• Price When Reviewed: £107 plus VAT; Premium £153 plus VAT

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Video and DVD creatives who want to make sure that their work sounds as good as it looks have a new reason to drool. Creative Labs has taken desktop audio up another octave with the recent release of its Sound Blaster Audigy 2, the first sound card that plays back DVD-Audio at 24 bits/192kHz for two-channel stereo and 24 bits/96kHz for six-channel surround sound. DVD-A can reproduce sound frequencies out to 96kHz. By contrast, the upper limit of standard CD audio (16 bits/44.1kHz) is 20kHz, roughly the uppermost range of human hearing. While you can’t hear the higher frequencies, studies show that their presence results in the perception of a richer sound. Creative Labs unveiled the card in September, and is now shipping it in two configurations. The Audigy 2 sound card, supporting DVD-A, carries a retail price of £107 plus VAT. The Platinum Package, with the Audigy Drive, costs £153 plus VAT. To test the card, we paired the Audigy 2 with Creative’s new 120-watt Inspire 6.1 6700 speaker system (£85 plus VAT). We also ran a cable from the Audigy 2’s front-speaker line-out jack into a high-resolution stereo system. We tested the Audigy 2 Platinum package, which includes the drive bay-mounted Audigy 2 Drive. It provides RCA analog inputs; a FireWire connector; headphone and microphone jacks; and ports for a DVD player, AV amplifier, and MIDI devices. DVD-Audio is where the new card shines. We tested the card with CD and DVD-A versions of the Eagles’ Hotel California. Played through a DVD drive, it was no contest – the DVD-A was more involving than the CD and, as expected, the sound stage was astonishingly deep. The speakers were disappointing when we cranked the music up, though: harsh atthe high end, with a boomy bass response.