This week the PC audio experience moved into a new realm of "surround-sound" and "environmental" realism with the release of a new sound card from Singapore-based multimedia peripherals manufacturer Creative Technologies.
The heart of Creative's new Sound Blaster Live! PC sound card is its new EMU10K1 audio chip, an engine with 1000-plus MIPS of processing grunt and two million transistors delivering 32-bit, 48kHz digital signal processing. In combination with up to eight surround-sound speakers, PC's audio capability and sound realism is significantly enhanced.
Over the next six months, the peripheral should be popular in retail outlets with the early-adopting games market. Even legacy, two-speaker systems are noticeably improved, but the real "cool" factor comes from the crispness and clarity of sound and the card's utilisation of surround sound speakers, a great add-on sales opportunity from Creative's speaker division, Cambridge Soundworks.
Creative has combined new hardware and software to deliver a new audio platform known as Environmental Audio, which allows PC audio functions to be delivered with greater realism. With Sound Blaster Live!, as graphic environments change, so too does the sound accompanying it. The sound of a gun being fired in a drain pipe or large chamber now varies as it would in real life.
According to Sim Wong Hoo, Creative Technologies' chairman and CEO, SBL will generate immediate must-have demand from the world's three million hard core gamers. He also predicts Environmental Audio will become the future standard in PC sound cards.
"We intend to eventually migrate the entire 60 million installed base of sound card users to Sound Blaster Live!. I expect the Environmental Audio platform to soon be established as an audio standard," said Sim.
"This is not just a simple technology," he added. "State-of-the-art algorithms were used to develop the software used in Sound Blaster Live! and the EMU10K1 is the most powerful audio processor ever made. It allows the PC to become a platform for sound quality and audio experiences previously only available from the likes of Hollywood studios."
To enable the Environmental Audio platform to be broadly embraced by users, Creative has made the Environmental Audio development platform, known as Environmental Audio Extensions (EAX), open. Hundreds of developer kits have been distributed to game developers and over 100 titles utilising EAX are expected in 1999, 20 or so by Christmas.
Support for the open API has already come from top developers such as Dreamworks, Fox, Accolade, Bungie and GT Interactive/Epic MegaGames. They are developing patches upgrading sound quality of existing games as well as incorporating EAX functionality in future developments.
The SBL package includes features such as Multiple speaker output, a digital I/O card for recording and playback precision, 256-voice music synthesis, support for the legacy Sound Blaster PCI standard and a software bundle of music applications, production titles and utilities. Support is available for up to eight digital speakers with as much as 32MB of memory available for sound font fidelity.
Stocks will begin rolling out from Australian distributor Creative Pacific during August. Broad in-store shelf presence will be accompanied by an intensive awareness campaign, diverse public demonstrations and an RRP of $499, according to Michael Wong, Creative Pacific's managing director.
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