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The Sound Blaster X-Fi series of sound cards is Creative's most recent generation audio cards.

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Pros

Improves performance in games and audio intense applications

4 agree

Really does sound better than motherboard integrated chips

2 agree

Crystalizer makes audio "pop" more

2 agree
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Cons

No Linux drivers

4 agree
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The Sound Blaster X-Fi series of sound cards is Creative's most recent generation audio cards that provide hardware accelerated audio processing. The XtremeGamer edition is targeted towards gamers that don't need all extensible input and output ports of the higher end models. Using the extra processing power afforded by the new chip Creative includes a variety of modes and features that they claim enhances all audio sources and restores lost information in compressed digital files. In general, having a dedicated sound processor offloads work performed by the CPU and thus improves performance in intensive applications such as gaming.

The 24-bit Crystalizer technology is one of the main features that Creative touts as being better than other audio cards on the market. They claim that lower quality 16-bit audio can be upconverted into higher quality, similar to how HDTVs upconvert standard definition signals to their native resolution. These processes involve interpolation and a reproduction of the master signal is impossible. Furthermore, some people find the alteration of the signal as sounding worse than the original, and while the amount of Crystaler effects is adjustable, even when set at 0% there are still some modifiers applied.

3D positional audio is the other big feature with the X-Fi system. The sound card will take material that is encoded for two speakers and turn it into a 5.1 or even 7.1 signal for simulated surround sound. On the other end, the X-Fi system converts surround sound information into "virtual" surround for 2-speaker systems or headphones to simulate having more than two speakers.

Note on drivers: Creative does not provide any drivers that work under Windows 2000 or Linux. If the card is installed on a Windows 2000 machine, sound will be emitted, however none of the advanced features are accessible. On Linux the card is completely unsupported.

Specifications
Model
Brand Creative
Model Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer
Audio core
Audio Chipset X-Fi
Channels 7.1
Sample Rate 96KHz
Digital Audio 24-bit
SNR Stereo Output 109dB
Front and Rear Channels 109dB
Center, Subwoofer and Side Channels 109dB
Ports
Line In Yes
Line Out Front/Rear/Center/Subwoofer/Rear Center
SPDIF In Yes
SPDIF Out Yes
MIC In Yes
Spec
Interface PCI
System Requirements Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2)
Intel Pentium III 1 GHz, AMD 1 GHz processor or faster
Intel, AMD or 100% compatible motherboard chipset
Available PCI 2.1 slot
256MB RAM
600MB of free hard disk space
CD-ROM/CD-RW or CD/DVD-ROM for software installation
Packaging
Package Contents Sound Blaster X-Fi PCI Card
Quick Start Leaflet
Installation and Applications CD
Manufacturer Warranty
Parts 1 year limited
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