Saturday, 7 April 2007

Creative X-FI Digital I/O Quirk on Windows XP

Creative products have always been a little, well, quirky (the less charitable might say buggy). Which seems odd for the world's largest and most expensive consumer soundcard manufacturer.

Quirks like undistorted 5.1 sound not being available in otherwise reference quality racing game "Flatout 2". Or never having a digital optical or coax out. Or insisting that you must use their fairly cheap cable to connect your £200 sound card to your expensive multi-channel amplifier.

I bought myself a Creative X-FI along with the digital I/O module. I use a multi-channel connection for gaming and music and the digital optical output on the I/O module for DVD's. I should mention that I am thrilled with the sound quality on the card. It is a distinct pleasure to listen to music or be surrounded by detailed sound effects in games that support it.

The quirk

Whenever the machine is restarted, the digital output doesn't work. Therefore, if I play a DVD in PowerDVD I get no sound from either the digital output (which PowerDVD is trying to use) or the multichannel output (because PowerDVD is attempting to use digital output).

The Fix

The fix is to go into Control Panel -> Sounds and Audio Devices -> Volume: Advanced. From the Playback volume window select Play Control -> Advanced then uncheck and recheck "Enable Digital IO". Close, close, OK. Digital IO is now restored.

The solution is simple enough but why should I have to perform it? Especially as Creative stack my startup sequence with so-called 'helper' utilities that never explain what they do or why they should be left running.

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