SB AE-9 vs X7? And PCI-E vs USB in general?
Sep 19, 2020 at 9:24 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 15

apav

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Hi guys,

I will be looking to upgrade my Sound Blaster ZXR soon. I was considering the Sound Blaster AE-9, but after l learning that the 3080 and 3090 (which I am considering upgrading to as well) are 2.75 and 3 slot cards respectively, I'm not sure if a PCI-E sound card is still an option for me unless I get creative with a vertical extension cable. So I was looking at the X7 as an alternative, but I am wondering if there is any noticeable difference between them, or between PCI-E and USB sound cards as a whole? I think I read somewhere that USB compresses the audio more, though I don't know if that could ever make a real world difference.

Thanks!
 
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Sep 19, 2020 at 10:59 PM Post #3 of 15

PurpleAngel

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Hi guys,
I will be looking to upgrade my Sound Blaster ZXR soon. I was considering the Sound Blaster AE-9, but after l learning that the 3080 and 3090 (which I am considering upgrading to as well) are 2.75 and 3 slot cards respectively, I'm not sure if a PCI-E sound card is still an option for me unless I get creative with a vertical extension cable. So I was looking at the X7 as an alternative, but I am wondering if there is any noticeable difference between them, or between PCI-E and USB sound cards as a whole? I think I read somewhere that USB compresses the audio more, though I don't know if that could ever make a real world difference.
Thanks!
Why even upgrade from the Sound Blaster ZxR?
 
Sep 22, 2020 at 6:17 AM Post #4 of 15

GotNoRice

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Why even upgrade from the Sound Blaster ZxR?

Agreed. The ZxR is still a fantastic card with a fantastic DAC that is still supported by Creative with new driver releases.

I still have an X-Fi Titanium HD in use that is even older, also still supported with new drivers.

I used a PCI-E extension cable at one point. I used to run three GTX 680 cards in 3-way SLI, and the only remaining available PCI-E slot was covered by one of the GPU coolers. Example:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/233155042088
 
Sep 22, 2020 at 1:41 PM Post #5 of 15

PurpleAngel

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Agreed. The ZxR is still a fantastic card with a fantastic DAC that is still supported by Creative with new driver releases.
I still have an X-Fi Titanium HD in use that is even older, also still supported with new drivers.
I used a PCI-E extension cable at one point. I used to run three GTX 680 cards in 3-way SLI, and the only remaining available PCI-E slot was covered by one of the GPU coolers. Example:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/233155042088
Do you have an external headphone amplifier connected to the RCA (line-output) jacks, on the Ti-HD (Titanium-HD).
 
Sep 23, 2020 at 12:24 PM Post #6 of 15

apav

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Why even upgrade from the Sound Blaster ZxR?
It's nearly 8 years old, I don't know how long sound cards last but I figured it was a good time time to upgrade since I'm upgrading the rest of my PC. But regardless if I stick with it or get another sound card, I don't think any of them will fit inside with a 3090, and it would be right up against the fans with a 3080.
 
Sep 23, 2020 at 2:11 PM Post #7 of 15

PurpleAngel

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It's nearly 8 years old, I don't know how long sound cards last but I figured it was a good time time to upgrade since I'm upgrading the rest of my PC. But regardless if I stick with it or get another sound card, I don't think any of them will fit inside with a 3090, and it would be right up against the fans with a 3080.
Assuming your using the sound card for FPS gaming, get a Creative Labs Sound BlasterX G6 USB sound card.
If your not into FPS gaming, then a USB DAC/amp would be fine.
 
Sep 23, 2020 at 2:51 PM Post #8 of 15

ray555

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Hi guys,

I will be looking to upgrade my Sound Blaster ZXR soon. I was considering the Sound Blaster AE-9, but after l learning that the 3080 and 3090 (which I am considering upgrading to as well) are 2.75 and 3 slot cards respectively, I'm not sure if a PCI-E sound card is still an option for me unless I get creative with a vertical extension cable. So I was looking at the X7 as an alternative, but I am wondering if there is any noticeable difference between them, or between PCI-E and USB sound cards as a whole? I think I read somewhere that USB compresses the audio more, though I don't know if that could ever make a real world difference.

Thanks!
let me save you some time and money....the ZXR is a class of its own...the AE9 sound too much synthetic, restrained compared to the ZXR, the AE9 sounds lifeless compared to the ZXR.
with the same set of opamps (philips 5532AN, signetics 5534AN) ,the ZXR mops the floor with the AE9...especially in the bass department. ZXR is warmer, authentic, more defined, detailed, more "in your face" attitude..
the software is another area which the ZXR is more organized in my opinion....the sound through the control module of the ZXR and the AE9 is pretty similar using my soul impact,with the Zxr more spacious and more revealing through headphones, but don't take my opinion on this one, since mainly and mostly I use speakers.(Edifier SB351)
while the AE9 is sure a clean and very controlled soundcard, with all those filters options(roll of etc) in soundblaster command, the sound is sure controlled, well organized, but sorry creative...the ZXR with the right opamps is a class of its own.. think of it more like the ZXR is the analog choice while the AE9 is the digital version.
the AE9 is a restrained ZXR :)
do yourself a favor and get philips opamps date code 77-84..you couldn't be happier.
anyway, I'm giving my AE9 to my brother as he uses onboard audio solution( ESS9023 asus hero X, which honestly sounds kinda decent)
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IMG_20200322_193046.jpg
 
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Sep 23, 2020 at 3:31 PM Post #9 of 15

GotNoRice

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Do you have an external headphone amplifier connected to the RCA (line-output) jacks, on the Ti-HD (Titanium-HD).

In my case, the Titanium HD is the what I use in the dedicated music PC I built for my 2-channel vintage stereo system. The Titanium HD is plugged into my Yamaha C-80 preamp (via the analog RCA outputs of course). I sometimes use the C-80 preamp to listen to headphones, as it has a fantastic headphone output, but I mainly use that system when listening using speakers. My main headphone setup is an X-Fi Titanium (regular Non-HD model) with optical digital output feeding into my TubeMagic D2 DAC, which then feeds into either my Little-Dot I+ or Little-Dot II+ headphone amplifier.
 
Oct 23, 2020 at 4:15 PM Post #10 of 15

motorwayne

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I have an issue kinda related to your dilemma. I've just moved to an AMD videocard and it doesn't play well with my AE-9 when recording in game. Is there any non PCI solution that can give me the kind of sound I'm used to with the AE-9? I love this card.
Cheers
 
Nov 9, 2020 at 12:33 PM Post #12 of 15

motorwayne

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let me save you some time and money....the ZXR is a class of its own...the AE9 sound too much synthetic, restrained compared to the ZXR, the AE9 sounds lifeless compared to the ZXR.
with the same set of opamps (philips 5532AN, signetics 5534AN) ,the ZXR mops the floor with the AE9...especially in the bass department. ZXR is warmer, authentic, more defined, detailed, more "in your face" attitude..
the software is another area which the ZXR is more organized in my opinion....the sound through the control module of the ZXR and the AE9 is pretty similar using my soul impact, but don't take my opinion on this one, since mainly and mostly I use speakers.(Edifier SB351)
while the AE9 is sure a clean and very controlled soundcard, with all those filters options(roll of etc) in soundblaster command, the sound is sure controlled, well organized, but sorry creative...the ZXR with the right opamps is a class of its own.. think of more like the ZXR is the analog choice while the AE9 is the digital version.
the AE9 is a restrained ZXR :)
do yourself a favor and get philips opamps date code 77-84..you couldn't be happier.
anyway, I'm giving my AE9 to my brother as he uses onboard audio solution( ESS9023 asus hero X, which honestly sounds kinda decent)

I'm quite the opposite. I found the ZXR lacking especially in the way it dealt with gaming positioning, true maybe if you changed out the opamps you might get different sound out of it, but in the end I went to a Titanium HD and modded that.

Was looking for something to do so purchased the AE-9 and added some Burson V6 Vivids opamps and it brings the card alive.

Having had all or most of the quality soundcards out over the last 20 years, I think the AE-9 is Creatives best output to date especially in the software department.

FWIW
 
Nov 9, 2020 at 12:48 PM Post #13 of 15

ray555

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Indeed,the AE9 is great, all creative top end sound cards from the titanium HD to the Ae9 are great
For me though,The ZXR is more revealing with the same opamps setup, having more weight to the sound.
 
Sep 10, 2021 at 4:33 AM Post #15 of 15

Telin

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Don't know about SQ differences between USB and PCIe. My guess there is not and the actual implementation is much more important than the protocol is send over.

One of the main reasons for me personally to move away from soundcards and step into the world of USB DACs are the drivers.
No matter the brand be it Creative, Asus or whatever stability was always an issue for me. Those soundcard drivers comes with 1001 bells and whistles, most you don't need or even want but you're stuck with it and they influence the overall stability. When investigating the many BSODs and CTDs it turned out that most of them (if not all) were related to dll files from the soundcard driver package.

Now I have a XMOS based DAC and a Amanero based DAC and absolutely zero issues with the drivers for those DACs, they have been rock solid since the day I installed them.
Sure you get lot less bells and whistles with an USB DAC but I don't care at all about all that. Personally I find all iterations of virtual surround sound just horrendous, it just doesn't sound right imho.

So I think USB DAC is definitely the way to go if you don't need or want all the extra bells and whistles.
 

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