Clean going in, clean coming out
The Extigy adds a laundry list of input and output jacks to your desktop. On the front, you'll find an optical (TOSLINK) in, an optical out, a line in, a mike in with hardware-level control, and a line/headphones out with hardware-volume control. The back panel houses a USB jack, a MIDI in, a MIDI out, an S/PDIF in, an S/PDIF out, and three jacks for outputting Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound (front, rear, and center/subwoofer). With all of these ins and outs, you can connect pretty much any audio device to the Extigy--and we did.
Installation was ridiculously easy, a refreshing change from the audio-hardware headaches we've encountered with PCI-card-based solutions. You can put the Extigy on your desk either horizontally or vertically using two rubber feet. When it's connected, the Extigy replaces your sound card. But to prevent configuration issues, your system reverts seamlessly back to your internal sound card when the Extigy is disconnected or powered down.
Since the Extigy sits outside of your PC, attaching cords is much, much easier than having to reach around to the back of your computer every time. The fact that it is an external device also renders your audio free from the PC's internal electrical noise. The digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital converters are of a very high quality--more than a 100dB signal-to-noise ratio and up to 24-bit 96KHz in and out--so whether you're listening to PC-based MP3s on your headphones or recording onto your hard drive from an LP, the Extigy delivers remarkably hiss-free sound. Analog stereo input and output volume levels can be adjusted using knobs on the front of the Extigy, via the taskbar mixer, or with the Creative Audio Mixer.
The Extigy is perfect for recording from an external source, but due to the latency caused by the USB cord, it's just passable for amateur musicians wanting to record multiple tracks of audio. People who want to tackle multitrack recording or MIDI work should go with the Sound Blaster Audigy instead since its latency is 2ms or less, as opposed to the Extigy's 40ms.