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Thursday, August 10, 2006

X-Fi Crackling Continues

A new update from Creative on the crackling and popping issues some people are experiencing with their SoundBlaster X-Fi cards. According to Creative the sound glitches only arise on nForce 4 motherboards and only nVidia is able to fix them. You can read about their findings below:

Further to the reported cases of crackling issues reported by owners of Sound Blaster X-Fi cards, we have extensively tested both Creative and non-Creative audio cards on motherboards where the issues were reported in an effort to isolate the root cause.

The findings indicate that circumstances causing these audio glitches only arise on Nvidias nForce 4 range of motherboards, with the exception of the newest n590 board which does not exhibit this issue.

The Sound Blaster X-Fi card was designed to meet PCI bus standards and tolerances and this is the only range of motherboards that operate in this manner.

A full technical description is detailed below, but in brief, the PCI bus data requests are not being serviced leading to "gaps" in the audio, resulting in sudden dropouts to no audio and back again which gives rise to what is perceived as crackling.

We appreciate the time taken by several of our forum members in assisting us isolate the root causes to date and appreciate the frustration expressed by several posters, but would like to assure you that we have been following the issue closely in an effort to seek resolution from the early stages. As we have identified the resolution of this issue to be beyond our control, we would advise customers experiencing this issue to escalate their concerns to Nvidia in an effort to seek a possible solution.


We have observed through direct observation of the PCI bus on the nVidia nForce 4 motherboards that when the crackle symptoms are occuring, the Soundblaster X-Fi card PCI bus master memory requests for audio data are being held off (not serviced) for very long intervals.

We have observed peak holdoffs of up to 2 milliseconds in some cases. This is unusual chipset behavior that is beyond the ability of a hardware audio accelerator to compensate for in its internal buffering. The SoundBlaster X-Fi tolerance for these PCI holdoffs is approximately 120 microseconds peak holdoff, with a 1 microsecond average holdoff.

These design tolerances are based on observation of real PCI bus behavior on leading motherboards over a period of many motherboard hardware generations.

The nForce 4 motherboard is the first motherboard on which these extremely long PCI service holdoffs have been observed by Creative, where another PCI device in the system was not causing the holdoff.

One thing should be mentioned here for owners of a nForce 4 motherboard wanting to get a X-Fi card: There are a lot of people on nForce 4 motherboards not experiencing the crackling and popping issues. It is not said that you will experience the problem for sure.


Blogger Atoth said...

I call shenanigans.. I have a DFI NF4 that had an XFI no-heatsink extrememusic version in it and it worked perfectly under old bios and all the drivers old and new.. Then it got upgraded to a newer heatsinked XFI Fatality and all of a sudden there is chirping here and there in the sound and nonstop looping of sounds during BF2 after about 20min. Same PCI slot same drivers, even tried updating bios to the newest one that is only 3 months old.. I have another newer heatsinked XFI Platinum in my own personal DFI NF4 eXpert and it works perfectly. So this leads me to believe there is a problem with the onboard X-RAM since that is the only difference between all the systems... Unless you count the stupid LED on the Fatal1ty...

8:14 PM  
Blogger Luke Doddrell said...

What a load of nonsense... I have this motherboard. A non-NF4 chipset (VIA) and I still get crackling.

12:42 PM  
Blogger soCram said...

i got still the same problems with my x-fi platinum. since opening my pc-case i got less clipping-errors, but they are still occuring. i nearly don't use the soudcard for gaming, but for hearing music, which is very enerving with continous clicking...
could you two open your case to test, if you got an temperature problem?

1:22 PM  
Blogger mamendes said...

Mine is a nForce 3 (Gigabyte k8ns 939 Ultra) and I have the noises specially on Eve-online.

7:25 PM  
Blogger silicon4ever said...

I've personally worked on PCI systems, older graphics cards would kill your PCI latency in this fashion, I've seen up to 10 ms dead time. Newer graphics cards should be more friendly, the PCI spec was specifically altered to disallow such behavior (2.1 revision I think).

Our application had too high a bitrate for complete compensation (required buffer size were too expensive to implement), but an audio card coud do it at reasonable cost. The total delay must be provided to a codec for video and audio to be aligned though.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Luke Doddrell said...

I'll try it, when I get the clicking again. Mine only ever happens a few months after the drivers being reinstalled and moving the card to another slot. Only doing both corrects it. Though cooling shouldn't be an issue because of the amount of fans I have (blimey).

9:34 AM  
Blogger Artanis said...

Right...explain that to all the owners of X-Fi cards who are having issues using non-nForce4 boards eh Creative?

X-Fi XtremeMusic + Intel i865 chipset

Guess what? I have had hardware detection problems in addition to the snapcracklepop issues leading to system crashes.

But I should blame NVIDIA right?

6:01 PM  
Blogger rantOZ said...

What a farrago of lies.
Creative obviously have in-house issues regarding this superseded product - cannot remember a product i liked from creative in more than 5 years anyway, give me the cheapest onboard solution and you can be sure that it won't have BASIC operational issues.
"But what about the oh-so-critical PC sound fidelity ? " I hear you jabber. That's a MUST-HAVE, MUST-DO concept ... yeah right, like a hole in the head )- oh FFS, realtek can successfully produce onboard elcheapo 5.1/6/7 channel audio cards, but the self-appointed MASTER of sound card product for more than 10 years suddenly starts acting like a petulant child with ADD and a ritalin habit - blame everyone else and stick to the company line when questioned.
If compatability issues had crept into the graphics card market, do you think the offending party would stand a chance in hell of remaining viable ?
Why does creative get off so easy with this obvious fabrication ? Because they are a monopoly ? and slipped beneath the anti-trust radar of the 90s?
Because hype and hot-air is the commodity that they are actually trying to sell ?
Jeez, don't call me cynical or anything.
It is so patently the case that it would cost more to address/admit/repair the issue , than settle any impending lawsuit with Nvidia regarding this, that enough FUD thrown about may save them a fair few dollars.
Typical bean-counter run corporation.
I used to think creative were just another off-shore cheap pollution-casuing,low-wage, Singaporese state-sponsored, disposable trinket maker.
Now I am sure of it.

7:23 PM  
Blogger Luke Doddrell said...

Perhaps an X-Fi site should be put up for those users with problems that are not nForce4 users? After a while of people posting, I'm sure I could put the link on their site for them to take a look at. They wouldn't be able to sya much then really. I mean, they have pretty much told us that they don't think that non-nForce4 users have issues... hellooooo?!

3:44 AM  
Blogger Luke Doddrell said...

Oh, just great. Crackling reappears, I reboot - now no sound whatso ever. Not changed any cbales (it was working before so...). Creative need to pull their head out of their proverbials.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Blueldr137 said...

That's crap... I have a ASUS P5WDG2-WS motherboard with a 975X Intel Chipset and ATI X1600XTs in Crossfire!!! I STILL HAVE CRACKLING, POPPING, SNAPPING, AND SCREACHING!!!! Nice work Creative blame someone else instead of fixing your problem!!! Thanks for leaving all of us hanging Creative. Apartently the Creative SoundBlaster era has passed come on Auzentech!!!!

9:56 PM  
Blogger Groins_NZ said...

I have a ASUS A7N8X nForce2 mobo and since installing the latest drivers last evening I'm now getting the crackling noise, very annoying!!?? To me, that says it's a driver issue. I CAN'T BELIEVE they're suggesting I go and flash my BIOS or install another 2Gb of RAM... Mofo's

3:09 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

I just built a new top-end machine and having the same issues with an nForce680i motherboard and the fatal1ty card. Tried a whole bunch of things, but all the details of my problem are posted here:


5:13 AM  
Blogger Guille Miskatonic said...

I have a Extreme Audio and it crashes playing every game I've tested. New ones and old ones... even with Panzer General 2.

The last Creative product I buy

4:33 AM  
Blogger David said...

Right well...
I have had the card for about 8 months and the problems only started about a week ago.
I think i have managed to find the cause for me at least.
It was a mic/line in issue!
I recently bought a headphone/mike combo and have it plugged into the facia at the front. Even though the mike was turned off it would start to crackle. I merely unplugged the mike and hey presto... crystal clarity!
Now this could be static or... god knows what else but it is a start. i will update on any further problems should they occur.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

ive had a xfi xtrememusic card in my system for quite some time now on a DFI NF4 board. i never had the crackling and popping issue until one day my friend gave me some of his old ram (which is the exact same kind i have in my system) for a total of 4gb. ever since i popped the ram in my system i got the crackling issue. so i took the ram out thinking this would remedy it. NO! WRONG! this is bs. maybe if creative would update their mfing driver which was release over a year ago but no. why would they do that!? that would make too much sense. eff you creative.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Bas said...

I don't have any Nvidia products and it still crackles. This is the first, and last Creative soundcard I'm buying. Good job guys, and with good job, I mean "you dumbasses."

11:47 AM  
Blogger Calvin said...

I have an Asus Commando motherboard and my XFi crackles. It's just Creative trying to pass the buck onto nVidia.

1:28 PM  
Blogger ethanfahy said...

yeah this whole n-force thing is simply not true. i had an audigy 2 zs that made really loud crackles and pops on a 939 board and now i build a brand new machine with a p35 board and an xtremegamer and there's still crackling and hissing. it's much fainter than my last computer, but for the money there shouldn't be any noise coming out of the card when windows in not sending any sounds to it. it just sits there and crackles. anybody know if changing the PCI frequency would help anything? anyways this is the last card I'm buying from creative even if they completely fix everything and start making perfect cards out of principle.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Kaarlo Mäkelä said...

Asus P4P800 Deluxe here, and same problems, especially with the line-in stuff... New drivers fixed the bluescreens and crashes mostly thou, but the crackling and noise is still there.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Yea after reading this blog I am pretty upset with CREATIVE. I have 3 custom builds in my house and 2 of them have nothing but sound issue. X-FI Xtreme Gamer / Xtreme Music. My games crash, My sons games crash it has been a night mare never again will I buy from CREATIVE.

9:04 PM  
Blogger shake08 said...

i spend 180euro for my x-fi titanium fatality champion series and after installation my pc freezes up and works only with reset.my motherboard is gigabyte ga-73pvm-s2h.i just read that this is a problem at most of the nforce chipsets.i am very dissapointed and i install my adigy 2 zs again.
CREATIVE AND NVDIA you suck!!!you can't solve this.Great Lords of Creative you seem so petite at this moment!!!no compatability warnings at your f...ing box!!!why?your "battle cruiser" X-FI is nothing but a fishing boat!!

11:39 AM  
Blogger Rodney said...

gigabyte motherboard here, I have the crackling/popping sounds with my x-fi...

seems to be PCI iRQ/latency related.

9:15 PM  
Blogger John said...

Everytime I watch any streaming videos and especially when I expand them I get this damn crackling!

2:58 AM  
Blogger John said...

I bought a new X-fi thinking this was the problem, a new PSU 1000 Watt, have a good GPU 470 GTX and man it ticks me off that streaming video crackles and pops and when I expand it forget it!

2:59 AM  

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