Thursday, August 16th 2012

Creative Introduces the Sound Blaster Z-Series Sound Cards

Creative Technology Ltd today announced its new ultra high-performance Z-Series of Sound Blaster PCI-Express sound cards, elevating the standards of technology and performance for the future of gaming and entertainment on the PC. Creative will preview the new Sound Blaster ZxR, Sound Blaster Zx and Sound Blaster Z at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany from 15-19 August 2012.

"The audio landscape for gaming and entertainment on the PC has changed. As content creation and consumption evolves with the interactivity of the Internet, our vision is to enable the best listening experiences for music, video and games, and to transcend the basic concept of sound quality as a specification with enabling technologies that allow users to completely customize their PC audio," said Low Long Chye, Director of Product Marketing for Audio. "For audio playback, we use studio-grade components to deliver outstanding fidelity, and then greatly enhance the listening experience by implementing our SBX Pro Studio suite of audio technologies. This enables complete customization of audio playback, uniquely catered to suit individual tastes. Our mixture of outstanding components and proprietary technologies also enables us to provide the highest quality recording experience for audio creation, which today expands beyond just music recording to include user interaction and creation with YouTube, eSports, and more."


"We also recognize how voice communications in massively multiplayer online (MMO) and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games are so crucial to winning, and how clear communications in VOIP applications such as Skype are so important to having meaningful conversations. This is where our CrystalVoice technologies enable users to experience the best possible sound quality – the level of quality that is exclusively available with Sound Blaster. To complete the overall communication experience, all our Z-series sound cards comes standard with a high-quality dual microphone array," added Low Long Chye.

Each New Sound Card Offers a Complete Audio System

To dynamically power compelling audio playback, the new sound cards leverage the Creative Sound Core3D quad-core sound and voice processor, which is designed to work in perfect harmony with Creative's SBX Pro Studio technology and high-quality components to deliver a complete audio platform. Sound Core3D also works seamlessly with CrystalVoice communications technologies and the high-quality beam-forming microphone array included with each of the new sound cards to deliver Acoustic Echo Cancellation, Voice Focus and Noise Reduction for clear online voice communications. This complete system for voice communications also enables gamers to use speakers and the high-quality microphone array to achieve a better overall experience.

Sound Blaster ZxR – The World's Best Sounding Sound Card (SRP US$249.99)

This flagship Sound Blaster ZxR is designed to provide the best gaming and entertainment audio performance in any sound cards. It also delivers the ultimate audio playback and creation solution for the PC. Studio-grade components, which include external digital-to-analog converters (DACs) that deliver 127dB signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), sockets for swappable Op-Amps, a high-end 80mW into 600 ohm headphone amplifier, and 192kHz pass through, are used to deliver phenomenal audio quality.

The Sound Blaster ZxR has multiple connections including a proprietary connector to the DBpro, a daughter board that offers optical output for outstanding playback; and professional-grade 123dB analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) with RCA Aux-in and optical input for outstanding recording quality.

Furthermore, a convenient external ACM (Audio Control Module) provides a built-in dual-microphone array and mic/headphone I/O connections. Designed to complement the Sound Blaster ZxR, the ACM adds convenience, extra connectivity and control, plus it enhances the look of any desktop.

In addition to the impressive hardware capabilities, the proprietary SB Speaker-Calibration feature, DTS Connect and Dolby Digital Live, all these three ensure an ultra-realistic cinematic audio playback and gaming experience. From the hardcore gamer fragging an opponent on a first person shooter to a die-hard MOBA or MMO player engaging with thousands of players online, gamers can get a competitive advantage from excellent audio quality and positional accuracy.

In many of today's most popular games, if gamers are not communicating, they are not winning. For voice communications, Creative's CrystalVoice technologies enable crystal-clear communications amongst gamers and their teammates.

Creative's audio engineers designed the SBX Pro Studio suite of audio playback technologies so gamers can improve their audio experience and calibrate their game audio so they can hear the subtle nuances that gives a competitive edge. Immersive surround sound, the ability to clearly understand teammates and enhancements of specific sounds in a gaming environment are just a few elements of SBX Pro Studio that enhance gaming audio.

SBX Pro Studio Features:

● SBX Crystalizer - Enhances sound for games, music and movies by restoring low and high end frequency curves lost to compression
● SBX Surround - Delivers a 360 degree surround sound experience so gamers can hear sounds clearly from the front, back, above and below
● SBX Smart Volume - Address the problem of abrupt volume level changes in music, movies and games by intelligently applying gain and attenuation to deliver consistent volume levels; includes Night Mode to reduce the impact of explosions and bursts of sound so as not to disturb others after hours
● SBX Dialog Plus - Enhances voices in games and movies for clearer dialog, allowing the listener to hear the dialog over the rest of sound track and over ambient noise
● SBX Bass - Fills in the missing low frequency tones and give the extra impact for a better entertainment experience

Designed to deliver crystal clear vocal fidelity in multiplayer games, online chats and video conferencing, CrystalVoice technologies also enhance voice communications for VOIP solutions such as Skype.

CrystalVoice Features:

● Acoustic Echo Cancellation - Eliminates echoes and enables whoever is speaking to listen to the other party clearly.
● Noise Reduction - Enables the person speaking to be heard clearly over background noise by constantly monitoring the environment and eliminating unwanted noise that interferes with the conversation
● Smart Volume - Automatically adjusts the loudness of a voice to maintain a consistent volume level. This makes it convenient for the speaker to converse normally, regardless of whether the speaker is close to or far away from the microphone
● Focus - Beam-forming creates a zone and suppresses noise outside it to enable whoever is speaking to be heard with amazing clarity. Multiple microphones are used to focus, enhance voice, and eliminate sounds outside the zone
● VoiceFX - Enables alteration of voice with a variety of effects, which can be used to enhance the tone of a voice, create interesting accents, or enable someone to sound like a completely different person

Sound Blaster Zx – High-Performance Gaming and Entertainment Audio (SRP US$149.99)

The Sound Blaster Zx incorporates all the hardware and software features of the Sound Blaster ZxR except for the DBpro daughter board.

Clad in brilliant red EMI shielding and featuring glowing LED lighting, the Sound Blaster Zx is the bad boy of the bunch, with an attention-grabbing design that ideally complements any power gaming rig. The Sound Blaster Zx leverages Sound Core3D processing with external DACs that deliver 120dB SNR. Other features include support for 192kHz direct pass-through to analog out, a 600 ohm headphone amplifier, gold-plated I/O connectivity, and SB Speaker-Calibration, which calibrates speakers to take advantage of room acoustics and optimize for the room. The Sound Blaster Zx also includes the convenient external ACM (Audio Control Module) with a built-in dual microphone array and mic/headphone I/O connections. To enhance digital entertainment capabilities, DTS Connect and Dolby Digital Live encoding are included. The product also includes high-quality optical and stereo cables.

Sound Blaster Z – High-Performance Gaming and Entertainment Audio (SRP US$119.99)

The Sound Blaster Z incorporates all the hardware and software features of the Sound Blaster Zx except for the ACM. Instead an external high quality dual-microphone array comes standard with this card.

An ideal all-around gaming and entertainment solution, the Sound Blaster Z delivers 120dB SNR and supports 192kHz direct pass-through to analog out. It also features glowing LED lighting, a 600 ohm headphone amplifier, an EMI-free analog input and output path, SB Speaker- Calibration and gold-plated I/O connections for pristine audio quality.

Pricing and Availability

The Sound Blaster ZxR, priced at US$249.99, the Sound Blaster Zx, priced at US$149.99, and the Sound Blaster Z, priced at US $119.99, are slated for availability in December 2012.
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45 Comments on Creative Introduces the Sound Blaster Z-Series Sound Cards

#1
RejZoR
Now this is much better than the current crappy Recon3D cards that hardly replace X-Fi Xtreme Audio and they just can't touch blueblooded X-Fi cards (Xtreme Music, Forte, Titanium HD).
Except for the microphone bit. I don't need the microphone, yet it comes with all the cards. I'd much prefer even higher end components and better audio processor over some mandatory mic that i'll never use anyway...

I wonder if anything else will be done to the audio processor itself or just a rename and high end components sticked to the card...

EDIT:
Noticed on Xbit Labs that the cheapest model is scheduled for October 2012, other two high end versions are indeed for December.
It sucks to wait for so long. I want it now :P
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#2
MyTechAddiction
Mostly useless overpriced crap except

Mostly useless crap overpriced except that 120 db DAC witch is really the best I have ever seen on consumer level sound board. The proprietary effects are something a realtek on-board card can do. Ludicrous Prices.
AND BAD drivers
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#4
kiddagoat
Now now gents... the one thing I seen missing from this article that will be found after 6 months of release.................. SHIT DRIVER SUPPORT!!!!! Probably going to be on a BETA driver for 10 months and then dropped like all their other cards. X-Fi HD....... 8 months after release still on Beta.... the original X-Fi cards, almost 14 months between updates and even then the cards still didn't work right....... Oh btw when a community member takes the time to fix our drivers, let's sue the hell out of him and gag him..... Creative can put their products up their ass.

I went through 6 X-Fi cards.... even the Auzentech Prelude which had to be based off the core Creative drivers ended up being a shitty card because they weren't allowed to redo the drivers from the ground up.
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#5
Ra97oR
250 USD, it really is up Essence's doorstep. With even worse drivers and parts? Can't wait to see what they pulled out. I see they bumped the price and dropped the X-Fi branding.
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#6
TheLostSwede
by: MyTechAddiction
Mostly useless crap overpriced except that 120 db DAC witch is really the best I have ever seen on consumer level sound board. The proprietary effects are something a realtek on-board card can do. Ludicrous Prices.
AND BAD drivers
So you have tested one and this is how you know the drivers are bad?

Admittedly Creative has some bad rep here and they're terrible when it comes to updating their drivers, but in the many years I've had my X-Fi Elite Pro, I can't say I've had any problems whatsoever with the drivers...
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#7
micropage7
i love the design but when i look at the tag
Sound Blaster ZxR – The World's Best Sounding Sound Card (SRP US$249.99)
o... o..
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#8
swaaye
The PR speak is so thick that it smells of desperation. Yikes.
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#9
RejZoR
I used to own ASUS Xonar Essence STX and its drivers were garbage as well. Ugly interface, ugly trey icon that i had to hack myself so i could even look at it and driver releases like 1 every year (if lucky). In these terms, Creative at least has functional menus and 3D sound positioning is just superior to anything ASUS or others have.

But yeah, if they'd only properly maintain the damn drivers. Realtek updates them almost like every 1 or 2 months. I just don't get it why Creative is neglecting it so much. I mean, give us constant driver updates at least every 3 months and we'd buy every new Creative card that would be released. With some more interest in pushing EAX technology we could see it back again in latest games. Because frankly, EAX still sounds superior to any software 3D positioning and reverberation engine. I've heard them all and all the software ones sound plastic and synthetic. EAX based just sounds realistic. And i want that again. Try NFS3, System Shock 2 and Half-Life 1 with it and you'll see what i mean. No newer game without EAX support had such skin crawling realistic sound.
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#10
Anusha
i just need stable, simple drivers with a sensible UI for my X-Fi Titanium.
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#11
Chaitanya
need good drivers first for the other creative sound cards.
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#12
Svarog
Owning Creative SoundCards for years and never had Driver issues. Apart from that, they sound crystal clear to me.

Dunno what the fuzz is about with some people, anti creative?
Posted on Reply
#13
Svarog
by: Anusha
i just need stable, simple drivers with a sensible UI for my X-Fi Titanium.
Owning the same soundcard, don't have any problem with the UI. Gonna be fun with Windows 8 for you then ^^
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#14
fireblade77
i love the way you make it sound like creative is so bad and asus make great sound cards and update their drivers very often which is a joke as well. to me it looks like asus and creative are very bad at updating drivers but i dont think creative are as bad as you make out as ive had a creative x-fi fatality from the 1st month it came out and yes it had problems with vista but then they did solve these problems and then it was fine from day 1 with windows 7 and then i sold it to a friend who still has it in his pc today and its still going strong so thats well over 5 years i think now and i have the auzentech x-fi forte which sounds great with games and pretty good with music and movies. (im not saying its perfect but pretty close). i did buy the Asus Xonar Essence STX Sound Card just to see if i was missing out from what loads of people were saying about how great it was but imo i didnt like it as much, the sound just wasnt as good for gaming as a creative based sound card and i thought it just sounded like i was playing the game in a massive empty warehouse and i spent ages messing with the setting to change this but could only get it almost as good as my auzentech so i sent it back. now onto the new Asus ROG Xonar Phoebus whcih all sounds great but 1st i bet it sounds exactly the same as the asus i used above and only just now have they got it to work with Battlefield 3 and punkbuster on beta drivers so if that was by creative u would slagging this card off soooooo much by now but ur not. im not saying the asus cards are bad sounding i think its all personal taste and u either prefer the sound of asus or creative its ur choice. i cant wait to give this a try cos i think it will be more to my taste rather than the asus.
it does seem strange that they dont seem to update drivers for sound cards that often as i remember reading alot of the time that sound card drivers were one of the main causes for ur games to crash.
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#15
LAN_deRf_HA
Oddly I've ceased having driver issues with creative cards. The ZxR looks like a fine HD replacement but given that it's core3d based I'd be afraid it still pawns open al off to the cpu for emulation, something that's proven problematic so far.
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#16
RejZoR
by: Svarog
Owning Creative SoundCards for years and never had Driver issues. Apart from that, they sound crystal clear to me.

Dunno what the fuzz is about with some people, anti creative?
Me neither, except dreaded random BSOD's while playing Unreal based games using HW 3D + EAX mode. Especially Killing Floor. Sound without EAX is bad but with it you risk a random BSOD. And i don't think we'll ever see a fix for this...
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#18
MyTechAddiction
by: TheLostSwede
So you have tested one and this is how you know the drivers are bad?

Admittedly Creative has some bad rep here and they're terrible when it comes to updating their drivers, but in the many years I've had my X-Fi Elite Pro, I can't say I've had any problems whatsoever with the drivers...
Only because you don't own an older Creative sound card.
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#19
eidairaman1
the 2 cards ive owned and 1 my bro owned never had issues with games or drivers

Unfortunately Hardware MIDI rendering playback of MIDI files was removed after the First Live Series.
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#20
remixedcat
This make me audio fapping yeah. me get one.
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#21
Frick
Fishfaced Nincompoop
Meh, I generally use USB interfaces anyways.
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#22
Ferrum Master
I am very disappointed seeing these ones...

Any naked shots without the cover? What kind of china cheap stuff lingers there...

Satan forbid, Creative is gone cuckoo... cheap stakes...

BTW... I have a Titanium Fatality... no problems, I dunno mates, they even gave drivers for Win8RP, and with Roberts help ie PAX drivers... very damn fine...

But still, if the DAC there sucks ass, as I need a analogue stereo output for my own hand made sound system... ASUS, I also don't like you much, but it seems you are the better evil now... USB cards give too much latency and overall stress to the system... no serious professional solution exists there for for it. I guess an external rarity with 1394 then should be used instead.

I guess I'll ebay for few last Titanium HD now...
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#23
repman244
Looks nice, but honestly I don't care how it looks but how it performs. I see a lot of marketing BS here. However it does look like it's on the ST/STX level.
They should focus on making the card work, at the end of the day I just disable all the software "improvements" and don't open the control panel for a year.
Both Creative and ASUS have really really bad driver support (at least with ASUS there are Uni drivers that are made by some guy and are better than official ASUS drivers, go figure).

Apart from all the driver issues I still love my ST with new OP-amps.
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#24
Anusha
by: Svarog
Owning the same soundcard, don't have any problem with the UI. Gonna be fun with Windows 8 for you then ^^
Actually my only problem as of late is sound suddenly not working after a fresh boot. No issues is device manager either. Applications just play the audio as if sound comes out with no problem, but I don't hear anything. Reboot doesn't fix it. Only option is to reinstall drivers. Doesn't even require a clean install or a reboot. Sound comes out as soon as the driver gets reinstalled.

I have noticed this mostly with nVidia video driver updates. I didn't have this when I had the ATI cards. I have also checked if the default audio playback device has changed after the video driver update. Haven't been able to find anything out of the ordinary either. Hmmm
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#25
KissSh0t
Travels forward through time a few years.. Windows 9 releases. Creative drop support for some of the features advertised with these cards in Windows 9, Creative release newerer cards with newerer features available only in Windows 9.

Am I doing this right giuyz?
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