Creative adds a new member to the Sound Blaster Z family

Shawn Knight

Posts: 12,895   +125
Staff member
Editor's take: One of the most overlooked upgrades when building a computer is an aftermarket sound card, and for good reason. For many, the onboard audio supplied by the motherboard is more than adequate to drive a set of basic desktop speakers or headphones. If you’re the type with an affinity for audio quality or demand a bit more in terms of feature sets, however, a discrete sound card can be a worthwhile investment and there’s a "new" one on the market to consider.

Creative Technology recently welcomed an additional member to its Sound Blaster Z family. The Sound Blaster Z SE (short for Special Edition) features the same core audio specifications as its predecessor including up to 116 dB SNR and a bit rate of up to 24-bit / 192 kHz.

Creative’s latest now supports up to 7.1 virtual surround on speakers and headphones alongside discrete 5.1 on speakers. You also get new gaming profiles that have been optimized for some of today’s top titles including Fortnite and PUBG, plus pre-tuned microphone EQs that compensate for your headset’s built-in mic for clearer voice chat.

The Creative Sound Blaster Z SE is available directly from Creative’s website priced at $109.99.

In all honesty, this is more of a re-release of the original Sound Blaster Z than a truly new product. Unless you just absolutely need the handful of new features it affords, you can save at least $20 by opting for the original or even more by going with a different card entirely.

Masthead credit Oleksandr_Delyk

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TomSEA

Posts: 3,320   +2,069
For years I had a sound card in my rigs and was a staunch defender of them. These days, not so much. Haven't had one for 2-3 years and to be honest, I can't tell the difference between a sound card and the resident motherboard sound it's been improved so much.
 

Burty117

Posts: 4,008   +1,962
I still get a soundcard for my rigs, need the extra power for 600Ohm drivers. Works a treat. Plus they do legit sound better, Would I miss my soundcard? Yes in the sense I couldn't drive my good headphones anymore, No if I had normal headphones.
 
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duckofdeath

Posts: 169   +221
I also usually have a sound card, but I had to remove mine for the moment, because these frgggng GPUs eats up all the spache \o/
Onboard audio does sound pretty good for most occasions, but I miss that little extra signature my old card created.
 
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Adhmuz

Posts: 2,090   +880
I have the original Z currently in my desktop, thankfully the drivers for it are actually well made, unlike the ones for my motherboard. It always seems to be the case for on-board audio solutions, they try to pack as many features on them as possible now, but actually getting it all to work seamlessly is nearly impossible. They also stop releasing updates for them almost immediately...
 

Shadowboxer

Posts: 1,279   +905
I can’t use a sound card. I have balanced studio monitors and they are far too sensitive for any kind of solution inside the PC. I use an external USB DAC with an in line attachment that removes the power from the USB source and has its own silent rated power supply to remove any ground loop interference. It’s much clearer than any kind of sound card/motherboard audio based solution imo.
 

shm0wie

Posts: 34   +24
Loudness Equalization is what makes a Sound Blaster Z amazing. Can't stress how much of a hearing advantage this gives you in certain games, especially Tarkov, PUBG, or any other FPS where there's quiet movement noises. I can hear things that others (without loudness equalization) cannot.
 

nnguy2

Posts: 237   +461
Im rocking Geshelli Labs Enog Pro 2 DAC and Linear THX 789 amp for my Sennheiser Hd6xx. My eardrum faps itself.
 

nismo91

Posts: 1,100   +143
Honestly these days I bet less than 1% installed a discrete soundcard on their PCs. I used to be fan of 2.1 and 5.1 PC speakers. I've went through brands like klipsch, altec lansing, logitech, creative, edifier etc every few months and learnt all the tricks needed with 6-channel audio.

unfortunately it's been clear that in the past 10 years the PC speakers industry are more or less dying. especially 5.1 or 7.1 speakers. take a look at logitech. they produced couple of well-received 5.1 speakers in the past: Z680 around 2002 and Z5500 around 2004. in 2011 Logitech released Z906 and they are still selling it today. others like klipsch, altec and creative pretty much vanished from the 5.1 and 7.1 speakers market at the time.

on the other hand 2.0 speakers and headphones are gaining traction amongst the music listener. because asus and creative always marketed their soundcard towards "gaming" and "movie" effect, those hardcore audiophiles went for the usb-DAC or even DAC with headphone amplifiers. more and more smaller companies produced their own audiophile DAC to compete with those soundcard.

situation is getting worse in the past 5 years where wireless speakers and smartphones are booming. nobody cares about soundcard anymore as most are streaming music from youtube or spotify which has been compressed anyway.

even if soundblaster is obviously miles ahead of onboard sound, do most people have what it takes (lossless music and good audio equipment) to tell the difference? I think not.
 
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Daniele 00

Posts: 74   +56
I still use a 5+1 creative from 15 years ago, and my MB has an additional chip just for the audio (I remember I have bought this model also because of it... x470 auros ultra gaming). I can tell the difference between the audio of my pc and my wife pc. Also, having a 5+1 gives you much more immersion while playing videogame, and also a sensitive advantage in some competitive games.