Silence from Creative after customer revolt
Picture the following scenario. Imagine if you had gone out and purchased a Creative Labs Soundblaster of some kind, there’s loads of them around but the most popular ones would be their Audigy and XFI series cards. Now imagine smiling when you saw that ‘Vista Compatible’ logo on the box, meaning that the card would work on Microsoft Vista. So you purchase it, take it home and install it into your PC. You would then either:
- Install the drivers from the included CD
- OR simply get and install the latest drivers from the Creative website
You would now have a fully working card right? You should be able to use all its capabilities given that it is ‘Vista Compatible’. What would you do if you found out that it wasn’t really ‘Vista Compatible’ ? This is what thousands of creative soundcard owners have been asking themselves for years now. Creative’s soundcard drivers have always been laughably poor, even back when I used them on my Audigy 2 in Windows XP, but it turns out that their new XFI drivers are just as bad. There are no decent working drivers in Vista at present I am led to believe. Because the Creative ‘Soundblaster’ moniker is such a powerful one – your average joe public just assumes that the product adds high quality sound to your PC, and will then go out and purchase one without knowing all this.
A driver modder known as Daniel_K decided to come up with his own modified drivers that restored functionality to these cards – everyone was happy, well except for Creative. One would think that they’d embrace his skills and maybe hire him, but instead they decided to do him for copyright issues! Daniel_K was warned on the Creative forums to cease activity, and what then followed was a backlash that I have never seen before. The forums were filled with thousands of unhappy gamers/soundblaster owners ranting and mocking Creative for ignorance. For a corporate company as big as Creative, they should be able to afford driver engineers to develop the best drivers possible but no. Instead they just rehash and rebox card after card to make even more money – and it works.
Since Windows Vista arrived on the scene, driver vendors have struggled to come up with decent functionality with their drivers as they have to work with new API’s they aren’t used to. As I have stated in the past, Creative were one of those companies that ended up admitting that their Audigy 2 and XFI drivers were poor in the first place. Nebula Electronics who made the once extremely popular Nebula TV Tuners have all but gone silent on customers with regards to their Vista drivers since the release of the operating system in 2007. Despite it having the best TV software around, I have stopped using mine, and so has PR because they are just incomplete and flaky in Vista for well over a year now. Even their forums have dried up with no Nebula feedback.
Back to Creative though. I am a huge admirer of them and their products, well mainly their portable music and peripherals rather than their soundcards, which I have stated have always been top notch build and spec wise, but useless driver wise. They started the whole thing off, they brought music to the very early PC’s, just simple beeps from a soundchip embedded on a bit of PCB back in early 1987. It all went pear shaped as they branched out and kept rehashing soundcards to keep a foothold on the market. However the tide has changed, and they are suffering.
Built in sound capabilities on PC motherboards have already reached the point where they require little system resources and sound superb. Other soundcard manufacturers have been rising over the past year and are building far superior products. Auzentech, Asus, Razer to name a few, and they all work fine in Vista. There is no doubt that Creative are about to feel a backlash that they’re not used to. Lately they have failed to deliver a good sucessor to the Creative Zen Vision:M – their once flagship audio player. They have now seemingly focused on developing peripherals for the Apple iPod – their very own competitors. If this wasn’t enough to be concerned about, I would also be concerned about this, not that it means much to the company as a whole.
Yesterday, Creative via one of their forum moderators stated that they have listened to the feedback (feedback? you sure?) and decided to work with Daniel_K in supporting their driver development programme. Is this a case of way too little, too late? To be truthful, I hope he tells them to shove it. I truly respect, and admire what you’ve done Mr.K. I gave up on Creative cards a long time ago and have never had an XFI so I have no idea how bad it’s drivers were, but poor Creative drivers was why I went out and bought an Auzentech Meridian, a truly awesome bit of kit. Good luck with Creative.