SoundBlaster Awe64 Gold soundcard
||Incredible sound; technology that will enhance your
||Some features only work with a GENUINE INTEL chip
Are you ready for the most amazing, realistic-sounding
sounds your ears have ever experienced? How about the highs sounding like an
angel and the lows sounding like they are coming from the depths of hell?! Okay
. . . I'm over-exaggerating a little. But just a little. I'm referring to the
wonderful sounds that come out of your computer speakers as soon as you install
the new SoundBlaster Awe64 Gold.
Let's start with the basics. I'm not much of a game player
but I enjoy the nice crisp sounds of a good CD, WAV, MP3, or MIDI file just as
much as the next guy. And, of course, if the right game comes across my desk, I
want to hear the gun shots echo through my house!
On the other side, I enjoy recording my own songs through
my keyboard and a MIDI cable connected to the Awe64 Gold. Of course, the more
realistic the sounds, the more I'll use the computer for composing music. As you
can see, I had a few requirements that needed to be met in order for this card
to win me over. You'll see by the end of the review that this card met all of
those requirements and more!
The SoundBlaster Awe64 Gold is a PnP card. In other
words, you plug the board in, turn the computer on, and play. Of course, anyone
who has ever installed a plug-and-play board knows that it never works that easy.
Fortunately for me, there wasn't much that needed to be done once I installed
Contrary to my past feelings about PnP, I decided to leave
it enabled and let Windows 95 do its worst. I installed the card (physically)
into my computer. I decided to leave off the add-on (included) S/PDIF connector
(Sony/Philips Digital Interface format connector). This lets you transfer
digital audio signals from your audio card to a device that also uses a S/PDIF
connector. Remember the DAT machine? I also decided not to redirect my PC sounds
to external speakers. The reason for this is because if this sound card fails,
I'd like to hear my PC speaker complain in as many beep tones as it can muster.
For those of you looking to mangle your computer more than
I am, the instructions on how to redirect your PC speaker's output to your
soundcard are below. Keep in mind that you won't be able to hear any beeps
during power-on self-test, so if you have any video problems or anything having
to do with the motherboard, memory, etc., you won't hear your computer identify
these problems through the various series of beeps.
If you still want to mangle your PC, here are the
instructions--straight from the online user manual (I don't recommend it):
- Locate and remove the PC Speaker connection from your
- Connect a wire from the +5V DC pin of the motherboard's
speaker connector to pin 1 of your card's PC Speaker connector.
- Connect another wire from the PC Speaker Out pin of the
motherboard's speaker connector to pin 2 of your card's PC Speaker connector.
Okay, that about covers physical installation. I then
turned on my computer and waited to see what Windows 95 would do to the sound
card. Surprisingly, it detected the new sound card, prompted me to insert the
installation disk, and started installing the software. Fortunately for me, the
one problem covered (indirectly) in the Getting Started manual was the first
problem I had. It told me that it detected my joystick and wanted to install
some software. I checked off Windows Default driver (per the Getting Started
instructions) and installation continued. As installation proceeded, I was
suddenly informed that the program couldn't install WaveSynth/WG. The reason for
this, according to the installation, was that I didn't have a Pentium 90. In
fact, I had a Cyrix P166+, much faster then the Pentium 90. Unfortunately,
WaveSynth/WG requires an ACTUAL Intel Pentium to run. Anyway, I restarted my
computer after this and let Windows make whatever changes it felt like on the
way back in. Upon restart, I heard my usual .wav chirps but then heard some
amazing realistic sounding music coming out of my speakers. It seems that
Creative has engineered their installation CD to do an autoplay of MIDI files.
Nice job! It completely demonstrated my Awe64Gold.
Let me explain why this card is worth the money. The
Awe64Gold is capable of playing 64 notes simultaneously. In other words, you can
get close to orchestra quality sound from your computer! In addition, it uses
the Advanced WaveEffects Engine, the EMU-8000, for audio processing. Here're
- audio playback using a 20-bit digital S/PDIF output
- 90dB signal-to-noise ratio and total harmonic
distortion of .001
- Creative Advanced Wave-Effects Engine
- Microsoft DirectSound hardware accelerator
- SoundFont Technology (includes a program that lets you
create your own sounds in banks)
- E-mu's 3D Positional Audio & 3D Stereo Enhancement
(has to be heard to be appreciated!)
- Sondius WaveGuide technology
- Plug-and-Play and tons of software
I could go on and on about how wonderful this card is but
my editor forces me to maintain some sort of length on these reviews . . .
My favorite stuff about this card:
- I absolutely love the 3D Stereo Enhancement. When I
finally realized that it existed in my volume control for the sound card, I
couldn't believe the sound difference!
- The Wavetable. When I play with my piano keyboard
plugged into the MIDI, I feel like I'm using a $1000 synthesizer.
- Any MIDI file sounds incredible.
In case you haven't realized, I love this card!
One more thing: the Awe64Gold comes with a microphone,
MIDI cable, and nice gold-tipped RCA output jacks. Can you say, ready to go?
For Quality, I give the Awe64Gold a 4.5 out of 5. I was
a little upset that I couldn't get the WaveSynth stuff to work because I chose
to use a Cyrix processor instead of Intel. Is there an arrangement that I should
know about? Overall, the quality is phenomenal. I've owned SoundBlaster cards
ever since the first one rolled off the assembly line. This was the first time
that I didn't have any showstopping, nerve-wracking problems.
For Geekness, this card receives a solid 5 out of 5. I
haven't tried to play with the SoundFont technology yet, but any card that has a
specific plug for outputting digital to DAT is the card for me!