You might have heard that Windows 2000 does include basic support for the SoundBlaster Live! card which is included in the shipping OS, but soundfonts are NOT supported - just basic driver support.
6/17/00 - A PostScript to the Windows 2000 / Matrox G400 Max discussed below. Matrox, you disappoint me! I've waited for over two months for WHQL Certified drivers for Win2k and the G400 Max card, and there's still nothing. Tech Support could not even venture a guess when the drivers might be released. And so, after four years of being an enthusiastic Matrox supporter, I got tired of crashes and waiting and replaced the card. For those interested, I installed an Elsa Gloria II. This card is more in the Professional category than the G400 cards, but the drivers are very stable, the card is very fast, and the display is beautiful. Thanks Elsa (and NVidia) for a great product.
4/8/00 - This week has been spent upgrading my NTW40 machine to Win2K Professional. My experiences with that are overall good - I am surprised that some of the software that I thought would run fine has given me some problems, and I've had to uninstall some that won't work at all! This is more like the change from Windows 95 to Windows 98 that I thought.
Right now, the weakest link is the video drivers for my Matrox G400 Max card - Matrox doesn't have WHQL certified drivers yet, and there are some bugs in the only G400 drivers available, but this should improve shortly (strange - they just posted certified drivers for the G400 but they don't work with the Max which is really the same card with a faster RAMDAC).
On the brighter side, the SBLive drivers are a dream!
Win2K includes, as speculated, basic support for the SBLive, and these drivers are loaded upon installation or when you upgrade. They are Microsoft drivers, and do provide basic support, but NOT FOR SOUNDFONTS!!! You have to run a software synth that sounds pretty good, but is certainly not up to the sound I've become accustomed to.
The drivers from CL for the Live are actually signed (Win2K informs you if drivers you are loading are signed - signed drivers are WHQL approved if signed by Microsoft) and the Live drivers ARE signed. Easy to install (and uninstall if you want to too), they include all the same support the NT4 drivers did, but they are more stable. About the only real problem I had with the last Liveware 3.0 drivers for NT was that after playing MIDI files for a while, some digital sounds (WAV files) would result in a raucous buzz instead of the proper sound. I would have to unload and reload the soundfont before I could play WAV files correctly. This has been fixed with the drivers for Win2K. On top of that, the MIDI playback is the best I've heard from the card, and output from the Live with these drivers has more "punch" than before - and a good deal more gain too.
I've been using the Live in Windows NT since it was first released, and this is the first time I've been satisfied with the stability and performance of the card!