Creative's new generation of sound cards

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Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 2:03 pm

I'm guessing these will show up in stock any day now:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=100009293%204804&IsNodeId=1&name=New%20Product

These are one of the things I've been waiting on for a new build but I'm threatening the $59 x-fi titanium that Best Buy has on sale. I'm not an audio hardware expert by any stretch, but from my perspective those new cards like pretty skim on components. Software emulation for stuff that was previously processed via hardware? The "system cpu" requirements are higher than the x-fi but I know such specs don't always mean as much as it may seem. Anyone with an understanding care to chime in? The biggest thing I need is the optical out to my stereo receiver for 5.1 in games.
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 2:13 pm

ModernPrimitive wrote:I'm guessing these will show up in stock any day now:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=100009293%204804&IsNodeId=1&name=New%20Product

These are one of the things I've been waiting on for a new build but I'm threatening the $59 x-fi titanium that Best Buy has on sale. I'm not an audio hardware expert by any stretch, but from my perspective those new cards like pretty skim on components. Software emulation for stuff that was previously processed via hardware? The "system cpu" requirements are higher than the x-fi but I know such specs don't always mean as much as it may seem. Anyone with an understanding care to chime in? The biggest thing I need is the optical out to my stereo receiver for 5.1 in games.


I would just get the $60 X-Fi Titanium. I'm definitely not convinced that Creative's new cards will sound any better or have any new features that make them worth the extra $40-$90. I imagine you want a sound card for on-the-fly Dolby Digital/DTS encoding? Have you checked to see if your onboard doesn't already do that?
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 2:18 pm

You're correct about the on-the-fly encoding. I don't even have a desktop machine atm. Sold my previous one close to a year ago and have been a latop only kind of fellow since. From what I've read, most onboards only output 2 channel via the optical but I'm not up on all of the recent chipsets either.

Looking at those news cards makes me think they are more of a gimmick and Creative is cutting their costs in half on boards and charging the same price. Can't say I blame them from a business perspective but from mine the X-Fi still looks like a better card. The X-Fi I had in the previous build is still going fine after 3 years and never had any complaints be it over optical or analog to Klipsch 5.1 or the Logitech Z5500s

Thanks for the response !
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 2:19 pm

The PCB for both of those cards looks naked compared to the current crop of high-end X-FI cards (Where's all the DAC's, Capacitors etc). I'm guessing it's an all-in-one chip solution now...?
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 2:36 pm

rcs2k4 wrote:I'm guessing it's an all-in-one chip solution now...?


That's what Creative is marketing it as, yes.
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 3:00 pm

Yeah, the new chip from best I can tell is to compete with Via, Cmedia, and Realtek in the integrated audio front. The pezzaz of a dedicated card died out with EAX so now it's all about volume distributors. I would stick with a X-Fi.
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 3:22 pm

They put a window and LED lighting on a sound card. That alone may tell you all you need to know about the Creative product strategy.

I would run the other direction as quickly as possible. There are solid, honest solutions to the problem of on-the-fly Dolby and DTS encoding that cost a lot less than Creative's products. Hell, there are motherboards that include this function and cost less than these sound cards and come with, well, you know, motherboard stuff on them as well.

As far as standalone sound cards go, the ASUS Xonar DX (what I use) has what you're looking for, is well-supported, sounds great, and is $60 at Newegg atm.

PS: If you see a sound card with only one piece of silicon on it, be very afraid. It means they've got all the digital logic, including the PCI/PCIe interface, on the same substrate as the analog circuitry. This has been tried before and has never worked all that well. On the Creative boards there is a separate codec with what looks like power supply filtering around it.
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 3:56 pm

Creative's been having difficulties for a while now. Hard to say if they're going to be around in a few years. They sold their headquarters, EAX is dead, OpenAL isn't going anywhere. They're trying to break into the low-end market, considering some hi-end consumers avoid their products. Not to say that all their recent products aren't good. The auzentech cards are built like xonars, and work better in games, and creative also has the titanium hd. A lot of people vouch for the regular x-fi too, so it's not like that's a bad card either. What you have to watch for is the low quality stuff that's re-branded as high quality. Creative re-labeled their audigy chip as an x-fi, and who knows what this new core thing really is.
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 4:08 pm

sluggo wrote:They put a window and LED lighting on a sound card. That alone may tell you all you need to know about the Creative product strategy.

I agree the window is goofy (and counter-productive if the shroud is supposed to be there for EMI filtering), but I have yet to find any reference to LEDs.

Regardless, I doubt I will ever buy another Creative card.
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 4:28 pm

just brew it! wrote:I agree the window is goofy (and counter-productive if the shroud is supposed to be there for EMI filtering), but I have yet to find any reference to LEDs.

The press images for that card show some backlighting effects of internal components that are only possible with photochopping or some sort of internal light source.
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 4:48 pm

There is a single problem with Creative cards... NONE OF THEM WORK... Ok, SB16 did back in the day.

After that:
SB Live -> Problems
SB Audigy -> Problems
SB Audigy Fancy version -> Problems
SB Audigy 2 -> Problems
XFi Fancy version -> Problems

I went through everything, they blamed Nvidia I flashed the BIOS, changed the PC completely, changed the motherboard, it never works for prolonged period of time, NEVER!!!

Right now, I can only get the X-Fi to work if I reinstall the drivers each time I boot the PC. Switching to other modes just kills the sound plain and simple. They also forget the settings time after time, get regular interrupts during playback. Say you're in a dialog in some RPG and suddenly there is no sound for half of the long sentence.

Then they changed the mini din from Audigy to X-fi, the Crative speakers became incompatible with Creative card, unless you paid 5$ for some DTS pack and went through the activation pain, which I did.

Also, the Win7 PC gets a BSOD time after time with ha20x2k.sys and IRQ_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL, also the drivers are ancient, and are never updated. And before Win 7 you had to update them in chain, because drivers from internet wouldn't install unless you had ones from the disk installed before, which caused to install crap over crap to get more crap.

As much as I hate to admit it, Creative probably has the best sound card on paper, but it's a constant nightmare, and even though they shift the blame, the same cards keep glitching on multiple hardware configurations, so it's clearly their fault.

Tech support was polite, but completely useless.

Also, they had a lawsuit against false advertising about 24 bit things. Basically, Audigy 2, if I'm not mistaken, had only DACs at 24bits, everything else was using lower precision internally, yet they advertised the cards as 24bit ones. They lost a lawsuit in US.

Also, Creative is a patent troll...

And yet I have the blasted card in my PC now... :roll:

And yes, I tried clean installs, driver cleaners, you name it....
Last edited by Madman on Wed Nov 23, 2011 4:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 4:51 pm

Bensam123 wrote:Yeah, the new chip from best I can tell is to compete with Via, Cmedia, and Realtek in the integrated audio front. The pezzaz of a dedicated card died out with EAX so now it's all about volume distributors. I would stick with a X-Fi.


Yeah. I would be very surprised if these actually performed better than the latest X-Fi cards, or as good as cards currently available from Asus, HT Omega, etc. On the most expensive one with the plastic cover and window, there's a THX sticker. That's not a good sign. An indication that Creative is more concerned about paying for marketing than actual R&D (though the last gen X-Fi were apparently THX certified too). It seems anyone can pay THX to slap the sticker on something these days. What does THX certification on a sound card actual mean anyway?
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 5:11 pm

Madman wrote:(Creative rant)

Well, you've been especially unlucky then. While I'm not saying my experience is necessarily representative of everyone's (I guess I've been especially *lucky*), the SB16, AWE64, Live!, Audigy, and X-Fi cards all worked well enough for me under Windows. My reasons for not using Creative any more going forward are:

1) On-board sound of current motherboards is generally "good enough" unless you're trying to record from high-quality analog sources.

2) Crappy Linux support because they refuse to cooperate with the Linux driver developers.

3) Would prefer not to give any more money to a company whose business practices I dislike. (I agree with you on the patent troll bit.)

If I need a high-quality discrete audio card in the future, I'll get something which uses an off-the-shelf C-Media codec (e.g. Xonar) or VIA codec (e.g. M-Audio). There's really no justification for going with Creative's overpriced-for-what-you-get proprietary hardware any more.
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 5:19 pm

just brew it! wrote:If I need a high-quality discrete audio card in the future, I'll get something which uses an off-the-shelf C-Media codec (e.g. Xonar) or VIA codec (e.g. M-Audio). There's really no justification for going with Creative's overpriced-for-what-you-get proprietary hardware any more.

And with the death of EAX (other than the refuse-to-upgrade holdouts), what's their proprietary draw & selling point? Squadoosh.
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 5:19 pm

FWIW, modern Creative sound cards all support UAA. Meaning that so long as basic input and output are all you need (and it is what the majority of us leverage) then there is no need to use Creative drivers at all for a fully functioning card.

Get the higher quality sound, no need for Creative software. It's pretty much a win, win.
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 5:22 pm

I'm not the only one, forums are flooded with problem descriptions like - http://forums.creative.com/showthread.php?t=567821. Although I don't have an SSD drive.

Creative drivers are worse of them all, ATIs are superstable compared to Creative.
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 5:53 pm

I've owned that SB Live, Audigy, Audigy 2 ZS, X-Fi and X-Fi Titanium. I never had any issues with any of them other than the X-Fi would quit outputting sound when switching modes. Restarting the app "cured" it temporarily. The X-Fi Titanium was find under Win7 64. I'm one of the lucky ones and do wonder if the next card (if i get one) will be the one I regret buying.

I'm curious to see where Creative goes now. Will they introduce more high end cards like the Titanium HD with Burr Brown and swappable opamps or ditch them all and go for stripped parts like the new gen.

Via's old mainboard chipsets are about the only other piece that got so much love/hate. :D
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:01 pm

Like I posted a bit further up, the PCB for both of those new cards looks naked. I'm not convinced this all-in-one chip will offer anything better than what the crab/c-media based on-board audio can produce. There's no seperate DAC's for a start - it's completly bare. Those things have existed on soundcards for a reason (With varying quality!), and I believe were the whole point in buying one in the first place - To get top quality analogue sound.

Like others, I have had varying Creative cards over the years without issue. the only one that caused a bit of a blip was when the 1st wave of X-FI cards come out for Vista. Boy was that a **** of screwed up drivers. My previous SB Live, Audigy 2 and my current X-FI Titanium HD (I love this card btw) have been perfect. Guess I have been lucky...?
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:13 pm

ModernPrimitive wrote:I'm curious to see where Creative goes now. Will they introduce more high end cards like the Titanium HD with Burr Brown and swappable opamps or ditch them all and go for stripped parts like the new gen.

I think they'll do both, but make more sales on the low-end. Creative should outsource their high-end to auzentech, and release universal drivers. Problems solved.
I've had minor driver issues with new EAX games, but never anything that was a major problem, and it was eventually fixed. Unsolvable glitching is usually due to a defective card, or motherboard issue. Using decent hardware is the only solution.

rcs2k4 wrote: I'm not convinced this all-in-one chip will offer anything better than what the crab/c-media based on-board audio can produce.

That's the market I think creative is intending to infiltrate here, hopefully with higher quality, but the only way to find out is wait for professional reviews, if there aren't already some.
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:20 pm

Have used a smattering of Creative products over the years, starting from a couple Ensoniq Audio PCIs (which Creative didn't actually develop, they simply rebranded the card when they bought the company) and then several Live! Values. Somewhere in there I also pillaged an SB16 and an AWE-32 out of a school scrap pile and ran them in older systems for a while. Then a couple Audigy2 ZS devices followed after that (one PCI, one PCMCIA). First game I ever played a game in surround sound was the original Half Life, using EAX.

No real issues, just one or two minor incidents involving bad driver releases and one incident of stuttering on a VIA chipset that was fixed by bumping the PCI latency up to 64 cycles. Naturally everyone blamed VIA for that one, even though it was technically the Creative card over-hogging the bus, and getting away with it because Intel chipsets at the time didn't enforce the PCI spec very rigidly.

But, after thoroughly enjoying the Xonar DG I won from TR a year ago, I've got no reason to go back to Creative. These days they've got nothing that the competition doesn't also have.
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:57 pm

Well to add a bit to the perspective of things, I pulled my X-Fi out the other night because it started on the crackling/popping thing after installing 64-bit java and it was dated 2005. I've had a X-Fi, that has been working, in my computer for the last 8 years. I think that says a lot in terms of hardware reliability and it still sounds just as good as it did back then, albeit less accelerated and raped by W7s audio stack over XP.

The drivers I can't say the same for, but there is a very large community following for Creative's cards and there are alternative drivers that are coming out as Creative becomes more liberal with allowing the community to work with their drivers. A couple different packs can be found here:

http://forums.guru3d.com/forumdisplay.php?f=23

As I mentioned I was experiencing crackling and popping (mind you this is the first time this ever happened to me after buying the card). I simply shuffled the card around and uninstalled the Creative drivers and installed daniel_Ks support pack 2.5 and it works fine ever since. To be honest it actually sounds better with his pack. It seems like some of the more advanced features in the card were disabled with Creatives own drivers as they didn't properly port things from XP to Vista/W7 64bit.

The hardware has always been good with Creative's cards (in my experience), the drivers, not so much.
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 7:36 pm

rcs2k4 wrote:Like I posted a bit further up, the PCB for both of those new cards looks naked. I'm not convinced this all-in-one chip will offer anything better than what the crab/c-media based on-board audio can produce. There's no seperate DAC's for a start - it's completly bare. Those things have existed on soundcards for a reason (With varying quality!), and I believe were the whole point in buying one in the first place - To get top quality analogue sound.


This is not an "all-in-one" chip. There is a separate codec on the lower right of the board, as well as an 8-pin JSOP (presumably a headphone amp) and some filtering circuitry.

And where are you seeing the PCB for the shrouded board? I can't even find it on Creative's site.
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Re: Creative's new generation of sound cards

Postposted on Wed Nov 23, 2011 7:50 pm

rcs2k4 wrote:Like I posted a bit further up, the PCB for both of those new cards looks naked. I'm not convinced this all-in-one chip will offer anything better than what the crab/c-media based on-board audio can produce. There's no seperate DAC's for a start - it's completly bare.

You may be right on the quality issue, but the pics don't necessarily support that conclusion. There appear to be some small SMT parts between the main chip and the connectors which could potentially be discrete DACs.

Even if the DACs are integrated onto the big chip, they still (theoretically at least) have the ability to provide better isolation from the electrically noisy environment of the motherboard. AFAIK motherboards tend to be 4-layer designs for cost reasons; this limits how much shielding you can provide within the PCB itself (ground planes around your sensitive analog traces). On a physically smaller PCB, you can afford to do more layers without driving the cost up to unacceptable levels. You can also afford to spend more (both in terms of board real estate and additional components) on filtering for the power rails -- there are certainly more capacitors on that board than there are around the audio section of a typical motherboard.

I feel vaguely dirty defending Creative here, but I don't think your argument holds water.
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