Creative Labs makes some of the best consumer PC audio hardware and nobody will dispute this. The one thing people will dispute is that their products are worth the hassle, and that’s for one reason: their drivers.
Over the years, Creative has acquired an infamous reputation for poor drivers, and by extension poor customer support. The hardware community is learning to rely on onboard audio out of necessity, rather than choice. If Creative would hand over driver development to the community, or a third party who is knowledged, capable, and experienced, their reputation wouldn’t continue to sink.
A recent development is that Creative chips will now be found on other brands of audio cards. What this means is uncertain, as having the same chipset may mean that users will still have to rely on Creative for drivers, such as in the case of NVidia graphics cards and Intel motherboards.
I’m writing this because of my experience with the X-Fi SoundBlaster XtremeGamer. Their support for Vista 64-bit is atrocious, with basic audio often crackling, and EAX support an unachieved dream. Recently, they released a 64-bit Linux driver, but all reports are saying that it is completely useless. My experience with it fails to falsify this opinion, as I couldn’t get the driver module to compile with any of Creative’s instructions, as well as from patches from the community.