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Sound Blaster X-fi: just hype or what?

post #1 of 91
Thread Starter 
I know the x-fi might have the most powerful dsp on the block, but for simple music playback, does this mean anything? It seems they use high quality components, and I know in most audio systems the quality of the components define the quality of the sound much more than the speed of any processor on it.

What really got me going on this board was an ad the other day in a magazine touting it's "extreme fidelity" and the ability to "make your mp3's sound better than the originals". No lie. Now I know there are plenty of consumers who will believe a claim like this, and we all know marketers are liars. But to the educated consumer this has quite the opposite effect. The largest supercomputer in the world can't restore something that doesn't exist in the first place. Does this card actually perform well, outside of these ridiculous claims?
post #2 of 91
i like mine. mp3 better than the original? no way! improves mp3s with the crystallizer on i find and is worth the $120...other than that, pure hype. i enjoy it with movies and battlefield 2 plugged into creative 7.1 speakers. sounds good for music fed into my headphone amp with the 3d and eq turned off. i will be buying an external dac and using the digital out and expect it to sound much better.
post #3 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by glenmorangie
i like mine. mp3 better than the original? no way! improves mp3s with the crystallizer on i find and is worth the $120...other than that, pure hype. i enjoy it with movies and battlefield 2 plugged into creative 7.1 speakers. sounds good for music fed into my headphone amp with the 3d and eq turned off. i will be buying an external dac and using the digital out and expect it to sound much better.

Have you used the digital output yet? Could you comment ont he quality? I have got one of these cards and plan to use my dac with it. i primarily bought it for games playing.
post #4 of 91
I think it sounds really really good imo. I do think better than the Audigy I upgraded from. The only "feature" I use is the crystalizer actually. I keep it toward the "minimum" side of the scale, but I do feel that it creates a "sharper" sound. I keep the EQ on flat and the bass boost off...but actually the bb does a decent job if you want a little of that.

Is it a miracle? No...but if you are going to buy a standard Audigy 2 ZS or 4, the x-fi is $100 and outperforms to my ears. YMMV.
post #5 of 91
I enjoyed mine, until the left channel started to let out little pops while listening to music or playing games

Apparently a lot of people experience similar problems. Not here, but on the Creative help forums.
post #6 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by busta
I enjoyed mine, until the left channel started to let out little pops while listening to music or playing games
I had this problem when running lineout from soundcards with minijacks (xfi, revo, transit). Coincidentally, I also had HD595s at the time.
post #7 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by busta
I enjoyed mine, until the left channel started to let out little pops while listening to music or playing games
My Audigy2 does that too but simply restarting the computer fixes it. It also happens on everything connected to it including my headset, senns, and powered speakers.
post #8 of 91
is it localised to just senns or does it affect other headphone manufacturers as well?
post #9 of 91
Or the crappy output opamps. (x-fi xtrememusic, platinum, and fatality)
post #10 of 91
Same opamps as in Grado RA-1 headphone amplifier
post #11 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by creyc
I....ability to "make your mp3's sound better than the originals". N....largest supercomputer in the world can't restore something that doesn't exist in the first place. ...
My limited understanding is as follows.

Its not trying to restore anything. Its not trying to rebuild the MP3 so that it the same as the original source that was encoded. But it IS re-encoding the MP3 (on the fly because its onboard processor has the power to do it) so that it sounds better. Better to "most" people. As sound is subjective its not going to please everyone and it not going to be accurate to the original source. But if a lot of people think its better then its achieved its aim.

From what I read it works on some material better than others. Most people seem to find it enjoyable. Initially I kinda was skeptical, but I see what they are trying to do. Its like a Super EQ in effect.

From all I've read (here) its still a decent card. Perhaps not good enough for the absolute audiophile. But still decent.
post #12 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoRedwings19
is it localised to just senns or does it affect other headphone manufacturers as well?
On my card it happens with anything I use. Headphones, computer speakers, etc.
post #13 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by creyc
I know the x-fi might have the most powerful dsp on the block, but for simple music playback, does this mean anything?
No. The dsp is useless if you are using bit-perfect output to the card's internal DAC or an external DAC.

It seems they use high quality components, and I know in most audio systems the quality of the components define the quality of the sound much more than the speed of any processor on it.

Quote:
What really got me going on this board was an ad the other day in a magazine touting it's "extreme fidelity" and the ability to "make your mp3's sound better than the originals".
This is Creative marketing and the crystalizer option that can be used with playback does use the DSP, but it is a dynamic compressor (contrary to claims by Creative). It'll reduce signal and audible quality. Do not use it.

Quote:
Does this card actually perform well, outside of these ridiculous claims?
For music playback, with silly DSP features turned off and bit-perfect playback enabled, it performs well.

Sure, it's no match for the best E-MU, RME and other pro cards, but it's decent enough, especially when you consider it's a Creative card and that it works well as a headphone speaker-virtualizer soundcard for games (better than anything else out there).
post #14 of 91
The only reason to get an X-Fi is if you're gaming and currently using onboard sound.

Read this article. It has some good info about the X-Fi lineup in general. This article is all about the Crystallizer, with a response by Creative.

For those of you already familiar with these articles, there appears to be a part 3 focusing specifically on X-RAM.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but for the $400 it would take to get you into the ElitePro, you can get a cheaper soundcard with bit perfect out and a Headroom Micro DAC.
post #15 of 91
Honestly, I think the X-Fi extreme music is the perfect card for someone who wants the best sound in both music and games, assuming the person is willing to invest in an external DAC and AMP.

It's pretty much uncontested as the best gaming card available. And it also supports bit-perfect digital output. So you've got a single card that can do everything. The only change you need to make to go from gaming <-> music is to switch from gaming mode <-> audio creation mode in the software. (AC mode supports the bit-perfect output.)

My only real complaint with the X-Fi is the 'multi-jack' that doubles as the digital output and microphone input. Because I use the digital out to an external DAC for everything (even gaming), it's impossible to use the X-Fi's microphone input. I use the mic input on my crappy onboard sound card as a workaround. But I don't understand why they couldn't put an extra jack on the back of the X-Fi to avoid the multi-jack nonsense.
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