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Creative Sound Blaster Z PCIe Sound Card
An ideal all-round audio and gaming solution.
The Sound Blaster Z, part of the ultra high-performance Z-Series of Sound Blaster® PCI Express sound cards, is an ideal all-round solution for your PC gaming and entertainment needs. It comes complete with the Sound Blaster Beamforming Microphone for crystal clear voice communication.
A signal to noise ratio or SNR of 116dB means your audio will be more than 99.99% pristine, which is 35.4 times better than motherboard audio.
Experience awe-inspiring audio with the SBX Pro Studio suite of technologies that immerses you in your games and movies with amazing detail and a 360-degree true-to-life sound stage.
In gaming, if you're not communicating, you're not winning. Experience crystal clear commmunication with your teammates with the CrystalVoice™ suite of technologies that removes echoes, ambient noises and picks up your voice from within a zone (CrystalVoice Focus). It also maintains your voice level even if you move near or further away from the microphone.
When used with CrystalVoice Focus, the bundled beamforming microphone creates an acoustic zone and suppresses noise outside it, enabling you to be heard with amazing clarity.
The quad-core Sound Core3D™ audio processor was designed to offload SBX Pro Studio and CrystalVoice effects processing from your primary CPU, improving your overall PC performance, resulting in drastically superior audio and voice quality.
Experience like never before the power of Sound Blaster audio with your home entertainment today! With Sound Blaster Z's gold-plated connectors, speaker optimization technology and digital content encoding capability, you can be assured of only the best digital audio possible.
Connect to your home theatre system through a single digital cable and enjoy cinematic DVD movies by transforming any stereo or multi-channel streams into high fidelity immersive surround sound.
With the Sound Blaster Z-series Control Panel, just toggle between your headphone and speaker system with a flip of a switch.
|Average Customer Rating:
|| based on 101 reviews|
Average Customer Review:
( 101 customer reviews )
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 28 found the following review helpful:
VERY IMPORTANT if you are looking into buying this...Please ReadMar 30, 2013
There is a major flaw with the more expensive ZX model of this product. The Audio Control Module (ACM) that you are paying about $50 more, LOWERS the QUALITY of the audio signal versus plugging your headphones directly into the back of the sound card.
Seriously, how has no one else caught this? I checked online and found no one complaining about this. So, I thought my ACM was defective. Amazon kindly sent me a replacement. I got the replacement and plugged the new ACM into the back of the sound card and then plugged my headphones in the ACM. SAME ISSUE. (I tried both the 3.5mm and 1/4in plugs) I then changed out the sound card with the new replacement card and reinstalled the software and drivers just to be sure.....SAME ISSUE.
If you already own this.....and you love the ACM....you most likely did not compare it to the sound when your headphones are plugged directly into the back of the sound card.
I noticed this dramatically because I did not use the ACM for the first week or so. I did all my initial testing in music and gaming without it. As soon as I plugged it in I thought something was wrong with my headphones or the sound card went bad on me. I quickly discovered that it was solely the AMC.
PLUGGED INTO THE ACM
- The sound is significantly softer making me believe that the built in AMP is being weakened by the ACM. This is a bigger issue for those that have high impedance headphones
- Second it affects the balance and quality of sound. For example: While playing COD Black Ops 2 - I immediately noticed that the sound of my gun was muffled and recessed even at the same volume level. I then plugged my headphones directly into the back of the sound card...and it is so much better! Everything is louder, clearer, and precise. Don't believe me, try it out for yourself. I also immediately noticed that my music sounded worse playing through the ACM. The surround sound effect through the ACM sounds more tinny and echoy.
So bottom line....the ACM degrades the sound quality significantly (I tested this with two ACMs). It baffles me that both Sound Blaster and Consumers have not noticed this issue with the ACM. I did find a forum of audiophiles debating if the ACM would degrade the sound quality and amp....but there was no definite answer and the topic ended with the assumption that it did not since Sound Blaster said it is the superior model.
Please mark this review as helpful so others can see it before spending the extra money on this model...and if they do, hopefully they will do the sound test themselves and compare the sound difference. How knows, maybe I got two bad AMC in a row? I highly doubt it though.
The Sound Card itself is very good and I highly recommend the Sound Blaster Z (not ZX)purchase to anyone. Great PC sound and software for customizing your preference of sound. You can plug in your gaming console via Toslink/spdif cable and and use the software for superior virtual surround effect (compared to Astro Mixamp or DSS/2)and customize your console gaming sound as well. The only down side to that, is that you need your PC to be on while you play a console game. Again, I highly recommend the Sound Card. Save yourself $50 and get the Z model.
UPDATE - 4/20/13
So, I have brought this issue up with others on Head-Fi (audiophile website forums). Many others have tested this out for themselves and have reported back with the same problem. There have been many differnt headphones used and the problem exists with all of them (Superlux HS668b, Ultrasone Pro900, Sony V-6, Sennheiser 558...ect).
It is worth noting that while the ACM degrades audio quality, the built in microphone on the ACM is better than the microphone on the Z model. I have tested out both mics and compared them with my Zalman Zm-Mic1 ($8) and the Zx mic is on par with the Zalman - while the Z model mic is not as good.
Also, it seems the people with the ZxR model ($250) are not noticing a big difference in audio quality with the ACM. That does not mean it does not degrade the audio - but those I have conversed with on Head-fi stated that the audio was not significantly affected. So, MAYBE the ZxR model has a better ACM.
12 of 13 found the following review helpful:
Huge step up from an X-FI Xtreme MusicNov 30, 2012
Coming from an Xtreme Muisc this was a huge leap. The sound is clearer and the surround sound that replaces cmss-3d is better at creating directional audio. It's almost hard to explain jumping into a game you know and having it sound totally different and more detailed. This card is basically a X-FI with a core3d chip which is what the recon3d should have been. I am not sure how much of a difference it would be coming from a Titanium HD but if you have an older X-FI or a terrible recon3d this is worth a purchase
27 of 33 found the following review helpful:
Finally a worth upgrade from X-FiDec 20, 2012
By Travis M. Bruno-Erck
System setup (keep in mind I'm using high end setup):
Denon AVR 3D receiver
Klipsch 5.1 Quintet Speker system
Windows 8 Professional
AMD 8120 8 core processor
Samsung SSD 830 256HB
Gigabyte 990FXA UD3
Geforce 660 Ti
Vizio 3D LED 42" TV
Corsair TX850W Power supply
As a an avid audiophile user myself I love details and clarity. I usually upgrade every 2 years but after owning a X-Fi Titanium fatality I couldn't find a reason to upgrade since the sound quality was top notch in my opinion. I saw the recon3D came out and passed it on by as it didn't appear by reviews nor users seemed to be really happy about it. I figured I would be with the X-Fi for some time. I was mistaken as after seeing the features of the SoundBlaster Z and the price point I couldn't refuse. But my expectation were low.
I couldn't be more wrong. I have it paired up with a 5.1 Klipsh Quintet system and a newer Denon AVR 3D receiver. With this setup and the much improved signal to noise ration rated at 116db it was more than noticeable with my setup of the vastly improved quality of the SoundBlaster Z. When I hear the audio come through using the DTS and Dolby Digital through the optical link my mouth hit the floor. INCREDIBLE! I heard sounds that I thought the X-Fi put through clearly and the Z just blew it out of the water. The clarity, the range certainly paired up with my Denon and Klipsch speakers is getting the full benefits of it all now. My system was held back by the X-Fi inferior processing and quality.
Your going to hear that there isn't much improvement over X-Fi and that's ridiculous as the reviewers obviously didn't test it on a high fidelity setup where your going to more than notice it. The Dolby Digital EX and DTS Neo sounds awesome.
Gaming has been taking into a new dimension. The scout mode is flawless. With my Chimera 5.1 5.8ghz Razer headset I can hear exactly where the steps and shots are coming from. Up, down, right or left I can respond much faster using the scout mode and it's vibrant and clear. Furthermore,comparing this to the onboard audio just isn't even a comparison. Gigabyte touts nice audio from the Azalia but the SoundBlaster just puts it to complete shame. The difference is so astounding you'll see just how much junk the motherboard maker puts on the motherboard. It's painful now to listen to the onboard audio. If you think the onboard audio is good enough think again. Creative claims its 33 times better. After you hear it you'll agree with that statement.
Another aspect is the beam forming microphone. Finally, out goes the mono microphone and it's so small and with the design on it easily fits on top of my 42" LED 3D TV. It's an incredible microphone as I'm 10 feet away from the TV and in a normal voice it picks me up and my friends through chat can hear me just fine. I also have a Windtunnel fan in my room that really makes a lot of noise. They can't hear it! I'm impressed as I would always have turned off the fan as it introduced noise. Furthermore, I use Dragon Naturally Speaking 12 Premium and that accuracy rate is definitely improved on the Z. At 10 feet away from the mic I can speak normal and it never misses a word and auto corrections significantly reduced. Again, the soundblaster Z shines through here.
And as a final note this was used on windows 8 pro. And as some of you may find out the Dolby Digital Live and DTS Neo doesn't work with the X-fI drivers from Creative any longer. This issue is now functional as the drivers included off the disc work right out of the box. And that brings up another nice point. Creative has unbloated the software. It's not so bloated that it bogs your system resources down and takes a long time to install. It's apparent to me they designed this card from the bottom up. So far all the featuers work. I've used the EQ and it's nice, scout mode, special effects. And saving the custom profiles work just fine. I haven't experienced any crashing on Windows 8 at all and the drivers and software seem fairly stable. The receiver picks up the Dolby and the DTS and instantly switches mode without a hitch. It's rock solid and not bloated and much more simplified interface than in the past. My favorite feature is the switch to go from headphone to my speakers instantly. That was a well needed feature.
My favorite thing about the Z? Everything. It surpassed my expectations as I didn't exptect much over my X-fi Titanium and I wouldn't dare send this back after hearing it I just can't give it up. It was a worthy upgrade over my X-Fi Titanium Fatality. The Dolby Digital Live and DTS Neo work flawlessly through the optical connected to my Denon receiver and Chimeria 5.1 headset. What an amazing audio and gaming experience. Just incredible.....just keep in mind without a setup like mine with higher quality receiver and speakers you won't hear the full benefit. But the SoundBlaster Z left with me a smile on my face and now I feel like Im getting the money I paid into this high end sound system. It was the sound card as the bottle neck the whole time and the Z just fixed that. Impressive. Creative deserves the highest marks for this card and for those with similar setups I urge you that you won't be unhappy with the upgrade coming from an X-Fi. The reviewers said it wouldn't be much difference. They didn't test it on a higher end system. They couldn't be more wrong about it get it and find out for yourself. I'll put my reputation on the line in this review that you won't be sorry you did or you'll ding me for if the review helped you or not.
Go for it you'll hear it don't take my word for it. Your going to love what you hear. Just amazing!
16 of 19 found the following review helpful:
Much better than ASUS Xonar PhoebusDec 20, 2012
By Brent A. Feinberg
First, off, let me preface this by telling you a bit about the card I am switching from. The HW on the ASUS Xonar Phoebus is actually better than the HW for the Sound Blaster ZX. That said, the SW and driver support of the ASUS Xonar Phoebus is complete crap - so much so, that you actually have to move the card around to different PCI slots to get it to recognize the card needs a firmware update. The SW is very confusing, and they can't even bother to label the ports correctly in the installation guide, resulting in several people connecting their cards incorrectly. That is the reason I snagged one of the first SoundBlaster ZX's when I saw some available on here on Tuesday.
The installation went very smooth, and the external breakout box / audio control module is very solid, well designed (in this case, actually better than the Xonar Phoebus's). One nice feature is that you can leave the headphones plugged in and switch between them and speaker through the SW so you aren't having to plug/unplug cords which could degrade the connector over time.
The SoundBlaster ZX does not require a power cable like the Xonar Phoebus, yet is still has a headphone amplifier built in.
The SW is excellent, easy to understand, and the documentation is sparse but accurate (unlike the Xonar Phoebus as mentioned above). The 3D positional audio for headphones is better than for the Xonar Phoebus.
Overall sound quality is great and I played some Max Payne 3 through my headphones last night which has an excellent orchestral jazz soundtrack. Sound was clear and noise free and I was able to hear small nuances/background sounds like people arguing in the background in a hotel room my character was in. I then switched to The Secret World through a 5.1 speaker system, and also had no issues. The positional audio worked great and sounds were placed in appropriate locations.
One note for those of you that pre-ordered this on Amazon. You can't rely on Amazon here (and I love Amazon, but I have to ding them on this one). I had mine pre-ordered for two weeks. It was just luck that I logged on and saw 7 available on Tuesday) - yet when I checked my order, it still hadn't shipped with no estimation of when it would be available). I immediately ordered one with next day delivery (Prime customer, so only $3.99) and cancelled my previous order. This is the first time Amazon has failed me in this way.
13 of 15 found the following review helpful:
Great Sound Card for headphonesDec 08, 2012
Does a great job adding bass to the Audio Technica ATH-AD700 cans I have using their control panel (SBX Pro Studio) and bass boost setting, which also lets you set the crossover frequency. I found the default settings, 80hz, and 50% on the slider, worked great... so there's room for even more bass than I find necessary. It can also be added via the equalizer which can do a somewhat better job, and the settings can be saved for each pair of headphones or genre.
Now I no longer need to buy the high impedance cans I was looking at, the cans I have currently get the job done (Sennheiser HD-558, Fischer FA-003, and ATH-AD700), so essentially this sound card has saved me a couple hundred bucks. I find the preset Equalizer settings such as 'rock' and 'classical' work very well and have tweaked the equalizer to my liking to give each pair of cans what I'm looking for in them.
Great for gaming too, the extra effects over the onboard sound are worth it. Great for people with home theater setups, with the optical out on the back. Easily best bang for the buck card out there, and eliminates the need for a headphone amp for all but the most picky audiophiles, since it includes a 600 ohm headphone amp built in. Mine came with the gold nicheon capacitors as well.
With the monster size of the heatsink on my sandy bridge setup, the card barely fit into the small PCI express slot on my motherboard though. I have about one of the largest aircooled heatsinks available so I can't imagine it not fitting unless you have the 120mm fans positioned bottom to top. Mine were positioned side to side so they covered up the RAM instead. Make sure you have clearance.
Installs on Windows 8 without issue using the installation disc provided.
Are there people I would recommend skip buying a sound card? If you don't game, and use low impedance headphones, especially if you are playing anything except 320K MP3 files or FLAC files, you may not need this card. Good headphones and sound cards pick up the flaws in compressed files. I found my onboard very good with music, even using FLAC files, if the headphones were low impedance. It just couldn't amplify the bass the way this card can. Testing included FLAC files of Metallica, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Heart, Ozzy, among others.
Bottom line, your chain is only as strong as your weakest link. Pair this card with a good set of cans and some high quality music to get the most out of it. :)
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