PAX East 2013

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Creative Labs

24 March 2013 | Written by Maxxum, with analysis by Andrew H.

My very first sound card was a SoundBlaster 16 "Value Edition". The SoundBlaster AWE32 had been out for years, but I was still in college, and building my first computer with my own money, so I bought a package deal that included speakers and a joystick to go with it. Then, in college I got my first job and went through almost every card of note in the late 90's, including the Aureal Vortex, the Yamaha DS-XG, the SoundBlaster Live!, the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz, and later the Audigy 2 ZS in 2005. So, of course I'm going to interview Creative Labs when I see them. The interview starts with Tiane Bella, and ends with Ryan Schlieper both of whom handle events, social media, PR, and product marketing with Creative Labs.

Tell us what you've been up to since the SoundBlaster 16.

Tiane: Since SoundBlaster 16 we've been up to so, so much. We've actually introduced our audio technology into a whole line of headsets that cover console, PC, MAC, really anywhere you wanna be gaming, anywhere you wanna have music, we've definitely got you onlock with the Tactic3D line of headsets, and the Recon3D line of headsets with its IR I/O console option. We've got the SBX TrueStudio Pro which actually gives you a whole suite of audio technologies and algorithms, to really take your voice communications and your gaming to the next level. That is definitely one of the main selling points of our headsets.

Today we're showing the Tactic3D Rage, which is our most recent headset, it's PC/MAC, 16hr battery life, wired and wireless options, it's a really great headset for gaming and for listening to music.

SoundBlaster Z SoundBlaster Zx SoundBlaster ZxR

Tactic3D Omega Tactic3D Wrath Tactic3D Rage

Tactic360 Ion Tactic3D Alpha Tactic3D Sigma

Tell us a little bit about how Creative Labs started changing their position within the market as other players started challenging them?

Tiane: Well, I think a really good response we have right now is our SoundBlaster Z lines of cards. It's the Z-Series, we've got three different cards there, the Z, the Zx, and the ZxR. The ZxR is really our answer to any other sound card on the market. We've laid it down, this is the baddest card you can ever get. It's 124dB SNR; on the maincard you actually have two different audio boards, you have the main soundboard and the daughterboard card which actually lets you record audio - the exact SNR on that is 123dB for recording, and for mixing it's great if you want to do audio production, if you just wanna sure be your communications are absolutely on lock.

That also includes the ACM, it is an Audio Control Module of our creation. It plugs into the back of your soundcard, it has a little knob on it, it allows you to adjust the volume of your headset. You can plug your headset directly onto it so you don't have to get down to your rig and unplug directly there. It also has dual-array mic incorporated into which actually hits on the same technologies we were talking about earlier. The Crystal Voice suite of technologies, it allows you to game without wearing a headset. Our headsets are great, but I have glasses, sometimes you wanna take a little break, but you still want to have that bass, you want to have that awesome gaming audio, just take your headset off, turn on Crystal Voice fully customizable audio settings ... you can save different profiles, so you can have one for your FPS, one for your MMO, one for you Moba game. You can have a specific HON (Heroes of Newerth) profile so DJ Rapsodies sounds legit, you got options there.

SoundBlaster Z-Series

There have been a number of applications produced in the modder community, one that comes to mind is the KX Project. Is Creative Labs doing anything to interact with the modding community?

Ryan: Our focus right now, we've taken the Z-Series, and we've taken all of the feedback we've gotten, and if you look at what we've done you can logically assume that's where we're going - I can't commit to it 100%, but we know it's a desired feature that's wanted, and if you look our driver set, it's a lot less bloaty than it used to be. We've really honed it, so it's very non-intrusive now - there's not a lot of bloatware. We've hit that up, we hit up all of the features that have been asked for, so that's something that we definitely want to support, yes.


Journalist Comments:

I'm pretty excited about the nod to the modding community, and it should be noted that the segregated boards for playback and recording, both with SNRs around 40dB higher than that found in onboard audio, are really aimed at the audio enthusiast. It doesn't stop at software, there are hardware amp mods you can apply to the Titanium HD series, and I'm interested to see if similar mods can be applied to the Z-Series, which you can read about here.