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Lars Ahlzen and Clarence Song,
The Sound Blaster Live! Book,
No Starch Press

In actual fact this book is a pretty good guide generally to what's happening in computer audio in the consumer card market as well as being an introduction to quite a few aspects of computer audio.

The book has sections on the evolution of sound on the PC, an audio primer, the hardware, accessories, connecting devices, speakers, recording, MIDI, soundfonts, surround sound, and a lot more besides. If you think that adds to up to quite a thick book, you're right - it's 572 pages including the index. And there's a CD as well.


The CD contains a number of sound examples to illustrate what's happening in chapters such as The evolution of sound, Introduction to sound, An audio primer, and Sequencer basics. There are a couple of soundfonts, and some share and freeware but these are for Windows only.


As for the individual chapters, the sections relative to the Live! itself are very comprehensive as you'd expect. If you own one, your imagination might be triggered as far as doing more with it is concerned. The treatment is largely Windows-centric but there is mention of the ALSA drivers for Linux. No mention of the Mac. Would someone put a Live! in a G4? Are there drivers? I didn't know before and I'm no wiser now. Well, OK, I went to the web and found an interesting can of worms starting with the announcement in 2000 that there would be a Soundblaster Live! Mac edition. These drivers came out apparently and were considered problematical but OK for everyday use. The next chapter is 2002 when a group not connected with Creative were developing drivers for OSX. I think some of this information should have been in the book.


As far as other sections are concerned, the section on surround sound is a nice summary of what's happening, complete with some explanation about THX ... which isn't about surround at all primarily, but quite a few people think it is.


You can also learn about placing your speakers. This is a hobbyhorse of mine so I didn't find it all that satisfactory. The crucial point is that highs are very directional. Very cheap speakers will miss them entirely and most send pencil thin beams at the top. Thus the top end speakers need to be at ear level and pointing towards the ears. Once that's done you need to set the distance from corners and the wall to optimise bass responce ... which might mean with small speakers that they're happiest in corners and up against the wall, or they might be boomy. You need to experiment, preferably with a tone generator, or using 'pink' noise, and a sound level meter.


Another topic covered is soundfonts and it is quite adequate. I only mention it here to remind you of Josh Green's excellent article on soundfonts which appears on this site.


Quibbles aside, this is a good audio primer as well as providing indepth information on the Live!.


<jlittler @ mstation.org>

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