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Reviewed: Sound Blaster Live! Value with FPS2000 Speakers
Manufacturer: Creative Labs
Product Type: Sound System & Speakers
Price: Sound Blaster Live! $99.99, FPS2000 Speakers $199.99
Overall Rating:
Author: Michael "" Ahlf       Date: October 12th 1999
Page: 1

I tried out several games with the card. At first, the card was hooked up to a standard 2-speaker set (a Sony boombox). Unlike my previous card, which had had a lot of bass distortion, I was able to take the sound levels on this card through everything those speakers could give me, without fear. Especially nice was the "stereo enhanced" feature, which separated the stereo channels further than normal stereo, and was much better for games like Quake 2 and Unreal where hearing can lead to knowledge of upcoming enemies.

Next, I hooked up the FPS2000 speakers. I ran these through their paces -- MP3's, CD audio, even audio tape through the line-in -- and found that they were extremely pleasing, though it was possible to cause distortion in the rear channel by turning it up till the people 2 floors below me complained of noise. I also found that the speakers took some wearing in; an initial hiss in the speakers went away after approximately a week and a half of use.

So how, you ask, did the games perform? I tried it the only way I could -- find an area with an ambient sound, and turn in place. Unreal worked perfectly, as did The Phantom Menace: the sound "rotated" around just as it should have. Every other game (Quake 2, Q3: Arena, Mechwarrior 3, and then some) all gave the same performance: stereo-only games like Mechwarrior 3 sounded richer with the sound on two sides rather than in front of me, and the rest gave me vital clues to hunt my friends or the enemy when playing online.

However, like all things, there were downsides. First of all, when I would leave the speakers running with no sound, there would be an occasional popping noise: as this never happened in-game, I had to assume it was due to something cycling in the bass system. Moral of the story: turn them off when you're not using them.The second problem was the lack of a headphone pass-through, despite the very nice volume and fade controls, as well as lack of a balance control for the handset. While this could be gotten around quite easily with the SB Live lineup using the digital outlet for the speakers and placing the headphones on the normal 4-speaker output, it was annoying especially since most people will at some time or another want (or are required) to use headphones for the benefit of others around them. Third was the fact that, except for the question of headphones, the digital output really didn't help much; distortion was down slightly when blasting the speakers as loudly as possible, but when the sound was taken down to a tolerable level it really didn't matter.

For Installation, I am pleased to say that there was almost nothing to do. I put in the card, added CD's when appropriate, and enjoyed the sound. Creative Labs' "Live!Ware" updates provided some nice extras, for those interested in playing around with their card using the keyboard as a guitar or so forth. The only problem came when the Sound Blaster 16 Emulation (that's right folks, your old games are still supported: it's sound emulation at its finest) was installed: It wanted the same IRQ as my parallel port, video card, or network card. Eventually I sorted it out, however: thankfully, it can share the IRQ, so those without one free won't have to take anything out to use this feature.

Bottom Line: my games were a bit better, and definitely more immersive, even though the control of the sound system left a few things to be desired. For sheer sound quality, there was no way to argue with this setup.

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Added:  Tuesday, October 12, 1999
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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