Testing and Impressions
Once I set up the Crystalizer and bumped up to 24 bit depth, I was ready to start experimenting. I started by using the supplied Creative headphones while listening to some music. I have a wide array of music in my collection, from rock to rap and virtually everything in between.
You really can’t appreciate a high-end sound card with lower quality headphones, and that is exactly what the supplied headphones are. Granted, they would be fine for basic audio listening but if you are spending the money for improving your laptop's audio, it only makes sense to use a quality pair of headphones or an external speaker system.
With that said, I moved on to a pair of Logitech noise-canceling headphones and also a set of desktop speakers, the Logitech G51 speaker system.
After making the switch, things sounded much better and I couldn’t tell any difference between the Go! and the X-Fi card in my desktop system. And speaking of switch, any time you make a new connection with the headphone jack on the Go!, the above dialog box pops up, allowing you to select between 2/2.1 speakers or headphones as your listening device.
Movie testing was next, as I watched clips from several different action movies including Independence Day and Stargate using the Logitech headphones. This was my first opportunity to put the X-Fi CMSS-3D to the test and the results were a bit lackluster. I toggled the X-Fi CMSS-3D on and off repeatedly and, while I could tell a difference in the sound output, I never really got the feeling of surround sound when watching action sequences. Rather, things sounded a little more “alive” but no true sense of surround sound was audible for me.
I put the X-Fi Go! through its final test with some gaming using Crysis and Unreal Tournament 3. The 6150 graphics card in my notebook is not powerful enough to run either of these games, even at the lowest graphical settings. For actual game testing, I had to install the X-Fi Go! on my desktop system which is much more powerful with an Intel Q9650 quad core processor and the works.
Gaming is where the X-Fi CMSS-3D really made an impression on me, especially in UT3. I could clearly hear projectiles as they whizzed by me on either side. The effect was also there in Crysis as I could hear enemy movement in wooded areas where otherwise I might not have spotted them as quickly.
I also spent some time trying out the microphone feature using the Ventrilo chat client with a friend. Using the supplied Creative headphones/mic, I was able to clearly hear my friend on the other end but he reported a little bit of fuzziness in my transmission. When asked to rate it on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the worst, he gave it a 1.5 - 2. I then tried a different mic attached to another headset and he reported the fuzziness went away completely and everything sounded great. This further solidifies the suggestion that unless you don't have anything else on hand, you are better off discarding the supplied headphones/mic.
The USB extension cable is not nearly as useless however. When using the Go! with my notebook, I found the unit didn’t feel very sturdy when plugged directly into the USB port. On certain notebooks where the USB ports are closely together the extension cable will also help so that the USB sound card doesn't obstruct the way for any other device using the additional port.