Wednesday, January 9, 2008

What's the deal with the Sound Blaster XFi PCI-E

I have recently been getting clicks and pops out of my Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS. It served me for almost 6 years faithfully but I think it's time to replace/upgrade. I took a look at and it seems that Creative has finally resolved the issues with a PCI-E interface and are producing the X-Fi with a PCI-E. So why is it only $50?
I searched high and low for a review, specs, comparison or anything that would tell me why the price difference in between the Creative 7.1 PCI Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer Fatal1ty Pro and the Creative X-Fi Xtreme 7.1 PCI Express Interface Sound Card (OEM). I have read that the PCI-E version shifts the sound processing to the CPU sort of like a WinModem does but couldn't find any specification or official review that backs that statement up. Creative's Product site publishes the following specs on the PCI-E

Technical Specifications

Playback: 24-Bit/96kHz up to 7.1
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: >100dB (20kHz Low-pass filter, A-Weighted)
Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise at 1kHz: <0.007% (20kHz Low-pass filter)
Recording: 24-bit/96kHz

X-Fi Technology

X-Fi Crystalizer
X-Fi CMSS-3D Virtual
X-Fi CMSS-3D Headphone


Line in / Microphone in (shared 1/8" mini jack)
Speaker out (4x 1/8" mini jacks)
Optical out (TOSLINK)*
Optical in (TOSLINK)
Intel HD Audio Compatible Front Panel Header (2x5pin)

* Digital Out supports stereo SPDIF out and pass through of multichannel DVD sound

Notice that it says X-Fi Technology, now looking at the PCI version:

Technical Specifications

Technical Specs
24-bit Analog-to-Digital conversion of analog inputs at 96kHz sample rate
24-bit Digital-to-Analog conversion of digital sources at 96kHz to analog 7.1 speaker output
24-bit Digital-to-Analog conversion of stereo digital sources at 192kHz to stereo output
16-bit to 24-bit recording sampling rates: 8, 11.025, 16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, 48 and 96kHz
ASIO 2.0 support at 16-bit/44.1kHz, 16-bit/48kHz, 24-bit/44.1kHz 24-bit/48kHz and 24-bit/96kHz with direct monitoring
Enhanced SoundFont support at up to 24-bit resolution
64MB of X-RAM
Audio Performance (Rated Output @ 2Vrms, Typical Value)
Signal-to-Noise Ratio (20kHz Low-pass filter, A-Weighted)
-Stereo Output 109dB
-Front and Rear Channels 109dB
-Center, Subwoofer and Side Channels 109dB

Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise at 1kHz (20kHz Low-pass filter) = 0.004%
Frequency Response (-3dB, 24-bit/96kHz input ) 10Hz to 46kHz
Frequency Response (-3dB, 24-bit/192kHz input) 10Hz to 88kHz (Stereo only)
Speaker and Headphone connections for stereo to 7.1 (Line Out via three 3.5mm mini jacks)
Line In / Microphone In / Digital Out* / Digital I/O** (shared 3.5mm FlexiJack)
Auxiliary Line level Input (via 4-pin Molex connector)
I/O Console connector (for optional upgrade)

* Digital Out supports stereo SPDIF out and pass through of multichannel DVD sound
** Digital I/O requires Sound Blaster Digital I/O Module (Sold Separately)

It's no wonder they don't have a compare feature, apart from the physical connections, what would you compare?

I need to replace my sound card but speculation suggests that this card isn't all that much better than the built in sound. I'm not sure if I want to risk a restocking fee just to find out. Had anyone seen an authoritative review on the PCI-E card?

No comments:

Post a Comment