Creative Sound Blaster Z Initial Impression

Nielo TM

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[Update regarding Nichicon vs G-Luxon caps]

As I've stated on a posts above, I bought a second card to act as DAC and luckily it was fitted with Nichicon caps.

Upon listing to both cards simultaneously via PFE-112, I couldn't hear any noticeable differences apart from slight gap in volume. It could be due the caps or the OS (Win 7 vs Win8).

So it would seem the type of caps is irrelevant (at least in the case of SBZ anyway).
 

mario64

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I'm hoping you guys can help me resolve a dilemma. I currently have a X-Fi Titanium HD. When it's working properly it sounds great. Problem is, I'm having intermittent issues where all sound will begin to crackle and pop, regardless of game or movie. Have to reboot to clear it up. I've tried a complete reformat of my Windows 7 system and am using the latest official drivers.

To those of you who have this card, does it have the pop/crackle issues like the x-fi cards do? Also, would I be giving up significant sound quality by going from a Titanium HD to a Z? I can't afford the ZXR. :-(

Thanks in advance for any input
 

janko10

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No, just windows 7 on a SSD.

Another odd but small issue was when booting up, the windows start-up sound would either cut out half way, or not play at all.
I had this happen also with a regular Z.

I updated my motherboard bios and moved it to a different slot in the motherboard and that stopped the disappearing/BSODs.

Just FYI if anyone else runs into this issue.
 

techie81

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No, just windows 7 on a SSD.

Another odd but small issue was when booting up, the windows start-up sound would either cut out half way, or not play at all.
I have the same issue with the windows start-up sound and the Z
 

BatJoe

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I have the same issue with the windows start-up sound and the Z
Same here, oddly enough I only had this start happening with the latest driver. Wasn't happening before. But other wise the Z works perfect for me.
 

B00nie

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[Update regarding Nichicon vs G-Luxon caps]

As I've stated on a posts above, I bought a second card to act as DAC and luckily it was fitted with Nichicon caps.

Upon listing to both cards simultaneously via PFE-112, I couldn't hear any noticeable differences apart from slight gap in volume. It could be due the caps or the OS (Win 7 vs Win8).

So it would seem the type of caps is irrelevant (at least in the case of SBZ anyway).
Caps make little difference as long as they're new and work within spec. Op amps have much bigger differences for example. Change of caps is usually beneficial for the sole reason that quality ones stay within operational spec longer than cheap ones.
 

defy

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Heads up, I noticed the ZX and ZXR are both on sale at Newegg - which Amazon has pricematched:

Creative Labs Sound Blaster ZX @ $109.99:
Newegg
Amazon

Creative Labs Sound Blaster ZXR @ $174.99:
Newegg
Amazon

Considering purchasing one of the two right now.

Edit: Got a ZXR :D
 
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HiCZoK

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Would it be a huge difference getting Z over alc892 ?

It is the best sound carda available righ t? (for the price)
 

Mr Mean

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I'm hoping you guys can help me resolve a dilemma. I currently have a X-Fi Titanium HD. When it's working properly it sounds great. Problem is, I'm having intermittent issues where all sound will begin to crackle and pop, regardless of game or movie. Have to reboot to clear it up. I've tried a complete reformat of my Windows 7 system and am using the latest official drivers.

To those of you who have this card, does it have the pop/crackle issues like the x-fi cards do? Also, would I be giving up significant sound quality by going from a Titanium HD to a Z? I can't afford the ZXR. :-(

Thanks in advance for any input
The problem you're experiencing was fixed with the EMU20K2 (Titanium HD). The EMU20K1 (Original non HD Titanium) had the the poping issue with Crossfire/SLI. You could try moving your Titanium HD to another PCI Express 1X that isn't next to the video card.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_Blaster

I'm not a happy camper with my ZXR. It doesn't sound as good as my Titanium HD. You will be missing Entertainment mode, Game mode and Audio Creation mode. You will also be missing the +/- 12dB Bass/Treble Balance Tone tab in the windows audio control panel. My issue was all the voices in movies and games sound very muddled. While on my Titanium HD they sounded sharp and clear. I'm using Sennheiser PC 360 headsets at the moment. My old Sennheiser HD 595 also exhibited the same muddle audio. You also have to toy around with the crystalizer, bass and equalizer to get the ideal sound environment. I was using the latest beta too (SBZxR_CD-LD_1_00_20_BETA.exe). What is feels like it's a "driver issue" it's missing some features I loved about my Titanium HD that I cannot live without. It doesn't feel like an upgrade at all like it was from Audigy to Titanium series. Just my two cents :)
 

HiCZoK

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Will Z fit in the top pcie slot ?

There is macho 120 on the cpu so there is NO space above that pcie slot, so the card have to be leveled with that slot.

And right below in x16 slot there is 7870 from gigabyte.
 

counterpoint

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Will Z fit in the top pcie slot ?

There is macho 120 on the cpu so there is NO space above that pcie slot, so the card have to be leveled with that slot.

And right below in x16 slot there is 7870 from gigabyte.
Yeah it will fit just fine.
 

Ihaveworms

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I'm hoping you guys can help me resolve a dilemma. I currently have a X-Fi Titanium HD. When it's working properly it sounds great. Problem is, I'm having intermittent issues where all sound will begin to crackle and pop, regardless of game or movie. Have to reboot to clear it up. I've tried a complete reformat of my Windows 7 system and am using the latest official drivers.
I have had this issue for years with my xtremegamer. I have never been able to fix it, even with moving PCI slots.
 

spaceman

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Mr Mean

Uh, something is wrong there. You know what you are doing obviously but I can say even my Z sounds just fine for movies. Are you using stereo mode? I would turn off all effects and just select headphone and stereo or stereo direct.
 

reaper12

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I'm not a happy camper with my ZXR. It doesn't sound as good as my Titanium HD.
hmmm, have you a faulty Zxr I wonder? The Titanium HD and Zxr are using the same Dac, but the Zxr has a much better headphone out. With headphones there is no way that the Zxr can sound worse than the Titanium HD unless there is a problem. I don't think it's a software problem either.
 

sphinx99

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Suggestions on a good speaker setup that shows off the ZxR? So far I've been using on board sound to an OLD Onkyo receiver (601?) to some small Hsu satellites. I got the Zxr mainly for music/games at the PC using my HD650 and HD800 and I am liking what I hear. But I'd like something external if I'm walking around the room. Flexible-a 2.0 bookshelf or monitor setup or a Logitech 2.1 or 5.1 bundle could work but I'm not sure how to go about choosing something that really takes advantage of the zxr for mixed music/tv/gaming from a PC.
 
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yujie

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Is this a worth while upgrade from a PCIe X-Fi? mainly I listen to trance on a emotiva mini X a-100 mini amp with definitive sm350 speakers. Occasionally gaming stuff/movies
 

spaceman

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Is this a worth while upgrade from a PCIe X-Fi? mainly I listen to trance on a emotiva mini X a-100 mini amp with definitive sm350 speakers. Occasionally gaming stuff/movies
Not really. The main upgrade is in gaming sound.
 

Mr Mean

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Mr Mean

Uh, something is wrong there. You know what you are doing obviously but I can say even my Z sounds just fine for movies. Are you using stereo mode? I would turn off all effects and just select headphone and stereo or stereo direct.
Hi spaceman,

When I switch to stereo mode I lose all audio. People at the creative labs forums exhibit the same issue that I have. Only headset mode is functioning. I tried moved it to the different input jacks on the card but I go no audio from them. Even at the 5.1 testing mode on the creative console and the windows audio testing. But stereo 2.1 is nonfunctional. But headset mode is the only functioning mode that is working fine.
 

Mr Mean

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hmmm, have you a faulty Zxr I wonder? The Titanium HD and Zxr are using the same Dac, but the Zxr has a much better headphone out. With headphones there is no way that the Zxr can sound worse than the Titanium HD unless there is a problem. I don't think it's a software problem either.
I ordered my ZxR at amazon one month ago. It has not exhibited anything like audio drop outs or popping noise. It's "functioning" fine, but the special audio effects and enhancements are not working.

The vocal audio from the ZxR sounds like "Radio FM" quality audio. I don't have the clean crisp audio like I do with my Titanium HD. Could it be I am stuck at headphone mode and cannot change to 2.1 stereo mode that I am getting these issues. I have the Titanium HD set at stereo mode and it's functioning fine. It feels like a software issue more than anything to be honest.
 

Mr Mean

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Is this a worth while upgrade from a PCIe X-Fi? mainly I listen to trance on a emotiva mini X a-100 mini amp with definitive sm350 speakers. Occasionally gaming stuff/movies
The best thing to do is buy it at a local store and see (more like hear) it for yourself. If you don't like it, you can always return it :) Audio is subjective and people have different taste on what settings they like. I got a friend who is constantly screwing around with my cars equalizer to "get it right" :p
 

reaper12

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I ordered my ZxR at amazon one month ago. It has not exhibited anything like audio drop outs or popping noise. It's "functioning" fine, but the special audio effects and enhancements are not working.

The vocal audio from the ZxR sounds like "Radio FM" quality audio. I don't have the clean crisp audio like I do with my Titanium HD. Could it be I am stuck at headphone mode and cannot change to 2.1 stereo mode that I am getting these issues. I have the Titanium HD set at stereo mode and it's functioning fine. It feels like a software issue more than anything to be honest.
And that shouldn't be. No review of the Zxr has made any mention of muffled audio. Users over on headfi that have compared both the Titanium Hd and Zxr don't say anything about this either, and you know how fussy that lot are!! It still suggests to me that it's a hardware problem with the headphone socket on the Zxr.

Also you won't get 2.1 or anything like that if your headphones are plugged into the headphone socket on the card. IF you want to try an experiment, plug your headphones into the lineout on the card and use speaker mode and see what the sound is like.
 

Nitrius

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Just purchased the ZxR today, had the Titanium HD before it, can't say i hear any big difference in the sound, but my ears have never been really good at that, only tend to manage to tell between good or bad sound. Though i feel that am able to reach higher volume level with the ZxR.

But i didn't really buy the ZxR hoping to hear a new level of sound, i did it because i would like the easy switching between headphones and speakers, as well as the Audio Control Module, which i find neat to have.

I also found the built-in mic, and the software options for the microphone to be decent, which might change out the mic i had been using before. I also fiddled a bit around the with audio enhancements, but ended up turning it all off, think i like my sound as clean as possible.

I'm hoping you guys can help me resolve a dilemma. I currently have a X-Fi Titanium HD. When it's working properly it sounds great. Problem is, I'm having intermittent issues where all sound will begin to crackle and pop, regardless of game or movie. Have to reboot to clear it up. I've tried a complete reformat of my Windows 7 system and am using the latest official drivers.

To those of you who have this card, does it have the pop/crackle issues like the x-fi cards do? Also, would I be giving up significant sound quality by going from a Titanium HD to a Z? I can't afford the ZXR. :-(

Thanks in advance for any input
Had this issue with my Titanium HD as well, never found out what it was, but here it seems to have had a connection with having multiple sources that made sound, like my web browser, spotify, teamspeak and so forth on simultaneously, when the popping/crackling started happening i had to close down every application that produced sound, and when i started some of the application back up the issue would be gone until it came back again, totally random in a way.
 
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spaceman

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There isn't a big difference. The most noticeable to me was the detail of directional sounds. Aka footsteps or a vehicle moving around you. Just sounds more realistic and accurate to me. Perhaps just a cleaner sounding source of audio. No more pops and crackles and the noise floor seems lower.
 

Nitrius

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Don't suppose anyone else have noticed that the windows speaker setup seems to reset whenever you restart the computer? Am using the headphone option in the Sound Blaster control panel, and that stays correctly even if i restart, but the control panel in Windows, more specifically the Speaker Setup window, goes back to 5.1 Surround everytime i restart.

Seems to happen if you switch between Speakers and Headphones in the Sound Blaster control panel, which i believe is what happening when your restarting the computer as well, as you can hear the clicking sound from the soundcard, probably because its turning of the amp or something when powering down.

Anyone know a fix to this? Doesn't seem to do anything particular to the sound, as it might just be a "desync" bug, in other words, the windows speaker setup just not linking with the SB control panel.
 

VulcaN

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Are you guys running the latest beta driver released in June or is it best to avoid it?
 

Ocellaris

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New (non-beta) drivers came out two days ago, the change log is the same as the previous drivers. Anyone notice a difference?
 

VulcaN

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So I guess these are just the same as the beta drivers only now that no one has complained that their computer melted for a couple of months they are issued as "stable".
 

BatJoe

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So I guess these are just the same as the beta drivers only now that no one has complained that their computer melted for a couple of months they are issued as "stable".
Using a Z since they came out and had zero issues with all their drivers.

This new official one has a different date and build on it so just because the notes are the same doesn't mean it doesn't have new improvements.
 

jincuteguy

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Can anyone on here confirm this. Does the Control Module Unit that comes with the Zx and the ZxR have a built in microphone? Like if it does, then I don't need to use a headset, i can just get a good headphones like the DT 990 Pro. Any help would be appreciated.
 

Objekt

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Oddball question of the day here: how does this Sound Blaster Z compare with, say, an Audigy 2 ZS?

Because I have an old Audigy 2 ZS sitting around. I thought I might take a crack at getting it to work under Windows 8 on my desktop (specs in sig), but if it simply can't be done, I would consider buying something newer if it's also better.

Right now I'm using onboard sound (Realtek ALC898).
 

IdiotInCharge

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Oddball question of the day here: how does this Sound Blaster Z compare with, say, an Audigy 2 ZS?

Because I have an old Audigy 2 ZS sitting around. I thought I might take a crack at getting it to work under Windows 8 on my desktop (specs in sig), but if it simply can't be done, I would consider buying something newer if it's also better.

Right now I'm using onboard sound (Realtek ALC898).
You're Realtek might actually sound better than the A2ZS- but the drivers for the Audigy might be better for gaming. You have it sitting around, the only thing stopping you from trying is your time :).

On another note- even the base Soundblaster Z has a desktop microphone. If you're using cans, there's really not much reason to upgrade to the ZX or ZXR, unless you have a really nice set of cans (like HD600+).
 

BatJoe

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Oddball question of the day here: how does this Sound Blaster Z compare with, say, an Audigy 2 ZS?

Because I have an old Audigy 2 ZS sitting around. I thought I might take a crack at getting it to work under Windows 8 on my desktop (specs in sig), but if it simply can't be done, I would consider buying something newer if it's also better.

Right now I'm using onboard sound (Realtek ALC898).
Going from a Realtek to a Z would be a massive jump.

Even going from an Auzentech Forte to a Z is a noticeable jump. And many agreed the Forte was better than the Audigy 2.
 

Objekt

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I always use headphones, but they're nothing special, just an ordinary Plantronics gaming headset. I like plugging into the front panel, it's simply easier.

Mic is a built-in boom type of course.

One problem I previously had with the Audigy 2 ZS was that under Windows 7, I could not, no matter what I did, get the microphone input to work. As far as I was able to determine, this was down to Creative's lousy drivers not working in a 64-bit environment (and, really, who runs a non-x64 OS today?). Which can't be fixed, unfortunately.
 
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