Creative Ensonic AudioPCI sound card

I finally updated to a wavetable synthesis card. I bought the Creative Labs Ensonic PCI card ($10 after a buncha rebates). It doesn't perform nearly as well as the *real* Ensonic PCI card (according to reviews on the net), but it is still pretty cool for $10. I finally got my CDROM drive working with it, since it uses a different audio connector than every other soundcard I have ever seen. Also loading the 4mbyte wavetable is a bit tricky under Windows NT. The file is on their CD, but only in the Windows 95 tree. I sent them some nasty email about that, but at least their tech support reads and answers their email.

Creative Live! sound cards

November 2001
Like a fool, I bought another creative labs sound card (my excuse was that it was $30 after rebate), the Live MP3 5+1 card. I knew they had fixed their problems with dual cpu's described below. What I didn't know was they had a whole slew of new bugs waiting for me.

  • With Windows 98, they install a DOS driver that is over 500k, which will use up almost all the conventional memory, unless you do a custom install.
  • Under Windows 98 and Windows 2000, they try to install the creative live experience. Not sure what it is, but it is over 100 mbytes. Hard to imagine what something so big is used for, unless it is an entire operation system.
  • With Windows NT and Windows 2000, part of the install bombs out, crashing, and the continue button is cleverly hidden.
  • They try to use IRQ 5 for generic soundblaster emulation, and if something else is using IRQ 5, an obscure error is generated. The card wants a different IRQ for its main job, so the card sucks down two IRQ's.
  • The entire install program is buggy, and generally has to be done several times to install correctly.

November 1999
I bought the Creative Sound Blaster Live! . Everyone has heard of creative labs. They are the largest manufacturer of sound cards. They also make cd rom drives and no doubt other stuff. Well, I thought them made ok but unexceptional stuff. I was so wrong.

I bought it in late July of 1999. Well, it doesn't work with Windows NT, dual processor. Now, this isn't something very exotic. A majority of motherboard makers make dual processor boards, and one would think that some of them are actually used to run Windows NT, as they won't do much good running Windows 3.1, 95, or 98.

So, when you try to install the sound blaster live software, it wedges the machine at 95% of installation. Creative knows about it, as they have a section in their FAQ about it. They say they have even fixed the problem with their live ware 3.0 release. So if your card comes with live ware 3.0 cd, you probably have drivers that also work.

Its really fun as the machine needs the 'restart' key, as nothing else will respond.

So they have a patch on their web site. Just click on the link. But wait, after many more clicks, you will get to a point where it trys a URL that doesn't exist. The patch isn't there.

So call their tech support (a toll call). Well, the patch is there, it just isn't pointed to by the link. So we download the patch.

Simple enough.

Now the patch won't install. It turns out that you have to delete everything from the TEMP directory, as it says in the directions. Problem is the directions can only be read after successfully unpacking the patch. Now that is very clever indeed.

So I apply the patch, and reboot my system.

Well, now their program, CTlauncher dumps. Seems that the device driver isn't installed. CTlauncher can also wedge my machine so badly that I need the 'restart' switch.

I repeated the procedure, and got the same results. BTW, the patch says it adds NT dual processor support, implying that it never worked before the patch.

So I email them a problem report, stating all of the above. I have waited over 2 weeks, and there has been no reply. When I had a problem with my Creative Ensonic AudioPCI sound card at least they had the decency to answer my email. But I guess things have gone downhill in the email support department, as I still have not received a response to my live problem email.

So I call them, and ask them for a cd with the correct drivers. It costs $15, because it has some more software that happens to be available for free on their web site.

Like I should pay them money for fixing their bugs? No way will they send me the software free of charge. So I have a soundcard that doesn't work with NT. BTW, this is NT workstation, service-patch 5.

I will never buy another creative product. And I suggest that nobody else does, as their support is so poor.

Well, I called their tech guys again. This time I got a smart one. There are always smart folks around, if you are lucky enough to get them. It turns out that the driver did install correctly, but due to an IRQ conflict, it thinks it isn't installed. With his help, as well as the help of a tech at ABIT, I was able to straighten out the IRQ problems and now I have a working sound card with NT. Still, no response from my email to them. The creative tech said that was a different department. No help with the printed or online FAQ's either. I will still buy elsewhere.

Monsoon MM-2000 4 channel speakers

After reading The Audio Critic issue 26, reviewing the Monsoon MM-1000, I decided to buy the 4 channel version. The speakers use 'planar magnetic technology'. There is no traditional speaker cones. The subwoofer amp is rated at 100w and the 4 satellite speakers amps are rated at 60w each. It works very well. The only downside is the subwoofer box which houses the amplifiers tends to make a fair amount of heat, even when no sound is made. The quality of the sound is far better than any other computer speakers. Unfortunately, Monsoon Audio stopped making computer speaker systems, and seems to have vanished completely.

Microsoft Digital Sound System 80

I bought the Microsoft Digital Sound System 80. It was only $60 after rebate. They sound much better than my old speakers. Of course I can't use the USB interface, until Microsoft deems USB worthy of being used in NT. They also have an analog sound-card input so they can be used with legacy systems, like Windows NT 4.0 . They take up minimal desk space, thanks to the 3 piece design, and they don't sound so bad. There is no way to set the tone control to neutral, only to increase or decrease it.

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