Creative Audigy 4 Sound Card

Admin - 2006-12-02 20:02:03 in Sound Cards
Category: Sound Cards
Reviewed by: Admin   
Reviewed on: December 10, 2006
Creative
Gfcity Computers
Price: $79.99 USD

Introduction

Weather or not you are an avid gamer, or a music buff, you will no doubt at some point want to upgrade from onboard sound to a soundcard.  Now depending on what your budget, as well as what your tastes are will dictate which card to buy.  This review will be focusing on the Creative Audigy 4 sound card.  While this is the latest in the Audigy series, we will see if bigger is indeed better.  For as long as I can remember Creative has been the biggest supplier for soundcards across the globe.  Being founded all the way back in 1981 in Singapore, creative has been a mainstay in the computer audio world ever since.

Closer Look

Since this an OEM card, you don’t get a fancy box like the retail ones come with, instead you get the card, a driver disk, and a 24bit sticker (not shown). 

 

Removing the rubber bands that hold the driver disk to the card, I could see the top of the sound card.  Shaking the card out of the anti-static bag, gave me a look, at my new piece of audio driving device.  Being a relatively small card, using mostly surface mount circuitry, this card has a fairly small footprint.

 

On the side there is the standard hookups, Line in, Mic, Line Out, Sub, Surround, as well as a line level hookups, all located on the back of the card with color coded jacks.

 

That’s about everything that is worth noting on this card, next step is to install this baby!

Installation

Well installation is pretty easy, simply open you case, ensure that you have a spare PCI slot to plug this card into.  Remove the I/O cover, pop in your new sound card, and secure to the case with a screw.  Once that is done, you can close up your case, and proceeds to plug your audio gear into the card.  Boot up your computer, install the supplied drivers and you are ready to roll!

Testing

Test Setup:

 

For testing this soundcard I chose to run RightMark Audio Analyzer, it auto generates a test signal, then analyzes that signal when replayed through the card, and gives out results.  For the audio enthusiast this is great but for most it will leave scratching their heads, I will also provide my own (selective) sound thoughts of this card.

RightMark generates some nice graphs with the outputs so without further ado, here are the results:

 

Noise Level, dBA

-97.8

Dynamic Range, dBA

97.7

THD, %

0.0003

IMD + Noise, %

0.0037

Stereo Crosstalk

-98.7

IMD + N (Swept Freq.), %

0.0039



 

NOISE LEVEL GRAPH:

The lower the Noise Level is better, this card demonstrates, about -130Db, where as the theoretical limit on a CD is only -104, the solid -130 from this card throws it right up there in performance already.


DYNAMIC RANGE GRAPH:

Dynamic Range, is basically the diffrence between loudest, and quietest. This graph shows that the diffrence is not that much, except for a breif spike at 1000 Hz, though this is acceptable, as that was within the test range.

Testing Continued

THD GRAPH:

THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) this is the overall distortion at a said range, as we can see there is very little distortion at all, this card is showing very strong numbers.


IMD + NOISE GRAPH:

Intermodulation distortion, or IMD is a means for measuring Nonlinear Distortion as the graph shows, there is little to no difference.

Stereo crosstalk this is again a comparison between channels, a direct comparison of the left, and right channels of this card, to see just how accuratly they can reproduce the sound.


IMD GRAPH:

InterModulation Distortion, again, though this is a more controlled test, and the numbers are very solid.
If you are still lost there is a list of other cards that were tested on the Rightmark website.
http://audio.rightmark.org/test_results.shtml

 If you don’t understand all that technical mumbo jumbo, have no fear as i am about to give a rundown on exactly what I thought of this card.  Remember that what you are about to read is 100% my opinion; the sound could be greatly different based on your setup.

When I first went to test this soundcard, I plugged in my Sennheiser HD500’s and started to listen.  At first I was a little skeptical, as the bass was a bit boomy, and the highs sounded a little sloppy, but checking through my setting, I found that I still had my EQ setup for onboard.  So after resetting the EQ back to stock, the bass tightened up, and the treble came in a bit, down to a nice level, though it still sounded slightly “light”  after giving my EQ a slight tweak I was away to happy sound!  After that I ran the output form the soundcard to my home theater system, to see if there was anything, and I noticed that the line out level was a bit low, I was required to use slight boosting on my Receiver.  Though aside from the slightly low output on the card, the sound quality was excellent, I also tested the card with a cheap pair of headphones. The sound was tight and sharp, and the headphones where sounding pretty good for costing about $20.  Over all this card is an avid performer, the soundstage recreation is very tight, and very accurate.

Conclusion

Over all this card is a very solid performer, only fault that I could find is the slightly low line out level.  Easy to install, and use, I had this card going in under 10 minutes, for me that is a huge plus, as ease of installation, as well as time required is what makes things stand out.  This Audigy 4 from Creative has just that, being a Creative card as well you know that it will be a solid performer.  This card is available in OEM (mine) which comes with the card and a driver’s disk for about 45 dollars, though you can also get a ‘Pro’ version for a couple hundred extra.  For the casual enthusiast or a person looking to upgrade from onboard this card is a solid performer, giving great performance, and not hurting your wallet to bad.


Pros:

Cons: