Recommend me a decent Sound Blaster sound card (X-Fi Xtreme?)

Discussion in 'Computer Components' started by Gemini-Phoenix, Feb 13, 2009.

  1. Gemini-Phoenix

    Gemini-Phoenix
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    I'm looking into upgrading my PC to a 5.1 system after spotting some decent looking 5.1 Logitech speaker systems - I'm on the fence between the G51's and X-540's, although of the two I will most likely opt for the G51's as soon as I sort out a sound card (Although I am now being tempted by the Z5500's, but not sure I like the size of the sub)

    Currently I only have an integrated sound card in my VAIO (XP), so anything I whack in there will be an improvement, but seems there are so many sound cards to choose from, and I don't know where to start

    I've spotted lots of Sound Blaster 5.1 cards, but have no idea what the difference between them is. Basically I really want something that's quick and easy to install with minimum of fuss and effort - There's no existing card to take out, as the one I have is integrated as far as I can tell, so it would just be a case of sticking it in.

    One that seemed to stick out is this X-Fi Xtreme:

    CREATIVE Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio PCI Express: Amazon.co.uk: Electronics & Photo

    Soundblaster X-Fi X treme Audio PCI Express: Amazon.co.uk: Electronics & Photo

    [​IMG]


    Will this be satisfactory for my needs?
     
  2. Repton

    Repton
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    As the title says, "decent". I would go one up from the Audio, maybe an extreme gamer or music. I used to have an extreme audio and it is only a slight improvement over onboard sound.

    all the best.
     
  3. Gemini-Phoenix

    Gemini-Phoenix
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    The main reason for me wanting the upgrade is more so I can utilise a 5.1 speaker system, as I currently only have a Stereo output, and need a 5.1 sound card if I am to replace my current OEM speakers with a 5.1 set.

    So to clarify, there are three types of this card on the market? (The one shown above being the lower tier?) - Could you perhaps point me in the right direction to the next ones above?


    EDIT: Do you mean these ones:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Creative-Sound-Blaster-Xtreme-Gamer/dp/B001FEDBQA

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Creative-Sound-Blaster-Xtreme-Music/dp/B00171XQ6G/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1234522287&sr=1-2

    By appearance, they don't look as sophisticated as the Audio, lacking optical ports
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2009
  4. cdldt

    cdldt
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    The Xtreme Audio PCIe is a standard HD Audio device. It will probably give better sound quality than most onboard analogue outputs (in terms of noise), but in terms of features it is very basic and not a "true" X-Fi. Most of the features are done in software rather than with a specialised DSP as on X-Fi and Audigy cards.

    The XtremeMusic/XtreamGamer is a decent card with the DSP, but it's PCI. Although it looks cheaper, it actually has more hardware features than the Xtreme Audio, even though it lacks optical outputs. To get a PCIe version equivalent to the XtremeMusic you need to jump up to the X-Fi Titanium.

    What do you want to use it for though? Games, music or movie?
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2009
  5. Gemini-Phoenix

    Gemini-Phoenix
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    Everything. My PC is my central media hub, as I don't yet own a Tv, so everything I do is direct through the PC. My PC is everything, and it's nice and convenient. I have my consoles connected up to the A/V's, and also the cable, and of course I listen to my music through the PC

    Until now, i've been using an old Denon receiver which I had lying around, plus an old set of speakers from my old stereo. This worked fine until it overheated one day and blew all the channels, bearing in mind it was about 10-15 years old. Since then i've had to make do with the default VAIO speakers, but they tend to hiss and pop at medium to loud volumes, especially when watching Tv or Dvd's


    My main concern at the moment is just to upgrade my PC so that it is capable of utilising these Logitech speakers I have been eyeing up, which at the moment I only have the standard integrated ports (Mic / Headphone / Line In), which are not on a separate card, but rather part of the main motherboard I believe.

    As much as I would like to put the best sound card in and use Z5500's, I am willing to settle for slightly less. Not because of money restraints though, but I am limited to space around my PC, so I don't think I can accommodate the sub of the Z5500's. I believe G51's would be more than ample for my needs


    Be honest with me here - What are the pro's and con's between the Audio card and the other models? Also bear in mind that i'm not a Bass kind of person, and tend to prefer the Rock or Classical setting of most equalisers (Eg, I always switch to Rock mode when watching Dvd's via WinDvd on my PC)
     
  6. cdldt

    cdldt
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    Am I correct in thinking that your speakers can take either an analogue or digital input?
     
  7. Gemini-Phoenix

    Gemini-Phoenix
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    The speakers I have now? Or the speakers I am planning on getting - Logitech G51's? Although now, I am leaning more towards the Z5500's after reading such great reviews
     
  8. Gemini-Phoenix

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    I'm not going to waste any more time sitting on the fence, and i'm going to jump in feet first and just order the Z5500's before I change my mind, and just hope that I have no reasons to regret it

    I really want to be using this setup by the end of next week though, so need to also order myself a sound card as soon as possible. The Audio seems to be sufficient to do what I need it to, unless anyone can offer me a suitable 'Straight to the point' reason to go for one of the others. I like the connectability options of the Audio card though, and can't really see what benefits the others have over it

    I basically want to spend literally five minutes slotting in the card, ten minutes connecting the Z5500's, and then done. Minimum of hassle.
     
  9. lowlandsmatt

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    I have the Logitech z5500's and yes, the sub is big :eek: but they are well worth it! Make sure you get a spare fuse for it from Maplins though because the fuse in the sub sometimes blows when you first start it. 10p or so for a fuse and mine has been perfect for the last 18 months or so..
    The sound card I have been reading about is the SoundBlaster Fatal1ty Pro which has an optical connection and has some very good reviews. Fairly expensive (around £90 ish) but I've decided on this to complement the Logitech.
     
  10. willykatie

    willykatie
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    I would go Xonar D1/DX, sound amazing and no problems at all :)
     
  11. Gemini-Phoenix

    Gemini-Phoenix
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    I've heard there are a few issues with Sound Blaster cards not working properly with XP. Apparently they don't work too well with XP SP3 - Which I currently have installed on my PC, but it's causing me too many problems so I plan on downgrading back to SP2 soon

    This is a bit of a kick in the balls, as I was just about to place an order for my Z5500's plus sound card, but I don't want to go to install it and find out i'm going to have nothing but problems


    I considered the Sound Blaster Titanium Fata1ty Pro Series, but not sure whether the system requirements are compatible with my system (As mentioned above):

    Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium - Fatal1ty Professional: Amazon.co.uk: Electronics & Photo

    What's the difference between the Gaming cards and the Movies / Music cards? Is there a good all-rounder, as i'll obviously be using it for all three (Although music more than movies / Tv, and movies / Tv more than games)
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2009
  12. Repton

    Repton
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    EAX 5 comes into play with the X-Fi cards (gaming cards).
    google for more technicals on it.

    Xonar cards do have superior signal to noise ratios, ideal for music and great for a quality 2.0 setup.

    Pls correct me if I'm wrong on any of those opinions.

    all the best.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2009
  13. Gemini-Phoenix

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    So are the gamer cards better all round then? Or is it a choice of one or the other - Good sounding games and not so good music & movies; Or good sounding music & movies & poor sounding games? It's not really clear - I generally work on the assumption that the one that costs the most has got to also be the best! Lol!

    I've been checking out the Sound Blaster site, and they seem to product group their products in certain sections:

    Creative Sound Blaster Products: X-Fi, Audigy and Live! sound cards and accessories

    I can already rule out some products simply because they are external. I can also rule out a handful of the more advanced products too because they are just not pysically compatible with my PC - I already have two Dvd-RW drives installed in the front, and the floppy is not removable. My VAIO casing is also very insulated, meaning certain frontal add-ons are just not possible

    So, realistically, i'm looking at a choice out of six:

    GAMER
    MUSIC & MOVIES

    I also have a suspicion that PC World is selling the X-Fi Xtreme Audio, which I think is different to the PCI Express X-fi Xtreme Audio I posted in the initial post:

    PC World - Creative X-FI Xtreme Audio 7.1 Channel PCI Internal Sound Card - Shop for cheap Sound Cards

    But it's unclear whether or not this card is better or worse than the one I was originally going to buy - Although it lacks the optical ports of the PCI Express X-fi Xtreme Audio...


    I want to make sure that the card I choose is going to be the right decision, and I want to double check before buying that it's compatible with the system I have rather than wasting my time messing around with something that clearly isn't going to work.

    I'm also getting mixed signals regarding the Fata1ty gamer card - Amazon states I require Vista, XP Professional SP2, or XP Media Centre Edition - But the Sound Blaster site just states XP SP2. I'm running XP Home Edition SP3, but i'm planning on putting that back to SP2 to solve all the problems i've had ever since upgrading
     
  14. namuk

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  15. cdldt

    cdldt
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    All of the Xtreme Audio cards are basic, whether they are PCI or PCIe. The PCI version is an updated DSP-less Audigy SE and the PCIe version is a DSP-less HD Audio device on a PCIe card. Neither of them are "proper" X-Fi with the EMU20K1 DSP. Sure, they have optical digital outputs but that's useless if you're going to use them with a 5.1 set of speakers. Unless you get a card with Dolby Digital Live you cannot use digital outputs and get 5.1 audio from games - only movies.

    The Xtreme Music has been replaced with the Xtreme Gamer. The best value for money is the standard Xtreme Gamer card. It is just the card, without a drive bay or remote control. It has 7.1 analogue outputs, as well (I believe) as a coaxial digital output.

    Personally, I would forget about digital outputs completely because although it might sound strange, you will get better quality with analogue. The only disadvantage is that it requires 3 cables between the sound card and speakers instead of just one. If you did want to use digital, you will need to go for the most expensive X-Fi in order to get DDL.

    As for the system requirements, it's not a problem. When they say that it requires XP SP2, they mean that it requires AT LEAST Service Pack 2 to be installed. SP3 is compatible too, and I recommend that you stick with it, and try to find out what on your system is incompatible. I've had no problems at all.
     
  16. Gemini-Phoenix

    Gemini-Phoenix
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    I am one of the small miroity of Mini Disc enthusiasts, and I still use my Mini Disc Walkman from time to time so the optical ports are a nice thing to have for when I want to connect. My cable DigiBox also has an opitcal port, so again, useful to have for if I ever wanted to connect that to the PC for audio (Which I may just do seeing as my PC is my media hub)

    As for SP3 - I'm going back to SP2 simply because I am having a lot of issues running various software with it, which used to run fine with SP2 but refuses to work with SP3, in the same way it refuses to work with Vista on my other computer. I have had nothing but problems since installing Sp3, so a downgrade is in order - At least I never had audio, video, or internet problems with SP2
     
  17. cdldt

    cdldt
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    Last edited: Feb 18, 2009

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