Creative Sound Blaster Z Initial Impression

spaceman

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I paid $25 for my current sound card and use it exclusively in stereo mode. I also, listen to a fair amount of music with my 558s. So spending the $$ on these new cards and getting at best a side grade doesn't compute. Regardless of who makes it. I never have and never will be a fan of anything other than the products which offer the best value for the $$.

I will say that for gaming with 5.1 or more I would say that the Z series is a good idea and a move in the right direction by Creative. I applaud their efforts on this model and hope to see even better in the future.
 

Matthew Kane

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Example. you wouldn't want to buy say an Asus DGX if you have a pair of Beyerdynamics T1 headphones or DT990s 600 Ohms version. Your better off with the STX or the ZxR.
If your driving anything of that impedence especially the T1's which is rated at 600ohms but has been measured before of going over, you're better off buying a dedicated amplifier to do them some justice.
 

InnervateD

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If your driving anything of that impedence especially the T1's which is rated at 600ohms but has been measured before of going over, you're better off buying a dedicated amplifier to do them some justice.
I totally agree, especially with the T1s. But you still want a good source of where your audio is coming from and that comes from the sound card first.
 

Matthew Kane

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I totally agree, especially with the T1s. But you still want a good source of where your audio is coming from and that comes from the sound card first.
True but given the vast improvements motherboard manufacturers have provided with onboard sound controllers, it would be fairly hard to distinguish any differences if you use any external dedicated head amps. I mean my R3E has some fairly decent Realtek onboard sound with digital outs (toslink and spdif) I hear no sound quality difference if I start using my Titanium Fat Pro with any of my headphone amps. If you want a really want a good cheap chain of a setup, onboard > digital out > external DAC > external amp will do. Afterall all sound cards are cut-down DAC/amps with extra software features for gaming, music listening etc. For general users, sure a soundcard will just do without involving extra cost of cables, amps or dac's.
 

maverick0817

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I got my AKG 550's and the Sound Blaster ZX. To be honest games sound awesome. Music sounds good, but definitely not as good as my JBL speakers.
 

TroyX

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I got my AKG 550's and the Sound Blaster ZX. To be honest games sound awesome. Music sounds good, but definitely not as good as my JBL speakers.
make sure you go easy on that headphone, its only rated at 32ohms, ZX has 600ohm amp.

i remember seeing a pic of the Creative software when you can select high impedence and low impedence mode for headphones, but i cant be for sure.
 

Farkle

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make sure you go easy on that headphone, its only rated at 32ohms, ZX has 600ohm amp.

i remember seeing a pic of the Creative software when you can select high impedence and low impedence mode for headphones, but i cant be for sure.
At 2vrms, the only issue here is an impedance mismatch. If it were a higher speaker level load (V=I*R) the impedance mismatch would generally hurt the amp, rather than the driver. 600 ohm just means that it has more resistance, and has little to do with the 32 ohm "rating" on the headphone performance. The volume levels are going to be different because of the driver sensitivity, not because of this tiny amount of current flow we're dealing with.
 

Matthew Kane

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At 2vrms, the only issue here is an impedance mismatch. If it were a higher speaker level load (V=I*R) the impedance mismatch would generally hurt the amp, rather than the driver. 600 ohm just means that it has more resistance, and has little to do with the 32 ohm "rating" on the headphone performance. The volume levels are going to be different because of the driver sensitivity, not because of this tiny amount of current flow we're dealing with.
+1.
 

txfeinbergs

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yep, sucks to be living in the middle east.
if i lived in the usa, i could have ordered one of the 3 limited cards that day on creative store usa...
Not really sure you would have wanted one though. Obviously they either found something wrong with the cards after that that has delayed further production, or there is just a component shortage. I mean, the main Soundcore chip is much less complex than even the X-FI chip, so it isn't like the card is rocket science and consists of off the shelf parts mostly.
 

fighter

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well, i have thought of that and asked the modder at creative forums if the few units of the ZXR were defective, but he said that they are good, and they wouldn't ship something that is faulty, and thats why they delayed the shipping, since the batch which is made after the first few zxrs, is faulty.
 

FM 3370

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As ignorant this probably sounds, I never knew sound cards had any more room to be improved. Then again all I listen to is MP3's and watch movies.
 

kraken0698

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Since I use an external DAC (ODAC) for all of my music, I won't be using this card for that. However, I am interested in it for gaming. Has anyone compared the Z(x) to the Auzentech Forte gaming-wise?

I am one of the few lucky ones who still has a working Forte, although it seems lately it does make more noise than it used to (CPU, GPU load noise). So, it may be time to replace it. Does the Z or Zx include CMSS3D anymore or is it just the SBX surround? If so, how do they compare?
 

Tup3x

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My Zx just arrived (need to pick it up), I will be installing it today. I'll post back later today.

EDIT:
Mmmm... This really needs the ACM or the volume would be just too loud. I'm not quite sure how this compares to Forte, I need some time. I think it sounds warmer. Also you seriously want to disable all that SBX pro studio stuff.

EDIT2:
Using the line out, the quality is definitely better than on Forte. But there's one thing... Line-out does seems to sound better than the headphone out. Line-out on this card is more powerful than on Forte (so ACM is pretty much must even when using line out). Forte line-out sounded a bit sloppy. The sound is more natural on Zx than Forte, vocals and string instruments sound more natural. It does sound great from line-out.

EDIT3:
Creative speaker setup thingy was totally messing the sound stage. Removed that and reinstalled drivers and now that's fixed. That's something to remember if you use line-out (dunno if it ruins headphone out too).
 
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mknlb50

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Still waiting for the Burrs-Brown DAC equipped ZxR. Cirrus Logic DAC on Z/Zx isn't a slouch either but I'm looking for something to replace my Titanium HD + Schiit Amp with.
 

BababooeyHTJ

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Still waiting for the Burrs-Brown DAC equipped ZxR. Cirrus Logic DAC on Z/Zx isn't a slouch either but I'm looking for something to replace my Titanium HD + Schiit Amp with.
Why? Its the same dac thats on your titanium hd from what I hear and you have a better amp. You also have to choice of both cmss3d and thx on the HD.
 

mknlb50

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Why? Its the same dac thats on your titanium hd from what I hear and you have a better amp. You also have to choice of both cmss3d and thx on the HD.
Bababooey Bababooey Bababooey

Sorry I couldn't resist. :D

Well, from all the first impressions I've read, its DAC is supposed to be better. We'll see about that once I get my hands on it.
 

TroyX

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Why? Its the same dac thats on your titanium hd from what I hear and you have a better amp. You also have to choice of both cmss3d and thx on the HD.
i doesnt matter, ZxR is on another level in terms of hardware and software compared to Titanium HD.

they not even close from what ive read on forums from few people who had their hands on Zxr.

just the studio grade amplifer on the ZxR is enough to throw a working titanium hd in the trash and leaving you with no regrets.

and btw, ZxR is using SBX Pro Studio that destroys cmss3d and thx combined from what ive read.

so please, next time get your facts straght before comparing an ancient sound card to the new upcoming ZxR.
 

BababooeyHTJ

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i doesnt matter, ZxR is on another level in terms of hardware and software compared to Titanium HD.

they not even close from what ive read on forums from few people who had their hands on Zxr.

just the studio grade amplifer on the ZxR is enough to throw a working titanium hd in the trash and leaving you with no regrets.

so please, next time get your facts straght before comparing an ancient sound card to the new upcoming ZxR.
You clearly don't seem to know what you're talking about. You might want to get your facts straight.

SBX Pro studio from what I've heard is pretty much the same thing as THX tru studio which the Titanium HD has. On top of that it also has the ability to use cmss3d. So it leaves you with the option to do both. I can tell that you've never used the titanium hd.

Secondly, the amp in the ZXR isn't "studio grade". Yes its very good and probably on par with the STX but that generally comes at a price. The STX has a higher output impedance which isn't a good thing on low impedance headphones. Its also not going to be the greatest for high impedance headphones or planar magnetics like the HE400 from what I've read.

The DAC on the Titanium HD is very good. That and a good amp is a tough combo to beat. From what I've seen the differences in source components start becoming very small as you move up the ladder. For example there is a big difference between a mainstream sound card like the Xonar DX and onboard audio but the difference between the Xonar DX and STX isn't anywhere near as noticeable, not by a long shot.

and btw, ZxR is using SBX Pro Studio that destroys cmss3d and thx combined from what ive read.
A lot of people would disagree with that and you aren't speaking from experience.
 

Gmok Bonecrusha

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i doesnt matter, ZxR is on another level in terms of hardware and software compared to Titanium HD.

they not even close from what ive read on forums from few people who had their hands on Zxr.

just the studio grade amplifer on the ZxR is enough to throw a working titanium hd in the trash and leaving you with no regrets.

and btw, ZxR is using SBX Pro Studio that destroys cmss3d and thx combined from what ive read.

so please, next time get your facts straght before comparing an ancient sound card to the new upcoming ZxR.
What forums you on? I want to read the comparisons.
 

Droc

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The ZX is nearly impossible to get in Canada. Newegg.ca's shipping brings it close to $200 and no one else has had stock for weeks.

sucks.
 

xoleras

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You clearly don't seem to know what you're talking about. You might want to get your facts straight.

SBX Pro studio from what I've heard is pretty much the same thing as THX tru studio which the Titanium HD has. On top of that it also has the ability to use cmss3d. So it leaves you with the option to do both. I can tell that you've never used the titanium hd.
"What I've heard". You're wrong. It is the next generation of surround software/hardware from creative, and is not the same as THX Tru Studio.

Having owned the Titanium HD and used the rather shitty Recon3d , i've done comparisons of all 3 types of surround with THX Tru Studio surround being by far the worst. SBX surround is next generation and is a vast improvement over THX studio surround; the differences are very obvious when testing surround sound with THXTS on a recon3d and then trying SBXS on the Z/ZX. Perhaps you should take your own advice about "knowing what you're talking about".
 

BababooeyHTJ

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I've seen your conclusions when you're all head over heels in love with a new product before. I've also seen the bs that you had been posing on ocn about your card.

I'll wait for a more credible poster or reviewer. I'll also have my own ZX on Tuesday.

The fact of the matter is there are advantages with cmss3d. Not everything is as black and white as you make it out to be which always makes me question your opinions.

I'm talking about with headphones here. I don't use surround sound and the titanium hd isn't even capable of 5.1 surround.
 
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Tup3x

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"What I've heard". You're wrong. It is the next generation of surround software/hardware from creative, and is not the same as THX Tru Studio.

Having owned the Titanium HD and used the rather shitty Recon3d , i've done comparisons of all 3 types of surround with THX Tru Studio surround being by far the worst. SBX surround is next generation and is a vast improvement over THX studio surround; the differences are very obvious when testing surround sound with THXTS on a recon3d and then trying SBXS on the Z/ZX. Perhaps you should take your own advice about "knowing what you're talking about".
I wouldn't count on it... All registry values are THX this and that. I'm almost willing to be that it's just re-branded thing.

About Zx availability... I'm a bit surprised that the Zx is widely available here in Finland and goes for 129 € (that's with free shipping and includes 24 % VAT).
 

Burpy

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I just recently purchased Audioengine A2 speakers. I am not sure if I should get the Z or ZXR.

I primarily use my speakers, and do have a pair of Bose Quiet Comfort 3 that I use once in a while.
I know having the right equipment is key when considering higher quality sound cards. Are the A2's
good enough to take advantage of the ZXR higher quality components?

Will there be a perceivable difference in quality between the Z & ZXR with the A2's?

Just need some sage advice, thanks.
 

ivoryg37

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I just order the ZX, will be my first ever sound card. Can't wait to hear what it sound like paired with my AD900
 

Droc

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I wouldn't count on it... All registry values are THX this and that. I'm almost willing to be that it's just re-branded thing.

About Zx availability... I'm a bit surprised that the Zx is widely available here in Finland and goes for 129 € (that's with free shipping and includes 24 % VAT).
Its very bullshit here. Creative's online store sells to everyone but Canada, and they retail through amazon.com, which doesnt ship to canada, and amazon.ca doesnt carry the Z(carries the older stuff). We have newegg here, but its near $20 shipping and with tax pops it into the $190-$200 range for the ZX. Our biggest retailer has no stocked it since release.

I have such a hardon for this card
 

AshleyG

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Yeah, pretty much. I do have my doubts about the ACM but if its well made I guess that it shouldn't be an issue. I'm going to try it out.
It's very well made, IMHO. Heavy quality and solid, the mics pick up well (my guildmates could tell a difference immediately), and the cords are wrapped in nylon braid. The knob is smooth and fluid and, while not completely controlling the sound, does a great job of fine-tuning the volume you get out of your headphones.

I am one of the lucky SoBs who got the ZXR in January when CL sold a few off. I'll be honest, I hadn't dabbled in enthusiast-level sound until lately; my previous sound solution was a USB X-Fi HD, and onboard Realtek crap before that. My wife hates the thing because it's keeping me up at night. I sit here going through recordings listening to things I'd never heard before. Individual fingerstrokes on strings speak clearly; I'm hearing faint cymbal work I hadn't heard before as well, with individual stick strokes evident rather than just a wash of sound. Same headphones I've had for ages (The HARX700s that seem to be the darlings of the ultrabudget scene), but a completely new experience.
 

spaceman

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AshleyG

Your next purchase is a different pair of headphones. Not better, different. Try a pair of open headphones like my Sennheiser 558. That gives you a new flavor and yeah, fun.

Looking forward to trying a Z and seeing how the new software does.
 

conghelach

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Here's where I would put the Z series ahead of the STX. The 3d positional audio is excellent in games - it is far better than THX surround used with the recon3d line, and you can also use SBX surround for general use. With the x-fi cards, 3d surround was great in games but could cause distortion in music. I haven't found that to be the case with the Z series. You can turn surround on and leave it turned on for everything with no adverse effects. Anyway, the ZX/ZXR are definitely better for positional audio in games compared to the essence STX.

For music playback and content creation i'd say the STX is about equal - but I think the ZX/r is better in every other area.

The Z(x)(r) also have 600ohm headphone amps, so while it comes with an ACM I only use that for the mic. The headphone amp on the ZX is great - while the x-fi titanium doesn't have a headphone amp at all. The quality of the output from the headphone jack on the card is pretty phenomenal, definitely one ups that x-fi titanium HD in that respect. The titanium HD definitely required an external headphone amp, while the ZX/R do not.

Personally, I would give it a shot. I had a titanium HD and got a ZX and was blown away - so much so that I'm definitely buying a ZXR as soon as it becomes available. I really feel like this is Creative's best audio card in a long, long time.

REally? you really really feel that way, Ive been looking for a card, my FORTE has never been good always has had static problems, I recently bought a titanium HD seems high quality card and so on, my z77x ud5h gigabyte board wouldnt recognize it and windows 8 would not boot, my forte card shows up fine on the pcie slot so its not my mobo thats bad, not a good feeling after all the creative problems of the past, disappointed the titanium HD is either dead or wont work with my hardware. Now what to do try the Zx? Try Asus Phoebus?
 

BababooeyHTJ

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I wouldn't touch the Phoebus with a 10 foot pole. That thing seems to have a ton of driver issues from what I've read. The other Xonar cards are fine in windows 7.
 
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