Creative Labs has been the market leader in the sound card industry for almost two decades now, and with that kind of utter dominance comes what one would call “criminal disregard (bordering on harmful malevolence) for the needs of its customers”.
If I seem bitter toward Creative Labs, it’s because I am. In 1998, I purchased a Soundblaster Live! sound card, and after spending the entire ride back to my house dreaming about the aural bliss I was to experience, I opened the box, installed the card, and turned on my speakers. What happened next was like something out of a Clive Barker novel (or a Halloween-themed John Allison comic ). First my speakers issued forth the cries of a million damned souls, then, moments later, hungry swarms of bees poured from the subwoofer and enveloped most of my family. I lost a brother that day and my dog is still terrified of bass tones. To read the article I saw today on X-bit Labs was my sweet golden moment of revenge, and my brother’s soul can finally know peace.
According to Valve’s customer hardware survey (the largest automated hardware survey ever), gamers just don’t use seperate, specific sound cards much anymore. While Creative Labs is still the leader in that field, only 15% of gamers polled actually use the cards. The rest use the audio hardware built into their motherboards. Personally, I haven’t used a seperate sound card in years, and I don’t believe I know anyone who does. It’s roughly on par with the Ageia PhysX card in terms of utility at this point, and that’s a fact that I email the President of Creative Labs on a daily basis (along with a picture of my dead brother).