Update: Well I decided to take a more inexpensive route on the soundcard front and while I wanted an HT card, I opted for an Intel 335, Windows 8, and finally the Creative Soundblaster Z. What follows is my review part 1 of the sound card and the Soundblaster Control panel software. I do not record or mix any music. Also I am pretty novice when it comes to audio equipment and terms, so please excuse any mistakes I make. I highly suggest that readers will click on manufacturer link if I type any errors, and Sam Chen's much more in depth review of the card.
My hardware setup: Creative SoundBlaster Z
-----> SM Pro Nano Patch+
-----> M Audio BX8a Deluxe studio monitors.
Software: Playback: Foobar2000 w/AMIP, Winamp, sometimes WMP.
Packaging is done in a Creative box with flashy gold lettering on front and three topics on the back displaying features.
1: Audio Realism-" Your personal audio dashboard allows you to control powerful audio technologies for a sonic edge against opponents"
2: Crystal Clear Communication-" Express yourself and be heard crystal clear in video conferencing, multiplayer games, and online chats"
3: Advanced Home Entertainment Audio- " Connect to your decoder or HTS through a single digital cable for intense 5.1 surround from any source."
Also is picture of a their 600Ω AMP which "Supports 192kHz direct pass-through to analog out, a 6000 ohm headphone amplifier, and gold plated I/O connectivity."
On the side flap are four more feature giving panels that outline the benefits of SBX Pro Studio. Crstallizer, Better Bass, Surround, and dialog plus
In the box we find the card, secured by simple wires tires, to a plastic velvet lined interior. Why a simple electrostatic bag could not be used I have no idea, however the fuzzy velvet did end up coming off and fine strands were over the sound card. Nothing a quick shot of compressed air couldn't fix, but that shouldn't have been needed. In the box is the included microphone, with a cord length of almost 6ft. I have no plans to use said microphone though. There is also a driver CD, support pamphlet, and a quick installation guide.
The card: (Photo used from Sam Chen's review
on custompcreview.com) My HTC is brutal at taking photos, as you will see....sorry
The card is protected by the metal shroud and I must say, it has a strong feel to it, good finish. Overall I like the look of the card, even if it won't be seen in my case. Thats ok...they like red a little to much that you will know it's there, by placing to bright red LEDs inside the card. Like so...
Case is dirty and my cable management is an abomination, I know. Hopefully by the weekend it will get cleaned up. But overall it looks nice, albeit dwarfed by the old behemoth 4870X2.
Installation was simple, taking up only a PCIE X4 slot. I couldn't put into last slot though, as it would have blocked airflow to the PSU. Now that you know what the card looks like I'll run down the specs of the SoundCore 3D processor. Here is the rundown given by Creative's announcement/press release.
"Designed by Creative's in-house team of audio scientists and engineers, Sound Core3D is Creative's first sound and voice processor to integrate an array of high-performance digital signal processor (DSP) cores and a high-quality HD audio codec on one chip, giving it tremendous versatility. Sound Core3D is engineered for low power consumption and high performance audio. It incorporates Creative's innovative Quartet DSP with four independent processor cores, 6-channel 24-bit 102dB digital-to-analog converters, 4-channel 24-bits 101dB analog-to-digital converters, integrated headphone amplifier-out, digital microphone interface, S/PDIF inputs and outputs and general purpose inputs and outputs (GPIO) all in a compact 56-pin QFP package."
Pretty potent chip they have developed, hopefully their drivers can match...and they have. While SBX Pro studio is not the most amazing piece of audio software I have seen, it serves its purpose well and hasn't given me any trouble. (Win 8 Pro)
First given in the options is the ability to turn on SBX Pro Studio, essentially their software enhancements. These being surround, crystalizer, bass (slider bar for crossover frequency too, nice), smart volume that keeps audio levels in line with multiple sources, and dialog plus for speech. In the different menu options are tabs for Crystal voice, Scout Mode, Speaker/headphone (which can be changed at anytime with a simple click), cinematic for Dolby Digital Live/ DTS connect, mixer, equalizer and advanced features which is play stereo mix to digital out. There is the option to create different sound profiles, depending on the atmosphere. The only settings I use are to turn SBX on, and crystalizer slider barely. Bass and surround are off. The crystalizer and SBX adds a little punch to the speakers and clearer mids. It was not a night and day difference between this and Realtek, but worth the upgrade. I will report specific changes with the card and my review of its gaming/music capabilities this weekend. If anyone has any questions or requests for myself to do, I'd be more than happy. I'll be back with more product review soon.
AMD Phenom II X4 840|Foxconn 780V|EVGA GTX660|4GB DDR2 800|840 EVO|NZXT 210|Corsair CX400|M-Audio BX8a Deluxe