USB Connectivity, Installation and More
The Extigy, being an external sound card, uses USB to connect to the PC. This offers convenience over internal PCI or ISA sound cards since you don't have to open up your case and mess around inside. You don't even have to remove your previous sound card, the Extigy will automatically become the active sound card when installing it. And since it uses USB, this means laptop users can now also enjoy high quality PC audio like desktop users.
When installing the Extigy in Windows XP I didn't even have to reboot for the sound card to be detected and thus become functional, or install any drivers for that matter. It was purely just a matter of plugging all the speaker system cables in the appropriate ports on the back of the Extigy (as pictured above) and plugging the USB cable into a spare USB port at the back of the PC. Everything went without a hitch. However, with that being said, the overall installation process does require a reboot after you install the software that comes on the Extigy installation CD. Overall, installation was a dream come true!
The down side of the Extigy is the fact that it can only be used on Windows based operating systems from Windows 98 SE up to Windows XP. Sorry Linux users, looks like Creative forgot about you.
Added to this already impressive product, the Extigy also works as a stand alone audio playback system when connected to external audio devices and game consoles, and yes, that includes the new Microsoft Xbox. Using its array of connectivity ports including Optical I/O, Coaxial SPDIF IN and so forth, you can connect it up to a range of home entertainment devices. This means it is no longer just a PC sound card anymore, but in essence a cost-effective home audio amplifier with full Dolby Digital surround sound support for devices like your DVD player.
Audio Quality, Supreme!
When it comes to audio quality comparison to that of older Sound Blaster sound cards, the Extigy (or the Audigy since that is what is inside and powering the Extigy) reigns supreme by far in my opinion. I personally usually find it hard to pick the difference between, say a Sound Blaster PCI128 and a Sound Blaster Live! Value, like in my situation a couple months ago; I was wondering if I replaced the right cards struggling to find any audible difference in sound quality between the two.
However, when it comes to comparing the Extigy to the Sound Blaster Live! Value, the winner is clearly the Extigy. The sound quality of MP3's is increased and the difference becomes audible. The clarity is much better at increased volumes, the quality doesn't decrease like you'd find with older sound cards when you push the volume up to higher levels.
Since the Extigy uses a SNR (High Signal-to-Noise Ratio) exceeding 100dB, you can, depending on your stereo system, play your music or movies at high volume levels without any distortion. Using my quality Altec Lansing ADA890 speaker system (reviewed here), I can turn the volume right up without any distortion occurring and sound quality remaining as if you were playing music or games at volumes less earth shattering.
When it comes to watching DVD's, the true Dolby Digital 5.1 support by the Extigy comes into play results in stunning audio effects as if you were sitting in a cinema watching the movie. Thanks to its multi-channel hardware support, you get sounds coming from every direction making the movie just that much better. The same can be said for gaming when EAX is supported through the Extigy, the 3D positional sound is lovely, bringing the game to life like never before.
The Extigy is bundled with quite a bit of software for you to use in conjunction with your new sound card, it simply compliments an already solid product. Most notably is the Creative PlayCenter 3 software. This is pretty much an all-in-one programs that offers you such features as CD ripping and CD-R burning, MP3 and CD playback all with full Dolby Digital 5.1 (AC-3) playback support.
The other software of note is the Creative RemoteCenter. This is basically software for the remote control displaying onscreen functions you access using the remote control. I definitely got a kick out of this when I first used it; the novelty did fade off though, as most things tend to over time.