PCI sound cards for the PC have been labelled a "waste of time" by the company that made sound on the PC a reality. Creative Labs' product support manager, Franco De Bonis, told ZDNet News that people buying PCI sound cards are "throwing their money away" because software titles that take advantage of PCI's enhanced functionality have not arrived yet.
De Bonis is referring to techniques that make a user feel as though they are immersed in sound, something Creative calls "environmental audio". This technique uses up to eight speakers, connected to one card. Each speaker can be associated with a specific character or event to give an illusion of spatial movement. So, for example, if you were playing Tomb Raider, each time you bump into a wall the speaker, on say the left side, would be activated. If you turn Lara around the sound would be automatically transferred to the right speaker. De Bonis said: "Right now you just can't do that and you won't be able to until later this year."
But Jonathan Small, head of studios at Criterion software believes De Bonis is confused. He said: "PCI has several advantages over ISA. For a start PCI is plug n play which makes it easier to install. PCI cards are faster too."
Asked how much faster a PCI sound card would be over an ISA model, Small explained that games using Microsoft's DirectX would benefit, but admitted the gain is only subtle. He added: "The question here is how important are these things to you. If you are a novice with a PC, the PCI option will make things a lot easier, but if you're still using legacy applications in DOS, you should avoid PCI sound cards."