Sound Blaster

Sound Blaster is a trademark of Creative Labs. Especially in the 1990s, Sound Blaster sound cards for IBM-compatible PCs were widespread. At that time, these computers had only hardware for simple beep sounds, usually with a simple, built-in speakers. Only additional card allowed the issue of sound in Hi- Fi -like quality. Most games could spend only music and sounds on Sound Blaster and compatible cards.

The Sound Blaster cards were the first after the AdLib sound card for IBM-compatible PCs, which reached a large spread. The manufacturer Creative Labs established a de- facto standard for IBM PC sound cards. Especially for gaming applications under MS- DOS, the Sound Blaster cards were very popular.

With the introduction of Microsoft Windows and a driver model it was possible to use virtually any additional cards, provided that the manufacturer supplied a Windows driver. Thus, the dominance of the Sound Blaster cards dropped rapidly.


1989 brought the first Creative Labs Sound Blaster card. The production in the Far East and the relatively simple hardware design made ​​it possible to offer the card at a comparatively low price. Added to this was a successful marketing.

The Sound Blaster cards possessed by a digital -to-analog and analog -to-digital converter for output and recording audio samples, one for competitors AdLib compatible FM synthesizer (Yamaha YM3812 ), a sound mixer and a flexible programmable digital signal processor for control of the output and recording of digital samples. In addition, usually a game port interface for connection of gaming input devices was integrated to the alternatively MIDI devices could be connected. The first sound blaster card could be optionally fitted with CMS chips, to achieve compatibility with the older game Blaster card.

At times - starting with the Sound Blaster 16 - was installed in order to expand the sound production of the Sound Blaster card by attaching a wavetable board to the wavetable synthesis, a 26-pin Wave Blaster interface. Creative Labs laid open the interface is specified so that the Sound Blaster card could be except with the Creative Labs own Wave Blaster boards ( versions 1 and 2) also equipped with sound usually much better option cards from other suppliers ( z. DB50XG as Yamaha, Roland SCB -7, Roland SCB -55).

The Sound Blaster AWE32 offered the first programmable wavetable synthesizer equal on the map itself a result of the integrated synthesizer took the AWE almost the maximum allowed length for ISA cards in the computer. As a synthesizer was a EMU8000 chip from E-MU Systems. About two slots the wavetable RAM could be expanded almost with cost SIMM modules. The instruments in the wavetable first had to be loaded into memory before they could use as a MIDI sequencer. Sweeping sysex commands and MIDI control data even allow control of the AR directly via the sequencer. An included extensive editor (Sound Blaster Vienna ) also allows the creation of your own wavetables.

A great advantage was also the possibility of direct memory access (English Direct Memory Access, DMA). Here, the digital signal processor, the audio data obtained independently, ie without the assistance of the main processor from the main memory of the computer. This process is called a DMA transfer. Simply put, the central processor must initiate the sound only, by notifying the signal processor where the audio data in memory are located. Then may need only periodically be taken to ensure that the signal processor there is also a sufficient amount of audio data available. To ensure this, the signal processor has the option of time, before the audio data will run out, to trigger a so-called interrupt request. This is also the reason why sound cards use a so-called IRQ channel. In this request, the main processor can reload new audio data into memory and tell the signal processor, where they are located there. For the continuous output of audio data, this process can be repeated any number of times without burdening the host processor excessively.

Many no-name manufacturers were soon forced to build Sound Blaster compatible sound card, as a separate standard on the market due to lack of software support would not have been able to maintain. Only a few manufacturers - such as the Gravis Gravis Ultra Sound and Vision Media with the "Pro Audio Spectrum " series (PAS ) - defied this trend. When MS- DOS but as a platform for computer games lost its importance, the Sound Blaster standard did not matter anymore since Windows audio API introduced ( only Windows multimedia API, then DirectSound ).


Representative works with some models in chronological order, who were responsible for the success of the Sound Blasters:

  • Sound Blaster 1.0 ( CT1310, CT1320A, CT1320B )
  • Sound Blaster 1.5 ( CT1320C, CT1320U )
  • Sound Blaster 2.0 ( CT1350 )
  • Sound Blaster Pro
  • Sound Blaster Pro 2
  • Sound Blaster 16
  • Sound Blaster AWE 32/64
  • Sound Blaster 128 (various types, including: vibration, CT4810, CT5803 )
  • Sound Blaster Live! 128/512/1024/Player/Value/5.1/24-bit
  • Sound Blaster Audigy Audigy 2 with 2 ZS and 4 per
  • Sound Blaster X -Fi ( XtremeAudio/XtremeMusic/Platinum/Fatal1ty FPS / Elite Pro / Xtreme Gamer Fatal1ty Professional Series / Xtreme Gamer )
  • Sound Blaster X- Fi Titanium / Titanium Fatal1ty Pro / Titanium Fatal1ty Champion
  • Sound Blaster X- Fi Titanium HD
  • Sound Blaster Recon3D Professional/Fatal1ty/Fatal1ty Champion
  • Sound Blaster Z / Zx / zxz

The first sound cards were operated via the XT bus and the ISA bus. From the Sound Blaster 16 there were also models for the PCI bus and later in order for USB and PCI Express. For notebooks there is a model for the PCMCIA slot and an ExpressCard. On most models were or are there different versions aimed at different user groups. Cards for the ISA bus often also contained an additional IDE interface to connect a CD -ROM drive.

Today, the Sound Blaster series is a series of sound cards for the middle and upper user area can be completely covered by the current X-Fi series.

Dedicated sound cards such as the Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio contribute to improving the music listening experience over typical onboard sound chips. In addition, models are available for special applications such as computer games ( XtremeGamer ), music editing ( Xtreme Elite Pro) or for listening to music and DVD playback ( Xtreme Music) are optimized. Some models have a front panel, can be connected via the additional devices. For professional applications, there are a number of products of the subsidiary E -MU.

Included with the card include, apart from the first models that came on the market before Windows drivers for Windows, in earlier times, also for MS -DOS. Linux 2.6 provides support for most cards, although not all functions can be used in some cases for the kernel. For older versions of the kernel drivers are available separately in the ALSA project.