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Creative Sound Blaster Z review

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SchizoFrog 11th February 2013, 17:20 Quote
I have had a Creative Audigy 2 ZS almost since launch (nearly 10 years ago?) and after the first few teething issues I have had no problems since. No crack, no pops, no game errors. So I am not fussed about future driver support as mine just seem to work, although Creative did seem to release a new driver back in December 2012 and that is what mine is currently on.

Instead of just complaining about how bad your experience of Creative is, why not state what you would buy these days? That would be more constructive rather than childishly stating 'I will never buy anything Creative again'.

My main dislike of these cards and is started with the Titanium version of the X-Fi is the pretty box they use to make it look good on the top... However, once the unit is flipped over and installed all you see is the same crappy PCB and ugly solder points. See we end up paying extra for a visual effect that we can't even see...
B1GBUD 11th February 2013, 17:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by SchizoFrog

My main dislike of these cards and is started with the Titanium version of the X-Fi is the pretty box they use to make it look good on the top... However, once the unit is flipped over and installed all you see is the same crappy PCB and ugly solder points. See we end up paying extra for a visual effect that we can't even see...

I don't think the shroud is for visual effect, it's supposed to be shielding EM interference.
mikeyandrewb 11th February 2013, 18:24 Quote
In the wake of the Creative-poor-driver-support bandwagon, can anyone recommend a sound card that will work in 2 years time? Preferably less than £100.
Harlequin 11th February 2013, 19:02 Quote
asus xonar D2 or D2X ;)
TC93 11th February 2013, 19:05 Quote
I think the article was pretty accurate. I currently have both this Sound Blaster ZX in my computer, and my Essence STX. Trying to compare the two. Although I plan on returning the ZX, but only due to the fact that I love Dolby Headphone on my Essence STX which the Z card doesn't have, and the STX is better with music.

The Z card has more of an in your face type of placement for hearing sounds, and the STX with Dolby Headphone has more of a open sound that to me is more realistic and clear. Positional audio on both cards are equal despite what some claim.

Although the Z card is a good card, and I love the ACM module that comes with the ZX. Its very nice looking. The software is not bloated either, or not yet anyways.

Quote:
Originally Posted by XXAOSICXX
I'd love to see some evidence which shows that dedicated sound cards come with more stable drivers.

My Creative piece-of-s**t X-FI card was utterly abysmal and I constantly had to bounce back and forth between different driver versions to get games to work without horrendous clicks, pops and latency problems.

My Asus Xonar didn't last too long either, requiring me to run beta drivers in a 64-bit environment and, again, the need to go from one driver version to the next depending on which game I was playing (Battlefield 2 especially had problems with the Xonar).

Since then I've ditched the dedicated cards and settled for the lowly on-board audio chip (Realtek) on my Asus motherboard..and guess what...no switching drivers, no cracks, pops, glitches or latency.

Creative make piss poor products and always have done. I would question whether or not this review (and this reviewer) actually used the SB-Z card in any meaningful fashion, because it seems that the pretty red housin and the completely pointless EQ-effects in the bloat-ware the card comes with are enough to warrant a high score and a recommendation.

I'll never, ever buy from Creative (Labs) again.
TC93 11th February 2013, 19:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by phuzz
Wait a minute, if that's supposed to be an EM shield, why does is have a bloody great windows in it?
That is an interesting point, I hadn't thought of that.
Guinevere 11th February 2013, 20:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by phuzz
Wait a minute, if that's supposed to be an EM shield, why does is have a bloody great windows in it?

It's not a EM shield, it's a bit of bling because that's what they think their customers want. And seeing as they have to aim at new customers all the time as for some reason people who've been stung once don't keep coming back and buying new cards, this is what they keep doing.

Look this is a company that makes a card called the "X-FI Xtreme Gamer Fatality Pro" which has fail embedded in the name at every mutated acronym, 'rad' spelling and GAMER GAMER GAMER addition.

Don't trust them. Their chips are great, I'd even wager their board designs are probably okay but their care and attention to the user experience of their existing customers is effing awful.
blackworx 11th February 2013, 20:56 Quote
If you take the S/PDIF output from your motherboard's built in sound hardware and hook it up to an external DAC is there any point in a souped up card like this? This is a serious question. ATM I have just such a setup (mobo output > rackmount DAC > balanced output to a pair of studio monitors).

I'm thinking mainly in terms of stereo use, but having just invested in a surround amp for the living room I'm also curious about the relative performance with multi-channel encoding should I ever go for an HTPC.
SchizoFrog 11th February 2013, 21:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by blackworx
If you take the S/PDIF output from your motherboard's built in sound hardware and hook it up to an external DAC is there any point in a souped up card like this? This is a serious question. ATM I have just such a setup (mobo output > rackmount DAC > balanced output to a pair of studio monitors).

I'm thinking mainly in terms of stereo use, but having just invested in a surround amp for the living room I'm also curious about the relative performance with multi-channel encoding should I ever go for an HTPC.

I too would also like to know the answer to this and the benefit of dedicated sound cards over onboard when plugged in to further external hardware.
mdshann 11th February 2013, 21:58 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by B1GBUD
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deders
Not that I like Creative's business practices or support but my X-FI is still going strong, not had driver problems for a good few years now.

I gather you didn't try the Windows 8 consumer preview? because I did and X-FI support was completely lacking. I gather not much has changed now with Windows 8 support?

My X-Fi PCI (yes, the original one!) works great in Windows 8 x64 Pro. Worked in Windows 7 x64 too. Sure, all the garbage apps that came with it don't work, but I didn't want those back in 2007 when the card was shiny new either.
mdshann 11th February 2013, 22:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by SchizoFrog
Quote:
Originally Posted by blackworx
If you take the S/PDIF output from your motherboard's built in sound hardware and hook it up to an external DAC is there any point in a souped up card like this? This is a serious question. ATM I have just such a setup (mobo output > rackmount DAC > balanced output to a pair of studio monitors).

I'm thinking mainly in terms of stereo use, but having just invested in a surround amp for the living room I'm also curious about the relative performance with multi-channel encoding should I ever go for an HTPC.

I too would also like to know the answer to this and the benefit of dedicated sound cards over onboard when plugged in to further external hardware.

Sounds like something bit could find out for us...
dolphie 11th February 2013, 23:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Harlequin
and in 18 months time , creative will abadnon the product leaving it with crappy drivers and no support *cough* X-FI*cough*

I have used Creative gear since the first SoundBlaster showed up in the 1980's. But my last one was the XFi extreme music edition and it had all kinds of problems. I since moved to Asus Xonar, my first ever none-Creative sound card, and I doubt I'll be replacing that for a good few years or more.

I'm glad people like you call it like it is. I hope Creative see this and realise that spending that kind of money on something that has issues and bugs and hassles, is enough to make people look elsewhere.
jimmyjj 12th February 2013, 00:34 Quote
I sense.... I will not be buying a Creative sound card any time soon.
Vallachia 12th February 2013, 02:36 Quote
I would like to also point out that this card CANNOT do 7.1 out, despite what bit's review says.
It is only capable of 2.0, 2.1 and 5.1 via either analogue or SPDIF. From there you can upscale SPDIF to 7.1 via DTS Neo:6 or whatever, but the audio processor itself is only capable of 5.1 surround sound processing. If you have a 7.1 receiver and speaker setup then this is not the card for you.

Creative themselves don't claim it can do 7.1, so not sure why the reviewer does:
http://au.store.creative.com/sound-blaster/sound-blaster-z/1-21402.aspx

On the whole the SoundCore 3D processor is far less powerful than the old X-Fi 20K2, but at least this card isn't as expensive as a good X-Fi used to be.
m0ngy 12th February 2013, 03:14 Quote
Had an X-Fi ten years ago and it wasn't that bad, was compatible with just about everything I threw at it (BF2, mostly), from what I can remember. Got a Xonar DX now and it provides much better sound quality than the Creative card, though you'd expect that of a later generation product.

In my local forums I always recommend a sound card (Xonar DX) to people's new PC build spec list. However, it would seem most people think on-board sound is just fine, and a sound card simply a waste of money. I've even been accused of being an audiophile (which is true), for suggesting a sound card, which is perplexing; why skimp on sound when building a high-end multimedia/gaming PC? A lot of people rip their music at 128 kbps and think it sounds great.
LordPyrinc 12th February 2013, 04:26 Quote
I use the motherboard audio outputs (Realtek) for my 5.1 Surround sound setup. It has an additional port for the side speakers for a 7.1 configuration that I'm not using. The only audio issue I have is a weird left front issue that is very sporadic, occasionally it goes dead (not the speaker, ruled that out). I used to reboot to resolve till I read online about sliding the volume control up and down on the taskbar to fix it. Seems to be a driver issue. Other than that rare issue, the sound is great. Personally I think better quality speakers are more important than the audio output itself, but I'm not really trying to duplicate studio quality sound in my room, it doesn't have the acoustics for it.
lietu 12th February 2013, 07:31 Quote
Unfortunately Creative is the ATI/AMD of sound cards .. hardware might be decent, but those guys just don't know how to make drivers. This is why I never buy Creative or ATI/AMD graphics cards.

Though to be fair, I can't think of any sound card producer that actually did great drivers, but my ASUS Xonar Essence STX drivers have worked pretty well.
m0ngy 12th February 2013, 08:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by LordPyrinc
I use the motherboard audio outputs (Realtek) for my 5.1 Surround sound setup... the sound is great. Personally I think better quality speakers are more important than the audio output itself, but I'm not really trying to duplicate studio quality sound in my room, it doesn't have the acoustics for it.

Have you ever owned a decent sound card? The difference between your Realtek on-board and something like a Xonar Essence is immediately noticeable and quite dramatic. Good speakers are important, but will only replicate the quality of the source signal. By the way, what bit rate do you rip your music at? Let me guess...
Quote:
Originally Posted by lietu
Unfortunately Creative is the ATI/AMD of sound cards .. hardware might be decent, but those guys just don't know how to make drivers. This is why I never buy Creative or ATI/AMD graphics cards.

Aww, that's pretty harsh. ATi/AMD drivers aren't as bad as people make out. Anyway, they're better bang for buck than Nvidia.
Quote:
Though to be fair, I can't think of any sound card producer that actually did great drivers, but my ASUS Xonar Essence STX drivers have worked pretty well.

Yeah, the Xonar DX drivers aren't that great either, but they work.
Coltch 12th February 2013, 08:27 Quote
Still using my X-Fi Elite Pro (PCI and about 6/7 years old) and see no reason to upgrade, sound quality is far better than the onboard chip and the breakout box with specific phono outputs is a huge bonus for me.

I don't use Creative drivers as they have been useless since Vista and prefer to use a 3rd party set that are a huge improvement amongst other things.
impar 12th February 2013, 10:11 Quote
Greetings!
Quote:
Originally Posted by m0ngy
In my local forums I always recommend a sound card (Xonar DX) to people's new PC build spec list.
You also suggest a decent speaker system or headphones?
Because whithout those the investment on a sound card is weird, with those the investment doesnt justify for the large majority of users.
.//TuNdRa 12th February 2013, 10:28 Quote
I'd say that Creative need to get their **** in gear. Some of their stuff is Very Nice. My Zen Mozaic has lasted for years, and it's still alive and kicking, but their soundcard drivers are just absolute crap. It probably doesn't help that all Creative EAX extensions were made completely inoperable under Windows Vista because of the Sound API change.

As for the Creative V Asus Debate; Creative cards look nicer, but Asus Work. My Xonar DX has been going strong for a couple of years, threw the UniXonar drivers on there, had no problems bar the usual Xear3D looping sound issue.
spolsh 12th February 2013, 10:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by impar

You also suggest a decent speaker system or headphones?
Because whithout those the investment on a sound card is weird, with those the investment doesnt justify for the large majority of users.

I'd disagree - even with a cheapo 5.1 setup a soundcard makes a big difference. example : twisted transistor by Korn. Unlistenable through on-board, yet on the same speakers with either an Asus or Creative card, the vocals are clear.
Harlequin 12th February 2013, 10:50 Quote
http://www.hardwareheaven.com/pax-drivers/


try the pax modified set - he works hard on them for little or no reward!
Jimbob 12th February 2013, 11:03 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by m0ngy
By the way, what bit rate do you rip your music at? Let me guess....

I'm sorry but you are being a dick, I could pick points out for why you are wrong on so many levels but frankly I can't be arsed. There is a difference between enjoying quality audio and acting like a douche "I've even been accused of being an audiophile which is true" there are certainly good reasons for fitting a decent sound card but likewise there are very many good reasons to stick with the on-board sound.
Corky42 12th February 2013, 11:59 Quote
Apparently Creative are recalling some ZXR's due to a small fault.

But on a side note Creatives support isn't the best.
When your customers have to depend on a third party to modify your drivers to get them working for some people its a sad state for them to be in. Personally i use the Drivers modified by daniel_k as it very rare for Creative to update there software/drivers.

I wouldn't use PAX myself as some of his changes are very dubious, in that he adds settings to .ini files that are debatable if they do anything.
The only other changes he makes is changing the default setting for bass, treble etc. AFAIK there just a glorified EQ preset.
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