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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [08.26.06]
Softmod Created by: YouP-Pax

 

The Buzz

The buzz has actually been around for a while, but I didn't notice it until I saw this thread in our forum. Started by longtime member 5-Clicks, it is titled "Softmod your Audigy/2/Live! into an Audigy 4 Pro!". In it, there is a link to another forum describing how to install Audigy 4 drivers on an Audigy 2 card. Some of the comments in the forums made me curious:

"The gains will be noticeable, and you will get all of the latest apps and controls from the Audigy 4 Pro. It really was sweet for DVD and quality music playback, and the EAX sounds more realistic too."

"The audible difference with the drivers is there..."

"Just tried this and HOLY CRAP! It sounds 1000x better."

"The improvement is definately noticeable. The added features are also very good."

Knowing that the differences between the Audigy 2 and Audigy 4 are at the hardware level only, and that they both use the same processor (and thus EAX will work the same, and game performance will be the same), I was immediately skeptical. I decided to do some research and try to get to the bottom of this Softmod hype.

Hacking Creative's drivers is nothing new; people have been installing Audigy drivers on their SB Live! cards for years, because as you may know, for a long time Creative was very bad for keeping their drivers up to date. These modded drivers allowed SB Live! users to use the new software from Audigy series cards. Many people claimed that the new drivers made their Live! cards sound better, and some people even believed their SB Live! could now support 64 voices in hardware, with full EAX effects.

Recently, Creative have started making full-featured drivers available on their site. While they are missing the nifty (some say bloated) interface, they at least allow you to access controls over features like EAX effects, CMSS, and how the card handles digital streams.

After doing some research, I was able to locate the original modders, and their website. YouP-Pax is a hardware site based in China, who are known for modding Creative Labs drivers for quite some time. They have an English forum here. They have sinced stopped modding Audigy 4 drivers to run on Audigy 2 cards, instead focusing on making custom drivers that run on ALL Audigy soundcards, using a combination of Audigy and X-Fi drivers. This is because since Creative started offering proper drivers for download, they merged the entire Audigy series into one driver package. If you are downloading from their site, it doesn't matter if you have an Audigy, Audigy 2, Audigy 2 ZS Notebook, or Audigy 4; the drivers will look almost identical.

But since there still seems to be a lot of buzz and misinformation surrounding "turning your Audigy 2 into an Audigy 4", that will be the scope of this article.

Audigy 2 vs. Audigy 4 - What is the difference?

First I should explain the differences between these two soundcards. There are only a couple differences, and all have to do with the hardware on the cards themselves.

1) Higher quality DACs. Audigy 2 featured the 8 channel Cirrus Logic CS4382 DAC. This is an 8 channel DAC with a dynamic range of 114 dB and -100 dB THD+N. The Audigy 4 uses the same Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC used on professional audio products. This is a stereo DAC, so there are 4 of them to support 7.1 channel audio. The CS4398 features a dynamic range of 120 dB, and a THD+N of -107 dB. As you can presume, the Audigy 4 does indeed have higher quality sound, but the drivers have nothing to do with it.

2) DTS support. The original Audigy 2 could only decode and pass through a Dolby Digital stream. This changed with the Audigy 2 ZS, which supports DTS. The Audigy 4 does as well, but again, installing Audigy 4 drivers on an Audigy 2 (non ZS) will not add support for DTS.

Besides a new breakout-box and improved audio processors, there's nothing else different between the two cards.

Why do it then?

Because so many people are reporting improved sound and improved performance after installing Audigy 4 drivers on their Audigy 2, you might try it and think the same thing. Basically, your mind is possibly playing tricks on you. When it comes to something so subjective, sometimes you just hear what you want to hear ("better sound"), and see what you want to see ("higher framerates")

We're going to find out if there really is a difference when Audigy 4 drivers are used, in both quality and performance.

Next Page: (How to soft-mod your Audigy 2 to Audigy 4)