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What is recommended: Sound Blaster Zx, Titanium HD, or ASUS equivalent?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

There are so many different sides to this, and it's getting confusing to a certain point now.  I don't know how many more 50+ page forum threads I can continue reading, so I'd like a general recommendation here in a simple, straight-to-the-point answer.

 

My last sound card was an X-Fi Xtreme Gamer sound card that I uninstalled sometime last year due to stability issues in Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit (i.e.- BSOD, computer lockups, dropped audio, etc.).  I currently use the onboard Realtek ALC892 chip on my current motherboard and it's currently dropping and cutting audio at random now, and I'd like to go back to a dedicated sound card.  I've tried an HT Omega a few years ago and promptly returned it to Newegg since the card always blue-screened Windows 7 when I powered on the computer.  A replacement card bought at another PC store showed the same issue.  So, I'm avoiding any and all cards from HT Omega.

 

My current system runs Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit.

 

I currently do the following on my computer in terms of audio:

  • Listen to lossless music (FLAC, ALAC)-- mostly JPop/JRock, Classical, Country (Yes, Country...), Indie, Alternative, and a lot of acoustic performances.
  • Play computer games-- new releases and some old games.
  • Watch movies on Bluray, Netflix, and movies in MKV with 5.1 FLAC audio.
  • Voice chat with friends over Skype while we play PC games together.

 

Since I started to teach myself programming to make computer games, I may take a crack at creating music tracks in MIDI instead of using royalty-free music.  But, that'll entirely depend on how good I can do that, so this part is entirely optional.

 

I looked at three cards: Creative's Sound Blaster Zx, Titanium HD, and ASUS cards such as the ROG Phoebus.

 

So far, the pros and cons that I found about the three after reading so many forum posts and reviews:

(Not my opinions, but stuff I've picked up on other websites and this website.)

 

Titanium HD:

Pros - Hardware accelerated audio, MIDI, and OpenAL and ASIO support

Cons - X-Fi DSP supposedly has a buggy issue with 4GB memory address on systems using 64-bit OS or PAE enabled OS; driver instability under Windows 8 in rare cases.

 

Sound Blaster Zx

Pros - Better sounding for PC games and HD movies over Titanium HD; more features than Titanium HD; 600 ohm support vs. 330 ohm in the Ti HD.

Cons - ACM unit softens audio for headphones plugged into it; very little to no difference in terms of music listening over the X-Fi Titanium HD (entirely subjective opinion).

 

ASUS Phoebus ROG, STX, and other mid-range/high-end ASUS audio cards:

Pros - Great for music and HD movies, and home theatre setups

Cons - Driver issues under Windows 8; buggy, crackling sound in some games-- it's a hit or miss in various games; lack of visible support from ASUS altogether in terms of fixing driver issues.

 

What are your recommendations?  My friend suggested I ask on this forum instead of a PC hardware forum since you guys know more about audio in general than other websites.


Thank you.

post #2 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by octoberasian View Post

My current system runs Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit.

I currently do the following on my computer in terms of audio:

  • Listen to lossless music (FLAC, ALAC)-- mostly JPop/JRock, Classical, Country (Yes, Country...), Indie, Alternative, and a lot of acoustic performances.
  • Play computer games-- new releases and some old games.
  • Watch movies on Bluray, Netflix, and movies in MKV with 5.1 FLAC audio.
  • Voice chat with friends over Skype while we play PC games together.

I looked at three cards: Creative's Sound Blaster Zx, Titanium HD, and ASUS cards such as the ROG Phoebus.

What are your recommendations?  My friend suggested I ask on this forum instead of a PC hardware forum since you guys know more about audio in general than other websites.

The Sound Blaster Z is a better value (and lower priced) then the SB-Zx.

 

The Ti-HD (Titanium-HD) comes with hardware that can provide just as good audio quality as any other sound card.

The Ti-HD is best paired with an external headphone amplifier.

 

Asus Phoebus is known for having driver issues,

 

Combo I would recommend is an Asus Xonar DX or D1 sound card, used $60

and a Schiit Magni headphone amplifier, $99.

 

Hopefully when you install an add-on sound card to your computer, your disabling the motherboard's on-board audio (in the BIOS).

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post
 

The Sound Blaster Z is a better value (and lower priced) then the SB-Zx.

 

The Ti-HD (Titanium-HD) comes with hardware that can provide just as good audio quality as any other sound card.

The Ti-HD is best paired with an external headphone amplifier.

 

Asus Phoebus is known for having driver issues,

 

Combo I would recommend is an Asus Xonar DX or D1 sound card, used $60

and a Schiit Magni headphone amplifier, $99.

 

Hopefully when you install an add-on sound card to your computer, your disabling the motherboard's on-board audio (in the BIOS).

 

How're are the drivers with the Xonar DX and game compatibility?

 

If Creative didn't have such a monopoly on gaming audio and EAX wasn't so ingrained in a lot of games, I wouldn't have to worry about this so much.  The comments about people having issues in come games (forgot which) in regards to EAX compatibility or sound distortion and crackling sound makes me worried.

 

Having had a bad experience with a non-Creative card such as the HT Omega and reading people having issues with ASUS drivers does sound a bit concerning.  But, the reviews when it comes to non-gaming audio quality on an ASUS card is a positive.

post #4 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by octoberasian View Post
 

 

How're are the drivers with the Xonar DX and game compatibility?

 

If Creative didn't have such a monopoly on gaming audio and EAX wasn't so ingrained in a lot of games, I wouldn't have to worry about this so much.  The comments about people having issues in come games (forgot which) in regards to EAX compatibility or sound distortion and crackling sound makes me worried.

 

Having had a bad experience with a non-Creative card such as the HT Omega and reading people having issues with ASUS drivers does sound a bit concerning.  But, the reviews when it comes to non-gaming audio quality on an ASUS card is a positive.

From my best understanding game developers stopped using EAX years ago, I believe EFX has superseded EAX.

So unless your into games that are more then 5 years old, EAX is not really an issue.

Every sound card seems to have had "driver issues" at one time or another.

 

The Essence STX & ST, Creative Titanium-HD and ZxR cards seem to come with the best hardware for audio quality (also they all use the same DACs and op-amps).

With the Titanium-HD, it's the easiest "highest quality" card for connecting an external headphone amplifier to and still be able to use it headphone surround sound feature.

With the other cards using an external amp means using stereo audio only.

If you want better audio quality and still do gaming, you would get an external DAC and head amp and hook it up to a motherboard or low cost sound card, using S/PDIF (optical or coaxial).

post #5 of 6
Which headphones/speakers?
post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by milosingh View Post

Which headphones/speakers?

I'm planning on upgrading those last since I haven't decided on good headphones yet, or even speakers.  It would be a waste to use them on onboard audio if I got them.  I've been eyeing the $250 AKG-702s but if I can find something as good and cheaper, that'd be great.  My friend spent most of his Christmas money on higher end headphones, but I'm not going there.  Hahaha.

 

I just play computer games, listen to [lossless] music, and do occasional voice chats.  I grew up on vinyl records and CDs (if anyone remember those), so I feel like I'm missing out on some good audio listening if I stick to onboard audio and crappy speakers and a cheap headset.

 

At the moment, I'm using some cheap Tactics3D Creative headset and cheap speakers.  I'm slowly upgrading my computer piece-wise.

 

But, I'd like something better than what I'm using now.  I'm going to start with the sound card then work on getting new headphones and speakers. I miss the X-Fi Xtreme Gamer but it was a nightmare when it started failing in Windows 7.  I'm still deciding whether to go with "Purple's" suggestion of DAC plus cheap sound card as a better option.

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