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

    we'll try it Reply
  • Reflex - Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - link

    Well said, SDA. And yes, I also appreciate the maturity of AT editors. I do feel a disclaimer needs to be added to the article, that said they could easily have overreacted(as THG editors tend to). Reply
  • Reflex - Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - link

    Derek - The concern I have is that your review, as it stands, is a ringing endorsement for a product in a market you do not fully understand. The users who rely upon Anandtech as their only source for this type of reccomendation are likely to purchase something like this, even though there are a wide variety of competitive solutions out there for a quarter of the price. I feel you should at the least post a disclaimer that your audio review process is a work in progress and make it very clear that you do not fully understand the market that the X-Fi is being marketed to, nor have adequate experience with competitive audio solutions.

    More damaging, from my perspective, is the fact that Creative has not pledged to support future standards or alternative OS's. On a $400 product it should not be obsolete in the 14 months between today and the release of Windows Vista. You need to at the least get a solid statement on whether or not the X-Fi will support the new audio standard natively, or if they intend to only support it in legacy interfaces. This is a sound card, not a video card, a user should not expect to have to upgrade in a little over a year.
    Reply
  • PenGun - Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - link

    Try an M-Audio Audiophile 24/96. I used to run a TB Pinnacle which seriously kicked ass on all creative products including all the audigys I ran into.

    The M-Audio Audiphile is better. A very sweet card pushing the limits of what is possible with a switching power supply.

    After what creative did to Carmack there is no way I will ever buy their stuff again. As they continually make crap as far as I can tell, it's no problem.

    My card goes directly to Kimber braided, RCAs on the Audiophile, then to my Sonic Frontier's factory modded (mostly voltage control cicuits) SFL-1 Signiture preamp. From there we go to a pair of SFM-75 monoblocks, again not stock, running Svetlyna 6550B power tubes. That goes, biwired, on Tara Time and Space cables to a pair of BMW Matrix 1 speakers.

    I do have a revealing system eh' ;).

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

    would that be any good for games, too? Reply
  • PenGun - Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - link

    It's pretty awesome actually. No hardware acceleration of course, but it's not a problem on my new Athy 64.

    PenGun
    Reply
  • Eskimooo - Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - link

    hold on, no non-Cretaive card does EAX 3,4,5 at present...So it may sound awesome but you do not get max out of the game
    Does this card produce surround sound over the headphones? Call it gimmicks, but I'd be much interested in that. For practical space reasons and occasional nite gaming.
    Reply
  • PenGun - Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - link

    Sound is what I care about. Positional audio in games is really not much more use than stereo. We can meet somewhere and see who walks away ... ;). Nexuiz is open source Quake,Quake2,Quake3 on steroids. Fun is back in deathmatch.

    I wonder why my account disapeared, I just recreated it but that is kinda strange.

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

    Where is it, dammit?!?!

    I guess I was unaware that the Intel solution had this ability. It may make sense to get a board featuring this ability to hook it up to my receiver, I can't believe creative can't figure out that we would really like to hook up a high quality card via a digital cable...
    Reply
  • segagenesis - Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - link

    This is exactly why I got the HDA X-Mystique 7.1. I believe it is a licensing issue that Creative does not wish to bother with, or does not care to bother with. It's not a perfect card (minor control panel issues) but it does exactly what I want, and has great audio qualiy.

    It may not be as super ultra quality as this new card, but I would rather enjoy the fact it has DD 5.1 Live. The review kind of says it anyways, he mentions that using existing hardware compared... *ahem* this new "extreme" sound card doesnt really make an audible difference. If your onboard 5.1 sounds ok to you, why even bother upgrading?

    One thing that I find troubling is that game performance is slightly less with the X-Fi and considering Creative's lack of promtness with driver updates I would feel worried about optimizations.

    The last Creative card I owned was a SBLive! 5.1 and I don't really miss the brand.
    Reply

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