I have used soundblaster products for a few years now and have a soundblaster card fitted in my desktop PC and up until replacing my laptop, I was using the PCMCIA soundblaster Audigy 2 soundcard.
Therefore as my new laptop does not have a PCMCIA port and combining that with the awful sound coming from the Realtek HD built in soundcard on my new VAIO I plumped for another soundcard and the obvious choice being a soundblaster.
I had a look around and read plenty of reviews on not only creative products and saw this item on amazon for a good price and its predecessor having rave reviews and promising to do what I wanted it for. I have to admit that I was apprehensive of the fact that it had no reviews of its own and is a USB soundcard as these have been renowned for having problems in the past, however I can comfortably say that this has been solid throughout.
To save waffling anymore here are the pro's and cons for the device:
1. Improves the sound no end, a dramatic improvement over the onboard stuff, I am a big music fan and really like good sounding kit so this is good for the price it is.
2. It is small but wide so it comes with the little extension cable, this is a well thought out as on my VAIO all three USB ports are next to each other and one at least would be obstructed without it.
3. It is a very simple installation process with no problems along the way. Just plug in the soundcard and insert the software disc, then off it goes.
1. The installation process is simple but after running the update process it took well over and hour to install these updates and it also downloaded a piece of software that you have to pay more for the registration key, a bit cheeky I thought.
2. To get a good sound of it has taken some hours of fine tuning with the graphic equaliser. It is too sensitive and is also set to be way too loud in default mode so after a couple of nights tinkering and trying to perfect it I have now almost got a sound I am happy with.
The Pro's very much outweigh the cons, I have not noticed any hit on my system with respect to memory usage or CPU time so transparent as far as I am concerned and it has improved the quality of sound that I get from my laptop dramatically.
It is definitely worth the 30 odd quid it is going for on amazon so if you are after improving your laptops sounds dramatically you will not go wrong by spending a relatively small amount of cash on this!
After a further period of ownership I am revisiting this review as there has been a bit of interest in my review so believe that any more info would be beneficial to potential buyers.
Firstly I should say that I am still happy with the item especially at the great low price it is at. By far and away it is a vast improvement on the on-board sound which my VAIO produces (it is a top of the range laptop too!).
However, I have not used it for a month or two and plugged it into my machine today and started listening to some music through it and yet again I was not happy with the sound it was producing. Another hour or so of tinkering and I am now happy with the compromise I have found. Basically I dropped all the EQ levels back to the bottom and worked on each level until I was happy with the sound by listening to music from lots of different bands and types of music, mainly focusing on heavy rock but throwing a bit of dance and classical in there to check I was not going too far in any direction.
I am listening to it now as I write this and am 99% happy with the sound. As you may be able to tell I am picky about my audio but I am assuming that if you are reading this you like your music/films/games etc to sound better than the bog standard supplied by your on-board sound! Therefore an endorsement on my part.
One thing I have noticed that I will keep tabs on is an occasional crackling noise from the unit. It mainly occurs when I am doing things like typing or using the mouse. I have only just noticed it and it maybe down to my USB port or could be something deeper like a driver conflict. I will keep an eye on it and update this if it is proven to be the unit itself.
In summary then, for the price I still resoundingly recommend this product. Be aware though that you may need to spend quite a bit of time playing with the EQ to get the sound you like, but if like me you are into great sounding audio, its worth the time spent when you hit the sweet spot!!