We haven't heard much from the sound card market in recent years but all that's set to change as Creative launches the X-Fi, brimming with its newest technology.
But for now we’re talking sound cards and the introduction of four new products in the X-Fi range. Interestingly, all of the announced cards use a PCI interface, so if you’ve been waiting for a PCI Express sound card, you’ll just have to keep waiting.
Although neither product is available yet, I can reveal the product names and base specifications. First up is the entry level card – the Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeMusic. This card offers 109dB SNR on all channels; far better than any consumer level sound card to date.
Next up is the Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum which adds a front mounted 5.25in drive-bay module and a remote control to the features of the X-Fi XtremeMusic. This adds more input and output capabilities including optical and coaxial S/PDIF and MIDI connectors.
The next card is the first Fatal1ty endorsed Creative product; the Sound Blaster X-Fi Fatal1ty FPS. It too comes with the drive-bay module and remote control, but it has yet another new feature called X-RAM as well as an LED Fatal1ty logo on the side of the card.
X-RAM is actually a pretty cool feature. X-RAM consists of 64MB of dedicated onboard audio RAM which enables all the sound effects in a game to be loaded straight on to the sound cards. This means that your system memory is not being used up by sound effects. Considering that an average game these days only has about 10MB of sound effects, imagine what can be done with 64MB. It’s a shame then, that Creative hasn’t fitted it to all of the X-Fi cards.
Finally, we have the flagship product; the Sound Blaster X-Fi Elite Pro. With a 116dB SNR this card should be able to compete with entry level music creation cards in combination with its external console that offers even more functionality than the internal drive bays. This card also ships with a copy of Cubase LE, WaveLab Lite and Amplitube LE.
In addition, Creative has announced new drivers, which are a vast improvement on Creative’s past efforts. There are three different modes to select from, depending on what you’re using your sound card for. In alphabetic order we have audio creation mode, which gives you access to a lot of hardware effects, the 3DMIDI settings and the ASIO settings. Switch to entertainment mode and you’re greeted by a completely different set of options and a very slick and clean user interface. Finally there’s gaming mode, which gives you access to the features you need for gaming such as 3D audio settings.
Creative has supplied us with a Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeMusic and a Sound Blaster X-Fi Elite Pro to test, so expect a review of these cards in the near future. An update will be posted as soon as we have UK pricing details.
UK pricing has now been confirmed. The Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Music will be priced at £99.99, the Sound Blaster X-Fi Platinum at £149.99, the Sound Blaster X-Fi Fatal1ty FPS at £179.99 and finally the Sound Blaster X-Fi Elite Pro at a whopping £249.99, all prices including VAT.