Thursday, December 18th 2008

Creative Releases Version 2.18.0008 Sound Blaster X-Fi Driver

Creative updated drivers for its Sound Blaster X-Fi series sound cards to version 2.18.0008. The driver covers all X-Fi series sound cards based on the CA-20K series audio processors, that includes the X-Fi Titanium Series, Xtreme Gamer Series, Xtreme Music, Platinum and Elite Pro. The new drivers add to the capabilities of the sound card in a Windows Vista environment, notably Dolby Digital and DTS decode for certain models, a feature that was lost in the transit between Windows XP and Vista. DVD-Audio playback for models which included the MediaSource DVD-Audio Player application has been re-established as a feature in 32-bit Windows Vista.

Fixes relating to issues such as audio popping/crackling during AC-3, PCM or Dolby Digital through digital outputs of the card, have been brought about. The driver also fixes erratic CMSS-3D behaviour in the Audio Creation mode. The driver can be downloaded from Creative Worldwide Support website.
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32 Comments on Creative Releases Version 2.18.0008 Sound Blaster X-Fi Driver

#1
Nothgrin
Currently none of the Titanium series cards have the new driver on their pages. Creative Software AutoUpdate dosen't list my X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Pro as having a new driver either.
Posted on Reply
#2
imperialreign
by: btarunr
Creative updated drivers for its Sound Blaster X-Fi series sound cards to version 2.18.0008. The driver covers all X-Fi series sound cards based on the CA-20K series audio processors, that includes the X-Fi Titanium Series, Xtreme Gamer Series, Xtreme Music, Platinum and Elite Pro. The new drivers add to the capabilities of the sound card in a Windows Vista environment, notably Dolby Digital and DTS decode for certain models, a feature that was lost in the transit between Windows XP and Vista. DVD-Audio playback for models which included the MediaSource DVD-Audio Player application has been re-established as a feature in 32-bit Windows Vista.

Fixes relating to issues such as audio popping/crackling during AC-3, PCM or Dolby Digital through digital outputs of the card, have been brought about. The driver also fixes erratic CMSS-3D behaviour in the Audio Creation mode. The driver can be downloaded from Creative Worldwide Support website.
thanks! Hadn't noticed there was a new version yet . . .

damn, we've seen more driver updates from Creative in just this year than we have over the alst 3 years :twitch:

I surely hope this trend continues!


by: Nothgrin
Currently none of the Titanium series cards have the new driver on their pages. Creative Software AutoUpdate dosen't list my X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Pro as having a new driver either.
It can take a while for AutoUpdate to be updated to the new packages available for download. Personally, I don't recomend their AutoUpdate software, even the webpage version . . . it doesn't always return the most current driver packages for your specific hardware, or it doesn't correctly recognize your hardware.
Posted on Reply
#3
WarEagleAU
Bird of Prey
/yeah thats why I dont bother with autoupdate. The shit doesnt really work half the time to begin with.
Posted on Reply
#4
Zubasa
by: WarEagleAU
/yeah thats why I dont bother with autoupdate. The shit doesnt really work half the time to begin with.
Absolutely Agree.
Creative make some of the worst software on the face of this planet.:respect:
Posted on Reply
#5
imperialreign
by: Zubasa
Absolutely Agree.
Creative make some of the worst software on the face of this planet.:respect:
. . . and it begins :shadedshu
Posted on Reply
#6
MopeyMartian
Does anyone else remember a while back that someone cracked Creative's software and found that they turned off those features for Vista in an effort to force people to buy new sound cards? That whole debacle really made me question Creative's ethics.
Posted on Reply
#7
imperialreign
by: MopeyMartian
Does anyone else remember a while back that someone cracked Creative's software and found that they turned off those features for Vista in an effort to force people to buy new sound cards? That whole debacle really made me question Creative's ethics.
I remember it - it was quite publicized all over the net . . .

but - there was no solid evidence that said they turned off those features for Vista with the X-Fi drivers . . . people jumped to conclusions (typical).

Although, people were more pissed about Creative making a statement that they disabled features on the Audigy line with the Vista drivers . . . everyone assumed that meant Creative was trying to force users to purchase new hardware . . . no one stopped to think that maybe the features were temporarily disabled because they were having too many serious problems with them (i.e. CTD, SYS lockups, etc); for all we know, Creative might have intended to re-support those features at a later date.



Although Creative doesn't have the greatest track record with their drivers - I still stand by my arguement that their drivers are as reliable as any other major hardware manufacturer, be it nVidia, ATI, AMD, Intel, ASUS, etc . . . Everyone else has a similar track record with things not working on occasion - there's just more people that jump the gun and light the torches when it comes to Creative.

IMO - I think a lot of the issues started when desktop PCs were starting to come down in price, and PCs were more readibly available to the common user. Too many people that expected things to function like butter when they installed a sound card . . . Years ago, it was a PITA to get any sound card to operate and function correctly, and most of the time took some amount of BIOS tweaking to iron out the annoyances (and not just with Creative's hardware, either). That's impossible to do with OEM systems, as the BIOS is pretty much locked.

I won't go further in to it, all I'm saying is that Creative have taken more flak than they deserve, really. Their audio hardware isn't the only audio hardware on the market that has had a lot of issues, either - ASUS, HT, Auzen have had their fare share of problems . . . Creative just have a larger customer base.
Posted on Reply
#8
Zubasa
by: MopeyMartian
Does anyone else remember a while back that someone cracked Creative's software and found that they turned off those features for Vista in an effort to force people to buy new sound cards? That whole debacle really made me question Creative's ethics.
Honestly under the economy of the world as of now...
What ethics do you think, are left with in Creative as a Cooperation?
The only duty of a cooperation is to nake noney for its investors, they don't give a damn about who already paid for their shit.
Posted on Reply
#9
Wile E
Power User
by: imperialreign
I remember it - it was quite publicized all over the net . . .

but - there was no solid evidence that said they turned off those features for Vista with the X-Fi drivers . . . people jumped to conclusions (typical).

Although, people were more pissed about Creative making a statement that they disabled features on the Audigy line with the Vista drivers . . . everyone assumed that meant Creative was trying to force users to purchase new hardware . . . no one stopped to think that maybe the features were temporarily disabled because they were having too many serious problems with them (i.e. CTD, SYS lockups, etc); for all we know, Creative might have intended to re-support those features at a later date.



Although Creative doesn't have the greatest track record with their drivers - I still stand by my arguement that their drivers are as reliable as any other major hardware manufacturer, be it nVidia, ATI, AMD, Intel, ASUS, etc . . . Everyone else has a similar track record with things not working on occasion - there's just more people that jump the gun and light the torches when it comes to Creative.

IMO - I think a lot of the issues started when desktop PCs were starting to come down in price, and PCs were more readibly available to the common user. Too many people that expected things to function like butter when they installed a sound card . . . Years ago, it was a PITA to get any sound card to operate and function correctly, and most of the time took some amount of BIOS tweaking to iron out the annoyances (and not just with Creative's hardware, either). That's impossible to do with OEM systems, as the BIOS is pretty much locked.

I won't go further in to it, all I'm saying is that Creative have taken more flak than they deserve, really. Their audio hardware isn't the only audio hardware on the market that has had a lot of issues, either - ASUS, HT, Auzen have had their fare share of problems . . . Creative just have a larger customer base.
I have to respectfully disagree with you there, imperial. I've had considerably more issues with Creative drivers than any other of my system drivers. All the problems stopped when I went to the DK drivers.

Sadly it's true, they DO make terrible software.
Posted on Reply
#10
imperialreign
by: Wile E
I have to respectfully disagree with you there, imperial. I've had considerably more issues with Creative drivers than any other of my system drivers. All the problems stopped when I went to the DK drivers.

Sadly it's true, they DO make terrible software.
I'm sorry to hear you've had issues, man, but I have a real hard time agreeing with that point.

I'm not saying users don't have issues with them - but then again, I find that there are just as many, if not more, users that don't have issues with them than do.

I've been using Creative's products (as well as a few other brands here and there) since the SB 2.0 . . . I've never had any driver-related audio issues. My personal feeling, based on the "epic-scale driver issues" that people have, laws of probability would favor that at some point, I would've run into at least one issue, were the above true.

Sure, there are going to be users who encouter issues, that's true of any hardware - and the larger a customer base, the larger the hardware differences, the more issues you're bound to turn up. Other manufacturer's have just as many odd problems . . . Take for example ATI and crossfire - how many people have had issues with their drivers and crossfire? Quite a few - not everyone, but enough that we all know there are legitimate problems . . . does this mean ATI write poor software? Hardly . . . and same goes for nVidia and the re-occuring issues they have . . . although, notice how often people get legitimately pissed off over nVidia drivers . . . larger market share.

But, in the audio market - there has only been one major manufacturer for the last 20 years . . . but no one really started complaining about Creative's driver's until a while after the Audigy's release . . . coincidentally, round about the same time onboard audio started surfacing on new motherboards . . .

I still say 90% of Creative's supposed "driver" issues are due to hardware conflicts, not the drivers.






-EDIT-

oh, and BTW - I'm not saying anything negative in regards to dk's modded driver contributions . . . he had been a valuable asset to the Creative community, and it's a shame their poor PR screwed that up for everyone who was able to find relief through his hard work.

If nothing else, I do have issues with Creative's PR team, and their poor customer and technical support . . .
Posted on Reply
#11
Wile E
Power User
by: imperialreign
I'm sorry to hear you've had issues, man, but I have a real hard time agreeing with that point.

I'm not saying users don't have issues with them - but then again, I find that there are just as many, if not more, users that don't have issues with them than do.

I've been using Creative's products (as well as a few other brands here and there) since the SB 2.0 . . . I've never had any driver-related audio issues. My personal feeling, based on the "epic-scale driver issues" that people have, laws of probability would favor that at some point, I would've run into at least one issue, were the above true.

Sure, there are going to be users who encouter issues, that's true of any hardware - and the larger a customer base, the larger the hardware differences, the more issues you're bound to turn up. Other manufacturer's have just as many odd problems . . . Take for example ATI and crossfire - how many people have had issues with their drivers and crossfire? Quite a few - not everyone, but enough that we all know there are legitimate problems . . . does this mean ATI write poor software? Hardly . . . and same goes for nVidia and the re-occuring issues they have . . . although, notice how often people get legitimately pissed off over nVidia drivers . . . larger market share.

But, in the audio market - there has only been one major manufacturer for the last 20 years . . . but no one really started complaining about Creative's driver's until a while after the Audigy's release . . . coincidentally, round about the same time onboard audio started surfacing on new motherboards . . .

I still say 90% of Creative's supposed "driver" issues are due to hardware conflicts, not the drivers.






-EDIT-

oh, and BTW - I'm not saying anything negative in regards to dk's modded driver contributions . . . he had been a valuable asset to the Creative community, and it's a shame their poor PR screwed that up for everyone who was able to find relief through his hard work.

If nothing else, I do have issues with Creative's PR team, and their poor customer and technical support . . .
Well, the fact that DK's drivers cleared up all of my issues points to the fact that it was software causing my problems. If it was hardware conflicts, a simple driver wouldn't have fixed them.

And I know many people with issues. It seem to get progressively worse the more channels you drive. In stereo, I rarely had a problem. As soon as I went to 4 and 5.1, the issues started cropping up.
Posted on Reply
#12
imperialreign
by: Wile E
Well, the fact that DK's drivers cleared up all of my issues points to the fact that it was software causing my problems. If it was hardware conflicts, a simple driver wouldn't have fixed them.
I can understand this - but it might also have to do with how WIN interacts with the drivers. I've ssen issues where WIN and Creative's don't "play nice" - but it leads more to annoyances than major issues, usually . . .
And I know many people with issues. It seem to get progressively worse the more channels you drive. In stereo, I rarely had a problem. As soon as I went to 4 and 5.1, the issues started cropping up.
I can understand this - let me guess, audio crackling, clipping, cutting in and out . . . system stuttering in games?
Posted on Reply
#13
Wile E
Power User
by: imperialreign
I can understand this - but it might also have to do with how WIN interacts with the drivers. I've ssen issues where WIN and Creative's don't "play nice" - but it leads more to annoyances than major issues, usually . . .




I can understand this - let me guess, audio crackling, clipping, cutting in and out . . . system stuttering in games?
Popping and losing channels. No stuttering or clipping.
Posted on Reply
#14
imperialreign
by: Wile E
Popping and losing channels. No stuttering or clipping.
sounds like an overheating or failing DAC . . . I'm guessing this was with an Audigy?
Posted on Reply
#15
Wile E
Power User
by: imperialreign
sounds like an overheating or failing DAC . . . I'm guessing this was with an Audigy?
Yeah, an Audigy 2ZS. But no, it's not the DAC. All hardware is 100% fine. It was purely a driver issue.
Posted on Reply
#16
imperialreign
by: Wile E
Yeah, an Audigy 2ZS. But no, it's not the DAC. All hardware is 100% fine. It was purely a driver issue.
well- I was going to say that having the PCB components fail is extremelly, extremelly rare (except for the caps) . . .

TBH, though, I think it's just the way that Creative's drivers run the hardware - they try to push too much signal through the DAC and OPAMPs (even nominal levels can be too loud at times, take off the audio channel filtering capacitors, and see how much louder they get :p); normally, this is fine, but as you and I both know, the older the PCB hardware gets, the rougher the environment it has to operate in, the more a component degrades and you need less signal.

I had a similar issue that turned out to be a failed OPAMP not too long ago, on an X-Fi that was 3 years old - raising the volume higher than 40%, or changing volume too quickly, would result in a loud droning, loss of channel, or loud crackling . . . but under 40%, it was alright. Replacing the OPAMP restored everything to normal.

If I had thought of it, I woulda installed dk's drivers just to prove my theory - just too busy with other projects at the time :ohwell:

I think this is probably why dk's drivers cleared up the issue for you . . . although I can't be 100% certain, but this seems to be the biggest issue that dk's driver clear up . . . aside from restoring disabled functionality - although, again, I'm not 100% certain; it's just an educated guess.
Posted on Reply
#17
eidairaman1
I guess they are hearing their customers or something.
Posted on Reply
#18
HaZe303
These are only for PCI cards, not the titanium versions. Just to confirm others saying the same. I have both, newest driver for Titanium is 2_17_0006beta. Date on em is 20 november, so they are actually newer than these as these have the driver date is october something, dont remember the date.
Posted on Reply
#19
Rebo&Zooty
by: imperialreign
I'm sorry to hear you've had issues, man, but I have a real hard time agreeing with that point.

I'm not saying users don't have issues with them - but then again, I find that there are just as many, if not more, users that don't have issues with them than do.

I've been using Creative's products (as well as a few other brands here and there) since the SB 2.0 . . . I've never had any driver-related audio issues. My personal feeling, based on the "epic-scale driver issues" that people have, laws of probability would favor that at some point, I would've run into at least one issue, were the above true.

Sure, there are going to be users who encouter issues, that's true of any hardware - and the larger a customer base, the larger the hardware differences, the more issues you're bound to turn up. Other manufacturer's have just as many odd problems . . . Take for example ATI and crossfire - how many people have had issues with their drivers and crossfire? Quite a few - not everyone, but enough that we all know there are legitimate problems . . . does this mean ATI write poor software? Hardly . . . and same goes for nVidia and the re-occuring issues they have . . . although, notice how often people get legitimately pissed off over nVidia drivers . . . larger market share.

But, in the audio market - there has only been one major manufacturer for the last 20 years . . . but no one really started complaining about Creative's driver's until a while after the Audigy's release . . . coincidentally, round about the same time onboard audio started surfacing on new motherboards . . .

I still say 90% of Creative's supposed "driver" issues are due to hardware conflicts, not the drivers.






-EDIT-

oh, and BTW - I'm not saying anything negative in regards to dk's modded driver contributions . . . he had been a valuable asset to the Creative community, and it's a shame their poor PR screwed that up for everyone who was able to find relief through his hard work.

If nothing else, I do have issues with Creative's PR team, and their poor customer and technical support . . .
guess you are blanking on the sblive/live5.1 issues that where RAMPENT, and it was creatives not sticking to PCI spec that caused it, you had to set pci latancy WAY to loose to compensate for creatives screwups.

on the other hand turtle beach and the like worked FLAWLESS at STOCK/SPEC pci latancys, clearly Creative did something wrong if large numbers of systems had issues with their hardware, mayhap doing some testing BEFORE YOU PUT YOUR HARDWARE ON THE MARKET could avoid this?

Creatives software has been SHIT for quite some time, With my plat xgamer 5.1(live/emu10k) card i had to replace 2 files with older versions for the longist time because one of creatives updates broke the 5.1 support, the sub chan would crackle and pop even when no sound was being sent to the speekers, it drove me insain, I also have owned 2 audigy 1/2 cards and an x-fi(got it in a trade with a buddy for fixing his laptop) in the end it drove me CRAZY having to use hacked drivers to get it to work properly or having to deal with HUGE driver downloads, and the sound quility wasnt that amazing........

Creative needs to listen to the customers, they need to treat people right, if they dont, people will stop buying creative cards, I mean on a decent board today with current drivers the onboard HD audio is quite passable(it works and sounds decent) and dosnt have the driver issues that creatives cards have, also it comes free with the motherboard.......

Creative lost me as a customer long ago, I will stick with other chipset makers, honestly Dispite hating asus mobo's and driver support, I would buy a xonar LONG before I would ever consider buying another creative product, at least I know what I am getting and not gonna endup having to use hacked/moded drivers to get the card working!!!!
Posted on Reply
#20
imperialreign
by: eidairaman1
I guess they are hearing their customers or something.
I truly hope so - they make great and powerful audio hardware . . . but their customer PR and support has been atrocious for years.

I'll put it this way, if their support was worth a sh*t, I never would've had to start the XSS thread. I've tried going through their tech support for other people, and they treat you like a complete moron, even when you display that you know what you're talking about.



by: Rebo&Zooty
guess you are blanking on the sblive/live5.1 issues that where RAMPENT, and it was creatives not sticking to PCI spec that caused it, you had to set pci latancy WAY to loose to compensate for creatives screwups.

on the other hand turtle beach and the like worked FLAWLESS at STOCK/SPEC pci latancys, clearly Creative did something wrong if large numbers of systems had issues with their hardware, mayhap doing some testing BEFORE YOU PUT YOUR HARDWARE ON THE MARKET could avoid this?

Creatives software has been SHIT for quite some time, With my plat xgamer 5.1(live/emu10k) card i had to replace 2 files with older versions for the longist time because one of creatives updates broke the 5.1 support, the sub chan would crackle and pop even when no sound was being sent to the speekers, it drove me insain, I also have owned 2 audigy 1/2 cards and an x-fi(got it in a trade with a buddy for fixing his laptop) in the end it drove me CRAZY having to use hacked drivers to get it to work properly or having to deal with HUGE driver downloads, and the sound quility wasnt that amazing........

Creative needs to listen to the customers, they need to treat people right, if they dont, people will stop buying creative cards, I mean on a decent board today with current drivers the onboard HD audio is quite passable(it works and sounds decent) and dosnt have the driver issues that creatives cards have, also it comes free with the motherboard.......

Creative lost me as a customer long ago, I will stick with other chipset makers, honestly Dispite hating asus mobo's and driver support, I would buy a xonar LONG before I would ever consider buying another creative product, at least I know what I am getting and not gonna endup having to use hacked/moded drivers to get the card working!!!!
No, I'm not blanking out on the Live! series - I've still got a Live! Platinum here, and last I checked, it worked flawlessly . . . even when it was installed on a system running a 3D accelerator and a VGA adapter . . .

PCI latency issues with audio cards is nothing new, it's been an ongoing issue with audio cards since 1996 when the first PCI card came out - I have an Ensoique multi-channel PCI card, built before Creative aquired them, and I had PCI issues with that card as well.

Audio was fine with the slower BUS speeds of ISA, but moving to PCI presented a whole bunch of problems - the audio card's processing couldn't keep up with the PCI BUS, so one had to adjust PCI latency to accomodate it . . . as time went on it became less of an issue, as the DSPs were able to handle more of a workload at one time, and could fully make use of the PCI BUS . . . issues didn't start cropping up again until the X-Fi series was released - now the APU's on these cards were too fast for the PCI BUS, and hence the need to adjust latencies again.

The extent of issues one might face was really dependant on the motherboard you're using, as well as any other installed devices - some were more notorious for issues than others. Namely, nVidia hardware. If you recall hearing within the last few months about some issues nVidia has been accused of with PCI standards, going back to their nForce 3 and 4 series; no one believed Creative's claim on this, but here we are, 3 years after Creative made that claim, and the info finally surfaces from a 3rd party - and it wasn't just causing issues with audio cards . . .


anyhow - I recognized that people [b]do[/i] have issues with audio cards - I'll reiterate: audio hardware is much more sensitive to strange issues, and the slightest system burp can lead to so common headaches . . . it doesn't take much to skew or tarnish audio output.

the more customers you have, the more issues you'll run in to. Some hardware works better, IMO, mostly due to the differences in PCB components used - Creative have been using "fast" audio processing components (compared to the competition) since 1998 or so - and mostly this is all processing hardware that was designed and implimented by E-Mu (who Creative bought years ago).

But realize as well, as the audio market is growing (which is great, I'm glad to see major competition here, it's been too stale for too long), more issues are starting to arise with other's hardware as well . . . and, surprisingly, they're similar issues that Creative hardware has been "accused" of. Many of ASUS' Xonars have been accused of drivers not installing correctly, hardware not working with some setups right out of the box (although not DOA), improper channel mixing, amoung others . . .



All I'm saying - I guarantee that the larger the audio hardware market becomes, the larger the customer base for companies like ASUS, Auzentech, HT Omega, etc - the more issues we'll start seeing with their hardware as well, issues that will sound reminiscent of issues that have "plagued" Creative.
Posted on Reply
#21
Rebo&Zooty
what has suprised me is how well Realtek has been doing with updates to their HD codec drivers, about once a month a new driver comes out, and each driver seems to acctualy improove on the last one, not only fix buggs with new games/apps that crop up, my last exp with creative was 9 months without a driver update to fix an issue that drove a friend of mine crazy, he finnely went out and got a cheap 8768 based card to hold him over(his mobo is asus and asus drivers for the ADI chipset suck horribly compared to what the chips capable of) they finnely fixed the x-fi issue he had, but a few more croped up, he sold the x-fi to his brother in law and bought a xonar, and the drivers on the disk with the xonar where crap, but who really uses those? u shouldnt be calling ur self a true geek if you use the drivers off the devices disk insted of downloading the latist versions ;)
Posted on Reply
#22
spud107
iv got an sblive emu10k1, it was unusable in vista64 until i installed the dk drivers, sounded like a bee in a tin can lol, never tested creatives ones properly in 32bit as i preferred kx.
hmm, 2 diff sets of drivers to fix creatives mistakes should tell you something . . .
Posted on Reply
#23
imperialreign
by: Rebo&Zooty
what has suprised me is how well Realtek has been doing with updates to their HD codec drivers, about once a month a new driver comes out, and each driver seems to acctualy improove on the last one, not only fix buggs with new games/apps that crop up, my last exp with creative was 9 months without a driver update to fix an issue that drove a friend of mine crazy, he finnely went out and got a cheap 8768 based card to hold him over(his mobo is asus and asus drivers for the ADI chipset suck horribly compared to what the chips capable of) they finnely fixed the x-fi issue he had, but a few more croped up, he sold the x-fi to his brother in law and bought a xonar, and the drivers on the disk with the xonar where crap, but who really uses those? u shouldnt be calling ur self a true geek if you use the drivers off the devices disk insted of downloading the latist versions ;)
:laugh:

I agree - this is true for all hardware markets!

I can say, in regards to Creative over their drivers - it's nice to see that they're actually updating them more frequently now . . . we've seen more driver releases this year than we have over the last 3 years. That was one thing that would drive me up the wall, if there was a glitch, you'd either have to roll-back (which is hard to do with Creative's drivers), or wait a whole friggin year for the next update.


RealTek has also made great strides in cleaning up their issues . . . at one point, they were accused of some real shoddy drive practices, but that's not so much of an issues, now. Although, if you have the choice and onboard audio is a must for a new motherboard, it's better to go after one that uses an Analogue Devices solution than RealTek, IMO.

Personally, though, I can't stand onboard audio - take a look at my audio equipment guide, the first section (audio quality specs), I've compared "quality" onboard to a standalone card . . . the results, IMO, speak for themself. :toast:
Posted on Reply
#24
tomkaten
Amazing feature set and it only took them 2 years. At this rate, we should be able to use these fine sound cards in Linux in about 10. :)
Posted on Reply
#25
Rebo&Zooty
one thing i use the onboard predefined eq settings for is audio, i listen to alot of audio books, and honestly i hate having to tweak manualy for voice (creative and AD dont have a voice option in default eq presets last i checked)

and i agree IF the drivers are good the AD1988 and newer are far better chips then the realtek offerings BUT the huge flaw is that analog devices dosnt offer drivers dirrect from them, you gotta wait for Asus or the like to update their drivers, and many times they dont do it in a timely manner :(

I have tested, and yes theres a difference between a good sound card and onboard, but onboard also verys DRASTICALLY from board to board, I have tested 4 boards from diffrent makers with the same audio chipsets and all sounded notably diffrent, funniest part was the biostar board sounded better then the other brands yet was the cheapist board(tseries) the msi was "ok" the gigabyte was "ok" and the DFI was MEH at best(pretty bad, the 15$ addin 8768 card was better by far)

i miss the days of having choice, yamaha, crystal, avance logic and so on, really miss the yamaha cards....
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