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Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro USB Sound Card
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Average Customer Review:
( 468 customer reviews )
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82 of 86 found the following review helpful:
Appropriate DesignAug 28, 2011
In this quick write-up I will outline different aspects of the product.
After unpacking, this worked immediately upon connecting to my laptop (Windows 7 x64) - no compatibility issues. After loading up the software (took a couple of minutes), the volume control becomes operational, the blue LED on the unit will flash when you have muted the volume, the remote will work (line-of-sight to the sensor), and all software control can be accessed through the control panel or entertainment console.
From the entertainment console you can:
- Control the levels of the 5.1 analog outputs (although I don't use these in practice) to setup your speaker balance, and also set subwoofer crossover to any frequency from 10hz to 1000hz in the TruStudio menu
- Set options between 2 channels or 5 channels of audio (plus sub) and test that they are operational
- Control EAX effects, which are basically reverb patterns, nothing I plan to use
- Control TruStudio Pro, which can be useful in some situations (I turn the surround option on very subtly when using headphones on a multi-channel source), including noisy environments (smart volume, dialog plus)
- Use the graphic equalizer to obtain an accurate response through the passband of your speakers/headphones; I personally use this to compensate for slight roll-off of my headphones in the bass, and their resonance at 1khz and 8khz
- Control the mixer, including microphone/line-in, "What U Hear," and pass-through of the line/mic inputs to your speakers for input monitoring
- Activate Dolby Digital Live, which will mix all audio into a 5.1 stream for playback over the optical output; note that if you have a source using Dolby Digital or DTS, you will want to set the sound option in your software to bitstream, meaning this is bypassed to avoid additional processing by the sound card. Dolby Digital Live is intended for everyday sound and use, rather than actual Dolby or DTS sources
What U Hear allows you to record whatever you're playing without actually patching the output to the input with a cable. I find this useful if I think I hear clipping - simply record the sound and verify that it's clipping. There is a myriad of other uses for this, as well.
For DTS-HD or Dolby-HD sources, you will need HDMI, which this sound card will not allow due to bandwidth limits. My laptop has an HDMI output which I use when I want to bitstream these codecs for movies.
Pros: This card is much quieter than the internal Realtek solution used on my laptop, one reason I bought it. The noise floor on this card is at least 50dB lower.
The output gain on this card is higher than the internal, meaning I don't have to have at 100% for DVD and Blu-ray and STILL not be loud enough. Instead, I can run it around 45% volume and any louder would be uncomfortable with DVD and Blu-Ray.
Accurate soundfield placement in headphones - I tested a 5.1 source with discrete channels and can confirm that this card's processing will do a good job with this if you have it turned on (you can deactivate all processing if you wish).
The output uses a limiter so that you won't experience clipping, meaning much less distortion if you push things too hard on the EQ.
Other: This card claims 24/96 capability. I did tests and found that for both playback/recording, the card rolls off to -3dB at 48khz, on-par with specs. It is a similar case, rolling off slightly in the infrasonics, -3dB at 3hz. As for the 24-bit claim, the resolution is 24-bit, BUT signal/noise ratio is slightly over 100dB, effectively limiting the dynamic range to the equivalent of 17-bit. Due to dither, the psychoacoustic dynamic range will approach 19 bits. This is NOT an issue for most people. You still obtain the benefits of 24-bit, including a reduction in quantization noise, just not through the full dynamic range. In other words, the card will not be the limiting factor in most systems.
I intend to use this card to record. I was a bit wary of buying a card directed towards normal consumers, but after testing it looks like it will be a non-issue. I'll have to do further testing to confirm this.
Cons: At the price, nothing more can really be expected of this card. It would be great if this functionality were paired with HDMI, though. There might be video cards out with such a connection. My laptop has HDMI, but it is noisy when using it for internally mixed PCM audio. There is one issue that I've had with it, and that is an odd polary distortion when using DirectSound to record. It also has no balanced connections, which I would not expect for the price, anyway...
I would recommend this to any consumer that wants an upgrade in functionality and less noise than integrated sound. Programs are available for sound processing, but you will still be limited by the hardware.
48 of 52 found the following review helpful:
C reative Soundblster X-fi ProDec 05, 2010
By L. Hannenberg
I purchased the Soundblaster X-Fi to replace the soundcard on my laptop which had recently begun to degrade. My laptop is connected to my stereo system and I have very high standards for sound quality.
The initial setup was easy on Windows 7 - 64bit(simply plug-in via USB). The included installation CD installed all the drivers and applications (it took about 45 minutes including updates).
Once installed the sound card exceeded my expectations. The sound is pristine. My music files have never sounded so good. The included equalizer works perfectly and works for all types of applications, e.g., itunes, steaming music, etc. There's all kinds of additional software for adjusting video sound, e.g., dolby, THX which I haven't experimented with yet.
I highly recommend this product - simple to install, reasonably priced, and produces beautiful sound.
49 of 59 found the following review helpful:
Comparing CreativesOct 16, 2011
By David G. Beneke
I bought the Creative Soundblaster X-Fi Pro, because I love and still use my six year old Creative X-fi Usb card with great results, as both a sound card and digitizer, but it is only 16 bit 44k. The fact that it is THX certified (I have always have very impressive results with their certification) was another factor. What I wanted was a 24bit, 96k card, to use as a USB digitizer, at the higher rate. As a digitizer, it does a superb job at the 24 bit rate, clean, very quiet, much better than my on board sound card, a VIA, which is also 24 bit, 96k, but the recording quality and playback is pure crap, noisy, distorted, colored and so on. The Sounblaster Pro was an easy set up, simply plug and play, the software which came with the card is also abundant, and updated right after installation. There are several things however that bother me about the card. First, when playing the card for the first time, the bass was tubby, and I had to play with the Creative software for a couple of hours to get what I would consider clean sound, through my M-Audio BX5a 5-inch BiAmplified Studio Monitor Speakers. Once tweaked, the sound was good, but less than I expected, in comparison to my old Creative unit, which has cleaner, tighter bass and mid bass and overall flatter response when monitored with an SPL meter . The old unit has an on board X-Fi Crystalizer, and X-Fi CMSS-3D sound, with switches on the side to turn the effects on and off, and select "button" for adjusting the amounts of processing with the volume knob. The new Soundblaster, has none of this and utilizes, what I believe to be software emulated effects for a couple of reasons. When monitoring the processor usage, it goes way up, where the old X-fi barely used any resources. Also adjustments can only be made with the new Creative software. I could only monitor 24 bit recordings on the new Sounblaster, in true 24 bit, with what I consider "true quality", after a lot of A-B comparison with several 24 bit, 96 k recordings on regular amps, one a Sony, the other an Onkyo TX-NR708 7.2-Channel Network Home Theater Receiver (Black), and the OLD Creative X-Fi, which actually emulates 24 bit, 96k with the Crystalizer. When all was tweaked, I was happy, but boy, it was more work than I expected. For ease of use, and honestly sound quality, I'm sticking with my OLD Creative X-Fi for day to day use. The NEW Soundblaster, is going to be used as a high bit rate digitizer, which is why I bought it any way, and any high rate playback is going to go from the optical output, through my Sony amp and Aux studio monitors. I believe this new Creative card is good for gamers, maybe less sensitive speakers and those who need an inexpensive 5.1 unit for movies, not for recording monitoring.
11 of 11 found the following review helpful:
Does its job.Jun 10, 2011
I have a laptop, and I needed a way to get full surround sounnd from the Logitech Surround Sound Speakers Z506 (980-000430) system. Laptops only have a headphone and a microphone jack, but the speaker system had 3 jacks: green, orange, and black.
This external sound cards allows you to connect all 3 of these inputs so that you can get full surround sound. It also has a complete control panel that allows you to adjust speaker setup (2.1 or 5.1), balance, equalizer, and a few other stuff. In terms of improved sound quality, I've only noticed a slightly cleaner bass over my laptop's Realtek HD Audio sound card.
What I didn't like about this sound card, however, was that the default settings does not have all speakers putting out equal sound. The rear speakers did not put out much sound, and I had to adjust the settings in the control panel in order to get all speakers putting out equal sound. Also, the default volume is too high.
Other than that, this sound card does its job. If you need 5.1 surround sound on a laptop, this is a good choice.
25 of 31 found the following review helpful:
No problems hereNov 04, 2010
By M. Dowdie
I got this to use in place of my ThinkPad's built-in sound. I'd assumed for years that sound cards these days were not noticeably different at performing basic tasks like listening to iTunes, but this one is definitely better than the ThinkPad's. Perhaps it takes a better than average pair of speakers to tell a difference. It is working great and the M-Audio Studiophile AV30 Professional Reference Speakers sound much, much better.
My only minor criticisms are the size (there is a smaller USB stick available) and the top-mounted volume control - do we really need another one?? - which makes it difficult to stack anything on top.
I allowed Windows 7 to install default drivers - which it did quickly and painlessly - rather than installing the Creative Labs software, so I have barely scratched the surface of what the card is capable of. I haven't tried any audio special effects/processing or 5.1 sound. But, I can recommend it if you just want good quality stereo sound rather than the surprisingly inferior sound that comes on a laptop or desktop motherboard.
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