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What happened to 7.1 support in the X-Fi Titanium series?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I recently began looking into new sound cards.  I currently have a Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer, but would like to move this into my secondary computer.  I skipped the X-Fi Titanium generation, and one reason was that they don't support 7.1.  After reading The Nameless Guide To PC Gaming Audio I learned that the new Z series of SB cards will not be an option for me, as they are just using software to do the work.  I can't imagine what that's all about, nor can I imagine choosing to purchase one of those.  I do still play older games which use OpenAL/EAX/DirectSound3D and will forever mourn the demise of these APIs. 


I also don't have an interest in the Asus cards, because I am comfortable using Creative Alchemy and do like having the full EAX 5.0 support in older games.


Does anyone know why the Titanium series cards support 5.1 surround but not 7.1?  I have used 7.1 speakers (the Creative Labs GigaWorks S750 set) for the past 8 years.  Other companies are still supporting 7.1, but not Creative.


If I choose to go with a Titanium, will I still be able to use the 7.1 speakers through an upmix function?  Is the software still the same as what I use with the XtremeGamer?  I still see four speaker outputs on the Titanium cards (assume sub/center, front, rear, sides).  But the specs list Line In, Lint Out, SPDIF In and SPDIF Out.  It lists 5.1 or 7.1 speakers as an additional feature, but all the literature states this is a 5.1 card.


Also, with the Titanium, will I still be able to use 7.1 audio from BluRay discs?  Or only 5.1?  I think this is the same question as above, but not 100% sure.


Thanks for any insights.

post #2 of 6

What gave you that idea?


It's only the Titanium HD that doesn't support 5.1, mostly since it was designed to output only two channels over analog (and 5.1 over S/PDIF via Dolby Digital or DTS). The basic X-Fi Titanium cards have the extra analog channels; there may only be 5 analog jacks, but one of those is probably a mic-in/line-in combo jack while the others provide the 7.1 you're looking for.


That said, you may want to opt for an Auzentech X-Fi Prelude, Forte, or HomeTheater HD if analog 7.1 support is what you need. They're still sold used every now and then and should offer near-Titanium HD sound quality, quite a leg up on the basic X-Fi Titanium cards.


As for getting full 7.1 audio out of Blu-ray movies, that shouldn't be a problem so long as your media player decodes the music tracks properly.

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

Interesting.  So you're saying that the Titanium HD does output 7.1, just over SPDIF?  I thought SPDIF didn't have bandwidth for more than 2 channels at Linear PCM.  Do they keep it compressed then until it reaches the speakers? 


So I assume then if I were to pick up a Titanium HD, I would also need to buy new digital 7.1 speakers?  Any idea how that setup would compare to my current analog speakers and X-Fi XtremeGamer Fatal1ty Pro? 


I will read up more on the HD; seems strange they would take away the analog outputs...  But the specs must be right then - analog mic/headphones, with RCA for Line in/out and SPDIF in/out.

post #4 of 6

No, the Titanium HD's limited to 5.1 over S/PDIF, and that's the fault of S/PDIF itself barely having enough bandwidth for six lossily-compressed channels. Trying to fit two more channels into the same space would likely result in awful audio quality.


I'm saying that your case might actually be one where you'd want to look into the Auzentech X-Fi cards instead (excluding the Bravura, that one's a fake and more like a glorified XtremeAudio), because they can deliver the 7.1 (over analog, unless you want to pay up for the HomeTheater HD to have HDMI output) that you seek.

post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 

Yeah, I think somehow I just never managed to actually delve into the specs of the original titanium. I just assumed the HD would be the better choice. 


So is HDMI able to carry 7.1 without compression?


How bad is the loss in 5.1 over SPDIF?  I assume it's noticeable. 


Does the Auzentech still use the Creative Console and behave just like any other soundblaster titanium card? 


Are those the only two options then for an EAX 5.0/HD card which has 7.1 analogue output?  Finding a used Auzentech or original Titanium?

post #6 of 6

HDMI can carry 8 channels of uncompressed PCM, which is why it's the preferred interface for surround speaker setups if you can use it. (You'll need a modern A/V receiver with HDMI input, though.)


The only reason Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio even exist isn't so they can fit into HDMI bandwidth, but because it saves a lot of space on the source media compared to pure uncompressed audio. (Uncompressed media eats up lots of space; just compare a WAV file to the same file compressed with FLAC, which is lossless and thus should have the same quality.)


As for the quality loss with Dolby Digital or DTS, it doesn't seem to have very many people complaining, but then again, most people aren't audiophiles, either. I'm sure it's like 320 Kbps MP3 in that while there may be a quality hit if you carefully listen and compare to an uncompressed source, you likely wouldn't notice in practical uage.


The Auzentech X-Fi cards still use the same Console Launcher and Audio Control Panel as the Creative X-Fi cards; after all, Creative's still providing the drivers, just slapping an Auzentech label on the control panels this time. They behave pretty much like any other X-Fi card would.


I don't think they're the only options for both 7.1 and EAX 5 support, but most of the other suitable cards are either old PCI cards or the elusive, expensive Onkyo SE-300PCIE (with its 7.1 expansion header). I mention the Auzentech cards since they're generally geared more toward sound quality than the cheaper Creative offerings, almost on par with the Titanium HD.

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