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Creative X-Fi: A New World of Sound

In Practice

X-Fi brings so many innovations to the table that it's difficult to experience them completely in just a few days. Many points deserve to be developed further, and we will do that as time goes on, since the new card should turn up in quite a few products in the future. The big question is whether it's worth getting rid of your current sound card to buy an X-Fi (which should be available by September).

For anyone who's passionate about sound reproduction, the answer is "yes." The results are clearly superior, in most areas, to what must from now on be called the "old generation" of sound cards. However, it remains to be seen where the line should be drawn between the truly passionate and those who are interested in sound reproduction but for whom it's not an essential issue.

To a certain degree, the benefit a user will get out of X-Fi depends on his or her auditory education. Those who have never devoted a lot of time to sound might not be all that sensitive to the progress that this new technology represents. That's the ambiguity of a system whose purely technical characteristics are pushed to the fore, and not the final result. Since 24-bit quantification and high sampling frequencies aren't new in and of themselves, if you look only at the figures you might wonder what all the fuss over X-Fi is about. And it would be a shame for you to miss out on what it can offer. So here's a summary of what you can expect from it as of right now:

Music

  • A clear improvement in the sound of MP3 files (even in 192 kbps)
  • Overall music reproduction that's more ample, more flattering, and more immersive if you have quality speakers
  • A much more enjoyable headphone listening experience
  • Good spatialization on multi-channel equipment

Video

  • Impressive surround effects with stereo sources (DivX)
  • Better rendering of multi-channel sources (Dolby Digital, DTS) if you have a quality 5.1 speaker kit
  • Exceptional headphone listening

Games

  • Better sound rendering if you have a quality 5.1 speaker kit
  • Exceptional headphone listening