PC Gaming Headphones / AudioPC Hardware Reviews

Sound Blaster X-FI XtremeMusic

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Installation

    Installation the card was a breeze.  I installed the card into the PCI slot and plugged in my headphones, then turned on my computer.   After it booted into windows I cancelled the new hardware wizard and installed the X-FI from the CD. 

Sound Blaster X-FI XtremeMusic sound card 1

    Installation of the software was smooth and simple.  After I rebooted I went ahead and updated the drivers from the SoundBlaster website.  They have a very handy auto updater that list all updates for your products.  Installation was a cinch and if you have ever installed any kind of add in card all this will seem ‘old hat’.

Sound Blaster X-FI XtremeMusic sound card 2

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    Before I get into my observations of this card I feel I should give a bit of a forward on my experience doing the review.  First off, I was one of the many people who visited the Creative booth at QuakeCon and to be honest I was blown away by the demo for the X-FI.  So when I got an offer to review this card I jumped at the chance.  You could say my expectations of this card were incredibly high as I jumped into BF2 for the first time. 

    Unfortunately at first I wasn’t as impressed with the X-Fi Sound as I was at the QuakeCon booth.   Even the CMSS-3D helicopter surround sound demo wasn’t sounding right to me.   I did a lot of tweaking and finally came to the conclusion it had to be my headphones.  The headphones I was using were the Zalman 5.1 surround sound headphones.  I had been having problems with dead zones and just ‘not right’ surround sound with them for a while.  The same problems where made even more apparent with the around your head helicopter sound demo.

Sound Blaster X-FI XtremeMusic sound card 3

   
    I wanted to give this card a fair shake so I splurged and bought a pair of Sennheiser HD-280 pro headphones.  The very same headphones Creative used at QuakeCon.  I decided to be extra fair and played with them plugged into my onboard sound for several days.  Quite frankly the difference was phenomenal.  I had to check and make sure I didn’t have it plugged into the X-FI on accident.  Not that the Zalmans sounded horrible or anything, but they left out a lot of Highs, Lows and positioning that a really good pair of headphones captures.  I was able to hear things that the Zalmans just couldn’t project.  Don’t get me wrong, 5.1 headphones is a great idea and someday someone may perfect them, it just seems now is not that time.   This round the Zalmans got their butts handed to them by the Sennheiser’s.

Sound Blaster X-FI XtremeMusic sound card 4

   OK, I learned my lesson.  If you are serious about how your system sounds, don’t skimp on the headphones.  I mean if you really want to improve the sound of your system: first correct your headphone choice first, then laying down the money on a $100+ soundcard will really be worth it.  Now, having a real sense of what sounds could be, I was ready to review the X-FI extreme music.

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