Looking back I think it was more that Creative got a rather large bad batch of capacitors.. or multiple bad batches of capacitors.
The whole crackling thing started with the Live! series and went through the Audigy 2 series.
Back then Creative was blaming it on the motherboard and chipset manufacturers who in turn were blaming it on Creative.
I only ever had one system that I had the crackling problem. I moved the card to a different PCI slot and it went away.
It does make me think that maybe the couple cards I had stop working over the years may have just needed the caps replaced.
This wasn't originally a problem that started happening months or years after brand new cards were installed. It happened immediately upon installation so the theory that the caps were going bad because they weren't specced high enough doesn't make any sense to me.