Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware and Software
Taking a look at the Creative Live! Audio A3, we have a standard package for a USB audio interface. The whole body is made up of a dark gray color, with a lighter shade of gray for the labels of the inputs and outputs. This duo-tone design is pretty tame in color, although it is pretty similar in aesthetic to their Sound Blaster X5. As such, everything is pretty clean. Every side has a matte finish with a slightly textured feel. It generally looks clean until you hold it and see your fingerprints left behind. As you might change the knobs and plug things in and out, this will happen sooner rather than later. The body is a bit heavy as it is made of a metal shell. I believe the top part is plastic, but you can feel the exposed metal on the sides and the bottom of the Audio A3. This makes the whole product feel quite sturdy and solid. All of the knobs have a slightly rougher surface to make them easier to grip. None of them have any wobble or give, making them also feel quite solid.
In terms of dimensions, the Creative Live! Audio A3 is 187.7mm wide, 109.2mm deep, and 52.7mm tall. The whole unit is slightly wedged shaped, so the top-facing knobs and buttons face the end-user more when it is placed in front of them. The sides taper in to make the whole object feel a bit more compact. As for its weight, the Audio A3 tips the scales at 890g without the cable, which feels weighty for its compact size.
As for the top-facing adjustments, they are laid out logically into their own sections. From the left side, we have the first section marked Mobile Device, which is where you can make adjustments for the 3.5mm audio jack at the back. This knob controls the input level, as indicated by its label. Unlike all of the other knobs, this knob spins freely. When you make adjustments, the five blue LEDs near the knob illuminate to show the current level. The next two sections are for the two combination inputs, marked A and B. Both of these knobs adjust their respective input with a set of five indicator LEDs for each. These lights provide user feedback for the current levels. The bottom three lights are green, while the fourth light is yellow, and the top light is red. This provides users with a quick cue if their inputs are peaking or maxing out the volume. Underneath the two knobs, we have a button to cycle between direct monitoring modes. Creative provides two modes, which are mono and stereo monitoring. Mono monitoring will let you hear both inputs on both sides, while stereo monitoring will split the inputs into left and right channel with one side for each ear. The circular button will glow green for mono and blink green for stereo. Underneath, we have a nice rubbery button marked mute, which disables the inputs. The button will also glow red when mute is enabled.
The final section of the top-facing adjustments is for the output, which are linked to the outputs at the front and back. The top smaller knob controls the balanced output at the back, while the two knobs underneath control the headphone output at the front. Both of these headphone outputs are 1/4" plugs. It is pretty neat to see two headphone outputs here, as most audio interfaces only provide one. I also appreciate the placement of these outputs at the front for easy access. On the other hand, one thing to note is although they are marked A and B, these letters do not correlate to the input A and B, as they are outputting the same signal.
Moving to the back, we have some more plugs here for both input and output. I can understand why these are placed backward facing, as these are less likely to be moved during your setup. From left to right, we first have a set of 1/4" plugs for balanced or unbalanced output. Next, we can see the set of two XLR or 1/4" combination connections. Both input A and B can be configured to either be used as a line or instrument input. In general, if you are using a microphone, you want to set the switch to "Line", while any instrument should use "Inst". In the middle, we have a button to enable the 48V phantom power for both inputs. Finally, on the right side, we have the aforementioned 3.5mm TRRS audio jack for mobile and other devices to provide input. As many mobile devices do not have a 3.5mm audio jack anymore, I would have liked to see support for Bluetooth connectivity on the Creative Live! Audio A3. Finally, we have a single USB Type-C port to provide both power and data over the USB interface.
At the bottom, there is not too much to speak of. First, you will see the four circle rubber pads to keep the Creative Live! Audio A3 in place. There are two exposed screws to hold the unit together. In the middle, we have a small label with the serial number on it. Underneath, there is printing regarding the certifications for this unit. As well, you can see this was made in China. On the sides, you can see how the edges are beveled and sloped inwards.
Internally, the Creative Live! Audio A3 is capable of a frequency response of 20Hz to 45kHz with a total harmonic distortion, or THD, of less than 0.05%. It has a microphone gain of up to 50dB, and a dynamic range of over 90dB. It is capable of playback of up to 24-bit depth and up to 96kHz sample rate. Meanwhile, it can record at 24-bit, 96kHz sample rate too. Note the sample rate for both input and output must be the same while using the Audio A3. Creative mentions this device is compatible with both Windows and MacOS.
While you could use the Creative Live! Audio A3 without any additional software, Creative includes a small utility called Creative USB Audio Control Panel, which is downloaded as a 4.58MB executable. Once installed, it is set up to launch on system startup. From the utility, you can see the status and adjust a few items. The areas are divided up into tabs at the top.
Starting from the first tab, we have Status, which shows the current device and sample rate. The Format tab is where you can choose the input and output channel and bit depth. I would have liked to see the option here to change the output to a single channel output, which is helpful if you only have a single microphone connected or to simplify the output. The Sample Rate menu is used to choose the input and output sample rate, as they are tied to each other. Buffer settings is where you can select the ASIO buffer size and see its current status. The Volume tab is where you can adjust the input and output volume. The Info tab provides information about the hardware connected. Finally, the About tab shows the information about the utility. Overall, the utility is pretty bare bones, but it does the job.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware and Software
3. Audio Performance Tests