Creative is set to launch an audio card sporting "audiophile grade" components and the E-MU 20K2 audio processor (aka the "X-Fi chip") possibly this year. The announcement came back in January during CES 2010, deemed as the first discrete audio card and USB digital audio system to include THX TruStudio PC audio technology. Since then, the card has been kept under wraps, however Creative's comeback soundcard isn't exactly vaporware, as a sample card is currently making its rounds.
For this PCIe card, Creative has ditched the polka-dotted cover seen with the Titanium Fatal1ty card with a tinted, slick version branding the Creative and THX logos. The device doesn't really look like a sound card until your rotate it around to see the gold-plated connections on the back: microphone input, headphone output, RCA output Left and Right, and RCA input Left (or Optical In) and Right (or Optical Out).
On a PCB level, Creative is no longer using electrolytic Jamicon and OST capacitors, but rather has moved on to use surface mount device (SMD) capacitors. By taking this route, Creative uses very few through-hole solder joints (that's a good thing--the less solder, the better). A hands-on preview noted that the X-Fi Titanium HD also has well-defined areas for its audio paths, however the design indicates that Creative initially planned to power the card via a 4-Pin Molex, but eventually ditched the idea.
"The Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD is powered by the second-generation Creative X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity audio processor for PCI Express slots," Creative said back in January. "The Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD combines captivating industrial design with audiophile grade Digital to Analog Converters (DACs) and components to produce a 122dB signal-to-noise ratio, the highest SNR ever produced by a Creative sound card. A replaceable Op-amp is also a distinguishing feature allowing users to customize audio output with coloration that is refined to their personal tastes."
Although the vanilla version of Creative's Sound Blaster Titanium HD is already on the market, the X-Fi version is slated to be priced at $99.99 USD, however no shipping date was specified. The pricing also seems a bit off, so stay tuned as Creative delivers official dates and pricing sometime soon.