Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Fatal1ty review @ TechSpot

By on February 3, 2006, 4:49 AM
Since the original Sound Blaster Live and the EMU10K1 audio processor, Creative’s new soundcard releases have been characterized by incremental jumps rather than revolutionary changes. Although the Audigy series was indeed a welcome improvement, it was still built upon features from previous generations; much like we are used to see in the world of processors or GPUs.

Enter the new Sound Blaster X-Fi series, a truly new soundcard release from Creative in several years. Based on a completely new audio processor that Creative Labs like to call the “Xtreme Fidelity Engine”, the chip was in development for five years at the Creative ATC (Advanced Technology Center) in California.

Having owned almost all of Creative’s soundcards since the SoundBlaster 16, I have had the chance to experience many of those incremental jumps in the technology used, be it on the hardware or software side (e.g. EAX), the X-Fi offers several significant architectural changes such as the Ring Architecture, S-SRC, Quartet DSP, as well as 24-bit Crystalizer, and CMMS-3D.

Read the complete review here.

User Comments: 19

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Strakian said:
Isn't this an endorsed product by "Fatal1ty" aswell? The top FPS shooter world champion? I'd imagine it is with the name being spelled that same way...
Kaleid said:
Yes it is and I wonder how much money he makes :)He has also made deals with Abit and Zalman.I ended up buying the extrememusic, the price steps up a bit too much for the extra RAM and the control bay which I have no use for. Good card but it didn't blew my socks off.They should release the Fatality without the control bay and the remote. A lot of gamers would want it I'm sure.From the review:"Another potentially useful feature is that the 24-bit Crystalizer can be enabled to re-mix DVD soundtracks. As with music playback, the 24-bit Crystalizer does make noticeable changes to the audio."As an audiophile I recognized this as pure marketing from day one. Later on it was confirmed with measurements (sorry forgot which page), the crystalizer is boosting bas and treble levels and even more troubling adds a lot of distorsion to the signal. I'll see if I can find the review again and add a comment so that others can read it.Edit; Here:
part2.html[Edited by Kaleid on 2006-02-03 11:05:17]
asphix said:
Very nice and extensive review. I'm currently using a first generation Audigy card, and this card looks fantastic.. however I have a few gripes with it.1. The price! After years of being able to get sound cards at between 100-200 dollars, pricing higher than that is a big turn off. I cant see the higher end cards in this lineup pulling off huge sales. It could be just me though.2. No optical out on the back of the machine. The bay expansion thing is great for audio professionals. But what about the emerging market for HTPC's? I'd love to throw one of these into a MCPC for home theater purposes and hook it up to my surround system via digital optical out, however.. theres no way I would want a wire running from the front of my HTPC to my a surround receiver! It would have been nice to have a L bracket with optical/coax out as well as a few other of the important more permanant connections for use as an alternative to the drive bay expansion!3. As you said in the review, the software bundle is horrible.. for a card at that price you would expect something more.I hope future releases will remedy these issues.. and having the digital outs routed to the back instead of the front is really a necessity for anyone building a HTPC (a huge emerging market).
ThomasNews said:
Yep, that's correct Strakian. It's not something that particularly meant much to me though.
sjps220 said:
I agree with Asphix, especially on his first two gripes with the product (can't give an opinion on the third). This card is out of my budget for sure. Not enough soundcards give you optical out without the front bay which I would definitely want if I payed this much.
PUTALE said:
WOW, amazing card. Man, I wish I have it in my ysstem.
buttus said:
Ya know what sucks????Being deaf in one ear. :(It happened at birth, but alas I cannot hear stereo, or surroundsound. I would buy some smoking speakers and then not really be able to take advantage of the 3d immersion. Obviously having such a handicap has also meant that I cannot distinguish between the quality of the sound emmited so for me my ReakTek 7 channel sound is as good as I'm going to hear.Although just ONCE I'd like to be able to hear that person comming up from behind me in Counterstrike. I HATE the knife in the back just because I can't hear it comming.
Cartz said:
Wow buttus, that sucks, major disadvantage, but on the bright side, setting the audio option to 'mono' could net you some better performance :DThis card had better come down in price, and I want to see some benchmarks that suggest that X-RAM is more then just a gimmick, most benchies I've seen of BF2 (the only game so far to support x-ram, although I hear Q4 may support it as well, not sure) show little no improvement between the audigy 4 and the x-fiStill, when the price comes down, I'll likely replace my aging Audigy 1 with it.
Vaulden said:
Well I've thought about buying a Turtle Beach sound card for a while. With this card, I just can't see paying the money to Creative Labs. I certainly can't hear the difference between the various cards. I think I'll just spend less money and upgrade from my Audigy to the Montego or Catalina for a fraction of the cost.
Need_a_Dell said:
I've always been impressed by Creative's audio card releases, but their new X-Fi line looks truly acceptable. Not only is the new line better than the Audigy series, but it sports a sexy low cost compared to the Audigy's later models.[url]
&maxPrice=&Go.x=0&Go.y=0[/url]These are truly amazing prices for an amazing product. The absolute top-of-the-line model goes for just over $380, which is pretty sweet for state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line products. Good job Creative on a product that is affordable and excellent at what it does!
gamingmage said:
Wow, that is one nice sound card, and that is one EXPENSIVE sound card. That is all I have to say about that.
Race said:
Good article.......very informative.I'll mention the stuff below just in case anyone is interested in one of these cards, and would like some thoughts from the average end user.A close friend of mine has an X-Fi card, and a while back we A/B'd it with my Audigy 2 Gamer, and this is what I found:(only my opinion of course)If you're using an Audigy 2 card with a good speaker system, the difference was hardly noticeable, if at all. However, on headphones, the sound quality was noticeable better with the X-Fi.Also, if you play Battlefield 2, and you're playing with a bunch of people, the card's ability to play back 128 audio streams was pretty awesome. (My Audigy 2 is capable of 64, and the game generates more than that).I was a little bummed that you can't tweak any headphone acoustics like you can on some other Sensaura parts.Also, you can't run headphones and speakers simultaneously........and I thought Creative should have kept the Firewire port. I found it useful on the Audigy 2. To sum up.......if you're already using an Audigy 2> card with speakers, I don't think it's worth it to upgrade, at least not now, or until more games utilize some of the features.If you use headphones, and you're really into Battlefield 2, go for it...(whichever model you can afford)
ThomasNews said:
Hi Kaleid Yep, I linked to that in the review actually;For more detailed information you may want to check Digit-Life’s follow-up (
-part2.html), which features some frequency response tests and a detailed response from Creative’s Director of Audio Research.What I did say though was; "But can the 24-Bit Crystalizer make your MP3s or CDs really sound that much better? Not really. Although in most cases sound will be audibly different depending on how the signal is being altered, whether it sounds better is debatable;..."I don't think I gave it a glowing recommendation though, it just sounds different - some like the change others don't.
Kaleid said:
Writes note to self: Pay a bit more attention.And note to ThomasNews: Yes, that's the same link I posted. :)[Edited by Kaleid on 2006-02-04 07:21:34]
ThomasNews said:
Ok, just wanting to clarify that I'd mentioned it in the review, wasn't sure if you were indicating it wasn't in the review or not :)
Canadian said:*drool*I hate on-board sound><
exscind said:
Just read the review, and it is excellent. Creative is truly the only major monopoly left in the computer industry I believe. Other fields like processors and video cards have at least two worthy competitors, but Creative remains the king even after so long. Having said that, I like the X-Fi series. Although a bit expensive, but you get what you paid for. I am really intrigued by the X-RAM; everything these days have their own RAM as to relieve some of the stress they put on the processors and other hardware components. This in turn lessens the load on any particular component and makes everything run smoother. But in all honesty, I don't know if many, including me, can justify paying near $300 for a sound card. Unfortunately, video card is the new green-hogging hardware these days. To many, graphics is much more important than sounds. So I believe many would move the money from sound card to video card and in turn buy a lesser valued sound card. The only way for Creative to mass sell the X-Fi products would be to slash prices.
DragonMaster said:
[quote]FlexiJack (Performing a 3-in-1 function, Digital In / Line In / Microphone) via 3.50 mm minijack[/quote]I was the dumb m*ron(maybe not alone) who suggested Creative this feature. I told them that these ports would be nice if there were about 4-8 of them but instead, they reduced the number of jacks on the card... Also I2S-in would have been nice. I found that similar ports are on mobos too... If I'm the one who started all that(Doubt), I think I should keep my ideas for myself instead of letting Realtek and Creative making money out of it...I found other probable problems with the Audigy 2 ZS, when the tone control is not centered to 50 bass/50 treble, I think that the sound(Even if it's 96kHz) passes thru the 48kHz-only EAX processor. The only way to get real sound is by putting EAX, CMSS, EQ, tone, etc. all to their default settings. To get better sound, go in control panel's AudioHQ and turn off Dolby Digital compression...
yingjian8586 said:
The article review was a nice one, Anyway, i owned this X-Fi Fatality Sounds Card, the sound even greater than i had previously which is Audigy2 NX USB External. I had Logitech Z640 5.1 Speakers tooI had this for RM800 (Ringgit Malaysia) ~ $217 US DollarsFriend of mine brought for me :DHmm, in terms of music, I turned on EAX, CMSS-3D, 24-Bit Crystalizer,i find my mp3, the sounds more crispy, and the tone clearer, and the cool thing with Media Source, it could remove unwanted background noise, if u play old mp3 file. and EAX effect is real big deal, as you know, like Audigy2m the sounds never failed.And the cool thing, i like the new Super Rip Mode. This owned. but you need alot of hard disk space to do that, but i think is fine if u had 100++ GB hard disk,The super rip, change ur standard CD music to 96Khz/ 24-Bit/ 5.1 Channel Music. OMG, even more than you hear from Ipod or CD-Player.SO basically, it take the audio file, re-encode it, sampling it, and so so... sounds like you watching DVD Movie,but it's does, its making DVD music quality file.I had the file like 230MB .... lolIn terms of Games, i really do hear more. i had Call of Duty 2, Quake 4, World of Warcraft. the 128-Voices EAX alotNow i can hear the horse stepping on the ground, i can hear others tooNow i can hear the unstopptable forces in Call of Duty2, tons of things happening around me.And a lot of effects surrounded me in Quake 4, those stim sound from pipe,engine behind, strogg at side, numerous of shooting sounds,computer unit sounds at side, gun sounds effect. And 24-Bit Crystalizer even make the games sound clearer, and i enjoying this new sound card ^_^
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