X-Fi Zone
X-Fi Models

Discover the SoundBlaster X-Fi models. What are the differences, what do the models have in common.

X-RAM Explained

What does X-RAM really do? Read about the extra 64MB onboard RAM on the SoundBlaster X-Fi.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Creative Announces Availability of OpenAL 1.1

OpenAL 1.1 Combined With ISACT Provides the Most Compelling and Realistic Audio Experience for Windows XP and Vista

MILPITAS, Calif., March 22 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Creative (Nasdaq: CREAF), a worldwide leader in digital entertainment products, today announced that OpenAL 1.1 will be available for Sound Blaster(R) sound cards this Spring to provide compelling audio playback and hardware acceleration in PC games developed for Windows XP and Vista. OpenAL 1.1 (Open Audio Library) and Creative's Interactive Spatial Audio Composition Tool (ISACT(TM)) enable game developers to implement stunning 3D audio in PC, Xbox, and Xbox 360 games.

"OpenAL has advanced to become the ideal audio API for 3D audio on the PC, XBox and XBox 360," said George Thorn, director of digital media relations at Creative. "For developers of Windows XP and Vista games, writing to OpenAL 1.1 will ensure that game audio will take full advantage of our Sound Blaster X-Fi hardware for 3D audio acceleration and advanced audio processing on both operating systems. In addition, our award winning ISACT Production Studio offers sound designers an intuitive and powerful authoring environment that allows them to explore new territory in game audio design, and is completely integrated with the OpenAL API for seamless cross-platform support."

"OpenAL has proven to be a great choice for the Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach audio engine. The resulting audio performance and sound quality in-game is fantastic, with Creative's EAX engine providing incredibly immersive sound effects, especially the reverb in the dungeons," said Geoff Scott, audio and video director from Turbine, Inc. "OpenAL's audio hardware support in Windows Vista will allow us to continue to implement these high-quality effects in the game for a long time to come."

"One of the best ways to deliver an immersive and memorable PC gaming experience is to focus on creating a realistic 3D audio soundscape," said Ed Lima, audio director from Human Head Studios, Inc. "To make that happen quickly, easily and effectively, we chose to take full advantage of the powerful audio capabilities of the Sound Blaster X-Fi in PREY, due for Windows XP and Vista later this year. We loved how easily OpenAL provided a direct path to hardware audio acceleration on the card. OpenAL allows us to employ the same audio code on both operating systems, greatly simplifying the process of designing and implementing audio into the game. This way, Human Head can ensure that players on both platforms will fully enjoy the vast and engaging audio experience we've created for them in PREY."

The Sound Blaster X-Fi family of sound cards provides hardware acceleration in PC games so audio processing is offloaded from the PC CPU. With this additional processing power, users typically notice increased frame rate speeds. In addition, hardware acceleration can deliver far more precise 3D positional placement of sounds in-game, including elevation, along with real-time, stackable 3D effects such as reverbs, occlusion, and environmental morphing. Hardware acceleration can deliver all of these high-quality 3D effects to end users regardless of which headphones or multi-channel speaker configuration they choose.

Creative will demonstrate the advantages of writing to OpenAL under Windows XP, Vista and the Xbox platforms, in addition to its EAX(TM) ADVANCED HD(TM) engine and ISACT during this week's 2006 Game Developers Conference in San Jose. In addition, Creative will co-host a session at the conference entitled "Hardware Audio Design and Implementation in PREY and QUAKE 4," Friday, March 24 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

OpenAL 1.1, an upgrade for the free API, OpenAL, will feature three primary improvements over the current version: audio recording functionality for use with in-game voice chat; an offset feature that will allow developers finer control over audio playback; and additional volume fall-off models that will save developers effort in customizing their audio engine.

About Creative

Creative is a worldwide leader in digital entertainment products for PC users. Famous for its Sound Blaster sound cards and for launching the multimedia revolution, Creative is now driving digital entertainment on the PC platform with products like its highly acclaimed MuVo(R) and Zen(TM) portable audio players. Creative's innovative hardware, proprietary technology, applications and services leverage the Internet, enabling consumers to experience high-quality digital entertainment -- anytime, anywhere.

This announcement relates to products launched in the United States. The product names, prices and availability are subject to change without notice and may differ elsewhere in the world according to local factors and requirements. Sound Blaster, MuVo, Zen, EAX, ISACT and ADVANCED HD are trademarks or registered trademarks of Creative Technology Ltd. in the United States and/or other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

» Continue reading Creative Announces Availability of OpenAL 1.1

Saturday, March 18, 2006

New Review

There is a new review (or rather an overview) at washingtonpost.com. Nothing new really, just a nice overview why you should get yourself a SoundBlaster X-Fi card and why it is a lot better than an onboard solution.

"The X-Fi's extra clarity opens up a world of sounds that are not even audible using built-in sound, substantially improving the sense of immersion in the game environment. Dozens of moving sounds in a game can become a cacophony on built-in sound, but the X-Fi keeps each sound reasonably distinct and makes it easier to focus on the important ones."

For those still not convinced go ahead and read the whole review.

» Continue reading New Review

Friday, March 17, 2006

X-Fi Interview

A new interview with Creative's European Brand Manager for Audio Products Darragh O'Toole has been posted at Digital Life. Topics include the future of the X-Fi, upcoming game titles, the mysterious UT2K4 X-Fi patch and more. To sum the interview up:

"...it's unlikely that we will see another chip of its kind in the next few years...blah blah...X-Fi products that cater for different bus types and form factors over the next year...blah blah...we have a patch that was custom designed by Creative for UT2004...blah blah...in the final stages and hope to have it available for download sometime in March...blah blah...there are some kick-ass titles due over the coming year...due to confidentiality reasons can not list them...blah blah...Vista will not support a Direct hardware patch...

You can head over to Digital Life for the full interview if the summary wasn't enough for you.

» Continue reading X-Fi Interview

Monday, March 13, 2006

X-Fi Tech in Future MP3 Players

Creative has plans to implement their CMSS-3D technology into portable mp3 players. The guys over at bit-tech had a chance to check out a modified version of the Creative MuVo player. Although so far there is only a prototype it sounds like a great idea to bring this powerful features of the X-Fi to a mp3 player. Besides CMSS-3D the final product line is supposed to feature the 24-bit Crystalizer.

No release date have been mentioned yet.

» Continue reading X-Fi Tech in Future MP3 Players

Friday, March 10, 2006

X-Fi PC Cases

Creative is showing off 3 fan-made PC cases at their booth at this years CeBit. The plan behind those case mods was to showoff the three target areas of the X-Fi series - Gaming, entertainment and music creation. So far pictures of only one of the cases have been released, till today.

X-Fi Music Creation Mod
The "Music Creation" case.

Today the first pictures of the X-Fi Gaming and X-Fi Entertainment cases have been posted over at bit-tech. More pictures are promised to follow so be sure to check back later for an update.

If you somehow missed the Music Creation mod over at bit-tech you sure missed a lot.

» Continue reading X-Fi PC Cases

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Contest Reminder

Just a small reminder, the SoundBlaster X-Fi Quake 4 Contest is ending in only 5 days. To win simply answer the question if Quake 4 is making full use of EAX Advanced HD 5.0 and X-RAM. Grand prize is a Dell XPS 600 equipped with a Pentium D Dual-Core, 1GB RAM, 1024GB storage space on a RAID setup and two 7800GTX in SLI. All prizes are listed at the contest page. Good luck!

» Continue reading Contest Reminder

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

X-Fi Crystalizer and Framerates

One of the features introduced with the SoundBlaster X-Fi series is the 24-bit Crystalizer. Games, movies or mp3's sound better or at least they are supposed to. Creative even claims that a mp3 will sound better with Crystalizer enabled than it would on the CD it was taken from.

24-bit Crystalizer

Does it really work? Well, it does but for people with low to mid range speakers or headphones. On low to mid range speakers/headphones it really is an improvement since Crystalizer makes up for the shortcomings in the frequency range. People with higher end sound setups will probably keep it disabled.

But the sound quality is not the topic here. The question is: Does my framerate suffer from having the 24-bit Crystalizer enabled or am I wasting processing power? To test this it would be ideal to benchmark some games with various Crystalizer settings and compare the results.

The first game for this test was supposed to be Quake 4, but sadly timedemos in Quake 4 don't come with sound. Battlefield 2 doesn't come with any benchmarking options at all and using FRAPS to gain results isn't the best idea either. One of the games that can be benchmarked with sound is Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. It is a bit older than Quake 4 or Battlefield 2 but that shouldn't worry us since Crystalizer works on any sound, old or new. All tests have been run three times.

Crystalizer SettingFramerate
Crystalizer at 75%52.8fps
Crystalizer at 100%53.2fps

Definitely no noticeable difference in framerates. Average framerates are 53.4fps with Crystalizer off, 53.1fps at 75% and 53fps at 100%. Let's try another game, this time Nadeo's recently released free game Trackmania Nations. Sound settings - Quality: High, EAX: ON, Speakers: 5.1. Also this time all tests have been run three times using the build in benchmark option.

Crystalizer SettingFramerate
Crystalizer at 75%47.8fps
Crystalizer at 100%47.8fps

Like in the previous test also here there are no significant differences. Average framerates are 47.8fps with Crystalizer off, 47.9fps at 75% and 47.8fps at 100%.

So does the 24-bit Crystalizer affect your framerates? Not one bit and the reason for that is probably the fact that the effect is being processed by your X-Fi soundcard and not by your CPU. Should you keep it enabled? Well, it's up to you. If you can hear a difference and like it - keep it. Either way it doesn't affect your system performance only your hearing experience.

» Continue reading X-Fi Crystalizer and Framerates