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Soundblaster Live! Platinum 5.1 By John "Award" Del Percio, December 20, 2000
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Manufacturer : Creative Labs
Interface : Internal
Table of Contents

Closer Look

All Good Things...

With the perks out of the way, it's time to discuss some parts of the card that don't exactly make the grade.

It is a sad truth, that Creative is not widely known for their excellent software. They're not even always known for their excellent hardware (see ModemBlaster). The creative utilities have caused me more problems than I'd care to think about. Granted, the first time I had some bad ram causing me troubles, but after that was cleared up (and after the obvious reformat), I would have thought everything should start behaving properly. Of course not. After running Playcenter 2 a few times, I started getting some odd crashes. Then Live! Launcher proceeded to give me exactly three crash messages when I would go to shut down, then it just stopped me from shutting down properly. Finally it took down DirectX and I decided to disable it. That's not the only thing. The mixer utilities, necessary as they are, seem to enjoy crashing more than running. You may not notice it while you're using it. Sometimes it took an hour or so to start causing problems, but every time, it was a Creative program that died, and every time I don't run a Creative program, everything runs fine. Honestly, you'd think for a $200 sound card, they'd at least give you drivers and software that doesn't crash.

Another major problem with the Live! is it's lack of support on any operating system but Windows. The older Blasters there have been people that have figured out how to write OS/2 and Linux/UNIX drivers for it, but unfortunately, the Live! has been constructed in such a bizarre way, that nobody can seem to figure out how to get it to do much of anything. With the steadily increasing Linux gaming community, and increased ports of games to it not only by Loki, but by the original publishers themselves, that presents a major problem. Creative has said that they hired Linux driver programmers to work on Live! drivers, but so far nothing has been released.

[Editors Note (LordHavoc): the Live! is supported in Linux by ALSA (which is quite nice, I use it on all 3 machines here, and the kernel people plan to tell everyone to use ALSA in the future :) and more specifically, here's the list of supported cards (which lists all the Live's as supported) ]

Finally, there seems to be an odd conflict of interest between various portions of the drive. you can't seem to use both the microphone and CD audio simultaneously. That is, if you enable one, you disable the other. This could simply be an IRQ conflict on my system, but it seems well attuned to do this, so I'm guessing not. Where the problem comes in is with voice activation software such as Game Commander, if your game uses CD audio music (hey, some still do), then you're pretty much out of luck.

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