/95/98/ME/NT is the type of user that buys aftermarket add-on cards to install in their computer?

Re:2 words for my business (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415919)

The problem is with their high quality products losing support after 2-3 years. No reasonably well-informed audiophile or geek is going to spend 200 dollars on a standalone card that they have to replace every 2-3 years. Musicians get used to the midi quality and quirks on each sound card they use and many geeks are too thrifty to buy Creative's sound cards. I know I am.

Re:2 words for my business (2, Insightful)

greg1104 (461138) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416075)

There will always be a need for high-end audio, though, so if Creative loses the low-end, they could continue to produce high-quality audio cards for the discerning gamer and audiophile.

Audiophiles moved on some time ago to using cards from companies like M-Audio instead of Creative, as they have better sound quality when doing playback of digital music like CD rips. The only market Creative has left are the gamers who care about 3D positioning of sound effects and similar complicated features. On-board sound ate the low-end, M-Audio and other pro market players ate the high-end of their customer base.

Re:2 words for my business (3, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415673)

Two words that make me not ever want to buy another Creative product....

Windows Drivers

Not sure why you would want to subject Linux to those resource hungry, crash causing, never working drivers. But what ever helps you make it through the day I guess.

Use to be that a Sound Blaster was a simple audio card that just worked. Then they started adding firewire and other crap that I dont need to it and the resources just started going away. If I need MIDI or digital audio I'll buy a pro level card. I just want to play the frikin game.

Re:2 words for my business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18415781)

They want to mass-market products to PC gamers, I don't think Linux is their priority.

Dude dude dude!! (1)

Skadet (528657) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415993)

You know what two words would make *me* buy a Creative card?

Smell Blaster

Re:2 words for my business (2, Insightful)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415997)

My main Linux box has a Soundblaster PCI 128, formerly Ensoniq ES1371. It works just fine with both OSS and ALSA drivers.

I don't want all the surround junk. All I want is a decent quality analog to digital conversion. With the (long-obsolete, alas) PCI 128, I have it. But there just doesn't seem to be any market for a plain old sound card, just like it's impossible to buy a plain old cell phone.

...laura

Re:2 words for my business (1)

fyoder (857358) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416039)

What card do you recommend for Linux? I have an audigy 2 with dicky line in (have to use mic in which works but...). In fairness this may be a non-Creative kernel driver, but to an end user what matters is that things work, and if you could recommend a sound card for Linux that 'just works' I would appreciate hearing about it. Thanks.

Re:2 words for my business (1)

cortana (588495) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416381)

Sound Blaster Live 5.1 value. Has hardware mixing, so multiple programs can play sounds at once.

Re:2 words for my business (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416073)

Two words that would make me refuse to ever buy another Creative Labs card as long as I love:

crackle pop

Last two cards I have purchased and used on four different computers have done nothing but snap, crackle and pop non-stop. To the point that after about five minutes you would probably smash your speakers against the wall.

Onboard audio works fine.

Non Creative Labs cards work fine.

Creative Labs cards invariably fail.

This is a known issue. It has been plaguing their product for a couple of years now and all they have done is blame everyone else. Their forums have multiple threads which each run into the thousands of posts, all looking for an explanation as to why the $250 Creative Lab card they just bought sounds like rice krispies on crack.

Still no response from them, apparently.

So . . . Creative will never get my business again. Period.

Re:2 words for my business (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416295)

Linux/BSD has no problem with Sound Blaster Live cards, and at this point, they're $15 a piece.

What has Audigy got that I would want to pay more for?

Ah, poor Creative (4, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415349)

I'd still be their customer if the SB Audigy 2 I purchased didn't pop and click all the time. Apparently it's some kind of issue with nforce chipsets, but nobody can figure out exactly what, and the most common fix is to move it to a different slot. I ended up taking it out and using the on-board sound and it's just as good. It sits on top of my PC as a reminder that more expensive doesn't necessarily mean better.

Re:Ah, poor Creative (1)

brunascle (994197) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415677)

same. i replaced nearly my entire (new) PC before i realized it was my sound card. the sound card is so low on my the-problem-might-be list that i spent another $1000 before even bothering to check it. i'm using the onboard Realtek audio now. the quality is noticably less, especially in games, but it still sounds good.

Re:Ah, poor Creative (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416053)

Luckily I only spent $100 on speakers. I was SO sure it was the little 1" speakers in my monitor that were doing the popping. It was odd because they sounded pretty doggone good otherwise. Ah well, I like my new speakers.

Re:Ah, poor Creative (2, Informative)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415951)

It may have an issue with irq routing/sharing.

See if you can turn the bios to non plug and play os and change the dma and irq settings for that pci slot. PS disabling plug and play os can make windows2k and occasionally XP blue screen due to the hal being setup during installation.

Re:Ah, poor Creative (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416237)

No, it isn't IRQ routing/sharing - although Creative swore up and down as long as they could get away with it that such was the problem. Not to mention, it's 2007 -- you're SUPPOSED to share IRQs.

I believe that one guy found a reasonable explanation which was that Creative was using very cheaply made capacitors. He replaced the capacitors with his own higher quality capacitors and the problem went away. I don't know what ever came of that discovery as I have long since sworn off Creative. Not having the EAX support in games is a loss, but having sound that isn't a thousand times worse than the most corrupted vinyl album is worth it.

For some people, onboard sound is enough anyway. You'll take a good performance hit to your system and it won't have the same quality as a good dedicated soundcard, but if you don't do much or need much, it's not a huge deal. I found that the Realtek HD onboard audio on my latest mobo was even good enough to suffice for gaming needs until I was able to find an alternate card that I liked.

Re:Ah, poor Creative (1)

Ximogen (1033274) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416183)

A large number of Pro/Semi-Pro Audio interfaces (which the E-MU range from Creative creeps into) suffer from pops and clicks when run on nforce chipset motherboards, not actually a Creative issue. It's largely (though not always) down to prioritization of traffic on internal busses, particularly the prioritization of data on the PCI/PCI-E slots. Most motherboard chipsets are optimised for graphics IO on the 16x PCI-E slot and therefore excessive latency on the older PCI slots can cause the pops and clicks you have experienced.

If its as long as they took getting SB Live in XP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18415389)

Vista users should have working drivers by 2011.

Hope they go bankrupt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18415391)

Their horribly overprived, underwhelming and bloated products are the reason they are facing tough times. Also their insistence on internal resampling to 48KHz of any digital input. And the fact that they used to buy their competitors to get rid of them (aureal anyone?).

Re:Hope they go bankrupt (2, Interesting)

theNetImp (190602) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415543)

Not too mention that the president is so Anti macintosh that you'll never see drivers for OS X by Creative, and they will never create a way to talk to their MP3 players for OS X. I know, I talked to the president of Creative when he came to the US. I had a Nomad Zen, but use a Mac, and he basically bad mouthed Apple during the entire discussion. I am pretty disgusted with them as a company and their policies.

He had this bright idea to turn Cambridge SoundWorks stores into "Creative" stores kind of like "Sony" has their stores. That failed miserabley. All but 2 of th 20 something CSW stores are now closed because of his poor judgement.

Re:Hope they go bankrupt (1)

brunascle (994197) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415989)

All but 2 of th 20 something CSW stores are now closed because of his poor judgement.
are you sure? because i can think of at least 2 CSW stores in my area alone.

Re:Hope they go bankrupt (1)

Joe U (443617) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415547)

If I remember my history correctly, They didn't just buy Aureal, they bankrupted them thru frivolous litigation first.

Re:Hope they go bankrupt (1)

Molochi (555357) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416063)

As I recall, Aureal more or less bankrupted themselves with some new tech that didn't pan out. They were sueing Creative over core 3d sound patents and won (not the other way around) but not until they were prettymuch out of business. Creative bought the company mostly because they were going to have to shell out millions in that direction anyway and buying a competing (and at that time, superior) IP would remove it from play.

Re:Hope they go bankrupt (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415961)

The "EAX" and most of 3d sound support is Aureal and 48 Khz is a S/PDIF spec required value.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spdif#Protocol_specif ications [wikipedia.org]

No need to sit and pray for bankruptcy, just use another brand if you don't like them.

Re:Hope they go bankrupt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18416191)

Which part of "resample" do you have trouble understanding? If I pump in 44KHz digital data, I damn well better know the stupid card isn't upsampling it to 48, then back down to 44. You're such an idiot. I know how SPDIF works. Creative doesn't. Neither do you apparently. And you have trouble reading. How do you tie your shoelaces in the morning?

Re:Hope they go bankrupt (1)

doublefrost (1042496) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416435)

It seems to me that they did not hire/maintain R&D to stay on top of the game, and that milking its existing technology and products till it died was the best path to profit.

Biased (5, Interesting)

theNetImp (190602) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415395)

as an ex-employee I hope the competition eats them up and they go away.

Leader? (2, Insightful)

Thaelon (250687) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415409)

They're only the "leader" because they have no significant competition in the after-market add-on card market. Just try and name two other sound card manufacturers.

Re:Leader? (1)

sixteenvolt (202302) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415459)

Turtle Beach.

Re:Leader? (3, Funny)

ToxikFetus (925966) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415621)

Just try and name two other sound card manufacturers.

Roland and Ensoniq?
 
Whoa, sorry. Just had a flashback to 1991.

Re:Leader? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18415663)

"They're only the "leader" because they have no significant competition..."

Duh ...

Re:Leader? (1)

kabocox (199019) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415681)

They're only the "leader" because they have no significant competition in the after-market add-on card market. Just try and name two other sound card manufacturers.

Intel. Integrated audio is all I hear.

Re:Leader? (3, Informative)

paeanblack (191171) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415697)

They're only the "leader" because they have no significant competition in the after-market add-on card market. Just try and name two other sound card manufacturers.

M-Audio, Turtle Beach, E-MU, off the top of my head. I'm neither a musician or an audiophile, nor have I purchased a soundcard in 6 years.

What I don't understand is why Creative even still exists. Onboard audio has long been sufficient for games/mp3s, and anyone who is serious about audio for recording/mixing/audiophile/etc, is not going to bother with what Creative offers. They are the Monster Cable of the sound card market. Saying they are the only player in the space just means you either work for or exclusively patronize Best Buy and simply haven't seen the rest of the industry.

Re:Leader? (1)

SkunkPussy (85271) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416107)

Creative now own EMU - so prepare for EMU to suck harder the more time goes on.

Re:Leader? (2, Interesting)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416225)

Onboard audio has long been sufficient for games/mp3s,

No, it hasn't. Most chipsets still sound unbelievably crappy, even with cheap speakers.

and anyone who is serious about audio for recording/mixing/audiophile/etc, is not going to bother with what Creative offers. They are the Monster Cable of the sound card market.

It's ironic. The fact that you think Creative is the Monster Cable of soundcards suggests YOU (ironically) "exclusively patronize Best Buy."

You can find Audigys for $30, and SB Live!s for $15. Sure, Best Buy sells them for $200 with a bunch of "pro" audio software when they brand new, but that's not what they really cost to halfway intelligent consumers, and OEMs alike.

I'd say, from the moment the "SB Live! Value" card came out (about 5 years ago?), the competition was dead. Now the dull-sounding and feature-bare (but better-than-onboard) $20 sound cards from other companies are practically gone.

Integration is, without a doubt, the next step. With smaller form-factors, SPDIF digital outputs on even dirt-cheap onboard audio, and the like, PCI audio is sure to go away soon enough. If companies like VIA/SIS/etc. could inexpensively make sound chips that weren't crap, it would already have happened.

Re:Leader? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416417)

The reason they still exist is that they have the game developers wrapped up with EAX and they have the cheapest ASIO card on the market for the home music hobiest.

Re:Leader? (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415699)

Turtle Beach and M-Audio. Do I get a cookie?

Re:Leader? (3, Funny)

BecomingLumberg (949374) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415893)

If you want cookies, start using IE.

I don't know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18415717)

How about Diamond [amazon.com] which has been making sound cards about as long as Creative and how about the high end market with companies such as M-Audio [amazon.com] ?

Re:Leader? (1)

The-Bus (138060) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415759)

There's Turtle Beach (Voyetra); I believe they make onboard solutions as well. I named that one only because that's what I have right now. Years ago I had another brand whose name I can't recall. But you're right. The other results on NewEgg were not familiar to me.

The answer for what Creative needs to do is simple. Continue making high end gaming and musician sound cards, and continue making onboard soundcards. I don't know if Creative makes any soundcards for console systems (or if consoles even need them), but that's another market area. There still has to be some value to the "SoundBlaster" brand.

Even if sound eventually goes into emulation and works mostly on software, they can still be market leaders as long as they change with the market.

Re:Leader? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18416361)

Creative are the leader of home-computer sound, god knows why. I'm a bit into pro-sound, and you can get far better, and cheaper stuff from any other manufacturer. The only thing is that those manufacturers only sell their stuff in "pro-audio" shops, so you won't find them in the computer shop where you bought your computer. I'm talking about Terratec, RME, MoTU, Edirol, etc. Not that for the non-music-making oriented user will they make a difference. No audible difference from built-in audio unless you get decent speakers (100$+). So I guess Creative still gets to sell their stuff because anything else is pretty hard to find.

Re:Leader? (2, Informative)

bitrex (859228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416371)

if by "sound card" you allow extrapolation to the more general term "audio interface" there are plenty - M-Audio, http://www.m-audio.com/ [m-audio.com] Echo Audio http://www.echoaudio.com/ [echoaudio.com] Mark of the Unicorn, http://www.motu.com/ [motu.com] Digidesign, http://www.digidesign.com/ [digidesign.com] RME, http://www.rme-audio.com/ [rme-audio.com] Apogee, http://www.apogeedigital.com/ [apogeedigital.com] Edirol, http://www.edirol.com/ [edirol.com] etc.

No future with me (3, Interesting)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415453)

Since they are moving to Nvidia style drivers, as opposed to the open source drivers they had before.

Re:No future with me (1)

Joe U (443617) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415639)

Since they are moving to Nvidia style drivers

I think Nvidia is moving to Creative style drivers, crappy, buggy and non-stop beta.

I've wondered about Creative for a while (2, Interesting)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415491)

I bought an SB Live value edition, about 8 years ago, and have used it in every rig I've built since. I've seen nothing come along to make me want to upgrade. In fact, the card isn't used right now - I'm using onboard sound on my current rig, with s/pdif out.

Why would I ever buy another sound card? Would anyone but an audiophile care? I have all the surround sound I need right now.

I know the latest round have onboard ram to "speed up gameing 2 da xtreme", but the numbers dont bear that out - IIRC, only Quake 4 took advantage of it when I checked, and hardly showed any noticable performance gain.

Really, what can they offer me, besides gimmicky stuff?

Re:I've wondered about Creative for a while (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18415703)

Actully, no true audiophile worth their $8000 1m interconnects is going to accept a signal from somthing that comes from as EM noisy a place as a computer. Only the purest analog recording on 4 inch wide ceramic unobtainium coated yak intestine based tape will provide the true soundstage and brightly warm, but not colored, sound that they require for critical listeninig.

Computers. Hah!

Re:I've wondered about Creative for a while (1)

dslbrian (318993) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416023)

Why would I ever buy another sound card? Would anyone but an audiophile care? I have all the surround sound I need right now.

I usually build the systems I use, and I've found that in regards to sound the biggest problem I have is just with quality - its not usually the number of channels, which is always way more than the number of speakers I have. For some reason, no matter the motherboard manufacturer (I've used many), the onboard sound just sounds bad. I hear all the hiss and pop, and I can "hear" the hard drive traffic coming out the speakers. Mic is even worse, it comes out as unintelligible garbage. I'm not an audiophile, but I can tell when something sounds bad.

I'm not quite certain why thats the case with onboard audio - perhaps the motherboard designers have no idea how to do electrical isolation, guard rings, etc. Regardless, on occasion I've had to use add-in sound cards to get better quality. Its annoying because its redundant, adds expense, and I absolutely hate Creative's products.

Re:I've wondered about Creative for a while (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416249)

WOw, I ahven't had those kinds of problems with onboard sound chips in 3 or 4 years.

DO you use a specific mobo?

I buy gigabyte, and it sounds great.

The only thing I use the micro phone for is VOIP, Ventrillo, or temspeak, and it is a USB headset.

Re:I've wondered about Creative for a while (2, Informative)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416325)

Analog outputs, I agree. But I'm using sp/dif, it's a digital signal out, so there's no noise, hiss, or pops. I can't say for the quality of the mic-in, but I only use it for the likes of skype, and nobody has complained thus far.

Bad drivers, bad software... (1)

Rastignac (1014569) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415509)

Creative produces bad drivers and bad software. Your expensive soundcard works badly out of the box, eating your memory, crashing your computer.
And Creative soon stops to update them. Your expensive soundcard still works badly, for years. No updated drivers. If you want new drivers, buy a brand new soundcard (ie: trash your "Live! 1" or "Live! 5.1" to buy an "Audigy" or a "X-fi").
And Creative soon stops them at all (ie: no Vista drivers). And your expensive soundcard can now go to the trash. Use your motherboard's audio: at least, it works.

I will never buy any Creative product. Never.

Re:Bad drivers, bad software... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415705)

To me the problem with creaf is that they don't (or didn't?) make drivers available for web download. You could download SOME drivers from the UK site but basically nothing was on the US site and not all the drivers were on the UK site either. You could only download driver updates and if you lose or destroy your driver CD, you can simply no longer get a driver. I can now simply not trust creative labs...

Re:Bad drivers, bad software... (1)

AkumaKuruma (879423) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416057)

Not sure what time frame you're basing this off of but I know that the USA creative site has had drivers on their website for their current-at-the-time products since before XP came out. If yer referencing the Vista drivers for the X-fi, the beta drivers have been available since Vista Beta 1 and the retail drivers are out now. I definitely reccomend checking the forums on their site for workaround by other users. theres already a link on there to get the X-fi software for Vista from a 3rd party site that even Creative doesnt even provide yet (they just state that the software on the CD is incompatible. also any backend development can be traced at http://preview.creative.com/ [creative.com]

Re:Bad drivers, bad software... (1)

Bacon Bits (926911) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416069)

That happened with some hardware we had lying around. We had two dozen PCI SB Live 512 cards someone got off eBay for $5, but no longer had this discs. There were no drivers available for download from creative or HP because some 3rd party software packaged with the drivers prohibited it. They weren't even on driver download sites. We used to use it as a hazing ritual to send someone out to find drivers for them because we knew nobody could ever do it no matter where they went or who they called. One day one of the guys took them and used 'em for target practice. Literally.

Dwindling customer base (5, Interesting)

Applekid (993327) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415537)

Once upon a time motherboards didn't have onboard hard drive controllers. Or, if you want to be more recent, RAID-enabled controllers. There were lots of companies fighting and making really good RAID solutions (as well as some bottom-of-the-barrel companies making lousy solutions). Nowadays I'd be hard pressed to find a new modern motherboard without RAID capabilities.

Does no one buy the add-on cards anymore? Well, no, the super high end has amazing 12-way hardware RAID cards that would make the freebie RAID weep.

But, freebie RAID is good enough for most users. I suspect it's the same for sound cards.

Motherboard sound isn't that great, but who has really great computer speakers anyway? What ordinary user even swapped his speakers from the craptastic freebies that came with his Dell?

There will always be a market for sound cards. While they may whine and kick and scream about it because of how hard it is to please the professional audio crowd, that's where it's heading.

Re:Dwindling customer base (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18415851)

There will always be a market for sound cards.
This isn't so clear. Sound quality is limited by human hearing. Eventually it is "good enough" as in "no difference in double-blind experiments". There is no such sensory-imposed limit for RAID.

Re:Dwindling customer base (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415863)

What ordinary user even swapped his speakers from the craptastic freebies that came with his Dell?

You mean like the Harmon Kardon speakers that came with mine that sound fantastic even to my audiophile ears (just not when connected to the on-board audio jacks)? Craptastic HK are not.

Re:Dwindling customer base (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416407)

There will always be a market for sound cards.

Probably not. The high end will probably have a digital connection into the mixing console, rather than a sound card in the computer.

Its about time... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18415637)

Creative would have to be one of, if not the most evil of PC hardware manufacturers.

They are driven purely by their marketing Joes, and not by customer demands, or innovative tech.
You only need to read up on the happenings with Aureal to see the lengths they will go to.
Even after Creative bought out Aureal, none of Aureal's the superior tech made it into Creative products.

The day Creative looses thier hold over the soundcard market, is the day real 3D soundcard innovation will start.

I hope they die (3, Interesting)

LibertineR (591918) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415659)

Bought an Audigy 4 Pro at full price.

Ran fiber optics from Tivo and DVD player into it for full digital sound against Logitech digital surrounds in my office. Fantastic sound, tons of controls.

Multimedia machine now dual boots Vista........

Audigy 4 Pro reduced to steaming pile of garbage. If you touch the mixer, raise or lower volume, sound goes away and doesnt come back without a reboot. Fiber inputs no longer work, nor does digital coax input. Surround, what do you think? GONE, bitches.

Every boot into Vista comes with the suspense of whether there will be sound or not.

Creative had YEARS to work on Vista drivers. I will never buy another product from them.

Re:I hope they die (1)

saderax (718814) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416169)

Three words:

Subject, Verb, Object.

Otherwise, sounds ignorant! Cant follow idea. Proper tense of verbs!

Hopefully... (1)

sixteenvolt (202302) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415675)

Hopefully the distribution of something other than the worst drivers ever created will be a part of their future.

Haven't bought creative since the FIRST Live! (1)

Oz0ne (13272) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415687)

That was what, mid to late 90s? Since then onboard sound chips have been far more than enough for an average user, lately they've been getting to a level that would be good for some of the more audiophile users (full 5.1 or better support, spdif or optical out, etc.)

The only market creative has left are gamers and a small segment of amature musicians who want the inputs of their breakout boxes. I say a small segment, because pros will realize there is much better specialized equipment for that.

They need to seriously innovate and refocus on their customers to grab the market back.

Re:Haven't bought creative since the FIRST Live! (1)

soleblaze (628864) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416087)

and real 'audiophile users' wouldn't touch creative. (Well, that's not really true.. they'll touch the E-MU line that was a creative bought company) Creative has never sold high end cards under the soundblaster name (even though the marketing on the box says otherwise)

onboard works for me (1)

kirkb (158552) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415693)

The last time I used a sound card was the Soundblaster Live, at least 4 years ago. Back when SB Live + VIA 686 chipset = hard disk errors. Due to driver hassles and the fact that onboard sound was finally up to snuff, I ditched Creative and have been using onboard sound ever since. Performance nuts claim that onboard sound overhead eats up a couple percent of your CPU, but this hasn't been a perceptible loss to me. Note that I'm only hooked up to a couple mid-quality speakers and a sub. If I was doing surround sound with spdif or opticial or whatnot, I might consider using an Audigy. Maybe.

No Problem (1)

paul248 (536459) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415695)

All they have to do is find somebody to sue. Isn't that how things work these days?

Creative Labs has a "professional" sound division (5, Informative)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415709)

Creative Labs has never produced high end equipment. If you remember back to the 1980s, the thing that allowed them to gain a foothold was their inclusion of FM synthesis at a reasonable price. The company branched into wavetable synthesis with a vengeance in the 1990s, using chipsets developed by California synthesizer company E-Mu Systems (also seen in cards by Turtle Beach and others). They eventually bought E-Mu for around $28m, primarily because of their ability to design/build high quality multichannel audio synthesis chips (stuff which can be done exceedingly well in software today).

Sadly, Creative's "professional" division (AKA E-Mu) didn't fare well after the purchase - their lineup of hardware samplers and synths floundered in the early 2000s due to the availability of quite credible software synthesizers. emu.com still produces a handful of "mid-range" professional sound cards that share the same core chipset as many of Creative's cheaper efforts. Unfortunately, they no longer have market advantage in that segment and the E-Mu name has been sullied by their association with Creative Labs (the "Sound Blaster legacy). That puts Creative in a tough spot because decent quality sound is now definitely a commodity product. They've already passed the point of including "silly" features - 7.1 SuperWOWHyperCool sound with 1024 voices of synth playback, etc. The highly profitable soundcard era is long gone and their mp3 player lineup is now being sold at cut rate prices at Wal-Mart. That can't be good for the bottom line.

Re:Creative Labs has a "professional" sound divisi (1)

TheViewFromTheGround (607422) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416071)

Too bad the article is Slashdotted. In any event, this is a great point. Creative has the problem that it isn't high-end enough to compete in the professional audio space, yet their core business is all but commodified. It's a good example of how companies are increasing being forced to join a race to the bottom, specialize in high-end/boutique-style wares sold in low quantities for high margins, or get clobbered. Companies like Creative get screwed either way -- they aren't well situated to join in the commodity arms race, and going high-end is hard because of their brand and because of the serious scaling-back it would entail.

Re:Creative Labs has a "professional" sound divisi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18416123)

E-Mu had some cool stuff. I miss their 1U rack based "ROMplers", or basically storage for a number of good samples. You could buy one unit, stuff 2-3 ROMS from others in there.

Yes, one can do the same on a PC, but the nice thing about discrete components -- your gig isn't up if some asshole runs by your rig during setup and rips off your USB license dongle for Cubase or whatnot, as people do today.

Re:Creative Labs has a "professional" sound divisi (1)

soleblaze (628864) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416149)

> The highly profitable soundcard era is long gone and their mp3 player lineup is now being sold at cut rate prices at Wal-Mart. That can't be good for the bottom line. Creative posted record profits after winning the Zen suit against apple. The money they got from that was eleven times more than their profits for last year.

OpenAL (1)

tomaasz (5800) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415719)

The changes in Vista completely bypass any sound card's hardware acceleration. The only way to use it is to use the OpenAL API instead of Direct Sound or other default Windows APIs. Since many games already use OpenAL, I don't see this as a big issue.
Most people who buy just because the box says "great sound" won't hear the difference (although they might think they do) and those who actually care about this will make sure they play OpenAL enabled titles.

Re:OpenAL (1)

AkumaKuruma (879423) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416247)

The changes did not bypass the acceleration, it flat out removed the DirectX control links to said hardware acceleration due to the new sound subsystem. they pushed a lot of the acceleration back into software for the end effect of increasing the sound quality of cheapo onboard sound and the like. with the new subsystem, AC'97 chipsets have the ability to recreate full EAX type environments even though the drivers nor the hardware have EAX features in them. The end result is the sound subsystem can make better sound overall. The downside is most older games only output crappy mid level sound if it cant do acceleration in DirectSound. OpenAL is a direct control of the soundcard that bypases all the sound subsystem controls and DirectX filters so it will still have full acceleration like the game developer wanted. Creative was at least smart enough to offer a nice Hack with ALchemy that will "transmute" the Direct3DSound calls to native OpenAL, giving games that did not originally have OAL support the ability to still offer hardware acceleration. it works for most games and the list keeps growing but it is literally nothing more than a hack. If creative got smart, they would include a D3dSound filter in their drivers that would do it automatically so it would do the transmute process automatically on the fly.

Problems in Vista (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18415721)

In addition to all the other problems in Vista, the audio driver model has removed any/all support for hardware acceleration of sound. This isn't exactly the best solution in my opinion because many older systems with AC '97 sound don't work as well anymore. Case in point, my Dell M60 laptop with a Centrino 2.0GHz and integrated Soundmax audio used to be able to play raw full-res HDTV clips using hardware accelerate with processor cycles to spare. Under Vista, the combination of crap video drivers and complete removal of audio acceleration means that disabling sound gives me just enough horsepower to skip every 5th frame instead of every 2nd frame. As far as I'm concerned, I'm sticking with XP.

Stuff that worked... (3, Insightful)

kabdib (81955) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415725)

Drivers that worked would be nice. Hardware that didn't freeze would help. Finally, sound cards should be heard and not seen: They should ditch all the extra garbage they install. Look, I bought a stupid little sound card, it's not like that bit of phenolic and silicon is the centerpiece, the very *core* of my PC experience. Yet the bloatware certainly thinks it should be and insists on putting startup junk in my face, installing processes that God only knows what they do, and (I have vague memories of:) calling home to Mom to update itself.

I stopped buying Creative once it was clear they weren't going to support SMP systems anytime soon (heh, hyperthreading *forced* them to, finally), and that any improvements in their stuff was just going to involve shovelware on top of a bunch of creaky drivers that they were never going to fix any bugs in. Meh.

Its called asus (1)

majortom1981 (949402) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415753)

Asus announced that they are making their own sound card that will be fully compatible with vista.

Why not just use your onboard sound while you wait for asus's card.

heck my onboard sound max with optical digital out sounds twice as good as my creative card in vista.

I say wait for the asus card :)

Re:Its called asus (1)

petabyte (238821) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416321)

Well, soundmax is usually just the name of the driver in Windows. The chipset is probably some AC'97 clone. Are you sure Asus is going to make a card from scratch or just take the chipset that they normally glue onto new motherboards and glue it onto a PCI card?

I have an ASUS A8N-VM motherboard in one of my workstations (my Linux page on it) [quaggaspace.org] and whlie the sound does work, it is also probably the worst motherboard I've ever owned. Touching the video card results in the CMOS getting confused and the whole machine needing to be disassembled and put back together one piece at a time or the bios freaks out and doesn't boot. The problem isn't related to the OS; Linux, FreeBSD and Windows all did it. I'll never buy one of their motherboards again.

While the Athlon64 is still the fastest of my 3 machines, the headache Asus made this motherboard leads me to using my mini-itx Via C7 machine more.

been years since I have had an addon sound card (1)

Mike_ya (911105) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415757)

Soundblaster Live was the last external sound card I have had, some years ago.

Currently my pc has SoundMax Integrated Digital Audio, whatever that is.
It just works. As a casual gamer I don't see the need to buy an extra sound card and deal with the crap software that comes with it.
The onboard sound works good enough for me.

The name SoundBlaster doesn't mean as much as it use to.
Creative needs to embrace the embedded sound market.

Re:been years since I have had an addon sound card (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415837)

I had problems with my soundmax with my 5.1 surround system and plan to put my aging sb live back in though wow has some issues with it.

I know I should not use windows update to update the sound driver but oddly ubuntu does weird things with my soundmax on my laptop as well and will not play midi files. I think it maybe hardware related.

I do agree with you that soundblaster is in trouble. Worse Vista does not have accelerated or 3d audio so the point of using a high end sound card is mute. Creative labs is working on a new driver for this but its not done yet.

I think they should focus on the mp3 player market.

Re:been years since I have had an addon sound card (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416131)

Onboard will use CPU cycles whatever driver model is, whatever host OS is and even if they gave the entire driver in opensource. That is not a sound card even.

I don't have nice feelings about onboard since I enjoyed huge performance increase when I got rid of my CPU leeching onboard (5.1) and bought a real sound card from Creative , one of the most cheap models available, SB Live 5.1,

The embedded sound market exists because they are making cheap, "if it compiles, ship it" type driver based processors/sound card emulators. If creative did a embedded chip today, it would have similar price to the add-on card.

As HD-DVD and BluRAY coming, they both (not user about hd-dvd) feature uncompressed 24 bit/96khz Dolby Digital, Creative and other real sound card producers will stay.

DSP Coprocessors (3, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415763)

Creative puts a cheap, powerful DSP in every computer they serve. They should sell DSP coprocessors to accelerate "business" functions, which could extend the life of existing PCs. They would have even more success on the Linux platform that's rising as they sink, because anyone can patch existing apps to use the extra processing power. Creative should be leading the world in GPAPU (General Purpose Audio Processing), especially as they need the business.

Of course, they don't even release driver source for Linux coders/users to fully exploit the soundcards we already paid for, so I doubt they'll wake up.

audio = commodity device (2, Interesting)

revlayle (964221) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415803)

10 years ago i would have picked up a creative sound card solution without a second thought. they quality was greater then, there were no on-mobo solutions yet, and the competitions was either 1) crappy OR 2) over priced. Jump about 5 years later, on-mobo sound is in it's early years, but it is so crappy that even a low end SBLive was infinitely better now.

Jump to today: Audigy cards are overpriced bloatware with cheap hardware components in them. Each new Audgy "revision" adds more useless features. The only way I would pay the prices they want for their recent sound cards if that they were decent for semi-pro use, which, unfortunately they aren't. That and on-mobo sound systems work, for the most part, pretty damn decently these days (esp. for basic audio playback). The only reason I would want any external or PCI-card based solution is to get some real clean inputs for vocal recording or other sound inputs, and for that, there are better solutions than creative.

Ok.. Ok... E-Mu has good inputs on them and is a "Creative-owned" brand. Honestly, tho, if Creative went under, could E-Mu just move somewhere else?
Also, at least in the US, they suck as an employer. Not because of the environemtn, their web-dev/customer-service facility in Stillwater, OK was a FUN place to work at - the corporate disparacy (and IT struggles) between the OK and CA offices were enough to make your head spin, and their compensation is HORRIBLE (Java devs with 2-3 years of experience getting maybe 30-32K???? Even with the small amount of experience they shoul dbe getting 40-50 in OK)

i have been pleased (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18415807)

i originally purchased an OEM audigy card which i later upgraded to a platinum with a front drive i got off ebay. that is being used in my HTPC right now. i use the optical in to get nice surround sound with my xbox. my main rig has an x-fi platinum which hasn't given me any trouble. i mainly use headphones on this system and the surround sound through just a basic set is pretty amazing. i also enjoy the crystalizer because it makes my mp3s sound a lot better.

WTF??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18415817)

PC sound card business

PC sound cards are still a business???

In 2007 PC sound cards with digital output are onboard and muted when I use flash.

Everyone who, in 2007, assembles his PC himself and breaks his poor head about the sound card clearly needs a different hobby if not a life!

End of story.

Re:WTF??? (1)

Ilgaz (86384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416185)

Some of us like 24 bit/96 Khz, hardware accelerated sound output for our computers especially while gaming and the bluray media is coming.

I heard ATI and Nvidia is going out of business too since Vista sports great onboard video card (!) support! :)

They could start... (3, Informative)

Kegetys (659066) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415835)

with fixing their drivers. I have an Audigy 2 on my Windows system and the creative control panel absolutely sucks. Settings are scattered across multiple different applications that are extremely slow, bloated, confusing to use and buggy. Because of their stupid driver policy I also had to download the original driver disc image from eMule since I lost the original, as the drivers they offer for download do not work without the original driver from the disc installed. (Though that was a while ago, they might have come to their senses already)

I liked the SB16 I had, and the SB128 worked well too but buying the Audigy 2 was a big mistake.

Onboard audio processors ??! (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415841)

abilities of on-board solutions have improved somewhat


The sound quality difference between latest creative cards and onboard processors are as indistinguishable as the difference between 1993 creative sound blaster 16 and pc speakers.

apparently article poster didnt try out new X-Fi series from creative.

Re:Onboard audio processors ??! (1)

rrhal (88665) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416255)

For high-end audio I think most people use a Via sound codex.

I think Creative's biggest advantage over on board sound is that they use hardware acceleration for 3D sound effects. If you are a gamer then the reduced load on the CPU might be worth a few $$ for the card. You also are unlikely (if you are a gamer) to mind proprietary drivers etc.

Re:Onboard audio processors ??! (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416409)

you are clearly not an audiophile.

neither via or realtek onboards i used came ever close to any soundblaster i used in terms of sound quality.

3d, surround are just positionalizing of the sound, it does not relate to quality.

i listen music more, i might add.

Seems to me the problem with the sound card market (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 7 years ago | (#18415953)

is speakers. What good does a $200 dollar sound card do without a good set of speakers, which are not cheap or even easy to come by.

Re:Seems to me the problem with the sound card mar (1)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416279)

Please... a pair of $150 Klipsch ProMedia 2.1s will quite capably reveal the difference between a crap sound card and a decent one.

Onboard Audio is good enough for the non-pro (2, Insightful)

RexRhino (769423) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416199)

The need for a "high quality" consumer sound card doesn't exist anymore. Most of the super-cheap sound cards or audio embedded on the motherboard is comparable to your average consumer electronics (i.e. your Sony stereo system). Most computers have more than enough processing power to handle all the wavetable stuff.

And if you need high quality (you are an audiophile, or you are doing pro or wannabe-pro recording), you would jump up to professional recording hardware, which would cost you only marginally more than a Creative Labs product.

My SoundBlaster card was a lot of fun back in the day though. At that time, sampled sound playback was still somewhat of a novelty, and the soundblaster was pretty damn cool.

Via/M-Audio/Chaintech has better sound quality (4, Interesting)

0111 1110 (518466) | more than 7 years ago | (#18416229)

My $20 Chaintech AV-710 [newegg.com] with its Via Envy 24 chipset sounds much better to my ears than the Creative Audigy that it recently replaced. I wasn't expecting there to be such a huge difference in sound quality. I found myself enjoying songs which I had long ago become bored with, because I could suddenly hear the music come to life with a detail, richness and sweetness that I had never noticed before. No doubt M-Audio [m-audio.com] has some better sounding solutions, but not at this price. Creative needs to get their act together and produce something with good sound quality. I mean, is there any feature of a sound card that is more important than that?

From a gaming perspective maybe true 3D positional audio like Aureal produced with their A3D [wikipedia.org] Vortex chips in the late 90s before Creative sued them out of existence in a lawsuit involving...you guessed it, patent infringement. A lawsuit which Creative lost. Creative was not so interested at the time in using positional 3D cues. They were highly successful however if their goal was to prevent anyone else from pursuing accurate positional 3D audio in computer games. Have they finally caught up in terms of 3D audio to where Aureal was a decade ago? This is a particularly telling example of how useful patents can be at keeping smaller, more innovative companies to a minimum. They don't even need to win the lawsuit, just outspend the smaller company in lawyer fees.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?