I also encountered some strange behaviour when using the mixer with both Cubase LE and Vegas 4. In both, arming a track to record mutes that channel in the mixer and on occasion also changed the mixer level. Linked to this, altering the input level changes the volume being monitored, but not the level being recorded. When using ASIO drivers. I found no way to alter the input volume using the mixer.
Aside from quashing these bugs, a killer future update would be to release some of the processing power for either third party plugins or to even run VST plugins which could be stored in the X-Ram, similar to the professional Powercore cards.
The battle for the ultimate soundcard for game players is one that is being fought over a ground that is becoming increasingly narrow. Quality of recording and playback with the X-Fi cards is excellent and more than sufficient. CMSS 3D has yet to convince me, although I seem in the minority with this one. However, the Crystalizer function can, with certain types of music, make a very pleasing difference.
Any card with a feature-set as extensive as this is going to require a well designed driver interface to get around. Splitting the interface between three different listening modes helps but there are places where it still seems unnecessarily complicated. There were also frequent crashes when using the Elite, but curiously not with the Xtreme.
I also found that automatically muting the speakers when attaching headphones on the Elite (the Xtreme doesnâ€™t have a dedicated headphone socket), also muted all inputs, if this not just a random problem with my test card this needs to be looked at urgently since it renders useless applications like Skype or recording on headphones.
At Â£99, the Xtreme Music genuinely offers excellent value for money whilst the Elite Pro, and by extension the Fatal1ty FPS, offers ever greater audio quality and potentially higher game frame rates if its X-Ram becomes widely used. And once Creative releases more mature software and games start to exploit EAX 5 the X-Fi series, an already worthy successor to the Audigy, will really come into its own.
Paul Weir is a professional composer and musician. He is head of Earcom, an audio post production company specialising in creative sound design for games, radio and film and has worked with the likes of Stephen Fry and on the recent HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy radio series for the BBC.