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Windows 7: My Thoughts on Creative's Soundblaster ZXR Sound Card


01 Dec 2013   #1

Windows 8.1 Pro
 
 
My Thoughts on Creative's Soundblaster ZXR Sound Card

If you’re a serious music fan who listens to music on your PC, this is definitely a card to get! At around $200 bucks it isn’t cheap; but for those 200 bones you get an audiophile grade card with replaceable OP amps, a whopping 124DB signal to noise ratio, and a built in 600 ohm headphone amp for high end headphones.

YouTube clip added for box contents and tech info. Clip is 18 minutes.



Performance/Sound….. Listening to Alex Clare’s Tightrope, on his CD, The Lateness of The Hour reveals clean deep sounding base notes not heard on my previous card which I reviewed here (review on the X-Fi Titanium). I’ll also state this is a strong card that’ll get your neighbors up in arms if you like your base. It also doesn’t require a lot of input to push out the volume. In short, it’s louder and cleaner than the Titanium at the same volume; No doubt helped out by it’s 126DB signal to noise ratio.

Pop in a Jazz album like Hiromi’s Move, which is a three piece band featuring Anthony Jackson on Bass, Simon Phillips on drums, and Hiromi on keys and suddenly feel like you’re in the studio watching them play. The Piano is bright, the bass tight, the drums and cymbals clean and clear. In short, the instruments sound like they should, and this is on flat setting using the EQ. I also noticed the bass notes seemed to extend on this card compared to my X-Fi Titanium Pro.

Headphones…. As I noted, this card features a 600 ohm headphone amp which you can enable/disable through the supplied software suit. The amp is used for high end headphone’s requiring a 600 ohm impedance. Be aware though that turning this on with headphones not designed for 600 ohms can damage the phones as it’ll basically overdrive the phones.

With that, both my Audio-Technica ATH-M50S and my Bose Quiet Comfort 15 headphones don’t require the amp, yet the sound is loud, clean and clear with no hint of distortion. All this at a flat EQ.

Gaming…. To be honest, I’ve not noticed any game performance increase, or decrease for that matter, so I can’t say what it contribute to gaming per se. However the software package does feature an option called scout mode where the technology allows you to “better hear your enemies”. Have I noticed a difference here, or on gaming’s overall performance…? I’d be lying if I said yeah; I’m more and musical audio buff so that’s where my concentration lays.

Misses...

Not an issue for me but if you want/need 7.1 audio this card only does 5.1

Front header connections are a no-show here as well. Creative justifies it by saying you get cleaner sound using the supplied Audio Control Module (ACM) as opposed to the case’s front headers.

What I hate!

The fact that you have to go through the software to switch between listening to your headphones or speakers. There is NO auto switching like there was in the older X-Fi software! Yes, you can still use headphones and have the speakers playing at the same time, but I’d like the speakers muted when plugging in my headphones.

Ironically, my new motherboard (Gigabyte G1 Sniper 5) features the same type soundcard and tech used on the ZXR, including replaceable op-amps, and the nearly identical Creative software package, however it DOES allow auto switching. C’mon creative and add this feature to the ZXR cards.

BTW here's a look at the similiar packages between Creative and the one used for the Gigabyte Sniper 5 board...

Creative's ZXR Control Panel
My Thoughts on Creative's Soundblaster ZXR Sound Card-zxr-control-panel.jpg

Gigabyte's Recon 3D Control Panel
My Thoughts on Creative's Soundblaster ZXR Sound Card-gigabyte-recon-3d-contrrol-panel.jpg

Also note that I'm the ZXR on the gigabyte board instead of the integrated Recon itself. And that a quick preliminary test shows the ZXR to produce a better sound quality. The Recon sounds a bit harsh.

I’m now using Windows 8.1 and thus far no issues as reported elsewhere due to “proper” Windows 8.1 drivers not being available. Thus I’m currently using the latest Window 8 drivers posted on Creative’s site.

Bottom line on the ZXR... impressive and well worth the 200 buck asking price.

My two cents.



My System SpecsSystem Spec
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02 Dec 2013   #2

windows 7 64bit
 
 

thanks for the review.

I been going around looking for reviews.


I ordered this card on saturday and will be receiving today monday(UPS loves me)... cant wait to test it out.

I had a titanium hd card but it only had stereo, so I been using the xfi titanium fatality pro card for 5.1 analog audio. but then I been stuck using my headphones connect to my receiver and not having the same feel as when connected to my hd card.

I like the fact that the ZxR card has 5.1 connecting plus the headphone and mic connection. so I can enjoy movies and some games on my receiver and listen to dubstep and other music on my headphones connect to the ZxR.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
02 Dec 2013   #3

Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit sp1
 
 

Sound card is what i might need i have issues when using Headphones during play either they have to be on all the time in combination with the chat key

It never did this until i switch screens to a bigger monitor somehow i loose that feature

I am sure with a dedicated card this wouldn't happen

Thanks for the review Sygnus21 it was a great read and has given me great ideas
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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02 Dec 2013   #4

Windows 7 x64 and numerous virtual machines
 
 

Very nice review, Thank you.
I recently purchased a Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD and find the stereo audio quality through my monitor speakers is superb. Uncoloured and precise with accurate imagery. I do not use any of the bells and whistles just plain old stereo for my HiFi. Headphone audio is superb too.
Its nice to see there are others who take their computer audio seriously.
Oh and I agree on the RECON 3D audio, had 1 of those card and had to RMA it it sounded brash, loud, aggressive and after a while fatiguing.
Silly red led's did nothing for the audio quality either.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
02 Dec 2013   #5

Windows 8.1 Pro
 
 

If you really want 5.1 audio I'd suggest you look at the Quick Start Guide as you would be using RCA jacks for the front left & right speakers, mini jacks for the rear left & right speakers, and a mini jack for the sub.

The headphones and mic use a quarter inch jacks, though they can be converted to a mini via supplied screw off adapters.

Oh and the ZXR does NOT have any "silly red led's" or lights. It's a sound card, not a light beacon

Here's my case all light up. The ZXR is on the bottom, and has no LED's. The red dot you see next to it is the BIOS indicator on the MB.

My Thoughts on Creative's Soundblaster ZXR Sound Card-haswell-haf-x-case-lit2.jpg

You might note the missing DB6 card. I simply have no use for it at this time so I didn't install it.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
02 Dec 2013   #6

Windows 7 x64 and numerous virtual machines
 
 

No 5.1 is handled by a different media center system. This is purely a Stereo Audio playback machine. I know the ZR does not have the toy LED's but the RECON 3d Fatality card I had for a few days did. Stereo High Audio quality was what I wanted and my card has replaceable OP amps in the outputs. Unlikely I'll ever change them LOL. Glad to see there are audiophiles out there that enjoy the sound of music of the highest quality.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
02 Dec 2013   #7

Windows 8.1 Pro
 
 

OK. I was just making the statement for those wanting to hook up a 5.1 system.

And yeah, I'm not sure I'll be replacing my op amps as well. Too much work only to find out the sound may not be to your liking.

That said, the one good thing about my MB is I got a free replaceable amp with it. I might give it a try on my ZXR just to see what its about.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Dec 2013   #8

Windows 7 x64 and numerous virtual machines
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Indianatone View Post
Very nice review, Thank you.
I recently purchased a Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD and find the stereo audio quality through my monitor speakers is superb. Uncoloured and precise with accurate imagery. I do not use any of the bells and whistles just plain old stereo for my HiFi. Headphone audio is superb too.
Its nice to see there are others who take their computer audio seriously.
Oh and I agree on the RECON 3D audio, had 1 of those card and had to RMA it it sounded brash, loud, aggressive and after a while fatiguing.
Silly red led's did nothing for the audio quality either.
I just bought a refurb Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD from the Egg for $70 on sale and if it works OK it will be a sweet deal. It is going in my spare main PC which I try to keep with similar hardware as my main PC.
Happy Audio......
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 My Thoughts on Creative's Soundblaster ZXR Sound Card




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