Introduction

Ever since the SoundBlaster AWE 64, we have been waiting for a Creative Labs product that lives up to the SoundBlaster legend. The bar was set very high with the pre-PCI generation of SoundBlaster products and Creative became the de facto standard in PC sound. The Live! and Audigy product lines didn't bring about the same revolution in sound for which Creative was known. Rather than advancing by leaps and bounds, the industry has slowly and steadily been creeping forward over most of the last decade.

With the launch and availability of the new SoundBlaster X-Fi line of cards, we could again see a discrete step in performance and quality that puts this new technology head and shoulders above its predecessors. Aside from the usual incremental moves forward, X-Fi includes a new architecture for sound hardware (which Creative calls an Audio Ring Architecture), high quality sample rate conversion (SRC), a very powerful DSP, and the option of including 64MB of RAM on the sound card itself. Putting all this together gives us a card that offers the highest quality and performance in consumer audio with today's software, and the potential for even more quality and performance should developers choose to take advantage of the power offered.

The SoundBlaster X-Fi Elite Pro is the best non-pro sound solution for audio listening, features and recording. In addition, the potential for higher quality and performance for sound in games is unique to the upper class of the X-Fi line. The downside, and our biggest concern about the product, is price and value. Is the top of the line worth the $400 premium? We hope very much that this article on X-Fi technology and the SoundBlaster X-Fi Elite Pro will answer that question.

The X-Fi Audio Ring: Powerful and Flexible
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  • tayhimself - Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - link

    XTREME Yawn!!

    It is Xtreme Fidelity with Xcellent Xquality for XTREME music and XTREME gameZ!!!!
    No thanks! When will this XTREMEly stupid marketing stop??
    I'm still using the nforce2 soundforge because my audigy didnt ship with Creative Mediasource which allows output of music to 5.1. Newer Audigys did ship with MediaSource and could handle 5.1 music output just fine. Needless to say I am XTREMEly pissed and creative and wont be buying something from them again.
    Reply
  • Googer - Thursday, September 1, 2005 - link

    http://sonicfocus.com/help/help_page.html">http://sonicfocus.com/help/help_page.html Reply
  • dejerez - Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - link

    media source is available for download from creative site. It is a few files all together but this software is for free if you have Audigy. 5.1. upmix option is not in media source but in the card settings that install with the drivers. I had Audigy and used Playcenter and than upgraded for free to Media Source. No problem. I used Audigy with tweaked driver for Audigy 2 to get more features and then eventually bought Audigy 2 ZS and used that with Software availble from their site. I had no problem with an upmix option. I cannot see your point here. Which version of the card do you have? Reply
  • flexy - Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - link

    yeah those "extreme gamez" are actually just TWO, namely doom3 and bf2..which (i THINK) support x-fi....if at all. Was not clear in the review. The point is that they even said they did not hear ANY diff between this and "older" hardware.....

    I think it's ironic that (at elast for gaming and occasional music listening) a $42 Audigy 2 OEM (which has 5.1 output btw) is AS GOOD as a card 10x the money.....and, in all honesty, i do NOT think that my ears are good enough to "notice" a 4db better SNR ratio or similiar nonsense....not to mention someone would have a hard time selling me this card :)
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - link

    The coloration from the poor frequency response and IMD sweep at 16-bit 44.1kHz really deadens cd auido and mp3s on the Audigy 2 line. Its not about a slightly worse SNR or a little less dynamic range. It's about poor sound reproduction and bad sample rate conversion.

    Of course, gamers won't care as much about this problem. And we can help get around some of the issues by bypassing windows kernel mixer on Audigy hardware.

    I wouldn't buy an X-Fi Elite Pro either. The price point is hard to swallow.
    Reply
  • dejerez - Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - link

    Sample rate conversion does not seem to be an issue any more, right?
    X-fi audio processor has SRC engine that converts to and from any resolution at 136dB THD+N. Check the review on digit-life. They say
    "Judging from our measurements, the problem with a lot of distortions is a thing of the past now. The 44.1 kHz mode in X-Fi cards is no different from 48 kHz"
    They also compared the quality of the new hardware SRC X-Fi vs the wide-spread real-time SSRC WinAmp plug-in, "notable for its relatively high quality and decent CPU load"
    They conclided by saying
    SRC of the X-Fi outperforms the SSRC plug-in and it causes no distortions - audible or visible on the diagram.

    Reply
  • xpose - Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - link

    i was so close to first :( Reply
  • vijay333 - Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - link

    Thanks for the review. Was looking into maybe getting one of these soon but I'll stick with onboard for a while until I get one of the Audigy boards. Reply
  • InuYasha - Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - link

    first! Reply
  • Phantronius - Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - link

    1st!!! Yes!!!

    Seriously, looks like I have no reason to part with my Audigy 2 quit yet.
    Reply

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