Further confirmation that Speakers mode (unlike the previous X-FI's) is not in any way compatible for surround headphone use if you're using the lineouts to an amp; or if you're using SPDIF/Optical out either. Speaker mode is totally for Speakers and that's it.
Fegefeuer, thanks for replying - I take it that you can at least switch to clean 2 channel audio, using 'stereo direct' for the very best stereo audio in Headphone mode? Does it do it at 192Khz? One thing though.. you said that you "switch all the time" - why'd you do that if the sound is all fluffed up?
Now that Feg (thank you.. at last somebody here is using optical) has confirmed that headphone mode works via SPDIF (*EDIT* new article from Creative supports this http://support.creative.com/kb/ShowArticle.aspx?sid=121466.), it looks likely I'll be going for a cheap $65 OEM Soundblaster Z and an Audio-GD DAC/AMP version 11 or 15 via SPDIF out. You could do the same setup with a cheap Xonar too I'm sure.
This option is almost half as much again as getting a ZxR/STX, but ***k it... The ACM and daughterboard are extraneous unneeded junk to me as far as Creative's offering goes. The STX has Dolby Headphone: but after comparing the two surround technologies in RL, I far prefer SBZ Pro Studio. DH sounds lush though; bit messy but great. (Only heard through the DG v an SBZ).
Also: having a concurrent USB connection (for pure uber-stereo) along with an optical out is extremely attractive. It appears that you can easily switch audio output between the soundcard and USB out via Windows Sound Control Panel. I'm pretty sure you can get max 192khz output this way with USB if you're into that. If I select the soundcard however, using SPDIF out, I'd also get to use Creative's software control panel and full surround processing (2ch Virtual Stereo for games and movies) with headphones. And no: I would rather not personally use my motherboard's surround DSP's, however that would shave $70 off the price if I dropped the SBZ.
With this setup I'd also get a powerful DAC/AMP with an extremely low output impedance, meaning that in turn my low impedance headphones of choice are perfectly matched.
In the future I could maybe get the cheapest Zonar and put in my system along with the SBZ; both attached to a 2 Way Toslink Digital Optical Audio Switch > DAC/AMP.
Edited by SaLX - 10/29/13 at 10:47am