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Definition: Sound Blaster

A popular family of sound cards from Creative Labs. In the days of DOS, Sound Blaster was the de facto interface for gaming. Monaural cards were introduced in 1989, and stereo cards followed in 1992. Wavetable MIDI was added with 16-bit Sound Blaster Advanced Wave Effects (AWE) cards supporting 32 and 64 voices. In 1998, Sound Blaster Live was the first PCI-based sound card. Over the years, the Sound Blaster line has been greatly enhanced to provide 3D audio and home theater quality sound directly from a PC. See Creative Labs, DirectSound and OpenAL.

High-End Sound Blaster
This earlier Audigy 4 Pro card cabled to an external hub. Supporting seven speakers, subwoofer and major surround sounds, it provided a wealth of analog and digital ports for connecting A/V equipment and MIDI instruments.

Driving a Sound Blaster
Several programming interfaces can be used to send sounds to a Sound Blaster card: Windows DirectSound, earlier MMSystem APIs or the open source OpenAL. (Illustration courtesy of Creative Labs.)

The Early Days
Before Windows had efficient sound interfaces, DOS applications (mostly games) accessed the Sound Blaster directly. (Illustration courtesy of Creative Labs.)