SB Audigy 4 (regular) vs. Audigy 2 ZS Platinum

Aaron Silverman

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Hey gang,

Looking to upgrade the ol' PC to 5.1 audio, mainly for DVD viewing and casual gaming, so not looking to spend too much. With current rebates, the Sound Blaster Audigy 4 is about $30 and the Audigy 2 ZS Platinum is about $50. The main difference that I can see is the front panel with the 2 ZS and better bundled software with the 4.

I have heard that the 4 is really an Audigy 2 Value card with upgraded firmware. Anyone know for sure? Will the 2 ZS Platinum provide much better sound quality than the 4, or would the extra $20 be a waste if I don't really need the front panel I/O?

Thanks!
 

Ken Chan

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Unless you are blessed/cursed with golden ears, I doubt you can hear any difference in sound quality, no matter what the specs say. As long as they both support the same level of EAX and the rest of the alphabet soup....

Aside from the "Platinum Drive", the ZS also has FireWire ports (one on the card and one on the panel), which may be useful if your computer doesn't already have one.

The regular optical and coax connections on the ZS' panel make it easier to connect to a receiver for Dolby Digital and DTS for DVDs. With the 4, you need to get a separate miniplug-to-RCA cable to make a coax digital connection. If you intend to use your computer's 5.1 speakers through analog connections, that won't matter.
 

Aaron Silverman

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Thanks, Ken. I *used* to have "golden ears" (I was the only person in my Music Engineering Master's program who could differentiate between CD and MD every time), but they ain't what they used to be.


A few months ago I paid about $20 or $30 for a Firewire card. Oh well.

What exactly is the "Platinum Drive?"

This is just for games and occasional movies on the PC itself, rather than HTPC use, so the receiver connection isn't important.
 

Ken Chan

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The Platinum Drive is the "Platinum" part of the ZS Platinum; it's the front panel gizmo that fits in the drive bay. Seems like there's no reason to get the ZS. Go for the 4.
 

Paul_Sjordal

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The sound quality you get from any in the Audigy 2 series is going to be more or less identical. As someone else mentioned, the front "drive" bay with all the connectors is what the "platinum" part is all about.

Depending on how you use your computer, you may or may not find the "drive bay" convenient, but it's only about convenience.

As for the Audigy 4, the only difference between that and the Audigy 2 series is that the Audigy 4 series uses a higher quality DAC (digital to analog converter). To be honest, you're not likely to notice the difference in sound quality unless you have your computer hooked up to a pretty fancy stereo system or really expensive computer speakers.

My advice? Go with whatever is cheaper.
 

Aaron Silverman

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Thanks again, guys. Time was that the front-panel doohickey would have been useful, but my music days are behind me (at least until my son is old enough for me to pull my instruments out of the closet and hand 'em down).


I paid $35 for the 5.1 set of speakers (even the Walmart store brand set goes for $40!).
They don't sound as good as my old 2.1s that were starting to flake out, but they were so ridiculously inexpensive that I'll probably just keep them until I'm motivated enough to get something better. (Also, my wife really likes them because they look very nice.
) I do so little gaming and DVD-watching on the PC these days that it's not really worth it at this point.

I'll be annoyed forever at not buying the Logitech X-530s when Buy.com had 'em for $39 with free shipping. . .
 

Grant B

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I got the '2' for playing DVD Audio discs which it is advertised to play.
Out of 6 discs it would only play one of them.
The other discs seemed to be playing with no sound output

I just got an oppo player which plays all of them without a problem.
Just a warning
 

Ed Moxley

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Where in the world have you seen an Audigy2 ZS Platinum, for that price? eBay? I have the Audigy 2 ZS Platinum, and it cost me $200. Everytime I've seen one since, it was even more than that. If you can get one for $50, you'd better jump all over it!

If you can get some Logitech z5300e, 5.1 speakers, to go along with it, they are some great little speakers!

Also, know that you'll need a software dvd player that supports Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS. I never could find a free one. I ended up with WinDVD. Get it here: http://www.intervideo.com/WinDVD/
They have a free trial for it...........
 

Aaron Silverman

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Amazon and Buy.com are both running $30 rebates on the 4, which is on sale for $60, and $100 rebates on the 2 ZS Platinum, which is on sale for $170. Buy.com also has the $20 Google Checkout discount, so the Platinum is $50 in the end.

I went ahead and ordered the 4 -- I don't need the Platinum's front panel, and I'm already spending a fortune on books and other stuff while the Google Checkout discount is in effect (I think it ends after Christmas).
 

Aaron Silverman

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Thanks for the warning! I think I've heard that before. IIRC the 4's newer firmware and drivers work better. I can live without listening to DVD-As on the PC, though. I usually play them on the HT.
 

Aaron Silverman

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New speakers will have to wait -- I'm overspending on stuff this month as it is.
I'll keep those in mind, though.

I have WinDVD on my laptop and PowerDVD on my desktop. My ideal player would combine some of the features of each. My old version of PowerDVD does DD but not DTS, which is fine for my current needs.

Verified with Dell support at 2:30 am this morning that the on-board SoundMax audio does indeed only output fake 5.1 sound, even when software sends it a true 5.1 signal. Silly.
 

Paul_Sjordal

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Tsk, tsk, tsk, what sort of home theater enthusiast uses on-board audio? For shame!


Have fun when your Audigy comes in the mail.
 

Chris

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Here's the real kick in the pants:

Thinking about an SLI motherboard? Then DO NOT choose an SB Audigy 2ZS. You risk killing the board and the card. (Creative's PCI bridge doesn't like the SLI bit, and so this can happen)

That's a real deciding factor.
 

Paul_Sjordal

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Ouch!

If that's the case, then the Audigy 4 probably shares this flaw. Good thing for me I don't have an SLI board. Does this problem happen with any SLI board, or does it only happen if you are actually using SLI?

Oh, I can vouch for the Logitech X-530s. As far as cheap PC speakers go, they're very good!
 

Chris

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I know the problem doesn't exist in the XFi.

It exists in all boards which use the Nvidia 4X/5xx/6xx chipsets.

I can't tell you how often I've seen people come in and tell me "hey, I can't get POST..." and it turns out it's an audigy. Mostly when they have 2 PCI-E cards in SLI mode.
 

Paul_Sjordal

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Gah. Apparently I wasn't thorough enough when I did my research before buying this Audigy 2ZS. Ah well. I have no plans to ever use SLI mode, so I'll probably be safe. *knock on wood*
 

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