I decided to discuss this point at more length than we usually do because there is currently a high demand for portable mobile studios in the music world. And what could suit better for this purpose than a high-performance notebook equipped with a high-quality audio card?
Of course, the Audigy 2 ZS Notebook cannot be regarded as a professional tool for serious projects since it is only an all-purpose consumer product with a single stereo input. Yet it can be indispensable in home studios, which are so popular today, exactly because it is a multi-purpose audio card.
A musician or a sound producer would want the following from a home-studio audio card:
- High playback/recording quality
- The card’s driver must support professional interfaces like ASIO 2.0 and most popular sound-processing software suites
- Hardware support of real-time effects is welcome
The Audigy 2 ZS Notebook meets the first requirement as you have seen above. The effects are also present. Although I find the interface of the EAX Control Panel inconvenient, you can perform such basic tasks as applying compression, filters and reverberation to the sound from the line/microphone input.
As for ASIO 2.0, I decided to check its support in Steinberg Cubase SX 3.0.
The card’s driver offers the user several ASIO devices, two of which (Creative ASIO and SB Audigy 2 ASIO – I don’t know for sure what is the difference between these two) support the 16-bit/96kHz format. To work with the popular 24-bit/48kHz format, which is a compromise between speed and recording quality, you have to use the SB Audigy 2 ASIO driver. I could use ASIO Direct Monitoring at that and the system worked normally and recorded without drop-outs at a 2ms delay. It is a really excellent result! The same was observed with the rest of the formats, too.
Some music professionals may be disappointed at the lack of MIDI ports on the card, but I don’t think it is a serious drawback. Most MIDI keyboards for home studios can connect to the computer via a USB port. As for controlling external sound-processing devices using the MIDI interface, you can use third-party gadgets, like M-Audio’s MIDI-to-USB module, for example.
So, I can’t find any obstacles to using this audio card in a portable notebook-based sound-recording studio for home users. The Audigy 2 ZS Notebook plays this role quite well.