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Is the SB X-Fi much better than the Audigy 2 on PC speakers?

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April 26, 2006 4:45:17 PM

I am using the SB Audigy 2 in my PC which are connected to Logitech's Z-680 5.1 speakers. It is the forerunner to the Z-5500. For PC speakers they are pretty good, the one big complaint is that the bass is too loose making things sound too "boomie", but it has been fixed in the Z-5500.

While I think the Z-680 are good PC speakers, they suck (as do all PC speakers) compared to floor standing speakers used for a stereo system. Anywaste, is there a big difference in sound quality on PC speakers between the Audigy 2 and X-Fi? I'm sure I'll be able to tell the difference if hooked up to Paradigm Studio 100 speakers, but crappy PC speakers?

More about : audigy speakers

April 26, 2006 10:05:05 PM

Are you asking if you upgraded from the Audigy 2 or the X-Fi? The lowest model (XtremeMusic) shares the same DAC as the Audigy 2.

I think a DAC that's 100db SNR or above should be ample so that the differences between DACs should not be noticeable. Also, realize the average listening level is well below 90db for most users, so the noise level differences should not be differentiable.

However the X-Fi does have some software effects which may be noticeable under certain conditions, like EAX5-select games.
April 26, 2006 10:12:04 PM

My reg Audigy has a 100db snr.. I think Xfi has 105db... Not quite sure on it..
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April 26, 2006 10:16:19 PM

Xifi is 109db SNR... Not to shabby!
April 26, 2006 11:53:04 PM

Quote:
Are you asking if you upgraded from the Audigy 2 or the X-Fi? The lowest model (XtremeMusic) shares the same DAC as the Audigy 2.


No, it's not for me. Just a general question because when I recommend a sound card on this forum or another forum, there's usually an avalanche of people recommending the X-Fi over my suggested Audigy 2 recommendation.

Based on hardware reviews that I've read I really don't see the difference between the two cards. Yes, the sound to noise ratio is higher, but a lot of "sound" is lost thru crappy speakers. Only once did I ever recommend the X-Fi and that was only because the poster was connecting it to a real stereo system, not PC speakers.

Just trying to get a concensus here to determine if my point of view is wrong that's all.
April 27, 2006 12:35:13 AM

I agree, no need for you to upgrade. The minimal difference, if any, most likely not any, will be totally lost going to PC speakers. Unless you are an audiophile or doing lots of audio editing you will not be able to tell the difference. The big jump is from onboard to Audigy, very small jump going from there to X-Fi. Save the $130.
April 27, 2006 4:46:16 AM

Even if you hear the difference... It will only me minor... The only reason I would get the Xifi is to get the new EAX and such... Otherwise A2ZS is fine for me...
April 28, 2006 10:48:31 PM

You can get an X-Fi for arround $106 inc shipping. The Audigy 2 ZS for arround $70.

If you have connect to a decent home theater setup, have very high-end PC speakers, use good headphones or are consider yourself a hardcore gamer I would recommend spending $36 extra for an X-FI. Also if you plan on upgrading your speakers in the near furture you would also want to get the X-Fi.

If you already have an Audigy 2 ZS its probably not worth the upgrade unless you really feel the need the latest EAX support for a particular game.

I kept my SB Live 5.1 for over 5 years (its still in my 2nd PC) so I don't think spending $36 extra for the X-Fi is a bad investment.

Better than spending $450 for a graphics card that will sell for $250 in three months.
April 29, 2006 12:34:20 AM

Quote:
You can get an X-Fi for arround $106 inc shipping. The Audigy 2 ZS for arround $70.

If you have connect to a decent home theater setup, have very high-end PC speakers, use good headphones or are consider yourself a hardcore gamer I would recommend spending $36 extra for an X-FI. Also if you plan on upgrading your speakers in the near furture you would also want to get the X-Fi.

If you already have an Audigy 2 ZS its probably not worth the upgrade unless you really feel the need the latest EAX support for a particular game.

I kept my SB Live 5.1 for over 5 years (its still in my 2nd PC) so I don't think spending $36 extra for the X-Fi is a bad investment.

Better than spending $450 for a graphics card that will sell for $250 in three months.


Most people who invested in a home theater system that I've met in forums have no intention of listening to resampled music and avoid Creative for this reason. Dolby Digital Live/DTS-Connect products are generally marketted for these users, who want bitperfect playback.
April 29, 2006 6:41:44 AM

My X-FI sounds perfect on both my studio monitor headphone and home theater speakers.

In fact I switched from digital output to analog output because the X-FI renderes the audio better than my Pioneer VSX-D912-K Reciever.

Though I keep the "Crystalizer" turned off.

---

Some people always come up with some reason not to enjoy their music/movies.

I read were an electronics store invited experts in to compare the effects of various cables. Store personel would hold up each wires, connect it to the speakers and then the experts would debate the various differences.

Everyone seemed to pick their own favorite although no one liked the cheap stuff. Then they revealed they they were listening to the same setup the whole time and all the differences were in their heads.

Also had a friend who claimed to hate MP3s. So I set up a blind test where I would repeatedly play back the original track or the mp3 at 192kbps.

Turns out he could only tell the difference.

Maybe someone with better hearing could. But on the system he listens to everyday with his ears he can't tell the difference yet he strongly hatted mp3s.

Repeated with studio monitor headphones and 128 kbps. This time he could tell the difference but thought the 128 kpbs was the better quality orriginal.

---

I guess some people enjoy their music and others listen for defects.
April 29, 2006 8:30:04 AM

I completely agree! I have some pricey JBL studio monitors and have tried my sblive 5.1 and audigy 2, there is no difference with music. Obviosly the eax differs on the cards so games "sound" different due to the different effects, but the quality is the same. My mini-disc player, or audio cd player playing over optical sounds just as good as the computer over the analog. Sometimes I think the analog is smoother but I think that's in my head :) 
April 29, 2006 8:35:34 AM

Quote:

I guess some people enjoy their music and others listen for defects.


In that case, I have a great suggestion.

Get a pair of Logitech X-530s, I mean all that IMD and THD is just marketting junk for "high end HT speakers". Some people enjoy their music, and others listen for defects.
April 29, 2006 7:41:36 PM

I actually have a pair of those on my kids gaming machine, not too bad, cutoff highs and kinda boomy, but not as bad as the creative inspire series.
April 29, 2006 8:58:47 PM

I have the exact same speakers as you do and I also made the swich from Audigy 2 ZS to the X-Fi Platinum Pro and I think it was worth it in some aspects and not worth it in others.

When I listen to music, it sounds about the same, but the 24-bit crysatlizer does help. The bass is more distinct on the X-Fi. However, where the X-Fi really shines is in games like BattleField 2. The improvement in sound quality was very nice. The complexities of rendering sounds like tanks behind walls, around corners, and placement of fire make the X-Fi worthwhile in my book.

All in all I like my X-Fi (the heaphone virtual surround sound is the best in the business), so take my advice as you will. :p 

Edit: the boomieness is accentuated with the X-Fi a bit more, but I plan on trading up speakers by year end.
April 30, 2006 8:19:20 PM

Quote:
Are you asking if you upgraded from the Audigy 2 or the X-Fi? The lowest model (XtremeMusic) shares the same DAC as the Audigy 2.


Whoa. Ugh - I assumed X-Fi was X-fi and the bells and various models' whistles you buy did not affect the basic sound quality.

I hate when the marketing is what I'd call misleading, when a model name, e.g., 'X-Fi', is used too broadly where you have to dig too much for info.

Do I read this correctly that the bottom X-Fi card's sound quality would be close to the Audigy 2 ZS, rather than like the other X-Fi cards?

On a separate note:

"Everyone seemed to pick their own favorite although no one liked the cheap stuff."

I have to say this is true - it seems human nature to link price to quality.

Sometimes it's hard to appreciate something inexpensive, as foolish as that is. Some companies make a killing off of this.

When you can easily compare products, the effect is overcome - you move to the 'this is outrageous, costs more and it's crap' conclusion - but when comparison is not easy, we tend to give the benefit to the more expensive product.

When I'd lay on a 'Tempur-Pedic' mattress, I just could not tell if I preferred it; but I did keep thinking "this costs much more, so..."

Same with food, same with many products. I had a similar experience in an audio store that had 'cheap middle and high-end' rooms - it was hard for my opinion of the quality I heard not to be overcome by thinking 'this costs 5 times more, so...'

That's why I think the way to buy, when possible, are blind comparisons. We can often surprise ourselves.
April 30, 2006 9:05:57 PM

THG did a major review of the X-FI way back when (late last year i think, oct ish maybe) which should clarify the diffrences. From what I understand the X-Fi's shine when complex audio scenarios present themselves (helicopters behind walls for ex.). When it comes to music the 24 crystalizer is supposed to enhance the overall audio quality, while I use it and notice a diffrence I am not sure it is worth $35.

As for the bells and whistles comment: I believe the diffrences in the model relate to the raw power, modes, and memory of each model. The top of the line X-Fi (the one I use) has 3 diffrent modes: Game, Audio Creation and Entertainment. Each mode is optimized for that specific task, ie audio creation is optmized for recording, low latency, and mixing while gaming mode is optimized for raw processing of sound effects (EAX) and multiple sources (think 64 player BF2 server).

The lower models have less DRAM (i believe that is the type creative uses) and less raw processing power and modes. The XtremeMusic (intro model) *i think* has 16MB of DRAM vs. 64MB on the Platinum Pro and the overall DAP power is reduced as well. Both are extremely capable cards but the Platinum pro can some things the XtremeMusic version can't.

As it compares to the Audigy 2, I can't remember off hand but in THG's article they break it all down alot better than I can (of course they are experts I am not lol). I'll try and dig up the link.

THG's Review and Breakdown of X-Fi
May 1, 2006 12:57:13 AM

All models have the same three modes. Very nice. Gaming mode is configured form my studio monitors. Entertainment is for my Home theater system.

Don't have to change the settings at all when I switch.

Want to compare features you can do so at creatives site.


http://www.creative.com/products/comparechart/comparechart.asp


On my budged the cheapest X-FI was the best choice.

---
As far as the comment about me switching to cheap speakers. If my appartment caught fire and I lost my Home Theater speakers and all I could afford were some cheap PC speakers I would be far more interested in the movie I was watching than in the loss in sound quality.

And Louis Armstrong is one of my favorite musicians even though I suppose any true audiosnob would puncture his eardrum before being subjected to such low quality recordings.

Anyway it doesn't matter because I have great headphones and great speakers and my X-FI brinds me joy an happiness and doesn't stand in the way when I feel like gaming.

Oh and I ran out of the good speaker wire and one of my surrounds is using a thinner, cheaper wire from a local supermarket.

So far not one of my guests has been able to tell which speaker has the "bad" wire.
May 6, 2006 10:42:00 AM

I don't understand. You advise buying the Audigy 2zs because why? Yes, the 2zs is is big improvement over onboard and saves cycles for gaming, but Creative designed the XFi is their BEST PC soundcard. If one had "crappy speakers" why would one want a card at all, except cycles and EAX? Why would someone want EAX and "crappy speakers"?
I have the Altec Lansing 5.1 gamers and X-Fi ext. The Altecs aren't the best PC speaker but with limited space, they soung great. My Audigy 2zs sounded good, till the XFI.
If one has onboard w/ crappy speakers, GET BETTER speakers.
If one wants good sound, save cycles, save money, GET 2zs and good speakers.
If one wants THE BEST possible sound quality, get the XFI and the BEST speakers.
There is a difference between 96 snr, 100 snr, and 109 snr.
There is a difference between a proc with 5 million Trans and one 20 times more powerful.
There is a difference between crappy onboard sound with crappy speakers and a good card plus good speakers!

You cant run all the DSP functions on X-Fi AT THE SAME TIME.
Use a little crystallizer and surround in entertainment mode. This makes my fat MP3s sound as good as the cd.
Save the EAX for Game mode.
The new software is much improved and features Smart recorder for turning tapes into MP3s. Even these sound good.
The difference in price between the 2zs and the X-Fi is not much.
I think my new card was 29 dollars more.
It is FULLY justified
Recommending the 2zs because one has crappy speakers is weird.
If they don't want better speakers, why do they want an2zs?
Just rambling here, but i don't get it.
Creative is selling lots of X-Fis because it is a very good product.
It does out perform the 2zs.
May 9, 2006 6:43:44 AM

I guess I a bit of an audiophile. I consider real speakers to be like Accoustic Research AR1, B&W, Epos Accoustic, NHT, Paradigm, PSB Speakers, Sonus Faber, Totem Accoustic, etc.

Computer speakers, even the best of them, simply sucks. All of them. Period. The tweeter are usually too bright, mid ranges are limited, the bass is muddy. They lack definition, stagefront, and sound separation.

Basically due to the limitations PC speakers, I don't think X-Fi are worth buying. My Logitech Z-680 was considered to among the best PC speakers available a few years ago. They have since been superceded by the Z-5500, I think, which offers a tighter bass.

However, if one were to connect the PC to an audio system, then I would recommend the X-Fi over an Audigy 2 because floorstanding speakers offers better dynamic range, definition, stagefront, and sound separation especially if they are audiohpile calibre speakers. Other components of the audio system are important. After all why connect $3,000 speakers to a $400 amp?
May 16, 2006 6:20:01 AM

I get your point, but Stereo speakers are designed to be placed on the floor in a good sounding nonreflecting room with specific placement. You of course could pump your pc into the stereo, but how many people have a computer desk set up in a good stereo room in a good place to the speakers. HIFI speakers are also not 5.1 surround sound speakers, so what good is a nice soundcard? Maybe if you do nothing but stream music, but what about hearing footsteps behind you in Halflife 2?

I have BA Stereo speakers, ESI Studio monitors, and Altec Lansing 5.1 Gamers. Since my PC environment is CLOSE and built into old closet, stereo speakers are out. Since PC speakers are designed for close monitoring and placement, they will NEVER be HIFI speakers.
BUT the X-Fi has better spec than 2zs, can upsample, has new features etc.
Yes my PC speakers will never sound like 1500 dollar stereo speakers, but mine DO NOT suck. If i want a fine HIFI experience i will go into the living room. For great sounding MP3s , awesome EAX effects, crystal clear clarity, 0 noise, 24 bit processing, and killer surround, my XFI and good PC speakers do a great job. This setup sounds better than my old bose speakers that cost more than my Card and PC speakers.
And my ears hear the difference.
Even my headphones get a surround effect with the XFI.
It is an awesome product and i liked my 2zs. It just wasn't as good as the XFI. Also the whole software package is way better.
I understand that the X fi won't make crappy speakers sound good but the 2zs certainly won't either!
May 16, 2006 5:51:46 PM

Quote:
My X-FI sounds perfect on both my studio monitor headphone and home theater speakers.

In fact I switched from digital output to analog output because the X-FI renderes the audio better than my Pioneer VSX-D912-K Reciever.

Though I keep the "Crystalizer" turned off.

---

Some people always come up with some reason not to enjoy their music/movies.

I read were an electronics store invited experts in to compare the effects of various cables. Store personel would hold up each wires, connect it to the speakers and then the experts would debate the various differences.

Everyone seemed to pick their own favorite although no one liked the cheap stuff. Then they revealed they they were listening to the same setup the whole time and all the differences were in their heads.

Also had a friend who claimed to hate MP3s. So I set up a blind test where I would repeatedly play back the original track or the mp3 at 192kbps.

Turns out he could only tell the difference.

Maybe someone with better hearing could. But on the system he listens to everyday with his ears he can't tell the difference yet he strongly hatted mp3s.

Repeated with studio monitor headphones and 128 kbps. This time he could tell the difference but thought the 128 kpbs was the better quality orriginal.

---

I guess some people enjoy their music and others listen for defects.

This happens on AV forums all the time. Double Blind Test or DBT's often debunk a lot of hogwash. If you played the same track on a Audigy 2ZS and a X-Fi I doubt anyone could hear the difference even on a high end audio system. Head phones it would depend if you're running it direct from the card/board or through one of the amps.

I run my Audigy 2ZS through an Onkyo AV receiver for the analg fronts and Digital feed. I use an old Akai 1030 for my analog rears and I just got a small 8-inch sub today for my bottom end. I love it when them explosions rock da house.

Da Worfster
June 8, 2006 10:00:13 PM

Quote:
Some people always come up with some reason not to enjoy their music/movies.

I read were an electronics store invited experts in to compare the effects of various cables. Store personel would hold up each wires, connect it to the speakers and then the experts would debate the various differences.

Everyone seemed to pick their own favorite although no one liked the cheap stuff. Then they revealed they they were listening to the same setup the whole time and all the differences were in their heads.


I can see several things wrong with thist test....its far from scientific. If it proves anything it is that what the listener "perceives" they are hearing can be a big factor in terms of enjoyment factor. i.e. listening, to some extent, is in the ear of the beholder.

Having said that this test does not prove which cable produces the best sound or which cable is of the best quality. It was set up as a "trick" based on psychological factors that were explained in the preceeding paragraph. To truly know which cable did produce the best sound quality you would have to do blind studies with random candidates based on the scientific method. In short this test was set up with a prejudice to produce a certain result.

This test can also erroneously leave you with the conclusion that there is no one that can really tell the difference between each cable or in the case of this thread the x-fi or Audigy2. I would agree that most people can't tell the difference or don't care. But there are a few that have trained ears that can tell the difference. A university level course on music theory and psychology and broadcasting will teach you this. To say no one has "golden" ears is a misstatement

Back to the real question at hand As far as recommending either onboard sound, ZS2 or the X-Fi, it really depends on

1. What the person is willing to spend.
This is really not a big deal. A sound card is one of the least expensive components for a PC. In my book getting any sound card is better than onboard sound no matter what speakers you have. Heck you can get a 7.1 Audigy SE for $30 at New Egg. How could you not choose that over onbaord sound?

2. What sounds better to them taking into account their speaker and headphone setup
Self explanitory. Everyone prefers their sound a certain way. Go to a hardware store or a friend and take a listen if possible.

3. If they care to gain a few fps unloading processing off the cpu using a more powerful sound card.
Another big reason to shy from onboard sound. The X-fi even improves on this concept by improving their drivers to do this.

My verdict (overal in general terms) the Audigy ZS2 and X-Fi are both excellent choices. I can see reasons for getting either one. It all comes down to personal preference really. Everyone has specific needs. Some of the higher end X-Fi cards cater to specific needs. If you don't have any of those needs then it's all the same to me.
!