Creative AWE64 Gold   
 

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SoundBlaster Awe64 Gold soundcard

Date: 18.01.1998

 

 

RATINGS
Quality
Geekness

Highlights Incredible sound; technology that will enhance your listening experience

Lowlights

Some features only work with a GENUINE INTEL chip

Price

US$199.99

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!

Installation (physical)
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 the card.

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):

  1. Locate and remove the PC Speaker connection from your motherboard.
  2. Connect a wire from the +5V DC pin of the motherboard's speaker connector to pin 1 of your card's PC Speaker connector.
  3. 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.

Installation (software)
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.

The Specs
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 more details:

  • 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?

Ratings Defense
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!

 

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Copyright © 2002 Øyvind Haugland
Sist endret:  25 mars 2017
 

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