Creative Sound Blaster Z Sound Card

Creative Sound Blaster Z Sound Card

Performance »

Software

Creative's software for this particular card seemed to work well with our test rig running a fully updated Windows 7 Pro 64-bit OS. The driver suite is very heavy and comes as an installer package of over 160 MB, which is a lot. The driver suite takes up 81 MB once its UI has been minimized to the tray, which is not that impressive. Those worried about the RAM usage can simply exit the program after having made the changes.


Creative has the SBX "enhancements" turned on straight out of the box. These DSP-added tweaks by Creative affect the sound quality with headphones in universally bad ways. You best leave these things off with a set of semi-decent headphones. You might find it mildly advantageous in some games, but I have yet to come across one. If you are a bass addict, the bass control holds some promise, because it is quite effective at raising the sub bass without messing up the midrange, but the emulated surround sound sounds odd.


Now onto something of actual value to the user - namely, the Crystal Voice system: a clever noise reduction and post-processing system for the microphone in. The noise reduction algorithms implemented work flawlessly and do a good job at cancelling out many types of unwanted noise. The adjustments you can make are pretty small, but they still allow you to tweak it in a certain direction, which allows you to achieve really good microphone-in sound quality with the supplied microphone. You can also add some silly effects to your voice, which is perfect for scaring mates on Ventrilo.


Scout Mode should make you better at hearing in-game audio clues from a greater distance. It sort of works but is basically a smarter EQ that boosts the midrange and upper midrange. It employs an additional DSP effect as well, but my best guess is that 90% of the perceived difference comes from the altered EQ. The same thing can be achieved on a normal sound card, or even an integrated one if the EQ system works well.


The layout of the output selection screen is nice and simple.


You can choose encoder options under the cinematix tab.


The mixer setup is easy to use and allows for quickly setting up the microphone.


The equalizer is quite good. It has 11 bands, which is perfect for fine-tuning a game-optimized profile.


The last screen is kind of overkill since it only features a single tick box.
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