Creative Debuts Ultra High Performance Z Series Sound Blaster PCI Express Cards

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ohsnaps1104

I think I'll just stick with my Fast Track Pro. I love it. Even though some older games have issues with it. I have to say that the audio for most things renders nice a clear. Especially when paired with a couple KRK Rokit's or Sony MDR 7506's.

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Meat_Juice

Auzentech grasshoppers.

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Baer

I stopped using Creative when their drivers were not ready for Win Vista and they blamed it on MS and then the admin of their help forums was always PMSing. I also see no value in paying one cent more for the Fatality endorsement. The guy can game but come on, an engineer he is not. I went to a Xonar for my next build and have been very happy with it. I do use high end audio hardware throughout and I can absolutely tell the difference between high end audio and a sound card Vs. good computer speakers with built in audio, there is no comparison. If however you think an iPod sounds good then get the built in audio and save yourself some money.

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mysterymantis

I don't know about ipods, but any personal media player with good sound processing can sound good if you invest in good quality headphones and sound files to go with it. (I've never owned anything Apple though, so your statement might be dead on in their case, I just don't know).

Shove 64 bit rate mp3s through the bundled headphones that came with it and you'll not get a good sound experience. Play a lossless quality file ripped from a CD source, and play that through a good set of headphones (likely costing at least 100 bucks) on the same device, and you will be blown away by the difference, so long as the device has good sound processing. A POS will be a POS no matter what you put in it or plug into it.

I can't remember the article, but I think it was in maxpc, where the author basically states, "Why spend so much money on an mp3 player and nothing on your headphones? One without the other is incomplete." It was after reading this article I decide to try it. I bought a pair of Shure earbuds (E2cs I think) to go with my Vision:M from Creative. No comparison between those and any other 'phones I ever owned. And those aren't even close to being the best you could get then. I was converted, I became an audiophile. Too bad my budget prevents me from just going nuts on it, but it's cool. I know the difference now, and it matters to me. I don't know how many people really care about the difference, it's my opinion and experience that it is not common.

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RUSENSITIVESWEETNESS

The only way I could see buying another sound card would be if it included CD-authoring software as good as or better than Feurio! Otherwise, what would be the point? Sound cards no longer speed up systems by freeing up the CPU from processing sound; instead, they slow systems down by placing more demands on the CPU.

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mysterymantis

SO, does it make a difference....

Audio will likely be one of those categories that most people won't understand the difference. Here's a few points that will lead you to whether or not it does...

1. Do you use MP3s?
2. Do you listen to them at a low bit rate? (128 or less)
3. Did you spend less than $100 on your headphones that you listen to them through?

If your answer is yes to any of these questions, odds are that you won't be able to tell the difference. Reason being is that you are likely not an audio buff, and don't have all the other gear that goes along with a high quality audio experience, as well as the taste for the little nuances of being an audiophile.

It's not about the 100 bucks the discrete card cost for an audiophile, it's about pushing the rest of our audio gear to it's actual performance limits. An audiophile is likely using other levels of high grade audio gear (such as good headphones, lossless quality music) which is all useless to someone that just doesn't want to invest the effort (and cash) into their listening experience.

At one time, discrete audio was a boon to gamers, as it would add performance. I don't think they really do this anymore, or rather, the difference it makes here is not really anything noticeable. I doubt 2 or 3 more FPS makes a big deal. Especially when you consider that you'd be better off buying a better vid-card, more ram, or a SSD to cache with rather than a sound card. However, for people that are fans of sound, these audio cards offer a better in game audio experience, typically in the form of better surround and positional audio, as well as environment specific effects (like going through a tunnel, you have that echo effect that often onboard doesn't give you).

To most, it likely isn't worth it. It is for me, but that's not to say I would buy this particular card. I have owned Creative stuff before, apparently I've not had the problems everyone else has had to their level of extreme, but I will attest to their bad customer support. But I've had some very great experiences with their products. My second soundblaster I bought from them, it blew me away, it made such a difference! Of course that was back in the 90's, when on board audio sucked. Now, I still use discrete, because I also use high level headphones and sound files.

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carage

If you listen to MP3 and other low bit rate audio files, Creative's stuff like the X-Fi Crystalizer actually works.
However, since Creative has decided to make it a hardware independent software hack, I don't see much of the reason in investing in their newer hardware.

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mysterymantis

If you listen to low bit rate mp3s then you aren't likely to be someone that cares enough about audio quality to actually buy a discrete sound card.

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smashingpumpin

Been using X-Fi Pro on a Win7 OS for years and they still haven't patched up that annoying bug that occasionally resets your main sound volume settings to 26% on bootups!

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Penterax

My opinion about Creative is that they do some great hardware engineering, but after that their quality falls apart. Truth be told I haven't owned a Creative device in some time though, so maybe they are better now.

Sure would be nice to have some good reviews about these and other sound cards. (Hint, hint)

;)

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Strangelove_424

I hadn't used a Creative card in over ten years, but I installed one last year and I can attest to the fact they are still shit when it comes to drivers. I had crashes, DolbyLive compatability issues, and an occasional screech that ripped through my speakers like a banshee. When a software bug threatens the safety of costly analogue devices, that's just not cool. I went with a Xonar Essence STX instead. It's given me pure, bug-free enjoyment. The headphone amp changed my music listening habits forever, and gave me a new hobby. I can't say enough good things about the Xonar cards, but I'd also like to see some reviews on what else is out there, with the caveat that the sound cards be installed on multiple systems and the reviewers be dead honest about the quality of the drivers and any/all bugs that are encountered.

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yakmayar

Still using X-Fi F4tality. Bought it back when the first version came out probably 10 years ago or so and that is the only piece of hardware I have switched between new computer builds. I have not had any issues with drivers through Windows XP or 7. The front bay has always been the biggest reason I still use the card b/c it is so convenient for plugging in my headphones for the 1/4" jack. Changing modes has been useful for work related tasks as well...especially audio creation mode. While I know it is not top of the line and I have had a few problems here and there, I will continue using it until it's not possible any longer. After that, I will probably settle for onboard audio from the mobo.

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yammerpickle2

I have a Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio card that is collecting dust. In Win XP it sounded great with my 7.1 system. I gave it up after horrible frustrating driver support when I moved to Win 7. I still miss the quality audio, but enjoy the ease of my integrated motherboard. I'd have to go with the 250 dollar one to get optical digital out, and for that you can buy a very nice set of headphones or speakers, or maybe even a complete new motherboard. Sorry, Creative, your drivers are junk, and it makes your hardware basically worthless especially with Win 8 around the corner.

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Danthrax66

I like how people think there isn't a difference in higher end audio products (not necessarily creative but audio cards in general). Of course you are going to here a difference with crappy headsets and $20 headphones but if you get a proper set of headphones a good audio card/DAC will make a world of difference. For the most part I would say Creative stuff is overpriced and would point people toward something more versatile like the Astro Mix-amp or an iBasso D7. http://www.ibasso.com/en/products/show.asp?ID=77
http://www.astrogaming.com/mixamp-usb
As for headphones: http://www.head-fi.org/t/534479/mad-lust-envys-headphone-gaming-guide-updated-8-11-2012-images-added

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John Pombrio

Geez, they still make discrete audio cards? I have LONG ago given up on audio cards, especially Creative which always had the WORSE install crap out of anybody except HP. No thanks.

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Morete

I kind of look at Creative cards as the "Instagram" of sound. Like Instagram distorts good original pictures to make them have a different look, Creative distorts sound to make it different than the original.
Realtek has good HD sound drivers now, and they're good enough for me. I suppose if I had large amounts of extra cash and was building a new rig, I would throw one in out of boredom just for the bells and whistles effect.

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Nexing

Well, according to the comments above, Creative user's experiences do have its lows.
For completion, I can say that their E-Mu professional (and still low cost) line is rather exceptional. Their performance in terms of Signal to Noise (SNR) and distortion (THD) surpasses other comparable products by a wide margin.
Plus they did released stable and functioning Vista/Win7 drivers of even their old PCI cards, just not getting the official(paid) certification from Microsoft, which -if you look closely- is a very good solution for their old customer base, and still allowing them to hit today's margin goals.

Besides, while doing my regular search for Hi-Quality audio solutions, I stumbled upon Creative's Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD
(of which there's a review in this very own site http://www.maximumpc.com/article/creative_sound_blaster_x-fi_titanium_hd_review)
And this card remains practically unsurpassed in its factual specifications at several price points above itself as many forums detail.

Creative has -then- proven to have the technology... and if these coming releases do offer a new possibility to bring that to the masses, they are very welcome solutions to a rather very poorly served market:
It is time that PCs come up to the Audio levels the processing and amplification rigs are coming up to.
In several specialized Pro-Audio and even Dj forums, little voices are starting to come out in order to show the possibility that a new sonic word could be closer than many think...

//When the Record Labels realize that they are going to be able to sell to us -again- the same music at new levels of resolution, and when the whole production chain realizes that all this is going to yield many end users a new level of sound experience... then, expect a good number of products with the specifications Creative is hinting at with these releases.

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jgottberg

Clearly, I have been out of the sound card arena for quite some time. This is a serious, honest to god question - Is there REALLY that big of a difference in onboard audio versus discrete audio? Obviously, there has to be but would the average guy really be able to tell the difference just watching youtube vids and internet audio?

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John Pombrio

Not that I can tell. I watch movies, YouTubes, and TV shows with a USB driven 5.1 headset and it all sounds great to me.

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arnoldziffel

If you are going to listen to MP3 or most downloads, then no, you won't be able to tell the difference. If you rip CD music CDs, DVD audio or Blu ray audio (concerts, etc.) and then want to stream your library through a good home system (2.0, 2.1, 5.1, etc), then yes, you will be able to hear a very noticeable difference. As a test, take your favorite music CD, use EAC to rip to FLAC and keep the WAV file. Convert the WAV to MP3, save FLAC, WAV and MP3 to same file folder. Fire up Foobar2000, set display to show Visualizations- Spectrum . Play FLAC, WAV and MP3, watching the higher frequencies, MP3 will have a noticeable lack of HF. Any one of the MP3 encoder fromats (they are up to 3 now) do basically the same thing. Thats just the software encoded side of things. Jriver, foobar2000, media monkey all have there pluses and minuses streaming different content to multiple instances (rooms).

The hardware side of things gets very subjective, try this link:

http://www.thewelltemperedcomputer.com/index.html

Take your pick of PCI-e asustek HDMI pass through or get your feet wet with USB 2.0 adapters. One is better, again subjective,than the other, of course.As a rule the DACs on PC boards remain of low quality. ASUS has a line of MB that allow you to upgrade the DAc chips. New stuff out there all time.

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jgottberg

Wow, thanks for all of the useful information, I appreciate it! Sounds as though my oboard audio should be just fine then :). Thanks again, guys!

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Lestaticon

Good to see fellow PC users haven't lost their senses when yet another Creative card is announced. I've owned too many over the years, and every single one has been dropped from decent driver support soon after the hardware is released. You'll be lucky to see more than one or two driver releases, and those will hardly be anything worthwhile. I always thought they made decent hardware, but the driver support really tarnished their reputation in my eyes. I really do love the quality sound a dedicated audio card can make, so I'm usually very disappointed a few months after buying a Creative card and I see they haven't made any head-way with a new driver to address issues, tweak performance and quality, etc. I'm sure they are working on the next card instead.

I'm also sure that, after Windows 8 comes out, they'll release yet another new and improved model with new drivers. The hardware will be pretty similar to this card or the previous windows 7 version. Instead of driver updates to current hardware (even extremely recent stuff), they just release a new product then effectively drop GOOD support for that too.

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I_pwn_newbz86

"Multi-core processors and vastly improved onboard audio solutions have all but rendered discrete audio cards obsolete"

This is not true for content creation. Audio engineers and music producers all need sound cards like this because integrated audio chipsets usually have too much latency. Also, there is a clear difference in audio quality when you're on $1000 studio monitors.

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BlazePC

"creative" money making ploy.
no value add...

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froggz

Creative is a douche bag company. Never liked them. Their driver support sucks. Once they get your money, that whole providing support thing goes out the window with the next version of Windows.

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chrisv815

this is a joke. Who wants to spend $100 on a card that delivers barely perceptible increases in sound quality over the onboard chip, with drivers that still don't work with win7? And I'm sure it will be years before solid win8 drivers are released.
NOPE not me I'll take the $100 and spend it on better speakers. This thing should be $25. Only worth it for people doing recording or mixing, NOT gamers or enthusiasts.

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Farmboytechie

It could not have been said any better!

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gothliciouz

what a joke. my xtreme gamer xfi card, still have serious drivers problem with win-7, why not fix that first?

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Refuge88

But that would make consumers happy and not make them money you silly goose!

Haha!

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WillyG

Do you think they might make drivers for it? NAAAA!
Never have before. Same old stuff

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praetor_alpha

Say what you will about onboard audio, I'll keep using my Xonar D2X until it dies.

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CaptainFabulous

I'm still using my X-FI Platinum, but once that's no longer an option (either it dies or Creative refuses to make Windows 8 drivers; I'm going with the latter) I'm gonna be all over the Xonar if I find my mobo audio (VIA HD) to be insufficient.

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nedwards

You and me both. 

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