X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

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X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Wed Jun 16, 2010 1:45 am

Until today, I thought that my Swan M10s + X-Fi ExtremeMusic (1st gen PCI) setup was OK. But today, I hooked the M10s to the analog outs on my old (2001) Toshiba DVD player and played a few CDs. Woah! I had no clue that the small M10 "sub" could produce such deep, clean bass. The mids and highs were also just perfect. It sounded much bigger--more like a decent hi-fi than a set of 2.1 PC speakers.

Is it possible to get my X-Fi card to output untouched line-level audio like the old DVD player? No matter what I do with the EQ, Crystallizer, bass/treble, I cannot get the X-Fi to sound as good as the analog outs on the Toshiba.

After listening to the Toshiba, I connected the M10s to a Pioneer blu ray player and got the same incredible results. It seems that any home audio/video component can make the M10s sing. Or is the X-Fi DAC really that bad?
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:22 am

If you're using the original X-fi, then yes it doesn't use that great of components. An auzentech model sounds twice as good.
However, this doesn't mean you can't get decent sound out of an x-fi. Just don't use any of the software that mutilates sound.
No EQ, no Crystalizer, no CMSS-3D, don't use any of that crap, and switch to entertainment mode.
Also, don't use Creative's deliberately outdated drivers. Download and install Daniel_K's modified version instead.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:32 am

You'll get the best sound out of the X-Fi by turning everything off (Crystalliser, EQ), but it's not too much of a surprise that it comes off 2nd best against dedicated AV equipment. Having said that, DVD and Blu-Ray players in general aren't particularly well-regarded for their sound quality with CDs, so a dedicated CD player would be better again.

To get better-quality sound from your PC, the best route would be to add an external DAC and use the digital output. Since you're only using stereo, there's a pretty wide range of affordable options. I'm not familiar with your speakers, so it's hard to know how far you could go before they become the real limitation.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Wed Jun 16, 2010 11:26 am

I *think* you have to set it to Music Creation mode.

Also, disable CMSS, even if it's just a 2-to-4 conversion. The Audigys were notorious for adding yet more resampling when that was enabled.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Wed Jun 16, 2010 8:42 pm

I've turned off the extra X-Fi features and it does sound quite good, but it still doesn't have the punch and range it did with the DVD and BR players. Entertainment mode and music creation mode sound about the same.

"To get better-quality sound from your PC, the best route would be to add an external DAC and use the digital output."
I'm gonna have to think about that one.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Wed Jun 16, 2010 8:51 pm

setaG_lliB wrote:I've turned off the extra X-Fi features and it does sound quite good, but it still doesn't have the punch and range it did with the DVD and BR players. Entertainment mode and music creation mode sound about the same.

When you compare the DVD players with the PC are you comparing apples to apples? In other words, are you playing the exact same CDs, uncompressed (either direct from the CD, or lossless WAV/FLAC which was ripped directly from the CD)? Because if you're playing MP3 or AAC tracks, that could make a noticeable difference, especially if the tracks were encoded at a low bitrate.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Wed Jun 16, 2010 9:09 pm

Same CDs (ripped to FLAC on the PC).
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Wed Jun 16, 2010 9:39 pm

Iirc X-Fi's and many other Creative-based cards internally resample to 48kHz internally even if the input and output is set to 44.1 kHz. (It may save them from having to add an additional clock crystal or do other stuff 'properly' rather than via DSP manipulation.) Aside from analog output circuit differences this internal resampling could make an audible difference.

For pure stereo listening an external DAC is the way to go imo, or if you want surround too for movies a HT receiver with the newest lossless Dolby-whatever hooked up via digital connection that can output the lossless surround.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:11 am

MadManOriginal wrote:Iirc X-Fi's and many other Creative-based cards internally resample to 48kHz internally even if the input and output is set to 44.1 kHz. (It may save them from having to add an additional clock crystal or do other stuff 'properly' rather than via DSP manipulation.) Aside from analog output circuit differences this internal resampling could make an audible difference.

For pure stereo listening an external DAC is the way to go imo, or if you want surround too for movies a HT receiver with the newest lossless Dolby-whatever hooked up via digital connection that can output the lossless surround.

That's with the audigy/live, not the x-fi, and even where there is resampling, the x-fi is one of the best cards at doing that, as long as it's done in hardware.
Also if you have an auzentech prelude you wouldn't want to use an external DAC, considering the onboard DAC is much higher quality.
The standard x-fi dac may not be the greatest, but it should be capable of playing sound as good as most external receivers.
A bigger problem is software.
If you are using terrible software to play back your audio files, then you are going to get terrible sound.
Use foobar to play mp3's, mpc for video's, and powerdvd is pretty good for movies.
Don't use any "enhancement" modes in the software either, since that distorts the sound.
Nearly all cheap "enhancement" modes distort sound and lower the quality, which is why we all recommend turning off junk like crystalizer.
Perhaps if the program was internally processing and playing back 24-bit/96hz, but most of them don't so you lose sound and get a lot of distortion.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Thu Jun 17, 2010 4:25 am

You might want to try playing music using ASIO or WASAPI. Check if the issues persist.
If the implementation is correct, you will not be able to use the device for any other sound while playing the music, so don't forget to check if that's true.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Thu Jun 17, 2010 7:11 am

l33t-g4m3r wrote:If you're using the original X-fi, then yes it doesn't use that great of components. An auzentech model sounds twice as good.
However, this doesn't mean you can't get decent sound out of an x-fi. Just don't use any of the software that mutilates sound.
No EQ, no Crystalizer, no CMSS-3D, don't use any of that crap, and switch to entertainment mode.
Also, don't use Creative's deliberately outdated drivers. Download and install Daniel_K's modified version instead.



I just installed Daniel_k's driver and wow, i must say there is a lot of difference in the sound now, i like it. Thanks.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Thu Jun 17, 2010 7:15 am

l33t-g4m3r wrote:Download and install Daniel_K's modified version instead.


Dan K's drivers are what's "outdated" now. He hasn't worked on anything in a long time, while in the meantime, Creative did release newer drivers (we just don't see this in the shortbreads).
I still think that my idea is the most reliable one for music listening.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Thu Jun 17, 2010 8:17 am

l33t-g4m3r wrote:A bigger problem is software.
If you are using terrible software to play back your audio files, then you are going to get terrible sound.

He's using FLACs, which are uncompressed. Unless there's some software EQ or something like that going on in his player, there's no difference between the originals and the FLACs.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Thu Jun 17, 2010 10:18 am

Meadows wrote:
l33t-g4m3r wrote:Download and install Daniel_K's modified version instead.


Dan K's drivers are what's "outdated" now. He hasn't worked on anything in a long time, while in the meantime, Creative did release newer drivers (we just don't see this in the shortbreads).
I still think that my idea is the most reliable one for music listening.


Meadows, IMO, Graphic drivers need an update regularly *(heck for even graphic driver i only upgrade if i face any issues with the game) but, this is not true for Audio driver. I must say the quality of the Audio driver plus other packages from Daniel is just gold.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Thu Jun 17, 2010 10:58 am

Meadows wrote:
l33t-g4m3r wrote:Download and install Daniel_K's modified version instead.


Dan K's drivers are what's "outdated" now. He hasn't worked on anything in a long time, while in the meantime, Creative did release newer drivers (we just don't see this in the shortbreads).
I still think that my idea is the most reliable one for music listening.

He just released a modified auzentech driver this week.
I linked to the older one because I'm using it on another system, and it works pretty good, so I can vouch for it. The new one I haven't tried.
Also, a big reason to choose his modified version over creative's, is that creative deliberately cripples software and driver capabilities to make people buy newer creative cards.
Creative's business model isn't really sound cards, but software. Once you realize that, you won't want to use their driver on older cards.
morphine wrote:
l33t-g4m3r wrote:A bigger problem is software.
If you are using terrible software to play back your audio files, then you are going to get terrible sound.

He's using FLACs, which are uncompressed. Unless there's some software EQ or something like that going on in his player, there's no difference between the originals and the FLACs.

That's a possibility, since we don't know what he's using to play back his files.
Sometimes you can get better sound directly playing the CD, if the player is using bad settings with FLAC.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Thu Jun 17, 2010 11:44 am

l33t-g4m3r wrote:That's a possibility, since we don't know what he's using to play back his files.
Sometimes you can get better sound directly playing the CD, if the player is using bad settings with FLAC.

If I saw some feedback regarding my ASIO or WASAPI recommendations, we'd know already if the "bad playback settings" argument has any truth to it, but you keep lamenting over drivers endlessly. That's not even important.

It doesn't matter whether Dan K modified the drivers or he uses them factory-packed by Creative. It doesn't, as soon as he uses WASAPI ("Exclusive Mode", allowed to exist by default on sound devices in Vista and above).
Once we get the thoughts on that move, we'll see if the X-Fi really compares favourably to dedicated players on their own turf.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Thu Jun 17, 2010 1:34 pm

l33t-g4m3r wrote:Also if you have an auzentech prelude you wouldn't want to use an external DAC, considering the onboard DAC is much higher quality.

Well, there are DACs, and then there are DACs. :)

I'm sure the Auzentech is very nice, but it's not better than everything, and crucially you've got to be starting from a better point by putting all the analogue circuitry well outside the PC regardless of how good the soundcard is. Anyway, the OP's got an Xtrememusic, not an Auzentech, so I'd still say an affordable DAC would be the most cost-effective upgrade if music is the priority.

l33t-g4m3r wrote:Sometimes you can get better sound directly playing the CD, if the player is using bad settings with FLAC.

True, but if you use something like EAC to accurately rip the CD to FLAC, you'll get theoretically better playback from FLAC than directly from the CD with anything less than pristene discs. Mind you, you're probably well into placebo effects if you can reliably hear those sorts of differences.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Thu Jun 17, 2010 2:20 pm

MrJP wrote:True, but if you use something like EAC to accurately rip the CD to FLAC, you'll get theoretically better playback from FLAC than directly from the CD with anything less than pristene discs. Mind you, you're probably well into placebo effects if you can reliably hear those sorts of differences.


That's nothing, on the hydrogen-audio forums, I saw a guy who claims to "hear the difference" between the WASAPI implementations of one music player versus another.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Thu Jun 17, 2010 2:38 pm

That's the kind of guy that those $1000-per-foot cables get sold to. *sigh*.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:23 pm

I'll try ASIO (and Daniel_K, if necessary) soon as I get back from work. I've never liked installing alternative drivers, but if this one can make my X-Fi sound as good as the AV components, great!

To enable ASIO, all I have to do is install Foobar's ASIO plugin and run in Content Creation mode?

To answer a few other questions: I haven't been using any software EQ in Foobar. Also no EAC--I've always used WMP12 to rip CDs to Wave --> FLAC, but I doubt that's the problem. There's a huge freakin difference between the X-Fi and DVD/BR players.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:30 pm

Edit: Post removed; nevermind, he was using Foobar already. :oops:
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:53 pm

setaG_lliB wrote:To enable ASIO, all I have to do is install Foobar's ASIO plugin and run in Content Creation mode?

If your card works correctly, it doesn't matter what mode you're in. ASIO sound will bypass your drivers and all the sound processing crap either way.

If your card works incorrectly, then you can still listen to music and also listen to other sound sources simultaneously, despite technically using ASIO. That's not supposed to be possible - in such a case, install the WASAPI plugin for foobar and try again.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Thu Jun 17, 2010 4:28 pm

Just so that we're covering all bases: your speaker choice in the Creative control panel is set to 2-speaker, right? Not headphones, not 2.1, not anything else?
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Fri Jun 18, 2010 5:18 pm

WASAPI sounds about the same (with no EQ, crystallizer, etc).
Maybe a bit better, but that might be my biological DSP (imagination) kicking in.

I'll try the Daniel_K drivers and let you guys know how it goes.

"Just so that we're covering all bases: your speaker choice in the Creative control panel is set to 2-speaker, right? Not headphones, not 2.1, not anything else?"

It's set to 2/2.1 Speakers.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Sun Jun 20, 2010 12:31 am

All right...tried Daniel_K's drivers. No big difference over the official drivers. I did make an interesting discovery: the onboard audio actually sounds as good as the dvd/br players. I'm gonna have to fiddle around with the X-Fi some more. :o
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Sun Jun 20, 2010 1:09 am

setaG_lliB wrote:All right...tried Daniel_K's drivers. No big difference over the official drivers. I did make an interesting discovery: the onboard audio actually sounds as good as the dvd/br players. I'm gonna have to fiddle around with the X-Fi some more. :o

If WASAPI made no difference, then Dan K can make no difference either.

You really do have a problem there, though. How about just using the X-Fi for games then?
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Sun Jun 20, 2010 1:14 am

setaG_lliB wrote:All right...tried Daniel_K's drivers. No big difference over the official drivers. I did make an interesting discovery: the onboard audio actually sounds as good as the dvd/br players. I'm gonna have to fiddle around with the X-Fi some more. :o


Could it be that the X-Fi is producing higher quality sound while you consider lower quality sound to be correct?

http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/03/11/153205
Disclaimer: I over-analyze everything, so try not to be offended if I over-analyze something you wrote.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Sun Jun 20, 2010 2:27 am

Shining Arcanine wrote:Could it be that the X-Fi is producing higher quality sound while you consider lower quality sound to be correct?

http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/03/11/153205

That might be, it's actually possible that the old players have built-in signal processing or erroneously add resonance somewhere that "sounds good".
The problem is that we'd need to hear them to tell what's going on.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Sun Jun 20, 2010 4:29 pm

Shining Arcanine wrote:Could it be that the X-Fi is producing higher quality sound while you consider lower quality sound to be correct?

http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/03/11/153205


The dvd players and onboard audio aren't exactly "sizzling", they're just producing a more natural, hi-fi like sound (deeper and much cleaner bass, better mids and highs--vocals sound extremely nice). All of my music comes from CDs. I haven't purchased (or illegally downloaded) a sizzlin' MP3 file in years. I wonder if Creative gave me a bad board.
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Re: X-Fi doesn't sound as good as an old DVD player

Postposted on Sat Jul 03, 2010 6:22 pm

I can say, without a doubt, that the X-Fi's ASIO implementation is terrible. My first recommendation is to dump it. I found that out the hard way myself. Use some other kind of driver for playback and you'll be impressed.
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