External Communication Module
The main purpose of the external communication module is to make it easier to connect peripheral audio devices to the computer. The module is made of black plastic and stands on four rubber legs to prevent it from sliding on the desk. You can place it either horizontally or vertically. By the way, the module resembles very much the appearance of the external Extigy sound card.
IEEE1394-compatible devices (digital camcorders and cameras, printers and scanners) can be plugged into the SB1394 interface port on the front panel of the module. Besides, the front panel carries connectors for those devices that are used most often. In fact, the external communication module is quite a unique thing as it has three analog inputs (two are in the front, the remaining one – at the back). The Line 1 input is shared with the microphone input (we saw this solution in all the previous versions of communication modules); the signal source are shifted with the microphone input volume switch. By the way, the card’s package includes a jack / mini-jack adapter to connect various audio appliances.
While the first line-in can be used for the microphone, the second can be used for such line sources as music synthesizers or household electronic appliances. The third line input (Aux In) is formed by two RCA sockets for the right and left channels and is intended for analog devices like a TV-set, VCR, CD-player and so on.
Actually, it’s rather a strange solution to place all analog inputs on the communication module, while all analog outputs remain on card. It would be more logical to place all the analog stuff in one location. Still, the manufacturer must have had some reasons for it.
It is very convenient that we have an overall digital volume control on the front panel (the sound volume changes discretely, without mechanical limits to either side). A little to the left from the IR-receiver, there is a button to activate CMSS mode (Creative Multi Speaker Surround). When the card is in this mode, it splits stereo sound among all the components of the speaker system. Besides the above-described communication means, the front panel also carries an optical input and output.
So, the front panel of the communication module accommodates:
- SB1394 (FireWire);
- Optical SPDIF in/out;
- Line In 1 (1/4” Stereo-Jack combined with a microphone input with additional gain control);
- Line In 2 (1/4” Stereo-Jack);
- Headphones output (1/4” Stereo-Jack).
Besides the third Line In we’ve mentioned above, the back panel of the module has a lot of interesting things. First, there is a coaxial digital input and output as well as a composite digital output for plugging in a speaker system of the MegaWorks 610D type. Second, there are two full-size MIDI sockets (a lot of free space allows placing them instead of mini-MIDI connectors). Third, the FireWire port is doubled at the back panel. The module is connected to the sound card via AD_LINK 1 and AD_LINK 2 connectors (an adapter connector for FireWire).
So, the back panel of the communication module carries:
- Line In 3 (2x RCA Jack);
- Coaxial SPDIF In/Out;
- Digital Out supporting six-channel (5.1) speaker systems from Creative;
- MIDI input and output;
- AD_LINK 1 and AD_LINK 2 for connecting the module to Audigy2.