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Are Creative cards really that good for gaming?

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GoodRevrnd

Diamond Member
Dec 27, 2001
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578
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Dedicated sound cards have better DACs and better THD numbers. Asus cards have built in headphone amps sometimes as well.
Which is why you're better off just using an external USB audio solution. With the right mini dac/amp you can use it for other stuff too and it will still sound better than whatever sound card you come up with.
 

blackened23

Diamond Member
Jul 26, 2011
8,548
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I've done several comparisons between onboard sound and discrete. I'm using a sound blaster ZxR, and if you're using quality speakers or GOOD audiophile quality headphones, there is an immense difference. Discrete sounds better, if you get a good soundcard.

I know people will argue about this until they're blue in the face. People are stubborn about this - some people are so stubborn about their opinions with regard to soundcards sometimes, that you'd think it's akin to a political debate....people get really silly about it. My first suggestion is don't listen to a single stubborn person in this thread - compare yourself. I suggest doing a direct comparison and ensure that you have audiophile quality gear - Buy from a place with a good return policy such as amazon and do the comparison yourself. This is what i've done - There is a big big difference - the ZxR sounds so much better than onboard audio that it isn't even funny. It is THAT MUCH better - but you MUST have a good set of speakers or audiophile headphones for the difference to be realized.

If you're using garbage speakers, then garbage in garbage out. You can use some 1998 cirrus logic garbage soundcard and be none the wiser. It's all about the complete package, not just the soundcard - a top quality soundcard will amplify the quality of your high quality surround speakers or audiophile headphones. If you're using garbage speakers/headphones though, don't bother.
 
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KeithTalent

Elite Member | Administrator | No Lifer
Administrator
Nov 30, 2005
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That was the reason I had to switch over (had an old X Fi card for awhile), when I bought my PC350's they required an built in amp, grab some Xonar (can't remember the model now) after doing some research and found it was considered a pretty damn good soundcard and was rather cheap. I've been happy with it.
Hmm, intriguing. I have been out of the loop on this stuff for so long, I had no idea there was finally something readily available to replace my X-Fi. I may need to look into making a change.

KT
 

aldamon

Diamond Member
Aug 2, 2000
3,280
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I've tried the onboard audio on every motherboard I've owned (my current mobo has Realtek ALC892) and the difference with positional audio and sound quality between the onboard flavor of the month and my X-Fi Titanium (and others before it) has been easily noticeable so I've always gone back to a dedicated card. I imagine the difference is even easier to notice with the Z. I do not use my computer to listen to music, so this is only my opinion for games using headphones.

Sound cards can easily last through several builds so quite honestly I don't understand the hesitation about buying them. They're a good investment compared to everything else in your case.
 
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blackened23

Diamond Member
Jul 26, 2011
8,548
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I should add that for gaming, the Z series of sound blaster cards are excellent. I've seen mentions here in this thread about EAX, CMSS, and what not but those are all out of date. The new Z series of cards are using SBX pro studio which has replaced all of that - and it is very very nice and impressive. It works in all applications to provide 3d emulated sound and does not require native application support. It sounds very nice - i've compared it to dolby surround and SBX sounds better IMO. About as good as CMSS3D was to my ears.

I just thought i'd throw that out there as well, the Z series of sound blaster cards are very good for gaming. But again - don't take my word for it. Check it out yourself, buy from a place with a good return policy. I can't stress that enough - people here will argue until they're blue in the face ;) don't listen to them! Check it out yourself and form your own opinion. You have nothing to lose, amazon has a 30 day return policy - I have numerous friends who were doubters and after trying it out, were believers afterwards. They're very nice cards. The high end Xonar cards from Asus are awesome as well, although i think the ZxR is the better card (just IMO).
 
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Tattoedsailor

Member
Mar 22, 2013
146
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Where I noticed a huge difference with my Z was in games like BF3 and Skyrim. In BF3 the positional audio is excellent. You can actually hear footsteps @ 4-5 o'clock. In Skyrim you hear more ambient sounds that I don't hear with on board sound. I agree with above poster. You gotta have good cans & speakers. I'm running Sennheiser headphones. My speakers are Creative I-Trigue 3300 with upgraded satellites.
 

railven

Diamond Member
Mar 25, 2010
6,604
560
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I've been stuck on X-Fi because of Creative's own stupidity (or whatever you want to call it.)

I hate their lack of driver support for Windows 7/8 but found their software packages still work (even Alchemy - which is awesome for older games.)

Anyways, here is how I'd review them from my own personal experience:

X-Fi - the last great balance between movies/music/games. Great sound for each, has all the EAX junk if you care for that, Creative even put out DTS/DD drivers for Win7 which also work on Win8. Great if you are using a receiver and the game doesn't support multi out through digital or pass thru HDMI.
Anyways, the sound is excellent.

Recon3D - I picked one up hoping to get improved driver support first thing I noticed was game audio was awful. It felt flat, didn't have the pop that my X-Fi had, and eventually I went back to the X-Fi. I didn't bother doing enough research to what they changed hardware wise, but also the powered-AMP didn't drive my cans well enough either. Overall it felt like 3 steps back from X-Fi. My Audigy2 had better bang.

Z-Series - I had a Zx for about two months. They fixed EVERYTHING wrong with gaming audio and the new power AMP drives my new cans better (I too also got the PC350, great headphones.) Anyways, where it fell flat on it's face is Music/Audio. Not sure what they did with the crystalizer but now it sounds far more noisey (by which I mean distortion.) The lows are almost gone hidden by some reverb crap that I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to turn off. The audio quality for anything non-gaming was abysmal. I hit some reviews up and realized just about every one said something similar.

On the Creative side, if you only care for gaming the Z-series is excellent, avoid the Recon3D at all costs.

If you are looking for great movie/music support Recon3D is pretty much all that is left. I can only find the X-Fi Titaniums as used/refurbished.

Avoid any of the lower tier X-Fi (Gamer/Music) series as they are not hardware driven, ie they use CPU cycles for their computation needs. You're basically buying a daughter board to support their software algorithims.

I don't have enough experience with ASUS, but the Xonar DT we put in her system satisfies her needs. When I've used her PC I had no issues with the sound quality (would personally prefer to tinker with the Bass a little but she won't let me.)

Her headphones are the Vengeance 1300s. With onboard they sound flat, awful, with the Xonar (the powered Amp) they sound robust, not as good as my PC350s, but definitely better than any of the <$50 stuff she's had before.
 

Juddog

Diamond Member
Dec 11, 2006
7,849
2
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I've done several comparisons between onboard sound and discrete. I'm using a sound blaster ZxR, and if you're using quality speakers or GOOD audiophile quality headphones, there is an immense difference. Discrete sounds better, if you get a good soundcard.

I know people will argue about this until they're blue in the face. People are stubborn about this - some people are so stubborn about their opinions with regard to soundcards sometimes, that you'd think it's akin to a political debate....people get really silly about it. My first suggestion is don't listen to a single stubborn person in this thread - compare yourself. I suggest doing a direct comparison and ensure that you have audiophile quality gear - Buy from a place with a good return policy such as amazon and do the comparison yourself. This is what i've done - There is a big big difference - the ZxR sounds so much better than onboard audio that it isn't even funny. It is THAT MUCH better - but you MUST have a good set of speakers or audiophile headphones for the difference to be realized.

If you're using garbage speakers, then garbage in garbage out. You can use some 1998 cirrus logic garbage soundcard and be none the wiser. It's all about the complete package, not just the soundcard - a top quality soundcard will amplify the quality of your high quality surround speakers or audiophile headphones. If you're using garbage speakers/headphones though, don't bother.
If you're using optical out, everything you wrote is nullified. The sound card does jack squat when the external DAC is doing the work, so you'll find no worthwhile difference between using the motherboard optical out and using a soundcard optical out.

Let's say you have a Z5500 logitech speaker 5.1 setup. You can use the direct audio out (where the soundcard DAC does the work) or you can use the single cable optical out (SPDIF or Coax), where the Z5500 DAC does the work. Same goes for a higher end receiver, where the DAC blows away what you find on most sound cards.

Then again, if you're listening to headphones, you'll probably want a decent soundcard with a built in headphone amplifier, since the soundcard DAC is doing all the work.

Really what it boils down to is that you want to pair your solution with your current sound setup.
 

railven

Diamond Member
Mar 25, 2010
6,604
560
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If you're using optical out, everything you wrote is nullified. The sound card does jack squat when the external DAC is doing the work, so you'll find no worthwhile difference between using the motherboard optical out and using a soundcard optical out.

Let's say you have a Z5500 logitech speaker 5.1 setup. You can use the direct audio out (where the soundcard DAC does the work) or you can use the single cable optical out (SPDIF or Coax), where the Z5500 DAC does the work. Same goes for a higher end receiver, where the DAC blows away what you find on most sound cards.

Then again, if you're listening to headphones, you'll probably want a decent soundcard with a built in headphone amplifier, since the soundcard DAC is doing all the work.

Really what it boils down to is that you want to pair your solution with your current sound setup.
For older games, I had lots of issues getting 5.1 support for older games with my ALC8...I forgot the number, it was on the Asrock X58 Extreme.

Newer games were fine, older ones would get stuck on 2.0 using fiber optic to my Z5500s.

I had to buy an X-Fi which had the DTS/DD option and that solved my issue.

Not all onboard audio is the same, and I've found if you're buying on the lower spectrum of motherboards you're going to get limited rather quickly in options.

(And the X58 wasn't a cheap board, but it was definitely bottom of the cost list in terms of X58 chipset boards.)
 

Absolution75

Senior member
Dec 3, 2007
981
2
71
Sound cards are a waste of money these days. 10 Years ago they were good to have, now they are simply not needed.
 

Kristijonas

Senior member
Jun 11, 2011
859
4
76
Please let's not start a discussion whether sound cards are needed or not.
The topic is about what sound cards are best for gaming. As I see it, Sound Blaster Z series is on top for gaming and Xonar are on top for music?
 

railven

Diamond Member
Mar 25, 2010
6,604
560
126
Please let's not start a discussion whether sound cards are needed or not.
The topic is about what sound cards are best for gaming. As I see it, Sound Blaster Z series is on top for gaming and Xonar are on top for music?
Staying on topic from my own experience if you are only focusing on gaming, the Z-series is a valid purchase.

However, since hearing is subjective, a Xonar might be just as good at a fraction of the cost.
 

KeithTalent

Elite Member | Administrator | No Lifer
Administrator
Nov 30, 2005
50,235
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Please let's not start a discussion whether sound cards are needed or not.
The topic is about what sound cards are best for gaming. As I see it, Sound Blaster Z series is on top for gaming and Xonar are on top for music?
I think it's a valid part of the discussion and is on-topic.

KT
 

Midwayman

Diamond Member
Jan 28, 2000
5,723
325
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Meh. The money you spend on a sound card would be better spent on speakers or headphones for most folks.

I think the biggest case against sound cards is that by the time you've spent enough money to really notice the difference you're better off with a offboard DAC anyways. Its a pretty slim segment where they make sense.
 

blackened23

Diamond Member
Jul 26, 2011
8,548
1
0
Please let's not start a discussion whether sound cards are needed or not.
The topic is about what sound cards are best for gaming. As I see it, Sound Blaster Z series is on top for gaming and Xonar are on top for music?
You're trying to get a consensus and when it comes to soundcards that won't happen. People are incredibly stubborn and unwilling to waver in this argument.

As I said. Buy one and try it, if it doesn't work out return it. You have nothing to lose from amazon.com and their excellent return policy. Asking 20 people here for an opinion will get you 17 different opinions, with some of them being ridiculous to put it mildly. Just try it.
 

Kristijonas

Senior member
Jun 11, 2011
859
4
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I think it's a valid part of the discussion and is on-topic.

KT
I agree, but it would be sad to see another thread end up into an endless argument about onboard vs discreet being any different.

After reading through all the posts (which were very helpful!) I have decided that Sound Blaster Z or ZxR would be the best choices for my gaming needs (especially because I still play old games with EAX). I will read some reviews whether Sound Blaster Z is indeed worse than Xonar D1 for music playback. There were posts saying that "Z" has a reverb effect (probably in the drivers themselves? D: ) that can't go away. I will have to read on that as well. Thanks to all who helped me in this search for the ultimate gaming card, I will continue reading since I'm sure there are more people with experience in this ;)

You're trying to get a consensus and when it comes to soundcards that won't happen. People are incredibly stubborn and unwilling to waver in this argument.

As I said. Buy one and try it, if it doesn't work out return it. You have nothing to lose from amazon.com and their excellent return policy. Asking 20 people here for an opinion will get you 17 different opinions, with some of them being ridiculous to put it mildly. Just try it.
That is a good suggestion, except there's no amazon or the like in my country. I might consider buying a Sound Blaster Z and inserting it into my PC TOGETHER with the Xonar D1 I got and the compare them while they are both in the PC :)
 
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cmdrdredd

Lifer
Dec 12, 2001
26,835
278
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Which is why you're better off just using an external USB audio solution. With the right mini dac/amp you can use it for other stuff too and it will still sound better than whatever sound card you come up with.
USB sucks more CPU cycles than PCie

Honestly I'm fine with my Motherboard's audio. It has a 1500uF cap to keep the power clean and a shielded chip. It is still based on the Realtek ALC898 but it runs off Creative software (same stuff you can use with X-FI cards). I find it good enough and I have compared it running my Klipsch Pro Media Ultra 5.1 and my PC360 to running these off a receiver via HDMI. Both ways sounded the same, but that isn't to say either is audiophile quality. They aren't, but I find it good enough and I am happy with the quality. I did not find it necessary to drop $200+ on a soundcard.
 
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blackened23

Diamond Member
Jul 26, 2011
8,548
1
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I agree, but it would be sad to see another thread end up into an endless argument about onboard vs discreet being any different.

After reading through all the posts (which were very helpful!) I have decided that Sound Blaster Z or ZxR would be the best choices for my gaming needs (especially because I still play old games with EAX). I will read some reviews whether Sound Blaster Z is indeed worse than Xonar D1 for music playback. There were posts saying that "Z" has a reverb effect (probably in the drivers themselves? D: ) that can't go away. I will have to read on that as well. Thanks to all who helped me in this search for the ultimate gaming card, I will continue reading since I'm sure there are more people with experience in this ;)



That is a good suggestion, except there's no amazon or the like in my country. I might consider buying a Sound Blaster Z and inserting it into my PC TOGETHER with the Xonar D1 I got and the compare them while they are both in the PC :)
Having used the Essence STX I don't agree that music is better on the Xonar. First, there are *tons* of xonar variants, and the quality varies depending on which model you get. The essence STX is the creme de la creme model which is the best for music (and I've used it), I personally find the SB ZxR at parity with it in terms of music. As well, crystallizer isn't required and is disabled by default. Clicking 1 button in SBX pro studio is hard stuff. Whatever. I'm always confused by people who bring stuff like this up because it's optional and is really meant to replicate a 3d surround stage for movies and what not - for music you generally want to disable it, which it is disabled by default last I checked. It only takes 1 click in SBX pro studio. Certainly Creative gives you a lot of leeway with settings in SBX pro studio and a lot of the gaming-centric functions shouldn't be used for a pure music experience. Personally the SBX surround stuff sounds great to me even with music, but others may want to fiddle with it or disable it altogether for music. For gaming, however, I enable nearly everything. Creative sort of gives you a rope to hang with here, you may want to disable some of the gaming-centric functions for pure music. Which is easy enough with 1-2 clicks.

Anyway, never take anyone's word for anything in a soundcard debate, you will find such debates to be ridiculous. I've asked such questions before and found it to be a waste of time to even ask, just let us know how your Z/ZxR turn out. The best thing is always try it yourself as to form your own opinion.... I personally was very pleasantly surprised - definitely the best discrete soundcard i've owned and a huge upgrade over motherboard sound. At parity with the Essence STX in music and hands down better for gaming, IMHO - and much much better than onboard sound. And I have a high quality mobo as well, so, I was super pleased. Let us know how it turns out.

Here's what it boils down to with soundcards: the thing about soundcards is that the performance is not quantifiable easily. This is a stark contrast to GPUs and CPUs which have easily verifiable performance metrics which will you give you a good idea of performance. With soundcards, you can view specifications but in the end it doesn't paint a clear picture of how a card performs. Which (and I know i've said this a million times, apologies) is why I always suggest trying it out yourself and do direct comparisons with onboard sound or old soundcards. ;)
 
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JeffMD

Platinum Member
Feb 15, 2002
2,026
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A lot of people trying to compare audio quality, but don't forget gaming needs to render its sound effects in 3d too. If you are using on board sound or going through your video cards HDMI, audio from games is being rendered in software on the cpu. Not only does this slow down the game more but I have also found it to be more inaccurate. I had a chance to experience the differences when recently upgrading from an old analog 2 channel sony receiver to a late model yamaha with all digital connections. I didn't have a toslink cable yet for my X-Fi so for a couple weeks I lived with running audio over hdmi before my toslink cable arrived and I was able to switch back to my creative x-fi. I was mainly playing bioshock inf and guild wars 2 at the time and I noticed that volume levels between distances was inconsistent in software.

Saddly when I finally move up from a 2 speaker setup I will need to get the next gen of creative cards cause only they support mixing multi channel game sound into ac3 for toslink connections. -_-
 

Kristijonas

Senior member
Jun 11, 2011
859
4
76
Sorry, Blackened, I do believe that ZXR sounds better than Xonar. I meant that Xonar D1 probably is better for music than Sound Blater Z model, not the whole Z series.
 

blackwhiskers

Member
Jan 6, 2013
72
0
0
Sending a 5.1 DTS signal via optical cable to my receiver.

There was a tangible difference using this setup over the 5.1 DTS signal sent from my Theatron Agrippa DTS and motherboard audio.
but isn't DTS digital, meaning, unless some additional digital processing is happening on the dedicated sound card, shouldn't they be exactly the same?
 

Juddog

Diamond Member
Dec 11, 2006
7,849
2
81
A lot of people trying to compare audio quality, but don't forget gaming needs to render its sound effects in 3d too. If you are using on board sound or going through your video cards HDMI, audio from games is being rendered in software on the cpu. Not only does this slow down the game more but I have also found it to be more inaccurate. I had a chance to experience the differences when recently upgrading from an old analog 2 channel sony receiver to a late model yamaha with all digital connections. I didn't have a toslink cable yet for my X-Fi so for a couple weeks I lived with running audio over hdmi before my toslink cable arrived and I was able to switch back to my creative x-fi. I was mainly playing bioshock inf and guild wars 2 at the time and I noticed that volume levels between distances was inconsistent in software.

Saddly when I finally move up from a 2 speaker setup I will need to get the next gen of creative cards cause only they support mixing multi channel game sound into ac3 for toslink connections. -_-
Again it depends on the DAC of the sound system you use. For me going from motherboard S/PDIF straight to my Z5500 speaker setup was just as good, if not better, than instead using my old X-fi card to output via 3 separate analog cables to the same setup (plus it was easier just plugging in one cable instead of having to fuss with 3). I ended up not using my X-fi at all because of the bumps in DPC latency it was causing.
 

Juddog

Diamond Member
Dec 11, 2006
7,849
2
81
but isn't DTS digital, meaning, unless some additional digital processing is happening on the dedicated sound card, shouldn't they be exactly the same?
^^ This - I verified this first hand with my old x-fi card. The sound is exactly the same if I'm using the S/PDIF from the x-fi versus the S/PDIF from the motherboard. The audio processing doesn't take place unless you're using the onboard DAC, which is why nowadays sound cards are chiefly recommended for headphone users and not people with a good receiver that has a higher quality DAC.
 

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