- Excellent sound quality (both in games and during music playback);
- Support of eight-channel speaker systems;
- Support of EAX 4.0 Advanced HD;
- Support of ASIO 2.0 in 24bit/96kHz mode;
- The software bundle doesn’t include a good software DVD player;
- The reported improvement of the SNR parameter has not been confirmed by the benchmark results;
- High price.
Eight-channel sound cards from other manufacturers appeared as far back as the end of 2002, and we reviewed some most remarkable samples (the TerraTec Aureon 7.1 Space and the M-Audio Revolution 7.1). Creative was not rushing to announce a “new generation” product, waiting for its speaker system department to get ready first. Thus, Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS cards are accompanied by eight-channel speaker systems (as you remember, there were no systems to use the eight-channel capabilities of the Aureon and Revolution when they appeared). Creative recommends using Creative Inspire T7700 or a more serious model, Creative Gigaworks THX E7, with the Audigy 2 ZS.
But an eight-channel sound card from Creative was actually released back in 2002. It was Audigy 2 Platinum (Platinum eX appeared a few months later). That card used an eight-channel converter from Cirrus Logic (CS4382). The hardware part of ZS Platinum Pro, as we have seen today, differs very slightly from the predecessor.
Today, the retail version of Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro is priced at about $250. This is the topmost offer, but Creative also offers more affordable products from the ZS family. I don’t think the owners of a pervious Audigy version should bother about an upgrade. The sound card with an external I/O unit may be all right for a musician providing some flexibility in peripherals connection, but is unlikely to appeal to an audiophile (for example, I like Revolution 7.1 more as far as precision and purity of the played sound).
I should also point out that the revised software bundle accompanying the ZS family is a worthy bit. I really wonder whether Creative is going to update its sound card family once again, but with some tangible improvements on the hardware level? Who knows…