A Horror Story

By Wade Herman, Tampa PC Users Group

About a year ago I upgraded my computer to a new motherboard with a 500Mhz Athalon but kept my old ATI All-In-Wonder Video Card and an even older Creative Sound Blaster AWE32 sound card. I had been reading about the new ATI All-In-Wonder Radion, which promised greatly improved performance for Video Editing. It also turns your computer into a TIVO like system; more about that at another time. There was also the Sound Blaster Live Platinum card which touted a host of cool features. The front panel analog and digital I/O connectors were especially appealing to me.

During a trip to the local Comp USA, I discovered they had just received the new ATI Radion card. So I yielded to the temptation; after all it was only 2 months until Santa Day. While I was at the cashier, I asked about the Sound Blaster card and learned that they had just received, not even on the shelf yet, Sound Blaster Live Platinum 5.1. Having never had any Platinum, I decided to go all the way. Being from Creative Labs and one of the most expensive cards at $199, it must be great.

With great anticipation I dashed home and installed the new Gems. The installation of the ATI card went without a hitch. Now to install the Platinum. I had no concerns as their previous Sound Cards and DVD players installed without a hitch. WRONG!

Try as I might the software would not install. I am not exactly new to this procedure, having done it since the first Apple II. Being male, I take it as a challenge to solve problems on my own. I checked Creative’s web site—no help there. After several hours of getting nowhere, it was time to call their Tech Support Line. The call is on your nickel, which irritates me, but I am sure it eliminates a lot of calls from people who otherwise would make no effort to read the book. Within 10 or so minutes a very pleasant tech support person answered. It took almost 2 hours but finally everything seemed to be working OK, so I hung up. WRONG!

The second or third time I re-booted the system I received one of those dreaded fatal error messages, as the desktop was starting to load. MSGSRV32 has caused a fatal error in Devcon32.dll. This is particularly frightening since, as most people are aware, Devcon5 denotes an impending Nuclear Attack. From a computer standpoint it is almost as bad, as the computer is totally locked. Forget CTRL-ALT-DEL, the only option is to say a prayer and turn off the power. Now the only way to boot the machine is to boot in Safe Mode and disable the sound card. Then the computer will boot normally but naturally with no sound support. More hours of tinkering and un-installing, re-installing and it is obvious that I need help from a higher power, and, since God’s line was busy, I again called Creative. A very nice young lady listened to my tale of woe and spent almost two hours trying to solve the problem. She acknowledged that the problem is with their Devcon32.dll file and is probably related to my video card. She will send the problem to engineering and will personally call me back with the fix, which may take as much a two weeks. Naturally I am not a happy camper, but I have the feeling that it will be resolved. Over six weeks later I still had not received the promised call. So I called again, on my nickel, and went through their automated telephone support, and there was a solution—Joy of Joys. But the elation was short lived as the fix did not work for me. Now yet another call to Tech Support, with elevated blood pressure, to let them know how I felt about the company, but no point to take it out on the Tech because those above are not doing their job. The Tech was aware of the problem and said they knew that the posted fix only worked in some instances, which was why I had not receive the promised call—sure.

After trying a few things and getting nowhere I demanded to speak to a supervisor. He told me that he was pretty sure they would eventually have a solution, but it might be a month or two. At this point I requested that they take back their Sound Blaster Platinum Live 5.1 and refund what I had paid. Honest, I did not tell them where I thought they should stick it. They informed me that they do not take merchandise back. I would have to take it up with the Dealer. I reminded him that due to the time that had expired since the promised two week fix that was not possible. He was sorry, but my only other option was to take it up with Customer Service. Great I thought, bring on the SOBs (Sweet Old Boys). He even gave me the number and then added that it was a fax only number; they will not talk to people directly! How about that for Cus-to-mer Service! I am sure I would hear back in about the same time frame as the original promise and with as much satisfaction as I have received to date. I am sending them a copy of this article as my submission.

In one final attempt to get help, a friend suggested I see if they had a News Group listing, and boy do they. I strongly suggest anyone thinking of buying a Sound Blaster or other product read the postings. To be sure you see all of the postings, read them daily as very critical ones tend to be deleted in short order, as mine was when I outlined the problems described above and requested help. I did find out that I am not Home Alone! With all of the other problems users are experiencing, I may be lucky mine was not solved. One critical posting, which did not seem terribly strong to me, was responded to by Creative’s Ambassador of Goodwill, Harvey Fong, stating that he was going to block all postings from her ISP until they canceled her account. There may been justification from other postings to ban an individual, but trying to coerce an ISP into canceling someone’s account by punishing all of their subscribers, really. Later that day he made a half hearted apology, undoubtedly after taking his dose of Lithium. It is their news group so it is their right to control it as they see fit.

I am sure that most people who purchase a Sound Blaster Live are very satisfied. But from my experience and research I would strongly recommend that you be sure that if it does not function properly you can return it for a full Dealer refund.

Finally, My Solution Since there was no assurance of an early resolution to my problem and others may follow, I decided to take my loss and research other possibilities. Naturally Creative Sound Blaster is the card that immediately comes to mind because of the tremendous amount of money they spend on glitzy advertising. What a shame they don’t spend a little of it elsewhere. There are several other possible choices. After reading several rave reviews of the Turtle Beach, Santa Cruz, I decided to investigate further. I called their Technical Staff to ask if there were any known issues that might cause me problems. It was worth it to me to spend a few bucks to try and avoid a repeat of the expense, time, anguish and aggravation with Creative. I was assured me that they knew of none of the problems I had experienced and in fact the Tech personally was using the previous version of my ATI All-In-Wonder card. Then he cinched the choice by telling me that if I bought the Santa Cruz directly from them it carries a 30day unconditional return warranty. It is half the price of the Sound Blaster, but it does not have the cool front panel connectors and teaser software. All I can say is the Santa Cruz installed without a curse word, works and sounds great. Once again it appears Avis tries harder. u