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Sound Blaster ZXR
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Average Customer Review:
( 142 customer reviews )
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
62 of 70 found the following review helpful:
The best audio sound card but overkill if just for gamingApr 24, 2013
I originally purchased the creative Z sound card in November 2012 (see my Amazon review of creative Z). I have been waiting since then to upgrade to the ZXR. After having on order for several months, I finally received this card a few days ago. Physical installation was straight forward. You also have the choice of installing the DB Pro soundcard (if so, you need to attach it by supplied cable to the main audio unit). The DB pro card allows you to connect your pc to an external amp and speaker system. Driver installation for the sound card was very easy.
Now then, the ZXR, ZX and Z have all of the following features in common -
They all run on PCIE3 slots and they all use the creative quad core3D processor. They also utilise creative SBX pro studio support, SBX crystalliser, SBX surround, SBX smart volume, SBX dialogue plus and SBX bass, crystal voice, acoustic cancel, voice focus and noise reduction. All three models also have a dedicated 600 ohm headphone amp, gold plated connectors, dolby digital live and DTS connect.
Now this is where each card differs -
Z = double internal mic instead of ACM, 116DB SNR. No audio control module.
ZX = 116DB SNR, ACM (audio control module) support.
ZXR = 124DB SNR, TI Burr-Brown DAC, swappable op-amps, high quality DB-Pro and DB-Pro support, ACM support. The daughter board (DB-Pro) has 123DB ADC with RCA aux-in and optical outputs (to connect to external amps or other professional audio/music production hardware). The DB-pro card also has the quad core3D processor.
I was very happy with the entry model (Z). It produced noticeably better sound quality than the recon 3D sound blaster card I purchased over a year ago. The ZXR is a step up from the ZX and Z. It produces crystal clear sound reproduction with zero distortion. It is also about 15% louder than the Z (I have to decrease the volume on my Logitech X540 speaker control module). The ZXR has a lot of meat to it, particularly when gaming and listening to music. However, my Logitech X540 is not of the same calibre as the ZXR and I may need to upgrade my pc speaker system to a unit that can make the most of the ZXR. Only after I have upgraded to a high end speaker system, will they be able to extract every ounce of performance from the ZXR (I suspect the sound quality and clarity will show a circa 1.5 fold increase in performance). Another point to note, I am not using the supplied audio control module. I do not need to as, I am using the Logitech X540 control module. I therefore cannot comment on the quality of the ACM.
However, at £182-£200 and bearing in mind the high end TI Burr-Brown DACS, it is overkill if you want to use it purely for gaming, listening to music and watching bluray movies on your pc. In which case, I would highly recommend the ZX or the Z (to be honest, the main sound board for the ZX and Z is exactly the same. The only difference is that the ZX has the audio control module, but the Z does not). All things considered, it is cheaper to buy the entry Z. If you are a serious audiophile and have other audio equipment primarily for music production, audio editing or other audio work or even a high end home cinema, then the ZXR is the one for you, as long as you can afford the hefty price tag.
I have not really experienced any issues with this item, bar one. For some reason, the GUI audio adjustment software seems to switch off every now and then (and this reflects via a massive dip in audio performance). I am not certain why this happens (I never had this problem when I was running my OS on my western digital caviar black HDD). However, I suspect, it may have something to do with my new Samsung 840 SSD as my main boot drive which I installed just two days before I received the ZXR (I was also having issues with AVG internet security 2013 with my new SSD, so I had to uninstall AVG and use an alternative). I have not yet used the software to tweak settings for online gaming. I will get round to it. Either way, if I notice any significant changes (good or bad), I shall update my review accordingly.
Overall, this is a fantastic sound card and I think one that outperforms any Asus sound card (especially the Phoebus!). A must have for any serious audiophile blessed with (reasonably) deep pockets!.
30 of 33 found the following review helpful:
Stunning upgrade -- once you get the settings right...Jan 01, 2014
With (some) effort, you'll get the sound you like.
I was disappointed at first listen on this card, as the sound was all over the place--weak bass in some songs (even those normally mixed to emphasize the low end), with distorted bass in others. I also suffered ear fatigue quickly with headphones that are normally fine for multiple-hour listening sessions. My internal Realtek 898 (apparently the creme de la creme of onboard audio chips) was looking like the better of the two.
Before giving up on the card, I spent some significant time in the Sound Blaster control panel. The software to officially support Windows 8.1 was released just in time for my installation, and I had no issues with it. Eventually, I found the best sound for my scenario, but it took some time. And it's gorgeous, across the entire spectrum! Here's what I came up with to suit my listening preferences (Sennheiser HD 598s):
Keep SBX Pro Studio On
Uncheck the Surround modification (discovered source of my fatigue)
Leave the Crystalizer on (apparently it's good for compressed audio--mp3, ogg, aac, many games--which I use most often)
Uncheck the Bass enhancement (I preferred it off, and the low-end no longer distorts)
Turn on the Smart Volume function (I have mine set to Night for the best clarity at the low volumes I listen at)
Leave Dialog Plus off (with my headphones, dialog belongs where it was mixed!)
Curious if this is a common configuration, or if there is more subjectivity regarding the sound.
I have yet to use the digital outs or audio in capabilities, but plan to over the coming months. Will update if my opinion changes in any way.
Regardless, there is a great chance you'll enjoy this card, if you're willing to put in the effort to find your preferred sound.
29 of 35 found the following review helpful:
Incredible Card. Absolutely worth it.Mar 02, 2013
By Rich Wiatrowski
If you're "on the fence" with this card. Go for it.
Pros: This card is awesome! I upgraded from a Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Fatal1ty Pro Gamer card with the add-on front panel. This card kills it. The drivers installed quick and easy. The card looks fantastic (even though it's now buried in my tower). I laughed when I was checking the installation on the sound panel in the control panel and the mic showed activity from the beam forming mic on the volume module. I also want to mention the GUI software is WAAAAAAY better than the X-Fi generation GUI software. Easy to navigate all the options, the headphone switch works flawlessly, there aren't any hiccups or crashes.
I was one of the people that had the AWFUL clicking and popping on the X-Fi cards and I'm happy to say it's gone. Sound is as clean as can be.
I couldn't be happier!
Cons: I haven't found one yet!
Other Thoughts: I know it's expensive. However, it's a premium product. It's got a crazy snr rating and it sounds incredible. Keep in mind that to get the most out of this card, high quality speakers/headphones DO make a difference
12 of 13 found the following review helpful:
Great sound; limited headset supportJan 30, 2014
I purchased this ZxR to use with my Sennheiser PC G4ME ZERO headset. I had read other users complaining of sound degredation when using the ACM (Audio Control Module) to connect their devices to and that they recommended connecting directly to the sound card. So, I took the 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapters from the ACM connectors and applied them to my headset connectors and while the sound worked fine, the microphone did not work at all despite every possible attempt at troubleshooting the problem. I knew it wasn't the headset because I tested it on another computer so I almost thought I had a defective sound card until I plugged the ACM into the sound card and then plugged my headset into the ACM. This fixed my microphone issue and I honestly do not recognize any sound degredation using the ACM as of yet. I would have given it 5-stars if not for this unexpected hassle and the fact that the SB control panel gives you fairly limited features when using a headphone connection in terms of DTS and DD.
5 of 5 found the following review helpful:
Great card, much cleaner audio than recon3d.Mar 25, 2014
By WrittenNblood's Tech Review
When I received this card, I would blown away on how nice the packaging was, makes the product look way more expensive. I also really like the fact that this comes with a control module that allows for plugging in 3.5mm headphones along with the larger connector. I have found that the audio quality is very crisp and clean compared to the recon3d. I also feel this is a major upgrade compared to Realtek on board audio. Anyone that says that Realtek on board audio is on par with a this sound card is unrealistic. This card is leaps and bounds ahead of the sound chipset offered with the Z77 mpower motherboard. Order directly through amazon, do not try and deal with J&R Music. They do not offer tracking information and you wont be able to understand anyone if you try to contact them by phone.
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