I have just completed an exercise with a musician friend to spec and install a digital music solution for him. The solution we ended up with is the recently announced <A target="_blank" HREF=http://www.soundblaster.com/>Sound Blaster Audigy</A>.

Based on test results with the Audigy Platinum ($320 Cdn) this or the basic Audigy($160 Cdn) are highly recommended.

I have had a major hate on for a long time for the SB Live! cards due to software problems and bus hogging. The Audigy is a new generation of card with improved performance across the board and some significant new features.

One very useful feature is a 1384 Firewire port which supports standard Firewire devices (eg. Hard Drive) and the next generation of audio interfaces.

Normal home use does not require the Audigy Drive of the Platinum. Audio/music hobbyists or semi-pros will definitely find the additional patches and ease of recording setups to be a big plus.

A few warnings. The minimum useable system for this card and its supplied software are:

1)Windows 98 SE or later. ME not tested and not recommended for other reasons. W2K Ok. Linux support not available. WinXP RC2 OK.
2)DirectX 8 or later
3)READ the readme. There are updates from Microsoft that must be applied for performance and stability.
4)Pentium II-400 or better
5)128MB RAM. 256MB recommended if you will be making lots of use of Sound Fonts.

I recently installed a Turtle Beach Santa Cruz ($130 Cdn) on one of my systems for personal use. If I was purchasing a new sound card today, I would get the Audigy. The Santa Cruz is good, but, the Audigy is better. The Firewire interface alone justifies the additional cost.