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4/9/01 Monday's News: Story DetailReturn to News Page

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SoundBlaster Live Owner Comments/Performance Tests:
Published: 4/9/2001
Last Updated: 10/4/2001 (for older Mac/SBlive Reports)

SBLive 1.1 Driver Update for OS 9: See this page for details and download link.

SBlive vs Midiman Audiophile 2496: On 3/8/2002, a reader sent a review of these two cards.

Note: Brian Souder of Creative Labs has started a thread in the forums with feedback (good/bad/problem reports, suggestions) on the Mac Soundblaster live. Included in the multi-page thread now are some tips for using Creative's speaker sets with the card and its outputs. There are also comments on the card's lack of deep sleep support and notes on input issues if Digidesign's Pro Tools (Free) extensions were enabled.

Issues with Pre-G3 Macs and CPU Upgrades: The 10/3/2001 news page had a request for older mac owners with CPU upgrades to write with their experience with the SBlive, after a report on problems with the SBLive and upgrade card software. (I had forgotten about the issue noted in the first report here at the bottom of this page). A reader replied to that post with the following comments:

" I've got a SoundBlaster Live in a 9600 upgraded with a Powerlogix 375/187/1MB, running at 400/200. I mainly use OS 8.6, and have noticed a lot of instability since installing the card, including regular rock hard freezes using Explorer. I wasn't certain the Creative software was to blame (lots of stuff crammed into this 9600), and haven't had much time (this is my home system) to troubleshoot. A couple of nights ago I got so fed up that I disabled all the Creative extensions, and my system was immediately restored to complete stability again. I'm using the Powerlogix software. I guess I could try the XLR8 software instead, as it seems to work fine with Powerlogix cards, but as I said, I haven't had much opportunity to play around with this.

I've also had lots of difficulty getting the card and BIAS Peak to cooperate, although that did eventually seem to work.

All things considered, the SoundBlaster has been very disappointing. I'm shopping around on eBay for a card (such as the Audiowerk 2) that (I hope) will work better.
Kathryn Jenkins"

Another reader with an 8500 wrote:

" Hey Mike. I have a sound blaster card and an 8500 with a G3 upgrade card. I was not able to get the card to work at all under 8.6 with my xlr8 300/150/1MB card. SInce I didn't want to mess with it and I plan to get a newer machine in the next few months I just took it out and moved on. Hope this info helps,
David Duffy "

Finally a postive report from an older Mac owner:

" Mike,
I have a SB Live in my Umax s900 with a PowerLogix G3 366/183/1MB OC to 400/200. The card has worked fine for me with both versions 1.3 and 1.4 of PowerLogix software and MacOS 8.6 and 9.1. As others have noted there is a pause during startup right after the SB extension loads. I don't have access to any other mac so I am not sure if this pause is unique to G3 upgraded macs or not.
-Matthew Beerits
Here are more detailed specs to my system just in case it matters:
Umax s900
PowerLogix G3 366/183/1MB OC to 400/200
240 MB RAM
VooDoo 3(in Top Slot)
Wired4DVD(Slot 3)
USB Card(Slot 4)
SB Live(Slot 5)

Just thought of one more thing the card worked fine with VM on and VM off. "

I received an email from Brian Souder of Creative Labs that said:

" I tested the SB LIVE on a 7600 with an xlr8 G3 300 - 1MB BS Cache - 8.6, 9.0 no problems. Unfortuantely, I haven't tested 9.1 or 9.2 since I turned it into a Darwin Box.
Brian Souder

I know Creative was working on an OS 9 driver update (no OS X drivers yet) some time back to address the input and Quicktime version issues noted here earlier, but still not info on when/if it will be released. The audio area of the Forums here have some threads with other SBlive owner feedback and posts from Creative also.

DVD Player Audio Issues: (Added 8/10/2001 from the main site news page)
SoundBlaster Live and DVD Player 1.3 Audio Problem report:

" Hey mike
got a sb live from the mwny promo for $87 bucks. It works great till you try to use it with Apple dvd player 1.3. I have a b&w g3 upgraded to a g4/500 with apples hardware dvd decoder. Sb live and the dvd hardware decoder donÝt like to play nice with each other. If you try to launch dvd 1.3 while the sound is set to play through the sb live card it says the hardware could not be found.

Well after a couple of foul words and reinstalling dvd player 1.3 I thought my dvd decoder card quit working. Nope that was not it either. If you set the sound to the built in setting it works fine except the sound only plays only through the computers speaker. long story short, I ran a line from the computers speaker out to the sb live line in to get the sound to work.
Christian G. "

Hopefully this will be fixed in the driver update that is in the works. (There were some previous input selection problems noted before, I believe that were worse under OT 5.0 based on some past reports.)

Quicktime5 Issues: There were some comments on QT5 beta issues with the SBlive (below) and recently a 2001 G4 owner noted a problem with QT 5 (final) that was resolved by reverting to QT 4.1. (noted in this forum thread). He said Creative told him they are working on a fix for the QT5 issues and hope to have a patch available by Macworld NY. I'm not sure if this issue is for 2001 digital audio macs only or more common. Some noted in the forums thread update that QT4 didn't solve it.

Last week several owners reported their Mac Soundblaster Live cards were arriving. Two readers so far sent comments in email about the card and details on the bundled software. I welcome results of tests in games to see if there is any performance gain or compatibility issues with the card from other owners. One owner noted an issue with Quicktime 5 beta. (Update - One reader from the forums ran performance tests with and without the SBlive)

(latest reports first)

Audio Input Issues with 2001 G4 Towers: (from the 7/10/2001 www.xlr8yourmac.com news page)
This sounds similar to the above noted Quicktime 5 issue:

" Thought I would pass along some news from creative regarding sound in on the SoundBlaster Live! and the new G4s.

Last Saturday I installed my SoundBlaster Live! Mac in my new G4/733 (512MB RAM, OS 9.1). I was unable to get the mic or line-in to work in a number of apps, including Final Cut Pro, iMovie and Via Voice after a few hours of testing.

Response from Creative:╩╩7/9/01 1:06:04 PM

    "Chris, If you have a newer G4 without the Line In, we are aware of the problem and are working with Apple to get it resolved. You may want to check the Sound Control panel to see if there is a Creative device listed for the Line In.
    Creative Labs Technical Support"

Looks like the $30 iMic [Griffin's iMic.-Mike] is a more useful option than the $150 SB card if you need sound input. On a $5000 computer, why did Apple do away with the sound input? And why is the support for it so crappy now?
I have a feeling I may not be the only one with the problem.
Chris F. "

I suggested he may want to try QT 4.x to see if that helped (but not sure if you can get the QT 4 full installer anymore - although the G4/733 I tested here shipped with QT4 on the HD and the System CDs.

(Earlier reports follow...)

" Mike,
just wanted to give you a quick update on my SoundBlaster card problems. Actually, a post in the forum suggested looking at sound sets, which I forgot about. Different sets have different results, but all are better than the one I was using, and the "clank" becomes more of a "click". With the Apple Platinum set is is so quiet I really can't hear it unless I listen for it. I think the noise is just a stray click that some sound sets amplify more than others.

Otherwise, I really enjoy the card. I got it foe listening to music and games, and did not expect any fps increase, as I outlined in my post. Deus Ex sounds excellent, I just wish I knew if I can use the MP patch and still have the AL sound.

...The other guy mentioned in your story had it right about the installer, it's a real pain. I really wish the installer or manual would tell you what each program does, in case you don't know, like myself, and give you the option of installing only what you need. The installer and manual do not state what is needed just to run the card.
John McAlister "Buzzyman" "

" Here's an update and my game results. I'm still getting a loud clanking noise from time to time, seems to be when opening and scrolling through menus. iTunes does pause and sometimes stutter, seems to be most often when copying files, especially when I move files to and from a Zip disk. Some posts over at the MGL forum have the same problems, hopefully this will be corrected in future drivers.

Finally got to try out some games. It's a blast to hear sound from all around you, and Deus Ex becomes even better. I did some timedemo tests on glQuake, Quake 2, Quake 3 demo, Unreal, and Unreal Tournament. I didn't get a chance to do the demos before I installed the SB drivers, but do have a backup system folder on a different drive that is exactly the same as my main one, for backup. What I noticed was that using the SB, the demos were 1-2 fps slower than without. This may be because SB installed so many control panels and extensions. It also could be the different drives, or just within the averages. My main system folder and games are in two different partitions on a Maxtor 20 Gig 7200 HD in the Master position. The backup system folder is on a Maxtor 80 Gig 5400 HD as the slave. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

Again, my system is a rev 2 B/W G3 450, 384 ram, Voodoo 3 3000, and all the latest patches for the games. I ran all the games at 1024 x 768 (except glQuake, which is 640 x 480), and set up as outlined at the rate your games page.

SBlive perf

I tried using the 3d sound option in UT and I swear i can hear the stuff bouncing front and back, but I could be wrong and hearing what I expect to hear. Anyone else try it?

I'm really enjoying the sound from the Soundblaster, both with music and games (except for that damn clanking bug). Those looking for a speed up in games won't find it, but I think that is to be expected and was discussed in these pages for months. The processor still is working to move the sound to the speakers, whether through the Sound control panel or through the Soundblaster panel and extensions.

My hope is that Apple will make this a BTO in the future or build it in, so that we can see the speed up in games that PC users see. But for the price and quality, and Creative's long history of driver updates, I think it's a great investment and improvement.

Hope I made all this clear and I look forward to reading the results of other users and that this helped some of you.

(his earlier comments:)
Just got my Soundblaster card a few hours ago and thought I'd post a few quick notes. I pre-ordered at Macworld and live in Northern California, the card shipped out of Fremont, CA yesterday via UPS Ground, so many people probably won't get them until Monday. My only notice that the card was coming was the email I got 3 weeks ago like everyone else who pre-ordered got, nothing since until it arrived today.

Had no problem installing the card, but for some reason neither of my HD's would fire up until I booted off Norton and ran it. May just be me but I thought I'd mention it. I'm using a B/W G3 450 w/ 384 ram.

Software installed fine, but I'm not sure what all of the bundled software does and I may uninstall it once I play with it. I have no midi devices and no musical talent, so good chance the midi software will come out. The manual is easy to read but has almost no info on the software and what it does, so you sort of have to figure out what you need and want by trying it out, unless you know what it is already.

Tried out the bundled Soundjam MP, which is actually Soundjam MP for Nomad. It claims it must find a Nomad player connected the first time to work but it played fine for me. However, it is not the full version of Soundjam, but the 14 day demo you can download yourself at the C&C web site. There is no mention of this anywhere but in the program itself. I could have downloaded a demo myself if I had any interest, a I really think you should say demo on the box when you list bundled software so people aren't led to believe they are getting the full version. I've no interest in buying any more MP3 players so I guess I'll be sticking with iTunes. I bought it for the gaming anyway, but still.

iTunes plays fine, with music from all channels, but I noticed the visuals really are slow now. I get about 8 - 10 fps on the large setting, down from 15 - 20, and worse, it pauses every second or so. It did it on all sizes except full screen, where I got 8 fps, down from 9 fps, and it was smooth with no pauses. No idea why. I've also noticed I'm getting loud clicks every once in awhile, but no idea why. Maybe once I fine tune the set-up it will go away. "

" Hi Mike,
I received my SoundBlasterLive card and the Cambridge speakers on Friday. My config is a 667 G4 with 512MB of real RAM and VM turned on. I haven't played much with it yet, but I can give you the following observations:

The installer is a shell that launches a variety of other installers. It's rather bizarre when you watch it happen. I had crashes during install and after the initial restart, but I haven't had any problems since.

The OEM software for the most part leaves something to be desired.

The version of MixMan Studio Mac is 1.2.1 and won't run with VM turned on. Clearly, anyone interested in this as I am would likely find the Pro 4.0 version more to their liking.

Cubasis AV is 1.0 although you'd never know it considering they didn't bother to include this information so that it would be shown in the info window. It also doesn't run with VM turned on and I haven't quite figured out how to record with it yet.

SoundJam is the OEM version for NOMAD and I ignored it as I already own a copy, and I've been using iTunes more anyway.

The best part is Deus Ex with the mods to support the OpenAL library. I haven't hooked up the rear speakers yet, so I've yet to experience the full effect.

Creative also supplies a Mixer app that does what its name implies and lets you play with some of the effects the card produces. Primarily, this boils down to a variety of room choices with different reverb characteristics. It also lets you set the output levels for each input device, whether or not the card should apply effects to the device, or mute it entirely. You can also set the input level for the current inpuit device.

I've had a couple of problems with the SB software itself. After the quirky installation, it runs a setup app which configures Sound, QuickTime, and OMS. When I looked in the sound control panel nothing but the CD was available for sound input although the creative card did show up in the output tab and was selected. It also didn't show up in QuickTime's music selection.

I finally decided that maybe the problem was that the SB software wasn't compatible yet with the QuickTime 5 betas. So, I uninstalled that and went back to 4.x, reinstalled the SB software and lo and behold, I can now pick from a variety of sound input and the midi synth shows up in QuickTime.

However, I've seen the inputs disappear from the list at least once, and the syth in QT has changed from the specifically named SoundBlaster to General MIDI. Don't know what's up with that.

Clearly, there are still a few kinks to work out, but overall I'm happy with the card and the sound it produces especially with the speakers.

I currently haven't gotten any sense as to whether or not games are improved by it by virtue of having the sound processing handled by the card or if this even occurs unless the game specifically uses OpenAL.

Mitch Jones
NiftyNeato Software
www.niftyneato.com "

" Mike,
Installed Soundblaster live card, Plextor CD does not work audio wise as I suspected out of new card. I will have to reroute new direct connect wire. Software install sluggish, major wait until actual start. I only only installed drivers and required at bottom of list. Driver is a Early startup extension right after my XLR8 Mach Speed ext. Bigtime slow down of bootup after these two load. OpenMusic System extension seen poorly written, Conflict Catcher reports it is using 5K vrs 3.3K allotted of system Heap memory. I have disabled to see if necessary for my purposes. Downloaded a QuickTime trailer to get an idea of sound haven't done a Game yet. Drivers all show in CC. There are nine driver extensions and Open Music system in basic install. Readmes allude to newer drivers maybe available now so check site. Even present drivers are not direct accessible from site. Site is Windows based. 5.1 ads are just going to piss Mac owners off. No SPDIF out.
Lawrence "

Previous mail noted "9600 formerly a 8600 logic board.". Not sure if he means a 9600 case with a 8600 logic board or V/V, but I've asked.

There's also a forum post from an owner on the card here.

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