Review: Creamware Pulsar 2

By Manuel Clement
(August 10, 2000)

Model: Pulsar 2
Company: Creamware
Compatibility: Mac, PC

Creamware is a company designing sound cards, but their sound cards are quite different from what most of the competition is offering; they are building DSP systems dedicated to process all the audio routing you may dream about, apply effects in realtime, run software synthesizers, without using any of your computer's processor power. It sounds good that's what Pulsar 2 is all about.


Today I am reviewing the Pulsar II, the standard version (Model Classic 20). Six SHARC DSP chips are on the board, delivering a good amount of power to run your virtual studio. You can add any Creamware DSP card in, and the Pulsar software will detect the new I/Os and the additional DSPs available, enabling you to do more processing. This makes the Creamware cards very expandable. The connectors available on this version are: 1 x analog I/O, 1x S/PDIF I/O, MIDI IN OUT THRU, 16 ADAT channels (EIAJ connectors).

If you wish to expand your DSP system with additional analog I/Os, you can add a Luna 2496 I/O Box. This box has 8 ins, 8outs (simultaneous). There is also the A16 Ultra, as they call it "The Audiobahn", which features an outstanding set of 16 INs and 16 OUTs with a double ADAT interface and Z-Link.

Host computer: avoid VIA chipset motherboards

The Pulsar II works like a charm on both Mac and PC systems. Note that Windows 2000 is not supported yet. You may run into problems with some motherboards for AMD processors that are built around a VIA133 chipset. The Pulsar II runs ok on them, but other motherboards would be a lot better, to fully exploit the power. The best is to get a different motherboard. It seems that most Intel or Mac people won't have much problems.


The computer I am using to test the Pulsar II is an AMD Athlon 900Mhz with 512MB of RAM, Abit KA7-100 VIA133 chipset motherboard... If you are reading carefully this page, you'll notice I just mentionned that the VIA133 chipset is not the best to get with the Pulsar II.. Yes, but this is a good chance to see if our DSP system runs anyway. One more thing, I have Powertweak II installed and set to "optimize", which should solve the problems. Additionally, for this test I will use a standard MIDI keyboard controller, and two amplified studio speakers: Event 20/20bas. Software-wise, I will test it with Cubase VST 5.0, Propellerhead Reason 1.0, and Digidesign Pro Tools Free.

Pulsar OS: the virtual studio

If you love technology, you will feel like a fish in the ocean. It is the heart of your studio. You drag and drop elements from the library to the stage and start building your own custom studio, from the sound sources (ASIO, DirectSound, Windows Sound, P2 analog source...), mixers, to the effects (flangers, compressions, chorus, decimators, vocoders, reverbs...). Once your studio is built, you drag and drop your sound generators, which can be synthesizers, sample players, modular synthesizer, etc.. You can drag and drop as many as you want, as long as you have enough DSP power. Note that everything you create inside the OS is not affecting the performances of your computer, because the card is rendering all the devices and signals in realtime using the DSP power. To plug studio elements together, you simply connect them with cables as you would do in a real studio. Everything you do is saved in a unique "project" file, very useful as this enables you to have a custom studio for each song/project.


I liked the sound of most of these synthesizers. The miniscope can generate nice minimoog tones, while the FM-one is an FM synth. The best is to listen to some demos I recorded with each of them:

Blue Synth: mp3 demo

EDS8i (analog drum synth) : mp3 demo

EZ Synth: mp3 demo

FM One: mp3 demo

Inferno: mp3 demo

Miniscope MK2: mp3 demo

U Know 007: mp3 demo

Modular II

The modular II is fantastic. You get more than 140 modules (!), and you can drag and drop them to build your own modular synthesizer, plug those cables, and hear in realtime how it sounds!

Note that the Modular II used to be a bonus when you registered your Pulsar II. In the future, you'll have to buy it, and the bonus will be the "poison", a nice synthesizer device for your Pulsar. I strongly recommend you to buy the Modular II though, as it is an amazing device. The modular II will be sold for 198 Euros. Note: check for the latest offer to date; they often change their prices.


A studio is only good if you have decent effects to work with. Pulsar comes with several effects, let's see how they work. You can route any signal into any DSP effect in real time. It means that it works exactly like if you had a hardware multi-effect rack. Some of the effects I really dug during my test are: decimator, dither/shaper, ring modulator, 4-Pole filter.

Here are a few demos I recorded with the effects:

Decimator: mp3 demo

Ring Modulator: mp3

4 Pole Filter:
mp3 demodemo

Decimator: mp3 demo

All of the above connected in chain: mp3 demo

These are just four of the several effects you get with the Pulsar II package. If I wanted to make you listen to all of them it would take a whole review. This card deserves the best ratings when comes to real time effects. You can route any sound signal to any of the device, or even plug ALL of them to affect your sound.. You can imagine the possibilities.. Since it is processed in real time, you can hear the effects applied to the signal as you hit you keyboard keys.

The only thing that is not perfect yet is the reverb. But a representative of Creamware told me that they will release "Masterverb" very soon, which should give you the same result as high-end hardware reverbs. This reverb will be included in the next update of the Pulsar OS, which is free. Good news.

Last minute note: the new reverb is out. It is called Masterverb.

Pulsar 2 with Cubase VST32 5.0

Cubase 5 works with ASIO I/Os so I made a pulsar project that would enable me to route the pulsar's outputs to Cubase's ASIO inputs. It worked very well. I was able to record the signals of several devices on separated audio tracks, keeping everything in the digital domain from sound generation to medium. The latency time was down to 7 milliseconds at 44.1Khz. Controlling the Pulsar devices via MIDI from Cubase was very easy too.

Note: you can go as down as 1ms at 96Khz, but you may get some glitches, so it is safer to tune the latency (ULLI settings) to 7 ms or 13ms. I had to tune to 13ms 44.1Khz using a lot of devices to get a perfect sound, but the latency seemed short and fine anyway.

Pulsar 2 with Reason 1.0

Like Cubase, Reason works with ASIO. When using the Pulsar II as the audio driver, I got the latency time down to 7 milliseconds. Note that I wasn't able to run Reason when the Pulsar sample rate was set to 96Khz or 48Khz, it only worked at 44.1Khz.

Pulsar 2 with Pro Tools Free

Pro Tools FREE is basically the non-hardware version of Pro Tools, and it is free. The thing is that this program doesn't work with ASIO, so the timing was not very good. It did record audio quite well, but I had to mute the audio channels as they were recording, otherwise there was a terrible echo/resonance. When the rec audio channels were muted, I was able to record correctly, and when I played the tracks back, I didn't notice any artefact in the sound. Pulsar II and Pro Tools Free = great recording quality, but weak timing, due to the fact that Pro Tools free is not working with ASIO drivers. Pro tools works with MME

Devices at a glance

Sound Generators:

EDS8i (drum synth)
EZ Synth
FM One
miniscope MK II
U KNOW 007
14 Modular Synth patches
Vocoder 2
Sample Player
Sample Player F


Dynamic Mixer
Big Mixer
Big Mixer V2B

Hardware I/O modules:

16 channel ADAT In/Out
2 channel Analog In/Out
2 channel S/PDIF In/Out
Midi In/Out
8 channel ADAT S/MUX 24/96 (requires Pulsar II hardware)*
Syncplate source (requires optional Sync Plate)

Driver Devices:

32 channel ASIO In/Out, 16 & 24 bit
32 channel ASIO2 In/Out, 16 & 24 bit*
32 channel EASI In/Out (with Mixing on DSPs)
16 channel tripleDAT 16 In/Out
32 channel GigaSampler Interface In (source)*
16 channel Wave Interleaved driver In/Out
multiple stereo Wave In/Out, 16 & 24-bit
multiple Sound Manager In/Out
Direct Sound In (source)
multiple Sequencer MIDI In/Out
MTC to Clock
Sound Card(s) In/Out

External Effects remote:

MIDI Remote
MIDI Remote Box
MIDI Remote Fader
MIDI Remote Box Fader

AUX Effects:

Cross Delay
Cross Flanger
Cross Phaser
Mini Verb
Stereo Chorus
Stereo Delay
Stereo Flanger
Stereo Phaser

Insert Effects / Mono:

4-Pole Filter
Compressor E*
Dither / Shaper mono
EQ SP2 (2 band shelving, 2 band parametric)*
High Cut*
Limiter E*
Low Cut*
Mono Compressor
Mono Delay
Mono Flanger
Mono Insert Rack
Mono Limiter
Mono Phaser
Parametric EQ 4 mono

Insert Effects / Stereo:

4-Pole Filter Stereo
Compressor E*
Dither / Shaper stereo
EQ SP2 (2 band shelving, 2 band parametric)*
Feedback Chorus A
Feedback Chorus B
Limiter E*
Stereo Compressor
Stereo Decimator
Stereo Insert Rack
Stereo Limiter


Key Splitter
MIDI Merger
Sequencer Remote Control
lots of Presets for all devices
*new in version 2.0


What a card! The future seems great too for Creamware, who announced Pulsar XTC, which enables you to use the Creamware devices inside Cubase VST. Someone from Creamware has recently posted this message on a message board "The next Pulsar version will include the XTC interface so that you can use all the modules directly from within your VST-compatible sequencer". Stay tuned to, as there will be other reviews of Creamware cards and devices!

Last minute note: Creamware has released XTC and this feature is now included by default in all soundcards, via a new unified Operating System: SFP (Scope Fusion Platform) 3.1a.

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