In recent times, there have been numerous positive and negative reports from online news portals and print publications on Creative Technology as it strengths its existing portfolio and we are sure many of you would have read about them. Pessimistic reports such as those striking a tone similar to "Poor sales leads while competing against Apple's iPod" and "The declining trend of dedicated sound cards with the advancement of on-board audio", may seem to create an impression that Creative Technology may not have what it takes to sustain itself the next few years. On the contrary, the company is bouncing back with several new product announcements that would reaffirm the company's dedication to new innovation and features that will benefit the consumers.
Steadily moving into the direction of designing and producing consumer electronics for the living room (namely home theater systems to start with), we catch a glimpse of what these new products will harness and that's the next generation sound card technology - Xtreme Fidelity (X-Fi). Before proceeding to detail more about the exciting new X-Fi, we present a quick recap on the progression of Creative's successful Sound Blaster sound card series.
A Little Trip Down Memory Lane
Creative Technology first started out with the sound card business in 1989 and today, they have nearly monopolized the sound card market as the largest and most renowned names in this business. As Creative grew and transitioned from one sound card standard to another, their Sound Blaster Live! series back in the 1998 made the biggest impact in the more recent evolution of consumer sound card technology. The Live! series of sound cards delivered 16-bit audio quality and Environmental Audio Extensions (EAX) gaming sound effects that satisfied many gamers and casual users alike. It was a big hit back then but Creative Technology didn't just stop at it. Years later, they released the Audigy series, which delivered 24-bit audio quality for improved fidelity as well as EAX Advanced HD effects for better positional audio effects in surround sound gaming. Creative Technology was also one of the first audio companies that started to adopt 7.1-channel multi-speaker support for mainstream computers via their wide variety of sound cards together with Cambridge Studios to support its technology such as CMSS and EAX. The unique point of Sound Blaster sound cards is that they provide an all-in-one solution for audio creation, gaming and movies/music playback for the consumer level. The last incarnation of the Audigy series, the Audigy 4 Pro released in 2004, might be the limit of what most users thought a 'perfect' dedicated sound card could be in terms of features and sound quality at this point of time, but Creative proved them wrong.
To produce the best sound card solutions, Creative Technology has over time acquired sound technologies from several sound card manufacturers such as Aureal, Sensuara, EMU, Ensoniq and Crystal River to further develop and incorporate them into Creative's own lineup. Today, we witness these collaborative efforts in the birth of the Creative X-Fi, the sound card that claims to be 24 times more powerful than the Audigy series with 51 million transistors and rivaling that of an Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz CPU in terms of transistor count. The table below illustrates how Creative's various audio chips evolved in processing power over the years:-