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New Creative Z Series sound card - super low headhone audio

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August 2, 2013 6:05:32 PM

So I got this sound card the other day, and the audio is fantastic. I use Astro A30s for gaming, though, and the audio through the headphones is incredibly low. I have maxed out the volumes every possibly place they are hidden. This sound card has a spot for a gaming headset and then PC speakers. I have tried plugging the headset into the headphone jack on the speakers and got the same results. This is very saddening - I may end up returning this card for another. It's too bad: the card is red and matches my build perfectly :( 
August 3, 2013 6:24:37 AM

I have tried a few more settings, all to no avail. Any ideas?
August 3, 2013 9:14:20 AM

Is this with the MIXamp in place?

A bit more info on exactly how it is connected. The card should drive 32 ohm headphones without issues.

Also make sure the drivers are up to date. Creative tends to have some drivers issues early on.
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August 3, 2013 11:11:15 AM

nukemaster said:
Is this with the MIXamp in place?

A bit more info on exactly how it is connected. The card should drive 32 ohm headphones without issues.

Also make sure the drivers are up to date. Creative tends to have some drivers issues early on.


This is actually without the MIXamp in place. I have the MIXamp hooked up to my PVR. Would I have to split the MIXamp to have it go to the PVR and the PC? The way I have the audio setup is like this:
Headphones -> sound card (green / pink, so to speak, inputs 1 and 2)
PC Speakers -> sound card (whichever the input on the card is for PC speakers, input 3)

If it makes any difference, I have the sound for my X-Box 360 split so it can be heard from either my PC speakers or my headphones. When I use my headphones, they are connected to the MIXamp and sound perfect. I'm at work right now, so I don't remember the setup perfectly, but it is a strange ordeal. I have the digital audio going from my PVR to my MIXamp. If I had to connect through the MIXamp to get the better sound, how would I do so if the optical on my MIXamp is already occupied by the cable coming from the PVR?

Thank you so much for any advice!
August 3, 2013 12:08:32 PM

When you get home, please let me know EXACTLY what you have setup.

So you have your headset connected to the LAST 2 plugs on the card one with a headphone image and the other with the mic image?

If not, I would disconnect everything(even the front port audio cable if it is in place.) and try just that to see what it does.

We need to break this down to the most basic level to see what is going on. I find it VERY hard to believe that the card can not drive 32 ohm headphones. I just did a quick test(60 ohm headphones and some 16 ohms I have here as well) and my X-fi can most likely damage my headphones(its that loud at 50%, 30% for the 16 ohm ones). I would guess that the newer cards should be at least that powerful.
August 3, 2013 12:29:36 PM

nukemaster said:
When you get home, please let me know EXACTLY what you have setup.

So you have your headset connected to the LAST 2 plugs on the card one with a headphone image and the other with the mic image?

If not, I would disconnect everything(even the front port audio cable if it is in place.) and try just that to see what it does.

We need to break this down to the most basic level to see what is going on. I find it VERY hard to believe that the card can not drive 32 ohm headphones. I just did a quick test(60 ohm headphones and some 16 ohms I have here as well) and my X-fi can most likely damage my headphones(its that loud at 50%, 30% for the 16 ohm ones). I would guess that the newer cards should be at least that powerful.


Sounds good, Nuke. As soon as I get home (6:30pm MST / 8:30pm EST) I'll tear it all apart and see what I can do.

As of right now, though, I know for sure that the headset is connected to the last two plugs on the card (the two plugs nearest the open panel of the case). The mic part of the headset is plugged into the mic input on the sound card, and the headphone part of the headset is plugged into the amplified headphone input on the sound card. I figured I'd exclude the MIXamp since it's going through the sound card. Though I know for sure that the headphones are connected to the correct ports on the card, I have tried them all for grits and shins. As I mentioned originally, I have also tried connecting the headphones directly to the speakers (Logitech Z-640s). I can still hear it, but it super quiet.

A side problem that I'm having with this card is with the software. When I switch from speakers to headphones, or from headphones to speakers, the audio on anything that I am currently playing stops. Pandora stops audio until the next song comes on, and it crashes YouTube videos all together. I have the latest drivers for the card as well as the latest version of the control panel.
August 3, 2013 12:32:54 PM

If I switch modes in my x-fi(game/entertainment/creation) it does the same thing for many programs(stop or crash.). I think software does not like seeing the sound card change settings.

If you get this sorted, may I ask you to test something for me please?
August 3, 2013 1:22:05 PM

nukemaster said:
If I switch modes in my x-fi(game/entertainment/creation) it does the same thing for many programs(stop or crash.). I think software does not like seeing the sound card change settings.

If you get this sorted, may I ask you to test something for me please?


You name it, I'll test it.
August 3, 2013 10:11:42 PM

Have you made any progress?

My honest question is about if the SoundCore3d based cards hardware accelerate OpenAL(I need something to goto if I build a new system and my X-fi is long discontinued). My test would need Winamp or a similar player with an OpenAL plugin. But first lets see if we can get you fixed up.

Sorry for the late reply, worked late.
August 3, 2013 10:45:53 PM

nukemaster said:
Have you made any progress?

My honest question is about if the SoundCore3d based cards hardware accelerate OpenAL(I need something to goto if I build a new system and my X-fi is long discontinued). My test would need Winamp or a similar player with an OpenAL plugin. But first lets see if we can get you fixed up.

Sorry for the late reply, worked late.


By the time I got home from work we had to go look at houses, so I just now had a moment to test a few things.

My headphones are currently plugged in to the sound card as I had expected. They are plugged in to the mic and headphone inputs on the card -- as it appears they should be. The PC speakers are plugged in right next to them and sound fine. The headphones still sound quiet.

Should I be going through the MIXamp?

EDIT: When I have my headphones plugged in and I go to my playback devices, the options are: Realtek Digital Output, Realtek Digital Output (Optical), Speakers, and SPDIF-Out. The speakers are selected as the default, and the audio bar on the right hand side is barely moving. It's as if the output method isn't receiving much audio to push through. When I select any of the devices other than the default (which is Speakers), then I cannot hear anything.

EDIT2: I have disabled the onboard audio, so there is now only SPDIF-Out and Speakers (default).
August 4, 2013 7:07:40 AM

So even in headphone mode it is still quiet.

From what the reviews show, that card has a built in amps for the headphone port. It should be plenty loud.

You can try the mixamp, chances are it will work, but you run into the issue of having to move it from device to device because your game systems and pvr may not drive headphones without it either.
August 4, 2013 7:11:59 AM

nukemaster said:
So even in headphone mode it is still quiet.

From what the reviews show, that card has a built in amps for the headphone port. It should be plenty loud.

You can try the mixamp, chances are it will work, but you run into the issue of having to move it from device to device because your game systems and pvr may not drive headphones without it either.


Yeah I really don't like the idea of reconnecting the MIXamp every single time I go from PC gaming to console gaming. Do you think it may be a sound card problem - maybe I can exchange it for another one and give that a shot? I wouldn't think so. It definitely seems like a settings issue that I simply can't figure out.

EDIT: Well I disconnected the optical cable from the PVR and hooked it up to the computer. I can definitely get more volume this way, but it's not extremely loud like I would like it to be. Even with the MIXamp volume maxed out, it's not enough to damage my hearing (and unfortunately that's the result I'm looking for).

What do you make of this? I feel that I'm only getting the extra volume from the amp, but like you said, the card should be able to boost the headphones by itself.
August 4, 2013 7:39:40 AM

I wonder if the Creative forum may be worth a shot as more users on that forum will HAVE your card to help better. My card is clearly too different(X-fi Titanium).

http://forums.creative.com/

I know is it is not the best option here, but at least if gives you a chance to see if anyone on that forum has run into this issue before. Worst case, I guess you would have to try to swap it.
August 4, 2013 11:38:18 AM

I created an account over there and will post my issue as soon as my account gets activated by an admin. I'll keep you posted with what I find out. There seems to be good activity on their forums with some knowledgeable users regarding Creative products. And you are right; there are a ton of people over there with the SBZ. That could be pretty beneficial.
August 4, 2013 8:57:04 PM

I have an account on that forum too :) 

Windows 8 driver testing for X-fi :) 

Do you by any chance listen to music and game at the same time? If so, do you notice that game sounds seem to lower the music volume even with smart volume OFF. This is why I want openAL to be hardware accelerated because then Windows can not mess with my sound :) . Was never an issue in the past because I used to use 2 systems(one to game on and the other for team speak and music, While I can still do this, it is not so ideal any more.).

One more thing. If that is your system, have you posted it in this thread yet :)  Looks like a nice setup.
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/310222-31-hardware-me...
August 4, 2013 9:33:46 PM

I actually can't listen to music while playing a game unless I'm playing an MMO. I hate outside noise when playing Call of Duty, so I typically play with the volume cranked and my headphones on.

I still haven't been activated at the Creative forums... I guess that's a Monday through Friday deal? lol

I'll have to upload a picture of my build so I can get a quality shot of it on that thread you posted. Call me arrogant, but I like mine more than I liked the first few on there :p 
August 7, 2013 9:10:35 PM

So I literally tried everything I could think of. I got in touch with Creative and still have not been able to get access to their forums. Grr... I have returned my Sound Blaster Z and picked up the Zx, which I believe is the exact same card except that the package comes with a volume dial knob. I am having the same problem with this card. Everything sounds great until I switch the output on the Sound Blaster control panel to headphones and refresh the audio source. Super quiet with all settings maxed.
August 8, 2013 9:39:20 AM

Is it any better with the front headphone jack assuming it is connected.
August 8, 2013 4:46:29 PM

nukemaster said:
Is it any better with the front headphone jack assuming it is connected.


To be honest, the front jack (the one from the volume control knob) is the only I have tried. I haven't had a ton of time to troubleshoot, but I am currently going back and forth with Creative through email with diagnostics. I sent them information about my system from their Creative software and a screenshot of all of my sound settings within their control panel and the Windows volume panel. I'll keep you posted.
August 8, 2013 5:27:30 PM

Ok. I would like to see how and if they fix this because it is a new card and I may end up with one like it in the future.

By front jack I was actually talking about a case mounted one connected to the card via an Intel HD audio compatible cable.

In between trouble shooting if you happen to be able to give Winamp(do not give it any file associations if you do not plan to keep it) media player and a plugin a shot, I would be very grateful.

I can use both this
http://sourceforge.net/projects/winampopenalout/
and this(with all its settings OFF, it works quite well for me)
http://www.winamp.com/plugin/openal-eax-2-0-efx-output-...

I wish to know IF OpenAL on the newer cards will bypass the Windows mixer(or are now limited to software) like this. Windows does not even know that music is playing so it can not mess with it.
August 11, 2013 8:12:48 PM

Yeah, I actually do not have front audio ports. I have not used WinAmp in years, but I downloaded it and the plug-ins you would like for me to test. Would you mind explaining how to use them? I was going to just take the time to figure it out, but time is of the essence (that and I played with it for 2min and didn't see anything obvious so I gave up).
August 11, 2013 9:00:36 PM

In Winamp hit Control + K to bring up preferences and select Output. Select Wumpus OpenAL(it is a more simple plugin) and hit Configure.

With any luck it will have a Default : SoundBlaster(or just SB) Zx as well as a Generic Software. You will want to try the first one if you can

If it all checks out, you should be able to play some music and see if Windows sees it or not(you will see no audio visualization in the Windows mixer if it is passing the audio directly to the card). If not the new cards use Windows to deal with sound.

When I tried that plugin on my media centers onboard sound with the software mode, Some songs became rather distorted because it seemed to try to make everything louder(it does not do this on my Audigy2 ZS or my X-fi card).
August 12, 2013 7:00:33 AM

It will not allow me to play music with that selected as the output. It continues to say something like invalid file name. I changed the output back to the default and it plays like a charm :( 
!