What struck me most about the Striker was its similarity in size to the SoundBlaster Live!. Honestly, I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but this particular attribute stood out as most surprising. The difference at first blush, though, is that the Striker appears more well-organized electronically than the Live!. Not by much, mind you; the Live! was produced back when Creative had pretty decent products. (Creative’s drivers still sucked back then–badly.) Here’s a couple of side-by-side shots:
Now, before I start to mention anything at all related to my impressions of the card, I’d like to point out a small manufacturing defect that afflicted the card as it arrived (the box was fine, so I expect this occurred before the card was packaged):
Notice that the back plate is bent on the mount corner. The card itself appeared unscathed and unscratched, so I suspect this defect probably occurred before the plate was mounted to the card. Since the metal used for these plates is quite soft, it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine a stack of them being mounted in assembly-line like fashion where one happened to have been squished and bent just before someone (or something) attached it to the card. Frankly, this defect isn’t worthy of more than a paragraph, because it was easily corrected with a pair of pliers!
Connecting the Card
Before I purchased the Striker, I had attached my SoundBlaster Live! to a set of Logitech Z5500s via three cables: front left/right, rear left/right, and center/sub. Unfortunately, I don’t have and eSATA connection on this machine, so whenever I want to swap disks to test alternative operating systems or simply for fun, re-cabling my computer is a total pain in the neck. Worse, since the machine is sitting on a rack mount I reclaimed from my parents’ business, it’s in an incredibly awkward position for observing color-coded inputs. I can use a flashlight, but I’ve found it doesn’t help when I have to stick my head behind another machine and a few runs of ethernet and KVM cables. Thus, the fewer devices I have to plug into my box the better!
Behold, the solution:
The HT|Omega Striker comes pre-packaged with an optical cable and is a perfect complement to my Z5500s which, lo and behold, has an optical input! Sure, it reduces the total cable count by a meager two cables, but you’d be surprised how much easier it is to maneuver a light-weight optical cable versus its wired peers. It’s amazing how three fairly thin standard cables will find every way possible to wrap themselves around other cables, objects, each other, and the family cat. It’s absurd. The only thing that makes me slightly nervous is that I have no idea how robust optical cables are. The optical medium appears to be a form of flexible, clear plastic, but I’m afraid that bending it too much would result in a snap. As such, I have it wrapped up in a fairly loose circular bundle behind my Z5500 receiver.
While we’re talking about the innards of the optics, here’s a shot of the cable without its “condom”:
I apologize for the crummy pictures. These were taken at about 9PM Thursday evening, it was dark, and my camera has an obnoxious slant when it comes to focusing correctly in low light conditions. Yeah, I could use manual focusing, but the camera’s view finder doesn’t merge with the lens. “That’s lame, it must be a cheap-o camera,” I hear you chide.
Yeah, it sort of is–at the time it wasn’t. I needed a digital camera with a greater capacity than the Sony Mavica we had (which used floppies–no joke), and the Olympus D-40 was one of the best on the market. This was in 2001-2002, so most professional cameras were still film-based. If you wanted a professional-quality digital camera, you were either out of luck or wouldn’t be buying a new car. Take your pick. I’m not a photographer (obviously), so I chose the cheap route.
Oh right, this was about a sound card not my camera!