As much as I hate to admit it, Creative is trying to survive in a world of integrated audio. Most folks are satisfied with HD Audio, and why not? They really are of high quality. But there will always be folks looking to better audio quality. How many are they? Not too many, I reckon. However, I don't want Creative or other sound card makers to quit as well: it's good to have them around because you may want to buy from them. The higher quality is there and if they quit, we're all stuck with 'good enough' Realtek HD Audio. As they say, not that you would (buy an X-Fi), but you could.
I immediately noticed some differences when I switched back to the X-Fi Titanium PCIe (SB0880). It's been a while and I had to check Creative's site for the latest drivers because I was sure there have been newer versions since I placed the X-Fi back in its box about 1.5 years ago. Music sounded crisper and cleaner, with some sort of "tingling" effect (note that I have EAX off). I also noticed sounds in games I'm currently playing that I didn't really notice before, or maybe those sounds simply weren't there using the ALC889. I did, however, find some EAX effects too exaggerated, such as those in Thief Deadly Shadows (still my all-time favorite). I had Alchemy working with it, and the effects are simply not to my liking. Too much echo. (Maybe that's why I was never really a big fan of EAX.) Or maybe I simply got too used to my ALC889. The ALC889 on my mobo does sound great, but I give it too many points for being free. Few people will pay $80 (current X-Fi Titanium price) to have better audio, but for those who care, it's quite worth it, if only for the cleaner audio (and not EAX).
The Sound Core3D and products based on this new (?) chipset are interesting, but it's hard to justify buying it particularly because I already have an X-Fi, otherwise I'd probably think long and hard between the older X-Fi products and these new Core3D-based cards. What concerns me however, is that underneath that pretty blue heatsink/cap is just a tiny chip. As one of you here said, putting the DACs in their with the DSPs is not gonna bode well for audio quality. I'd like to see an X-Fi vs. Core3D comparison sometime in the near future to help gamers and audiophiles decide between the two chips. Although I'm not betting on the Core3D, it's good that it's there for when I finally put my X-Fi to rest. After all, I'd hate to think that we're all gonna be stuck with the X-Fi brand for the rest of the century and the Core3D does seem like a cool product. And even if it's not as good as the X-Fi but is noticeably better than Realteks, I guess listeners will still grab it. Finally, Creative can keep on tweaking Core3D and make it better, perhaps surpass X-Fi.
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