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  Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Fatal1ty review

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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.

Putting marketing aside for a second though, the transistor count in the new X-Fi audio processor has been raised to an impressive 50 million (compare that to the 5 million in the Audigy 2), as well as the speed of the chip has been doubled to 400 MHz.

As has been the norm for previous Creative products, different bundle packages are available in the X-Fi series; some of the basic differences are listed below:

 

X-Fi Xtreme Music

X-Fi Platinum

X-Fi Fatal1ty FPS

X-Fi Elite Pro

Hardware Included

X-Fi card

X-Fi Card, 5.25-inch front panel control bay

X-Fi card, 5.25-inch front panel control bay

X-Fi card, external control bay

Onboard RAM ("X-RAM")

None

None

64MB

64MB

Software Bundle

Base: Doom3 EAX patch, Audio Console, Creative MediaSource & DVD-Audio Player, DTS Neo:6, Karaoke Player, Smart Recorder, SoundFont Bank Manager, THX Setup Console

Base, plus Vienna SoundFont Studio, Console Launcher, Volume Panel, WaveStudio, Creative Media Toolbox, Creative Diagnostics

Base, plus Vienna SoundFont Studio, Console Launcher, Volume Panel, WaveStudio, Creative Media Toolbox, Creative Diagnostics)

Base, plus Vienna SoundFont Studio, Console Launcher, Volume Panel, WaveStudio, Creative Media Toolbox, Creative Diagnostics, CuBase LE, WaveLab Lite, Amplitube SE

Remote Control

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Price

$129.99

$199.99

$279.99

$399.99

Today we will be taking a look at the X-Fi Fatal1ty FPS model, which is endorsed by professional gamer Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel. Quid pro quo, the X-Fi Fatal1ty FPS also features a glowing Fatal1ty logo on the soundcard and drive bay. Without further ado, we will go through some of the technological advances found in the X-Fi, and then onto sound quality impressions and how the card ranks up compared to previous generations and other competing products.



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