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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  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - link

    That's not a game port, its a digital connector to the break out box. The breakout box has optical in and out, spdif out, RCA out, quarter inch out, and problabaly a few things I'm forgetting right now.

    There is no daughter card connection. The thing that looks like it is a dell case front panel connector. For whatever reason.
    Reply
  • Saist - Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - link

    I'm trying hard not to be the wet blanket, but why in the world is everyone so gung-ho about creative products? I know I'm not the only one whose suffered from scratchy sound, static generation, swapped speaker channels, and dropped speaker channels with Creative cards. I've lost count of the number of games I've played where a sound issue has been specifically traced to a Creative driver set or Creative hardware problem. I don't want to even think about leaving the "well supported" windows world and looking towards systems that use ALSA, ARTS, or OSS sound systems. The lack of documentation makes setting up and running creative cards a pain in the rear.

    Quite frankly, given what I've seen of Creative's products and experienced, I'll stick with my Via Envy and wait for Via Envy2 if I'm going to upgrade. Just doesn't seem to be any sense to stick to Creative's path which invariably either winds up with less than desirable products and higher than desirable prices.
    Reply
  • flexy - Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - link


    i take 10 ! :)

    a) any REAL pro will probably NOT get a creative soundcard

    b) a gamer/casual PC enthusiast will probably NOT spend $400 on a soundcard.

    c) i had to stop reading the article and laughed when i read "$400"...and i laughed even more when i read that " Unfortunately, there are not a great many games out there that support X-Fi yet. On our list are Doom 3 and Battlefield 2. We tested both of these games and attained good results. We weren't able to create accurate and repeatable sound tests, but from our subjective analysis of gameplay, we couldn't really discern a quality difference between older hardware and the X-Fi."

    in other words: You did NOT see (hear) any difference between a Audigy 2 and this card - besides the sad fact that there's barely a game out which supports X-FI.

    What (please ?) is the point of this card/review ? Makeing us PC enhusiasts want to spend $400 on a soundcard which has no real-life use at all - or convince the *real* audio-professionals that now Creative is a contender in the "pro-market" ?
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - link

    Creative is a contender and active member in the pro market with their EMU line.

    I wouldn't use a consumer product for professional applications. I also woulnd't use a pro card for gaming.

    I don't recommend the Elite Pro at the $400 price point. But to people who want a gaming card with excellent sound quality and lots of recording features (and have money to burn), the Elite Pro fits their needs.

    to be clear, games that support EAX do support the X-Fi ... just not X-RAM -- the defining performance feature. It would be more accurate to say that no game exploits all the features of X-Fi.
    Reply
  • JNo - Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - link

    Unfortunately Derek, you failed to make it VERY clear that the bottom of the range x-fi card (which most gamers would probably be happy with) is $130, which is very much more in people's spending range for an everyday soundcard. Obviously you didn't get to test it, having the elite pro instead, but because the basic model is very similar with only very slightly worse DACs (only audiophiles can tell), no extra RAM (no/v little impact today), no remote or break out box, some intelligent guesses could have been made as to its value. Reply
  • AnnihilatorX - Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - link

    "The SoundBlaster X-Fi Elite Pro is the best non-pro sound solution for audio listening, features and recording"
    Ironic isn't it lol
    Reply
  • PenGun - Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - link

    What's the deal with the 1 K spikes in Dynamic Range and THD? The Gina at least is smooth. The creative stuff is all over. You should be aware graphs are useful but are not a good indicator of how a card sounds.

    PenGun
    Reply
  • SDA - Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - link

    "The SoundBlaster X-Fi Elite Pro is the best non-pro sound solution for audio listening, features and recording. "

    That's like saying that a Prescott is the best non-low-wattage, non-AMD solution for games. Yes, whoopee, but what if you don't have stupid limitations?

    To make myself clearer: a pro sound solution at the same price point or below would offer better sound quality, more features, and better recording capability.
    Reply
  • Googer - Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - link

    quote:

    The SoundBlaster X-Fi Elite Pro is the best non-pro sound solution for audio listening,


    I Love the irony of this statement.
    Reply
  • Eskimooo - Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - link

    Wherever I search web before spending any larger sum there are always people complaining about the stuff they have never seen an/or have no clue about.
    Why do you post opinion like that and give no example? What is the point?
    I mean I am reading reviews and I am trying to make a well informed decision about how to spend my money. If you draw a comparison, do it really, so that it is a valid point.
    So what is the soundcard that would give me better quality of sound at recording, playback and more features at the same time at the same price?
    I did not have opportunity to listen to music played back with system using X-Fi so I am looking for opinions from those who did before I eventually decide to order it online, too. Thanks to Derek this review. I have read about X-Fi enough to believe it is worth the price and that it will serve me well for a good few years like the Live card did.

    Enlighten me, cus I am looking better feature set
    Reply

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