Creative Sound Blaster ZxR Versus Onboard Audio

Performance Summary & Conclusion

Performance Summary: With regards to gaming frameratres, there was no performance impact or benefit when going from onboard audio to the Sound Blaster ZxR. The slightly improved scores in 3DMark's Fire Strike and Sky Diver tests may seem to contradict that statement, but in actual games, framerates remained the same virtually across the board. However, the Sound Blaster ZxR produced higher-quality sound effects and benefits from proprietary technologies like Scout Mode. It also produces noticeably superior audio in music and movies, provided your speakers can keep up.

The days of buying a discrete sound card to increase framerates when gaming are over. It's been that way for several years now, but there are other reasons to consider a card like the Sound Blaster ZxR. As we touched on above, gaming effects are much more pronounced compared to onboard audio, and while we're mostly indifferent to Scout Mode, some gamers will inevitably find it useful.

That said, if you're just looking to improve gaming performance, we wouldn't recommend paying a premium for the ZxR model, which runs $250 MSRP and about $200 street. Instead, look into the Sound Blaster Zx (~$115 street) or Z (~$85), which are much cheaper solutions that offer nearly the same audio quality (116dB SNR) and many of the same effects and technologies (like Scout Mode).

Where the Sound Blaster ZxR really shines is in audio creation. It has all the fancy inputs, a rated 124db signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) that's top shelf, baked-in technologies like Audio Stream Input/Output (ASIO) support for studio-grade recording and playback, and other bells and whistles. Musicians and true audiophiles who own the proper equipment and high-grade speakers are ideal candidates for the Sound Blaster ZxR. If you also happen to be a gamer, you're getting the best of all worlds here.

  • 124dB SNR
  • High end components and proper inputs for studio-grade content creation
  • Responsive to EQ tuning
  • Brings speakers to life
  • Plenty of effects and proprietary technologies for improved audio
  • Built-in headphone amp
  • Expensive
  • Doesn't increase gaming framerates
  • Creative's drivers can sometimes be wonky

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