The ponderously titled Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Video Editor is an ingenious combination of 7.1 surround sound and video editing hardware. It's an external box that connects to your PC via USB 2.0, adding almost every variation of video and audio input and output, and even throwing in a forward-facing USB 2.0 hub and a remote control.
As a soundcard, the Audigy 2 ZS VE delivers high-quality audio. We tested it with Creative's Inspire T5900 5.1 surround speakers and found the set-up equally good for booming soundtracks, sharp classical and intricate drum and bass.
Dolby EX and DTS ES decoding sweetens DVD playback. The box can also work as a separate AV receiver when your computer is switched off, but its digital hub potential is lessened by the lack of support for Dolby decoding from an optical source in this standalone mode.
The bundled audio software includes the usual Creative applications, plus utilities for arranging your surround sound correctly, for example. The central MediaSource jukebox is effective if ugly.
The Audigy features a fairly comprehensive set of in- and outputs for video capture – pretty much any kind of analog video can be handled.
Creative has provided cut-down versions of Ulead's Video Studio 8.0 and DVD Movie Factory 3.0. These are hardly exceptional applications, but you have to use them if you want to take advantage of the hardware. This is potentially annoying.