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Creative Sound Blaster Z review

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B1GBUD 12th February 2013, 12:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimbob
there are very many good reasons to stick with the on-board sound.

There are only a few of reasons I can think of:

1) Budget constraints

2) Room in your case (not enough PCI / PCI-e slots)....... if someone says external I'll scream!

3) You're deaf or have a constant ringing in your ears!

Can't think of any more
true_gamer 12th February 2013, 12:58 Quote
I don't understand where people are pulling these major driver problems from? Is everyone still in the ERA of Vista times?

I can honestly say when owning the Creative X-Fi Titanium Pro 7.1 Sound card, the drivers and sound quality was awesome. I rate it better than the ASUS Xonar D2X that I also owned prior.

As Bennyboy has mentioned, he too has not experienced these so called "driver issues" also.
When comparing the HD Titanium with the ASUS STX, I haven't a clue which is better, but I'm sure with Bennyboy experience, he speaks the truth when he says the ASUS STX sound quality is better.
Drop down from the high end, to the mainstream/high end range, and it's the opposite way around.
Corky42 12th February 2013, 13:36 Quote
@true_gamer, Maybe it has something to do with this.
http://forums.creative.com/showthread.php?t=567821

And This.
http://forums.creative.com/showthread.php?t=697959

I would go on, but needles to say Creative have a checkered past when it comes to fixing problems with there driver and disabling features of older card when a new OS comes out.
true_gamer 12th February 2013, 14:07 Quote
All I can say is, I never experienced these problems. Problems like that can be down installing Windows on an unstable OC, or installing Drivers on a unstable OC. Installing drivers on top of drivers without completely wiping the original, and so driver conflict can occur etc. etc..

I can also go on...
m0ngy 12th February 2013, 15:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by impar
Greetings!

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.

Funny you should say that, because I usually do suggest the new PC builder buys a decent 100W amp and a pair of 3-way floor speakers cheap off Ebay or the local free classifieds, called Gumtree. I myself use an old Pioneer VSX-D711 100W amp ($60 from Ebay), and a pair of Yammy NS-70's ($200 off Gumtree).

However, I don't really listen to music on my computer. I have a Pioneer Spec-1 pre and Spec-4 power amp from the late 70's, for when I want to sit back in my bean bag and really enjoy my extensive vinyl collection. Basically, it's a poor mans audiophile system, which also happens to be some of the best looking stereo equipment ever made, in my opinion. I'm not so full-on about it that I'd spend a fortune (I don't have) on stylus and cartidge etc, but I will get a classic Linn Sondek or Thorens TT one day, when I can afford it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimbob
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.

I was being a bit of a dick, but I'm still right. Like B1GBUD said, there's no good reason (besides poverty, which is totally legit) for not getting a decent soundcard for you gaming/multimedia PC. Why? Because the difference between a decent sound card and on-board is huge. To suggest otherwise is to admit your lack of appreciation for music and to utterly reject the dynamism of modern gaming experience. I love indie lo-fi, like Smog and Will Oldham, with their sparse arrangements and minimalist production, but I'll be damned if I'll listen in low res.
Shirty 12th February 2013, 16:17 Quote
I gave up on dedicated sound cards a year ago. Call me a luddite, but I can't tell the difference through Creative T20s or Koss PortaPros.

Mind you, I use the PC a lot less than I used to.
B1GBUD 12th February 2013, 17:11 Quote
Ahhhh, that's cos you're an old codger Shirty ;)...... should have added that as a reason! We forgive you!
Corky42 12th February 2013, 17:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by true_gamer
All I can say is, I never experienced these problems. Problems like that can be down installing Windows on an unstable OC, or installing Drivers on a unstable OC. Installing drivers on top of drivers without completely wiping the original, and so driver conflict can occur etc. etc..

I can also go on...

No you cant go on :(, as it is known what causes these problems.

http://forums.creative.com/showthread.php?t=587995&page=7&p=537975#post537975

Originally Posted by daniel_k
Quote:
About the "disappearing sound and devices" issue, which is usually related to SSDs, this is a driver design issue.

The issue occurs because SSDs are so fast that the driver doesn not load properly.

The original Emu10k1 driver had a single .SYS driver, so this way it would not be an issue these days.

However, somewhere in 2003, Creative fragmented the driver into a set of service drivers:

- commonfx.sys -> Creative Common FX Plug-in
- ctaud2k.sys -> WDM Audio driver, exposes mixer and interfaces to Windows
- ctaudfx.sys -> SB Fx plug-in for Audigy series
- ctdvda2k.sys -> DVD Audio decoder
- ctoss2k.sys -> OS Services, memory management (allocation, buffering, addressing)
- ctprxy2k.sys -> Proxy, exposes driver interface to user control
- ctsblfx.sys -> SB Fx Plug-in for Live! series
- ctsfm2k.sys -> SoundFont Manager
- ctusfsyn.sys -> Software SoundFont Synthesizer
- emupia2k.sys -> Emu Plug-in Architecture
- ha10kx2k.sys -> EMU10KX HAL, provides access to DSP
- hap16v2k.sys -> EMU10KX-P16v HAL, provides access to add-on audio controller (Audigy 2 -> Audigy 4)
- hap17v2k.sys -> EMU10KX-P17v HAL, provides access to add-on audio controller (Audigy 2 Value)
- ctp????w.dat -> WDM database required during driver loading, containing supported driver features and supported mixer input and outputs
- ctp????v.dat -> Vista and later OS database required during driver loading, containing supported driver features and supported mixer input and outputs

As you can see is quite complex and time critical.

If something goes wrong during loading and/or some of these drivers/database are not loaded at the proper time, you might experience all sort of issues.

To fix it, Creative would need to rewrite the driver as a single binary .SYS file, plus the database, which would be the best solution.

Or find a way to introduce some delay during driver loading so that all required service drivers are properly loaded and available to each other.

IMHO, this is VERY UNLIKELY to happen, as EMU based DSP cards are being phasing out in favor of Recon3D DSP, which is really a shame as it is a poor DSP (which is isn't, actually).
true_gamer 12th February 2013, 17:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
No you cant go on :(, as it is known what causes these problems.

http://forums.creative.com/showthread.php?t=587995&page=7&p=537975#post537975

Originally Posted by daniel_k

I'm sorry, but if these problems were so big and everyone was experiencing them, then surely trading standards would be involved?

I have had the X-FI Titanium Pro Drivers installed on 3 different SSD's with no issues (Over a period of time, including on C300 in Raid 0, Vertex 3 etc.)
You can't tell me that the SSD is too fast to load the drivers...There has to be more to the guys problem, like something so simple as a lost packet when downloading the drivers...
Chris_Waddle 12th February 2013, 17:49 Quote
Well I have to say that I recently purchased an OEM Soundblaster Z card for my 2nd PC which I now use as a media PC. Since I built it I had been using on board sound and found that I had to boost the equilizer to max to get decent volume when playing some files or YouTube vids. The sound was ok, but when boosted like this it could get a bit ropey at times.

I have to say that this new soundblaster card is excellent. I have had no problems with the drivers at all and the sound quality is excellent. It's certainly a hell of a lot louder! I'm very pleased with the purchase.

My gaming machine has a Zonar D2X. I've had several issues with drivers on this and if it wasn't for finding the unified drivers, I think it would have found itself embedded in a wall.

Yes Creative have a bad rep and a lot of it is deserved (their original treament of Daniel K was a disgrace), but bad drivers are not just limited to them.
Shirty 12th February 2013, 17:56 Quote
TL;DR - Creative make some nice kit, but many people feel that their continued support of said kit is lacking. I had a few issues myself, but good ol' Realtek is as reliable as it is inferior :D
true_gamer 12th February 2013, 17:57 Quote
On board sound is so flat...:)
Gradius 12th February 2013, 17:57 Quote
If you expect for real Hi-Fi PRO quality, you need to burn some $$$ for it. As many know, Creative FAILS on support (drivers), and looks like there was NO change on it. For my solution, I burned $1K, perhaps even a bit more. I use an Asus STX w/ Bursons OPAMs + hi precision clock + HD650 heaphones. Now I have something worth $10K or even more! Next steps would be a HD800, but I still thinking if I go that way.
Deders 12th February 2013, 17:58 Quote
I've not experienced any issue's with mine and my SSD, had no issue at all with the drivers for a few years now. Tech support was awful when I did though but issues ironed themselves out.
Corky42 12th February 2013, 19:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by true_gamer
I'm sorry, but if these problems were so big and everyone was experiencing them, then surely trading standards would be involved?

I have had the X-FI Titanium Pro Drivers installed on 3 different SSD's with no issues (Over a period of time, including on C300 in Raid 0, Vertex 3 etc.)
You can't tell me that the SSD is too fast to load the drivers...There has to be more to the guys problem, like something so simple as a lost packet when downloading the drivers...

The old it isn't happening to me so it isn't a problem, good one.
Almost as good a saying its a lost packet when downloading :(
blackworx 12th February 2013, 20:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by m0ngy
I was being a bit of a dick, but I'm still right. Like B1GBUD said, there's no good reason (besides poverty, which is totally legit) for not getting a decent soundcard for you gaming/multimedia PC...

Actually, there is.
Quote:
...Why? Because the difference between a decent sound card and on-board is huge. To suggest otherwise is to admit your lack of appreciation for music and to utterly reject the dynamism of modern gaming experience.

Unless you're talking exclusively about the relative SQ of analogue outputs (and why would you do that?) then you're just wrong.

As per my previous post, I'm happily using my mobo's onboard S/PDIF output to feed a stereo rackmount DAC which in turn feeds a pair of balanced input studio monitors. I wouldn't go so far as to dismiss out of hand the use of decent consumer grade sound cards, as I don't actually know how good they are. I'll tell you one thing though: they'd have to be helluva good to even come close.
true_gamer 12th February 2013, 21:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
The old it isn't happening to me so it isn't a problem, good one.
Almost as good a saying its a lost packet when downloading :(

......I can see you're gonna fit right in here....
YEHBABY 12th February 2013, 21:59 Quote
My xfi gamer works fine in all games etc. Where I do have a problem is that every week or two I will lose all sound and the only way to fix it is to reload all the drivers again.

Drives me crazy :(

They definitely need to start updating their legacy product drivers.
Deders 12th February 2013, 22:47 Quote
I wonder why it affect some and not others if they have the same hardware and drivers/os?
m0ngy 13th February 2013, 01:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by blackworx
Unless you're talking exclusively about the relative SQ of analogue outputs (and why would you do that?) then you're just wrong.

I was, actually. I've never used a digital output from my mobo.
Quote:
I wouldn't go so far as to dismiss out of hand the use of decent consumer grade sound cards, as I don't actually know how good they are. I'll tell you one thing though: they'd have to be helluva good to even come close.

They are a helluva lot better, you don't know what you're missing out on. Apparently, the Asus Essence STX sounds particularly sweet, and will improve the sound of you music (according to the Bit-tech review), though I've never owned one.
blackworx 13th February 2013, 08:05 Quote
Quote:
I've never used a digital output
Quote:
They are a helluva lot better

Don't you see the contradiction?
LordPyrinc 14th February 2013, 10:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by m0ngy
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...

Yeah, keep guessing. What a dick!
runadumb 14th February 2013, 13:11 Quote
If you mainly use S/PDIF (main PC) or HDMI (HTPC) do you really notice much of a difference? I would use headphones on the gaming rig at times so that might allow a big improvement.

I had a X-fi which worked fine over 3 separate PC builds but I had to give it up with my current PC due to no PCI slot and now I don't even have the space for one. That may change though so I could be tempted in the future.

I hope I would notice the difference straight away if I did get a dedicated soundcard, however, I don't even really seem to miss it though, onboard sounds okay :/
fluxtatic 14th February 2013, 19:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by m0ngy
I love indie lo-fi, like Smog and Will Oldham, with their sparse arrangements and minimalist production, but I'll be damned if I'll listen in low res.

You don't see the contradiction there? You're likely playing it back on equipment that's nicer and more costly than what it was recorded on in the first place, if it's really lo-fi (and not some marketing BS for the horn-rimmed glasses crowd.)

On-topic, though, I'm a bit leery of dedicated sound cards still. Last one I used (can't recall what it was, but it had a C-Media DAC) was shaky at best. It was like building a house of cards just getting it to work, and every couple months or so it would flake out and I'd have to start over. In comparison, on-board was a godsend, as it was just a matter of installing the drivers and moving on with life. Sound may not be as good, but my hearing's not so hot anyway.

Also, as to whether something like this makes a difference if you're using optical out - no. Unless there's something I'm fundamentally misunderstanding, digital is digital, and your RealTek S/PDIF will send out the same digital signal a discrete card would.

Of course, for the best possible experience, drop $100 on this card along with a $100 optical Monster cable, both of which have been deoxygenated for the best possible sound ;)
azrael- 14th February 2013, 20:25 Quote
I'm still using my Audigy PCI card (yes, also in my new/resurrected totally new and cool rig) and I'm still quite pleased, but I've been eyeing an X-Fi Titanium on and off.

Now people seem to rave (to a greater or lesser extent) about the new Z series, but it's powered by the same SoundCore processor as the Recon3D. From what I've gathered the SoundCore isn't nearly as powerful as the EMU20K1 and if I look at the specs both the Recon3D and the Z(x) seem to have lower specs than the X-Fi Titanium. So how come the Z series is supposedly better? Is there something I'm not aware of?
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