Home > Multimedia, AV > Creative’s New X-Fi Audio Processor Creative’s New X-Fi Audio Processor Eugenia Loli 2005-05-09 Multimedia, AV 36 Comments The X-Fi is poised to bring huge tracts of audio processing horsepower to the PC, delivering new levels of audio effects in games, and enabling very versatile digital audio workstations. About The Author Eugenia Loli Ex-programmer, ex-editor in chief at OSNews.com, now a visual artist/filmmaker. Follow me on Twitter @EugeniaLoli 36 Comments 2005-05-09 9:07 pm That’s the real question. Boot magazine had an interview several years ago with some guy at Emu, which had recently been bought by Creative. He pointed out that the Creative folks knew nothing about professional sound, building circuits “that measured great but sounded terrible”. Judging by Creative’s performance with the Live! and Audigy line, it looks like not much has changed. Maybe this will be an about-face? 2005-05-09 9:10 pm This is absolutely true. I have heard horror stories of Creative’s I-know-nothing BS when Be asked for specs to write their emu10k driver for BeOS in 1999. They had no clue really, they didn’t had the full specs themselves. 2005-05-09 9:28 pm First, from your comment it seems you are aware that creative owns EMU systems now, and has for several years, which means very likely that EMU’s knowledge went into the Audigy and above series… Second, you are also aware that their sound quality is actually really good if you’re comparing only $99 and below cards to the edition of the Audigy 2 which sells for $99 as well? Third, you’re going to be hard pressed to find any *consumer* mass market card that sells for $99 or less that supports all the DirectSound/D3D/OpenAL features that their cards do. The only company that I know of that comes close or better (depending on who you ask, though not me) would be Turtle Beach. Sound quality is very subjective anyway once you get to a certain point. What one person considers horrible another person considers perfectly acceptable. I understand your comment, but what’s “crap” to you, is perfectly fine to someone else. 2005-05-09 9:34 pm I’ve always had problem’s with Creative cards. The drivers are garbage, and it doesn’t seem to run these sound effects very well, and tends to bog down the system. I, personally, love my nVidia SoundStorm. 2005-05-09 9:41 pm @CPUGuy The drivers are garbage… Again, fairly subjective. I haven’t had a single problem with them in years. You can point to forum posts or whatever else all you want, but you could do the same for almost any piece of hardware…I could certainly do it for the Diamond Monster Sound card I used to own. I thought the NVidia soundstorm was nice too, but since NVidia seems to have no interest in shipping it anymore, it’s a lost cause… Also, something Rayiner might like: It could well be that the most interesting products based around X-Fi may not come from Creative, but rather E-Mu, whose Scotts Valley design team architected the X-Fi. That company’s 1212M and 1820M products impressed us, and there E-Mu was building products from the existing 10K2.5. So, first we can see that X-Fi was rachitected by E-Mu, and secondly that E-Mu has been buildling cards off the Audigy architecture for a while. 2005-05-09 10:23 pm I have a 2 year old SB Live and the sound is quite good for me, and I’ve never had a problem with it or drivers. As Shawn says, they are also well supported driver-wise. 2005-05-09 10:43 pm While Creative drivers could be improved but their products are quite impressive. I have had no problems none whatsoever bedies some driver glithches in the past 5 years that I have been an avid computer user. I really like their product line and X-Fi probably means that things can only get better. With dual core this and next year and quad cores coming out in 2007 and newer and more powerful gpus, hard drives, sound cards, the works…this is quite a fun time for a computer speed/performance freak!! 2005-05-09 11:22 pm Please people, stop praising the Soundstorm in nForce1/2 motherboards. I’ve got one, so I know the entire story. Not a single nVidia driver released to date actually fixes all the Soundstorm issues, especially for 5.1 systems. The amount of hissing and popping coming into my sound system (via optical SPDIF, not the crappy coax) is really annoying. An aging SBLive value! through cable actually sounds better than my Soundstorm through optical on the same amplifier/speakers (and we’re not talking cheap PC speakers either). If BeOS supported the SC Turtle Beach, I’d grab that in a jiffy. I’ve heard interesting things about the Envy line, but I’m hesitant to purchase untiil I hear unbiased reports about it. Fanboys justifying their purchase does not count as unbiased. 2005-05-09 11:34 pm I bought a Live Platinum system for $150 like 5 years ago. The sound quality was OK, but certainly not professional. And it was straight garbage for recording. The Soundstorm has an overall better sound, and its drivers are much nicer. Overall, Nvidia’s software side doesn’t get in your way nearly as much as Soundblaster’s poorly developed garbage. But Nvidia’s stuff is extremely noisy. Maximize a window and you can hear the pop-pop-popping of the CPU as it crunches the task. I’m not sure if this is a software problem or because its onboard, but its definitely bad. Given the choice, i’d take the SoundStorms, but there’s got to be a better solution somewhere. As for these new cards, what’s the point?!? Audigy was supposed to bring the level of programability in the Geforce3 to audio hardware. And i know of very few applications that actually take advantage. Creative should focus on a low-noise system with software that doesn’t ever show itself unless you tell it to. And one more thing: I’M NEVER GOING TO REGISTER, SO STOP ASKING! 2005-05-10 12:26 am smallstepforman: the Envy cards usually sound better than an Audigy. The best deal (for stereo) is the Chaintech AV-710, which runs most of its channels through so-so equipment but – because it was built by taking an old design and tacking on two extra channels, and just had an extra jack and DAC slapped on – runs its rear surround output through a very nice quality (for the money) Wolfson DAC. The Windows drivers have an option to use this jack for normal stereo output instead, and you can do the same thing on Linux with a custom asound.state. The general wisdom on audio / hardware sites is: Audigy for any system where gaming is the _only_ or _primary_ use. It’s not as good quality as other cards but the difference to an Envy card is not huge and the hardware acceleration more than outweighs the quality difference for gaming. AV710 for cheap, good quality stereo output, or for digital output at any level of quality, unless you’re _really_ anal about jitter. M-Audio Revolution 5.1 or (at a pinch) 7.1 for non-gaming analogue surround sound (if you’re watching DVDs and not using digital pass-through to an external amp, mostly). The E-Mu cards – 0404 and 1212 – for audiophile level stereo output. Not worth going to these cards unless you have really good output equipment (at least $300 worth of headphones, probably, or substantially more for speakers). Any equipment below that level will be perfectly happy with an AV-710 (and most crappy PC speakers will sound the same with the AV-710 and the Audigy, even though the former really is better). If you do a lot of gaming but also want better quality music or movie output, you can have two cards (say an Audigy 2 and an AV-710, or an Audigy 2 and an E-Mu) together, but it’s expensive and can give you driver hassles. The Audigy 4 is the other way to combine the two, but it’s pretty expensive for giving you about the same level of quality as an AV-710. 2005-05-10 12:31 am Oh, and personally I think the Soundstorm sounds like crap. Better than other onboard audio, but still crap. If I plug my Grados directly into the headphone jack on my A7N8X-E deluxe mobo (Soundstorm certified) I can easily hear distortion and interference. The Wolfson output on my AV-710 is clearly on a different level, and it’s only $30. 2005-05-10 1:10 am I have an audigy 2 platinum pro, never had a problem with it, running under linux, drivers are rock solid remote and breakout box work fine, I don’t get what this stuff about the nvidia cards being crap is all about. I’ve owned an sb16 a live value the audigy2 platinum pro, onboard nforce sound and a trident thing on my laptop. The onboard soundchipsets have always sucked in my experience hence why I bought the card. I find that with the audigy/live stuff don’t have your volumes turned up to full bring pcm down to about 85% and it sounds perfect. 2005-05-10 1:22 am There was a news clip in MaxPC that nVidia is dropping this chip for lack of sales. Don’t have any experience with it though. Just thought I would mention it. Also, in my emails to Creative, I think all the coding is done in China. It seemed to me that no one English speaking knew crap about the product. Anyone try the new Audigy4? 2005-05-10 1:37 am @Greg Also, in my emails to Creative, I think all the coding is done in China. It seemed to me that no one English speaking knew crap about the product. No, actually I worked with a few different programmers at Creative awhile ago, they were certainly not from China While the core of their driver and software development may not happen here, they have plenty of staff on US soil. 2005-05-10 1:51 am You said everything I was going to say, and more That is exactly what Creative doesn’t seem to understand. You can take a great chip, but if you put it on a board with crappy circuits and a crappy DAC, its going to sound bad. For the $100+ an Audigy will run you, I expect a better DAC than what I can find on a $30 Chaintech! 2005-05-10 2:00 am Does the average Joe need even better sound than Audigy? I thought the “need for more sound quality curve” started asymptotic leveling with the “better than we need” Audigy. There’s not much left is there? What for? To listen to HD Audio on speakers that can’t articulate the quality of the signal? 5.1 sound in a computing environment? If anything, improvement in audio portend computing and digital entertainment convergence. Otherwise, we don’t need better sound cards to play mp3 distortion. 2005-05-10 2:49 am http://kxproject.lugosoft.com/index.php?skip=1 The KxProject has alternative drivers for the EMU10K1 and the EMU10K2. 2005-05-10 3:23 am why they mention maudio, i have no clue maudio cards usually have multiple inputs and outputs and are targetted towards people building home studio recording machines and such the like…creative seems to me like a somewhat different market segment… 2005-05-10 3:27 am “The Soundstorm has an overall better sound, and its drivers are much nicer. Overall, Nvidia’s software side doesn’t get in your way nearly as much as Soundblaster’s poorly developed garbage. But Nvidia’s stuff is extremely noisy. Maximize a window and you can hear the pop-pop-popping of the CPU as it crunches the task. I’m not sure if this is a software problem or because its onboard, but its definitely bad.” are u even serious?… i think ur referring to the hard drive, and the swapping ur OS is doing with it. 2005-05-10 3:32 am the actual converter chips are important but good sound has a lot more to it particularly the analog section and the internal clock’s stability. You want great sound look at mytek or lynx studio tech, or benchmark. Creative stuff kind of sucks. Now about this FX thing. It is actually not a bad idea to have an audio accelerator. The audio community should really standardize on that. it would be wonderful if the VST spec could be extended to include processing vst effects on cards themselves say via something like the cell processor. Oh well. i can dream. 2005-05-10 4:26 am I want a standarized language and api for writing, handling and routing audio DSP stuff in realtime, so I can take advantage of it. but i guess it’s never going to happen Also what the fuck? ALL that much SPU on a sampling rate conversion algorithm? are they using hardware sinc interpolation or something? and only for 44khz to 48khz? I think that’s a bit far too extreme… 2005-05-10 4:51 am Geeze, you pay $99, thats what you expect. Heck, and nothing has changed, like HP, everyone of their products are junk, driven by hype and idiots holding onto some romantic notion that they’re “still good” when in reality, the competition over took them in every way. Personally, if it were me building a computer *now*, I would go for an M-Audio sound card; sure, they’re not the $99, bargin basement, el-cheapo, “crap from the bits and bobs bin”, but atleast you know the damn thing is going to work, and work well for the price paid! 2005-05-10 8:08 am What are you waiting from card that cost 99$ and can do everything??? If you want some serious recording value go to M Audio(so so) Presonus(better), RME (raaah), other… Don’t go consumer level card. And if you want good recording you’re going to invest into good microphone, good preamp, good amp, good monitoring speaker! So… for game it will be a good deal 2005-05-10 8:58 am You are absolutely right. Sample rate conversion power is insanely overdone. With the crapping DAC’s the card will get, this is totally useless and a waste of processing power. besides this, they will probably ship the carts with some kind of Creative digital audio connector, that makes it impossible to use good external DAC’s. Worst thing about the article thought: they state that SACD uses 24bit/96 Khz. That is totally wrong, SACD uses a DSD stream! Oh well, will have to see if it will live up to is expectations. I’d rather have a card that does absolutely nothing with the sound. Just put in onto SPDIF and leave it alone. That’s why I like the Envy chip. Lean and simple. I’m going to use the DSP’s and upsampler of my digital crossover very soon, anyway. 2005-05-10 11:12 am Instead of “fixing” the fact that their cards resample (and not very well, degrading quality; mine card doesn’t resample, so no problem), they waste that huge amount of processing power to good resampling…waaay to go :/ Also I wonder what part of Aureal heritage get into this product…it would be nice if something comparable to A3D would have return. 2005-05-10 11:12 am Just what BR said, the KX drivers really turn the Creative cards based on EMU10K1 and the EMU10K2 chip set around, less main CPU drain and lower latency. The KX drivers are solid and make the Creative cards usable for Windows users. 2005-05-10 11:25 am I would rather invest my money to good card based on envy24 and to dual core cpu (one core can do audio processing and second can do what is needed) as to creative. 2005-05-10 2:24 pm I think this card is going to up the bar, I think this is why creative made this release. Basically this card has real time hardware dolby digital encoding: http://www.nvnews.net/reviews/x-mystique/ Of course it’s not perfect, but should make those old soundstorm users happy. And it’s based on a CS chipset, which means derivative cards will likely be very affordable. The card at least looks like it’s high quality. 2005-05-10 2:49 pm Besides, she’s got HUUGE…. tracts of audio processing 2005-05-10 6:06 pm I have two vid cards, a slow as heck older Creative Blaster on PCI and a much faster nVidia something on AGP. I noticed that when I drag windows and even the damn mouse around on the CBlaster monitor, I hear the music I want to hear, but drag around on the higher end AGP card I hear all sorts of clickies. Anyone else have that problem? the sound is AC97 on mobo IIRC but I’m sure I’ve seen/heard this click through on several other configurations of different vid cards, mobos, haven’t tried to get to root cause. It leads me to think that only an external powered audio system is ever going to be free of PC interferance. 2005-05-10 6:36 pm there are now a lot of audio cards or usb audio interfaces which have proprietary processing of effects on them. these include uad-1 from universal audio, powercore from tc works, spike from mackie, saphire from focusrite and uln-2 from metric halo labs. I guess i should add creative to the list to and we cannot forget the insanely prices pro-tools stuff from digidesign. All these proprietary formats are positively ridiculous. How about a standard for processing audio on DSp/accelerator cards that people will use. 2005-05-10 8:04 pm I tend to agree with CPUGuy Who cares if the release a new sound chip their drivers are horrible. I wuit using creative cards years ago opting for build on sound from whatever MOBO manufaturer used. Of course i see no value in having 5.1 on my computer. Anyway creative now is just like the days of Diamond video cards..great video cards but the poor drivers made them unusable. They really need to learn how to produce quality code. 2005-05-10 9:29 pm Lol, stop all this crap about M-Audio’s Revolution 7.1 not being good for games… I own one and they are fine for gaming, if your games run slow with it then perhaps you try upgrading your cpu/video card and stop trying to scare people. 2005-05-10 9:45 pm by simply removing my sound card from my computer. all my games and windows xp pro ran faster. having more fps were more important to me than sound. 2005-05-10 10:02 pm Right, yeah, I can see where spending $70 on a soundcard and $100 on CPU upgrades is far more sensible than spending $80 on a soundcard and $0 on CPU upgrades. … 2005-05-11 6:44 pm AdamW, I have no earthly idea what your talking about. I was replying to a statement from another guy that said you shouldn’t get a Revolution if you were going to play games because of a frames per second loss. That’s when I posted saying that if you own a Revolution and games play bad, then perhaps you should think about updating your video card/cpu. Meaning that if a soundcard is slowing your games down that much, you got other hardware issues.