External I/O Unit Design
Creative traditionally supplies I/O units to the Platinum series of the Sound Blaster sound cards, which are the topmost products in the company’s menu today. Audigy 2 ZS Platinum comes with an internal I/O unit, while Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro features an external one.
The unit is intended to make it easier to connect audio peripherals and musical instruments to the audio tract of your PC. The length of the cable (1.8m) gives you enough freedom to place the unit beside the instrument, far from the system case. Well, Platinum Pro is targeted at musicians (the support of ASIO 2.0 in the 24bit/96kHz mode, which is available in this card only, stresses this exceptional mission of Platinum Pro, too), while Platinum (without “Pro”) is targeted as a solution for all other mainstream users.
The I/O unit from the Platinum Pro package looks very similar to the analogous unit from Platinum eX. It differs only in the label on the front panel. The thing is still made of black plastic with two silver insertions in the front and rear panels. The unit stands on four rubber “legs” to prevent it from sliding all over the desk. Our “autopsy” operation revealed that there is a massive metal bar inside the unit so that the plugged-in cables wouldn’t topple it over.
The front panel of the I/O unit carries the following connectors:
- SB1394 (FireWire);
- SPDIF input and output;
- Line-in 1 (1/4” stereo-jack combined with a microphone input with an additional volume control);
- Line-in 2 (1/4” stereo-jack);
- Headphone output (1/4” stereo-jack).
The front panel of the I/O unit
Besides the connectors, the front panel accommodates a digital volume control and a control for setting the microphone sensitivity. The stepping of the volume control is discrete, without a mechanical limitation to either side. The current volume level is indicated on the display.
There is a knob to activate the CMSS mode (Creative Multi Speaker Surround); it is located next to the window of the infrared receiver. Enabling this mode will imply virtualization of a standard stereo signal among the components of a multi-channel speaker system (that is a nice feature for listening to CD tracks or MP3 files).
The remote control unit has undergone some design changes, too. The new model, RM-1500, seems to be more elegant and handy. Its purpose remains the same, though. You can still control the sound card and the running applications from a distance.