Vista vs. SB Live! Value (Round 1)

SB Live! ValueThis post is about my experiences with older hardware in Vista.

I had two Soundblaster Live! Value audio cards lying around collecting dust - one came from a disposed computer which I salvaged for parts (CT4830) whilst the other was salvaged from a friends' Dell Optiplex desktop before it was sold to a secondhand buyer (CT4780). These are the second and third/oem generation versions of the wildly popular Live! series but has since been dropped like an illegitimate child by Creative Labs (citing it as end-of-life) when Vista launched.

Just for fun, I installed one to see how Vista would handle this unsupported audio card.

Opening the case and inserting the card was tricky as the mobo on the Acer was a micro-ATX and space was scarce. With only two PCI slots free, I had to pick the lowest one to allow the graphic card seated in the PCI-e slot above some breathing space as it gets pretty hot. Its a tight squeeze but it manages to get in without much fuss other than the re-arrangement of several port extension cables.

On startup, Vista detected the card and promptly asked for the drivers which I then opted to search for online. 10 minutes later - surprise! surprise! - the card started its installation procedure with the drivers and basic apps (ctfmon.exe, cthelper.exe, ctxfispi.exe, etc.). It completed without any problems which completely threw me off guard since I was expecting it to fail. So, the SB Live! Value DOES install properly in Vista with supplied drivers as shown in screenshots below ...

SB Live! drivers found
Vista correctly identifies the card
Now, once installed, how does it actually sound? Terrible unfortunately ... but it DOES work. Applications can use the card for audio playback (confirmed using Winamp, WMP11, Videolan, PowerDVD and Vista Media Center). Vista sounds and alerts also do get playback once the default audio device has been set to the Live! card.

Apps detect the card as multichannel device
As reported, bass and treble management is totally hopeless in Vista. By default the bass is set so high that it over powers everything. Using the tone control panel helps a little bit, but if only the sliders went a little more then it would sound more balanced. I'm guessing there are also buffering problems with the drivers because during playback, the quality of the audio gets worse as it progresses ... sounding almost like its connected to an overdrive stompbox thats stuck.

Basic tone controls but range is too limited
MIDI still works and you get both SynthA and SynthB running a basic 2MB Soundfont bank (with no means of changing banks) but the softsynth is missing. Both available synths still sound better than the default GS wavetable on any Realtek AC'97/HD set. MIDI apps such as Cubase and Finale do see the MIDI I/O port but I didn't get a chance to test them to see if they actually work. One thing to note however is that the joystick port doesn't install and no drivers are available for it.

Next step, try other drivers. I forced the installation of the SB Live! 24-bit vista drivers and everything seemed to go well. They installed, complained a bit about compatibility and then requested a reboot. This is when all things when to heck. Vista wouldn't bootup and kept repeatedly going to restore mode. I then shutdown the PC, removed the card and will leave it as that for now until I have time to try out the kX drivers and how they actually sound.

So what did I prove today? Contrary to what has been written earlier, the Live! Value WILL work in Vista, just not the way you expect it to. If there is someway to access the tone settings other than through the control panel applet, there could be a possibility that this card may still have some life as a device in Vista PCs, but for now its back to the Realtek for me.

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1 comment:

  1. hi just wondering if you dont mind selling one of these away, i am in dubai and really need this classic card, if yes kindly email me on with a reasonable price, chao