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Date of review: 25-June-1998
Type Of Review: Soundcards
The new Sound Blaster LIVE! PCI audio card marks the next step in Creative's PC audio strategy, and sets the standard for next generation PC sound. Architecturally based on a new chip called the EMU10K1 which was entirely designed at the joint E-MU / Creative Technology Center, the project leveraged the more than 25 years of experience in the professional music & high quality studio markets of E-Mu Systems during the planning and implementation of the new chip design.
Now the all-new architecture of the EMU10K1 is ready to take the computer industry by storm.
With more raw audio horsepower than found on any previous sound card, combined with powerful new features and capabilities, previously unavailable in the PC market, Creative will use the EMU10K1 to launch a new family of audio products. Sound Blaster LIVE! is the first EMU10K1 based PCI audio card being offered in Creative’s new high-end family of products. The LIVE! is the first sound card make available to developers, gamers, audiophiles and casual users that can bring actual Hollywood quality sound effects and music into the PC. This in turn creates an experience that is “as real as it gets”.
Key Benefits :
- DirectSound & DirectSound 3D hardware acceleration
WDM and 1394 ready
- Over 1000 MIPS of audio processing for effects and 3D sound
- CMSS (Creative Multi Speaker Surround)
- E 2 M (E-Mu Environmental Modeling)
- DynaRAM – sample memory is allocated on an as-needed basis
- True 3D audio, audio effects, digital equalization and other advanced sound functions in real-time
- Supports E-Mu SoundFont Technology for downloadable sample banks, providing legacy compatibility and unparalleled musical flexibility
In addition, the new Sound Blaster LIVE!’s advanced architecture utilizes less CPU bus bandwidth, resulting in a more efficient implementation than found on other PCI sound cards. The card can achieve improvements of 4 to 20 times in bus speed and approximately 15 times faster maximum data transfer throughput. The LIVE! uses the EMU10K1’s bus-mastering capabilities to stream audio to/from the card and host memory, using E-Mu’s patent pending DynaRAM™ technology. This increases overall system performance and reduces audio stream latency.
This feature will give users an immersive, vividly realistic audio experience that is unsurpassed by any other PC audio solution. The "LIVE!" also features in hardware: 64-voice, 8-point interpolation, wave-table synthesis with powerful effects processing. The 64 voices are essentially 64 different audio channels through which a user can stream .WAV files, MIDI controlled wavetable synthesis voices, or ANY audio source. Each of these audio channels can be at an arbitrary and independent sample rate. The different audio streams will be digitally mixed and sample-rate converted to play back at 48kHz 20-bit resolution, thereby ensuring a professional level of audio fidelity and performance.
Ultimately, this gives both developers and end users complete and independent control over every audio stream in the computer. In addition to the 64 wavetable voices, the "LIVE!" also features up to 35 channels of simultaneous audio recording, and an additional 32 streams of audio passing to and from the effects engine at a fixed 48 kHz sample rate, for a total of 131 total audio channels in hardware.
Creative utilized its years of experience and technical superiority to provide a complete SB16 Emulation (SBE) for DOS Box DPMI games, unlike other solutions which are only able to deliver lower fidelity, 8-bit Sound Blaster Pro emulation. The Sound Blaster LIVE! is a PCI solution which is self contained on a single half-length PCI card (PCI Spec 2.1) with the standard Creative back panel connectors (Line-In, Mic-In, Line-Out, Rear-Out, Joystick/MIDI I/O). For the consumers that are ready for the next step in audio fidelity, Creative has replaced the speaker out connection with a Rear Surround out. In addition, for users who wish to work entirely in the digital domain, an expansion bracket is provide additional S/PDIF I/O connectors.
EMU10K1 Audio Platform - General Specification The purpose of this section is to provide an overview of the features of the EMU10K1 PCI Audio Platform. This chip embodies a complete audio recording and playback system interfaced via the PCI bus, that is rivaled only by professional studio’s. The Platform’s audio capabilities include:
- Fully compliant PCI 2.1 Bus mastering interface
- Up to 32MB of sound RAM mapped to Host Memory
- Playback of 64 audio channels each at an arbitrary sample rate
- Any audio channel can function as a wavetable synthesizer voice
- E-mu’s patented 8 point interpolation algorithm for excellent fidelity
- Up to 3 S/PDIF inputs
- Up to 4 S/PDIF outputs
- On-chip page mapped memory management support for 4k byte pages of sound RAM
- Pairs of audio channels can be programmed to play 8 or 16 bit interleaved data from host memory
- 8-bit and 16-bit sample size support for efficient host memory usage
- Interrupt on loop support for streaming audio
- Interface to AC97
- Interface to standard I 2 S DAC
- Routing of the AC97 stereo ADC data to a stereo effects engine input bus
- Interface to an I 2 S format asynchronous audio stream such as PC-card Zoomed Video
- Sample rate conversion and routing of the Zoomed Video audio to a stereo effects engine input bus
- Routing of the AC97 microphone ADC data to a monophonic effects input bus
- An effects engine capable of a wide variety of time domain effects
- On-chip 8k 16 bit sample delay memory for effects engine delay lines
- Off chip 16 bit sample delay memory via cached PCI for additional effects engine delay lines
- Transmission of six effects output busses to any of four S/PDIF outputs
- Sample rate conversion to 8kHz of a monophonic effects engine output with routing to host memory
- Conversion to 8 common sample rates of a stereo effects engine output routed to host memory
- Routing of any or all thirty-two effects engine outputs to host memory
Additionally, the EMU10K1 provides certain ancillary support functions and interfaces, including:
- Internal MPU-401 compatible MIDI UART
- External Analog Joystick circuit
- External AC-3 Decoder chip interface (via I 2 S input)
- Volume increment, decrement, and mute functions
- Sample based interval timer
- EEPROM for custom PCI configuration management.
More to come...
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