Creative Sound Blaster ZxR Versus Onboard Audio

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News Posted: Thu, Jul 10 2014 1:51 PM

Creative Sound Blaster ZxR Versus Onboard AudioToday we're looking at the Sound Blaster ZxR, Creative's flagship audio solution for PC power users. It's also one of three available cards in Creative's ultra high-performance Z-Series of sound cards, the ZxR being the top-end solution. It boasts a signal-to-noise (SNR) of 124dB that Creative claims is 89.1 times better than your motherboard's integrated audio solution. It also features a built-in headphone amplifier, beamforming microphone, a multi-core Sound Core3D audio processor, and various proprietary audio technologies.

We'll examine the Sound Blaster ZxR in detail and figure out what kind of audience is best suited for a card of this caliber. To do that, we'll compare the ZxR to onboard audio and offer up some subjective analysis based on what we hear, as well as look at any potential impact in gaming performance...

Creative Sound Blaster ZxR Versus Onboard Audio
Sound Blaster ZxR Stock

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nfs3freak replied on Thu, Jul 10 2014 2:39 PM

So I bought the Sound Blaster ZX and it also has the Audio Control Module. However, it has a problem where the sound quality is actually reduced if you plug your inputs into that instead of directly into the card, so I've foregone that module altogether.

 

Did you notice or was it known for that audio quality downgrade on this particular model's ACM? If not, I may consider upgrading. I love my ZX but it wouldn't hurt to have something that's better.

 

Here's the one I have now: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009XDWUCQ/ref=oh_details_o09_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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sevags replied on Fri, Jul 11 2014 12:48 AM

I stopped needing to buy a creative sound card back with the DFI LANparty UT NF4 SLI mobo that shipped with a Karajan sound module which was a daughter card to get some of the sound stuff way from the mono which added digital noise wayyy back in the day, a decade ago? Effects in games and audio music still sounded better on a creative or even a high end Turtle Beach Montego. After that HD and digital audio rolled became the norm and it seemed creative started releasing far more SKU's per product release and diluted its own marketshare. Cards like the ZxR still make me drool and no high end PC for any duty isn't complete without a discrete sound card!

Love the comparison review.

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sevags replied on Fri, Jul 11 2014 12:50 AM

nfs3freak; I believe any ACM reduces the quality of audio versus direct input, but I could be wrong.

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nfs3freak replied on Fri, Jul 11 2014 1:36 AM

Thanks. I presume that's probably the case.

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Atticus14 replied on Fri, Jul 11 2014 2:46 AM

I have the old X-Fi fatal1ty, never tried onboard, so i wouldn't know the difference but I'm happy with what i got, so i would be glad to see this modern comparison to see if it even matters.

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If you are referring to the PCI-Express version (Fata1ity Professional), it is roughly identical to the base Sound Blaster Z (and includes the identical software bundle and uses the same driver); my own factory-refurbished version even includes the same beamforming microphone included with the Sound Blaster Z/Zx/ZxR. The Fata1ity Pro replaced a PCI bus X-Fi low-profile XtremeGamer, which has a rather problematical addressing flaw at the 4 GB level - therefore problematical for x64 OSes (from anyone). The Fata1ity Professional - like the Z that succeeded it - will work in ANY PCI-Express slot - including that often-ignored x1 slot above the first x16 slot (which is where mine sits in my ASUS P5G41-M LX2, a mATX motherboard with the Intel G41 chipset). Also. both solutions work with SteamOS (they are detected as Intel HD Audio devices - which is proper) and any Linux distribution that supports Intel HD Audio.

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I have always loved and used creative sound cards in my builds. My latest Z card is amazing and I'm glad I don't have to unplug my speakers to use my headphones.

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Back in the days of Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 it was a must to have something separate. The onboard audio on the motherboard was junk and SoundBlaster had always been my go-to choice.

I currently (hangs head in shame) am using the onboard Realtek audio and it does a fine job, but I will be looking to do some recording and upgrading to a Z or better might make a huge difference from the onboard where I can't quite get the recording levels I want.

Time to upgrade? I'm thinking so.

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StaticFX replied on Sat, Jul 12 2014 3:22 PM

WendellBeverly1:

Back in the days of Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 it was a must to have something separate. The onboard audio on the motherboard was junk and SoundBlaster had always been my go-to choice.

I currently (hangs head in shame) am using the onboard Realtek audio and it does a fine job, but I will be looking to do some recording and upgrading to a Z or better might make a huge difference from the onboard where I can't quite get the recording levels I want.

Time to upgrade? I'm thinking so.

yeah it was.. if you didnt have a Creative SB card.. your PC sucked lol. Now... I dont see the need. Personally im not an audiophile so im good with the onboard. The realtek setup with SB Cinema app is pretty good on the MSI gaming 5 mb

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Anyone have any comparison for between a ZxR and the EVGA Z87 Classified (Core3D onboard)?

I have no complaints with the audio the board puts out, but I am always looking for improvement and I am curious if this would provide any real benefit from an audio quality standpoint.

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Tom replied on Thu, Jul 24 2014 7:05 PM

This looks pretty awesome. I'm going to look into this, as I love to listen to high quality music an youtube videos when using my PC.

PC gaming FTW! Can't wait for The Witcher 3.

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Ben replied on Tue, Jul 29 2014 12:29 PM

Are most high-end cards coming with amps for headphones now? I've been satisfied with onboard sound these past few years, but I just bought a nice pair of audio technica headphones and always wondered whether I wasn't hearing all they'd let me hear without a good sound card. If these cards come with an impressive amp I'm probably going to stop thinking about it and just do it...

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I've never had a dedicated sound card. I wonder how much better sound quality I would get?

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