When you think of sound cards, the first name that comes to mind is Sound Blaster. Why should'nt it? The quality of sound these cards produce is great compared to many others.
However when you think of support the last name you are going to think of is Creative Labs, the company that makes the Sound blaster series of cards.
I have used their cards for years, and at one point even had a graphics card they made. I obviously stopped buying their graphics cards because of the poor support, but yet I still stuck with their sound cards.
I love the audio quality, and most importantly I love the full front panel controls they give on the high end models. I also understand that a company cannot support a product forever, so I did'nt mind upgrading my old Sound blaster X-Gamer 5.1 to the latest and greatest X-Fi platnum edition when I made the switch to Windows Vista a couple years ago. Driver support simply did not exist for that old X-Gamer card which was pushing over 8 years old at the time.
So I ran with my Windows Vista 32bit setup for a couple years until I upgraded to Windows 7 64 bit. I expected no issues with this setup as Vista and Windows 7 are very close in how drivers work between them.
However for some God unknown reason (as usual) I had the glory of finding a strange bug with the sound card drivers. It appears to be that for some reason if you have 64 bit Windows, and 4gb of RAM or more the sound card with emitt a glitchy, scratchy noise, and in my case randomly swap audio channels. I have a work around of course, and that is to restart the creative audio service, however doing that every couple of days starts to get under your skin.
In my research of this problem I found that creative knows about the issue and has been working on it for several months. That's fine, I understand the issue surely must be difficult for such an odd combination of things to cause the issue.
However this brings up two things with me.
1. How poor do the drivers have to be written that having too much RAM effects them? Drivers are small and take up little memory (or are supposed to), so how can this issue even exist?!
2. Creative posted beta drivers in their forum, and then removes them shortly thereafter.
The sad state of which drivers are written these days surprises me, I would figure it would have gotten better by now, but it seems I am very very wrong. Poor driver support is what gave Vista it's bad rap from day one, and anyone who used vista in any serious capacity a few months after launch will tell you it worked fine. So Creative... If you read this, invest in better programmers, or better training for them ASAP!
Then finally the whole point of this article, the support.
Never provide the customers with beta drivers, and then take them away later because you have your "test subjects". That beta driver may very well have fixed the issue, and we understand you are working on it. But if someone else comes along afterwards and wants to try the driver to see if it fixes the problem, they can't. Which means the customer is now upset with you, because they can only assume the product is bad at this point, and has no way to fix it.
I had other driver issues with Creative before... their MP3 player, graphics card, and a buggy driver for the X-Gamer sound card that would crash my system if I enabled EAX in newer games. I had contacted Creative on those issues before, and was simply told to get the latest drivers, which ironically WAS the issue. I was given no ETA on the bug fixes, or even if they were being worked on.
I'll be calling Creative again on this sound card driver issue, but from what I've seen on the website I already know what to expect. At the end of the day, keeping your customers informed is key to proper customer support.
Last Updated: 12/15/2009 10:13 AM