The Creative Labs Live 5.1 sound card is a very popular PCI solution for sound. The PCI slot has many advantages and sounds cards are now readily available.

The Live 5.1 offers much better performance over the previous 16-bit cards. Creative did make a design mistake using 48 kHz sampling instead and did not implement the CD red book 44.1 kHz samples.

Updated drivers allow the Live 5.1 to play red book audio from WAV files. Analog capture is still 48 kHz by design and this is also used by DAT tape recorders.

The Live! implemented DOS legacy support via Ensoniq’s AudioPCI DOS TSR program. Creative acquired Ensoniq in 1998 and, as part of the deal, made use of this highly-compatible ISA sound card emulator with their newer cards. In fact, the Live! uses “.ecw” (Ensoniq Concert Wavetable) files for the wavetable emulation in DOS. The program enables support for many standards, such as Sound Blaster 16, General MIDI, AdLib (OPL3), among others.

Sound Blaster Live! was the first sound card from Creative with the “What U Hear” recording input channel. This was supported in the Windows drivers, so no additional software was needed to utilize it. The analog stereo audio signal that came out of the main Line Out was directed into this input. That way, one could mix all available inputs and the MIDI synth into one stereo signal.

  • Experience real-time digital audio & effects with head-turning 3-D positional audio from the EMU10K1 Digital Signal Processor
  • Create CD quality MP3 or WMA files with a 320Kbps encoder & up to 9x encoding acceleration
  • Surround yourself with theater-like Dolby Digital 5.1 audio in movies
  • Easily connect to Cambridge SoundWorks DTT3500, DTT2200 and other Dolby Digital-ready 5.1 home theater systems
  • Compatible with Windows 95/98/98SE/NT/2000/ME

The EMU10K1 (and its successors) did not use on-card RAM/ROM storage for instrument samples, instead it used a PCI busmaster interface to access sample-data stored in the host-PC’s system memory. A/D- and D/A- converters as well as analogue mixing is done by an AC’97 chip running at 48 kHz sampling rate. All members of the SB Live! family have at least four-channel analog audio outputs and a 15-pin MIDI/Joystick multiport.

Today these cards are obsoleted by the rise of integrated audio. Creative has drivers for Windows 10. Check for the model of card to be sure the correct driver is installed.