First post, by Cloudschatze

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Creative's Live! Drive, introduced in 1999, does a lot of things right. The front-and-center accessibility of analog input(s) and MIDI I/O adds a certain amount of convenience for music production, and the digitally-fed headphone jack alone is arguably worth the price of installing a Live! Drive.

Where the Live! Drive fails for me, however, is in its provisioning of S/PDIF I/O. While the aforementioned connectivity is more of the temporary variety, the semi-permanence of a coaxial or optical S/PDIF cable running from the front of the computer to a pair of compatible speakers/monitors is an aesthetic faux pas, to say the least. Likewise, an external S/PDIF connection from another expansion card (in my case, an AWE64 Gold) into the Live! Drive only adds to the unsightliness.

Such are the problems plaguing my existence, and oh, how I hate disconnecting/reconnecting cables unnecessarily. Luckily, solutions abound, with the "right" solution involving just a bit of extra effort.

Creative produced a trio of I/O bracket expansions that can be attached directly to a compatible Live! card in lieu of, or in tandem with, the Live! Drive. One of the limitations in cascading an expansion card in such a manner is that its S/PDIF inputs become unavailable, in deference to those on the Live! Drive. So, while the use of an expansion bracket solves the speaker-connection problem, moving that to the rear of the computer, I still have the S/PDIF input from the AWE64 Gold to deal with, and, according to various documentaiton sources, there's simply no way of defeating the input priority.

"Dagnabbit! I should just ditch the Live! Drive... but, dang, I want that headphone output!"

But... Oh, hey, what about these undocumented jumpers on the Live! Drive...? With trusty multimeter in hand, and some datasheets for reference, I decided to find out. And, guess what...?

JP2 - When jumpered, connects SPDIFIN#1 from a cascaded Digital I/O Card to the AUD_EXT header (back to the Live! card).

JP3 - When jumpered to DD (default), connects SPDIFIN#2 from the Live! Drive's Digital DIN header to the AUD_EXT header. When jumpered to CDB, connects SPDIFIN#2 from the cascaded Digital I/O Card's Digital DIN header to the AUD_EXT header. (I'm not aware of anything that even uses this input...)

JP4 - When jumpered to OUT0, sends the SPDIFO#0 signal (front-channels) to the CS8414 CODEC for the headphone output. When jumpered to OUT2, sends the SPDIFO#2 signal (front and rear channel mix) to the CS8414 CODEC for headphone output (default).

JP6 - The default position on my Live! Drive was to OPT/P_IN, which routes the incoming coax S/PDIF signal to SPDIFIN#1 on the AUD_EXT header. Moving the jumper to the RCA_IN position sends that signal instead. The RCA_IN signal appears to come from the CT4861 riser card, which hosts the optical S/PDIF and AUX I/O, and is found on the Live! Drive II.

So, the solution for me was to remove the jumper from JP6 entirely and place it on JP2, and move JP3 over to the CDB setting for good measure. This, of course, disables all S/PDIF input capability from the Live! Drive, and allows input from the cascaded I/O card - exactly what I wanted. The S/PDIF output from the AWE64 Gold is now connected at the rear, and can either be processed through the Live! card (whereby, it gets resampled to 48kHz), or passed-through to the digitally-connected monitors intact, and at the original 44.1kHz rate, through use of the Live!'s S/PDIF bypass feature.

Here's a shot of the back of the system:


[CT4760] ◄───► [CT4860] ◄───► [CT4710] ◄───► [CT4660]

"But wait! You've got TWO Digital I/O brackets installed!"

Like the Live! Drive, the short-lived CT4710, "Optical Digital I/O Card" also has a cascading connector, to which I've attached one of the CT4660 cards that shipped with the original Sound Blaster Live!. Why would I do this? Obviously, I gain the mini-DIN MIDI connectivity from the rear of the system, but I could have just used a joystick-to-MIDI cable for that. Obviously, there must be more to it... and there is!

The last discovery is that the CT4710 passes the SPDIFO#3 signal to its cascaded header as SPDIFO#0. For those who may not be aware, SPDIFO#3 contains the rear speaker channel output, so, as configured, the CT4710 provides coaxial and optical front-channel output, and the CT4660 provides coaxial, rear-channel output.

Admittedly, this is a poor use of expansion slots (especially where the CT4760 provides a DIGITAL OUT mini jack that I've used successfully with a stereo, "Y" cable, and to which the CT4801, Digital Output Module can also be connected), but it's pretty slick regardless, and hopefully some of the heretofore undocumented information is insightful.

Reply 1 of 3, by Holering

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Whoa Nelly! You make it sound like the Live! is all yours, and nobody else can touch it. Your info is certainly of great help.

I've heard mention that you can record bit perfect 44.1khz audio from spdif input. In Linux the alsamixer has a raw spdif option too. Haven't tested this, but my friend was looking for cheap 44.1khz audio capture and we both got live! cards.

I think the I/O capability is one of the lives!'s greatest strengths. I wonder if an exploit would allow 24-bit 48khz audio or more...

You might find the assembler interesting. http://emu10k1.sourceforge.net/as10k1-manual/ . Not sure if it's Linux only...?

Don't know of any other soundcard (besides GUS) that had opensource support from the company.

Reply 2 of 3, by Cloudschatze

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I'm wrapping-up the "Final PhantaC" build, and have switched to a dual-CT4710 configuration (still cascaded from the Live! Drive), thereby gaining optical output of the rear speaker channels through the paired bracket, as opposed to just the coaxial connection provided by the CT4660. Technically, the CT4660 could yet be cascaded from the second CT4710, but that seems a bit much, and I'm out of slots besides...


Reply 3 of 3, by SScorpio

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I know it's old, but thanks for this post. It verified what was going on and it got me over the final hurdle in the project I was attempting.

I'm using an SB0010 which came with an SB Live 5.1 and it has a different jumper layout.

JP10 is the jumper for SPDIF #1

JP08 is a set of jumpers that goes to Digital Din.

There's also JP6, JP7, and JP9 that I didn't map out.

I'm now able to take a break and enjoy that digitally fed headphone jack with digital CD audio, a digitally fed Aureal Vortex 2 signal, and of course the SB Live's EAX 2.0. The only analog signal in the mix will be when I use my Sound Canvas. Thankfully my Yamaha Synth has a TOSLINK for when I feel like XG over GS.