Creative Labs Audigy2 ZS Review

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Product Overview

Product Overview

And here we go! Meet the marketing monster that is Creative. 

The four main categories that the Audigy2 ZS is aimed at are music listening, music creation, games, and movies.  For music and DVD, the Audigy2 ZS boasts 24 bit/96kHz in 7.1 channels or 24 bit/192kHz in two channel mode.  Creative also claim a 108dB of SNR, a rather fanciful number.


  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio with AES17 filter (A-Weighted): 108dB
  • 24-bit Digital-to-Analog conversion during playback with sampling rates of 8, 11.025, 16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, 48 and 96kHz in 7.1 mode and up to 192kHz in stereo mode
  • Analog to Digital conversion during recording in 8, 16 or 24-bit at sampling rates of 8, 11.025, 16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, 48 and 96kHz
  • SPDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface) input at up to 24-bit/ 96kHz quality
  • SPDIF output up to 24-bit at 48 or 96kHz
  • ASIO 2.0 drivers for low latency (as low as 2ms) multi-track playback and recording at 16-bit/48kHz or 24-bit/96kHz
  • FireWire® (IEEE®1394) / i-Link® compatible interface with up to 400Mbps transfer rate
  • THX Multimedia Certification award.
  • Decodes Dolby Digital Surround EX to 7.1 or 6.1 channels, or will pass through a compressed SPDIF bitstream to an external decoder
  • Support DTS (including ES) decoding for up to 7.1 audio

I say 'marketing monster 'as you will never see 108dB SNR in your computer.  There is also some question as to whether the DSP used in the Audigy series will ever be truly a 24 bit solution.  It's a fact that the emu10k01 is a 16 bit machine and needs to upsample or downsample to do its magic. You can read more over at digit-life. It's a fairly damning article.


For recording, the Audigy2 ZS is capable of 24bit/96kHz analog to digital conversion.  It also supports low latency ASIO 2 in the driver.  Creative doesn't state how many channels it can simultaneously record and play.


The ZS also features the brand-spanking new EAX 4.0 for games, which is the same as EAX 3.0 plus a multi-environment engine.  It may take awhile for publishers to adopt EAX 4.0. 


It still has the same MediaSource 2.0 software, DVD-Audio player, and media organizer, with the addition of a graphic equalizer, a karaoke mode, Dolby EX, and THX console.


The Audigy2 ZS also has the same, if not better, CPU utilization scores that have made Creative very popular with gamers.  Hardcore gamers have known for quite a while that Creative rules for FPS.


Software bundle:

  • Cd w/ Creative drivers
  • Demo CD (Feature Showcase)
  • Database w/ SoundFonts and samples
  • Cubasis VST 4.0 CE
  • Wavelab Lite 2.0
  • FL Studio 4 CE
  • Lara Croft Tomb Raider - The Angel of Darkness
  • Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six - Raven Shield

The MediaSource 2.0 software, a highly integrated and full featured multimedia suite, is better than ever. The revisions include a minidisk 'burner' and a streaming audio recorder.  While the MediaSource 2.0 isn't as fully-featured, or as bug-free, as separate software, it is pretty damn good for bundled software.  I don't think any other company than Creative offers such an encompassing suite of software.  Color me impressed.


I suppose I could just end the review there and call it a day, but Nah.  I like the sound of my own typing too much.


EAX 4.0 and Stuff


So, what's new for EAX 4.0?  It would appear as not much.  Except that one at the beginning:

  • New Multi-EnvironmentTM technology renders multiple environment audio effects in real time.
  • Environment PanningTM makes it easy for gamers to track, with three-dimensional precision, the location and movement of sounds that usually represent enemies or team mates.
  • Environment ReflectionsTM offers localization of early reflections and echoes.
  • Environment FilteringTM accurately simulates the propagation of sound in both open and closed environments.
  • Environment MorphingTM allows for seamless transition from one environment to the next.

The Multi-Environment is very intriguing because what we hear in a real environment is a layering of effects.  Say we're in a concrete tunnel with open ends (a common environment in a FPS).  It's a hard reflecting environment, which combines reverb, reflections, and filtering.  There is a lot more going on in a real-life situation, but that's what the EAX 4.0 is capable of.


Pictures?  I thought you'd never ask

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