Elephant LogoMarcus Brinkmann's Sound Blaster Review Page



First Impression

The Sound Blaster Live! is a surprisingly small card. First, one realizes that there are no memory sockets on the card any more, because the card shares memory on the motherboard with the processor and all applications. Second, it is a PCI card, which means that it does not use ISA PnP technology.

Furthermore, the card is accompanied by a smaller board with additional connectors - not all connectors fit in one single slot. So, the sound card uses up two slots of the case, although it does only occupy one PCI slot on the motherboard.

Hardware Installation

Pushing the card in the PCI slot needed a lot of pressure, but eventually it fit. Connecting the smaller board with the additional connectors to the main board and installing both in the case was no problem, although I only have a mini case. Because the card is small and very short, it will not hang through, and I'm sure I'll not experience deformations of the board as it happened with the Sound Blaster 32 PnP.

Software Installation

After booting Windows 95, the automatic hardware detection asked for a driver. I tried to use the Installation CD, but it failed. The hardware detection at boot time has to be aborted, and the installation must be continued later, a fact that may be confusing to a beginner but probably does not surprise a more advanced user.

So, I aborted the auto detection and let Windows 95 complete the boot procedure. Then I inserted the Installation CD. Because I do not use the auto start feature, I started the installation program manually. It came up, and I was faced with a list of software items to choose from.

The first item is the hardware driver plus additional utilities, and is the only item which is mandatory. To install it, 56 MB free disk space are required, a fact that is quite disturbing to me, but unfortunately common in the Windows world. Although prizes for hard disks are decreasing, I'd appreciate it if software developers would care more about the size of the programs. The 56 MB are not a big deal, but if you add the size of the operating system and the required drivers for all hardware items installed, the complete size is unappealing to me. Another reason is that a lot of RAM will be wasted at run time. I'll come back later to this topic, when discussing the applications.

Direct X is needed, and will be installed automatically. As this is a component mostly independent from the sound card, it would be better to make this a seperate step, or at least ask for confirmation. In general I would prefer a more flexible way to choose components for installation, although I realize that the table above is ideal for unexperienced users.

After the necessary reboot, a Readme text was offered, which I investigated. As I have only a Pentium 133 MHz, the install program asked me for confirmation if I really want to proceed, as a Pentium with at least 200 MHz is recommended. Nevertheless I chose to continue.

Then, RUNDLL32 caused an error due to an invalid memory page in module KERNEL32.DLL. Fortunately I could ignore the error without impact on the installation. At least I could not detect any errors yet. An experienced user is used to random errors in Windows, but a beginner will certainly feel uneasy with this.


The installation is easy enough even for an unexperienced user, but an experienced user will miss the possibility to choose between smaller components. The installation went smoothly, although I encountered a few edges which may be seen as a real problem by beginners.