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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, I plunked down the coin, removed my Firewire410 and installed my first Creative (ugh!) card since my Live!Platinum. I'm smiling big time... I've only had 2 evenings with it, but here's the story so far (I'm not going to get into tests of specifications such as frequency response and noise levels and distortion; this has been documented in various reviews already, complete with RightMark graphs which all show stellar performance, with the possible exception of channel seperation above 5khz)...


First, this is how I was set up before.... I had the Firewire410 installed in a mickeymouse arrangement with a VST host and Viurtual Audio Cable and some VST plugs to do bass management... it worked okay though NOT user-friendly, sounded VERY good, and was noticably better than my Delta1010lt with it's driver based bass management, though it also sounded very good. Driving 3 Carver M500t power amps, home built D'Appiloto MTM speakers and Yamaha sub.


Playing back lossless rips of my favorite and well known (to me) cuts, in 2.1, with all postprocessing options (CMS3D, 24 Bit Crystalizer, etc.) turned off sound very good indeed... clear, crisp, effortless.... I tried JRiver MC10 with ASIO, Creatives own player and even the dreaded MediaPlayer 10... all sounded IDENTICAL !!! A tribute to Creatives sample rate converter which yields resampling errors more than 130db down.....


HTPC nirvana is delivered with AC3/DTS input decoding on SPDIF !!!! Yes, I plugged the SPDIF output from my Cable Box into the back of the External Rack and was pleasently rewarded with full surround sound when I tuned into HDNET
At first I saw no lip sync delay..... then I did see a slight delay.... then I didn't... hmmm..... it appears that some stations/programs had a slight delay, and some had less or none.... then I went back to the sound out from my Rcvr/Pre/Pro and saw the same thing.... I think the lip sync on ATSC TV and Cable is not as consistent as you would expect.... This weekend I will hook up my STB DVD Player and check lip sync using the X-FI to process the players spdif output.... BTW, when the cable box is switced to an analog channel and the spdif reverts to PCM, the X-FI saw the change and switched to standard PCM mode automatically.... on ONE occasion, when switching between PCM and Dolby-encoded channels, I got a few miliseconds of un-decoded buzz... but the Scientific Atlanta boxes are not noted for their fast tuning....



The bass management is quite full-featured.... speaker settings include large/small, distance in fractions of feet, db level, physical angle (caveat here.... on my 5.1 set-up, my rears are only about 18" behind me and spread 6' either side.... the software would not go down to such a shallow angle for rear spkr placement) Sub crossover frequency is variable from 20 to 200 hz in 1hz increments, sub level can be adjusted from 0-100% and a fixed 15db boost can be applied.


This is interesting... if you disable spdif pass through, which would be the natural case if using it as a pre-pro, you can use a variety of DVD software and always get decoded output.... example1: I have TTek2 with advanced audio pack.... it can pass the 6 channels of decoded audio to the default direct sound device and the X-FI passes the 6 channels through (applying bass management if so configured)... example2: I have WinDVD6 on my system set for spdif pass through to the default direct sound device. Since the X-FI has spdif pass through disabled, it takes the passed spdif from WinDVD and decodes it using its hardware



I played briefly with the CMS3D which is a spatial surround processor for stereo sources and I like it, at times
The unit also has DTS Neo, which I haven't played with yet. The 24bit Crystalizer is less interesting.... it upconverts your input to 24 bit and then processes the sound in some seemingly complex ways, but then adds a rough approximation of a Fleture-Munson loudness curve, boosting bass and treble, but it seems to not vary the curve with volume level, which is required for correct loudness compensation.... What I would like to see is the ability to simply do the 24 bit upconvert, with no other processing..... well, hopefully some day there will be an "SDK" to programatically interface with the DSP....


What a pleasure to once more have easy access to the "master" volume on my system.... the Vol buttons on my Gyration keyboard and the Griffin PowerMate on the front of my HTPC case both can raise/lower the volume of anything that's playing.... one day soon I'll dig out my O-Scope and play with some very low level 16/44.1 sine waves and see what happens to them as the volume is digitally reduced....


There are numerous inputs here, including a shared line/turntable-preamp with RIAA and 2 front panel (1/4") stereo line-ins (which I can see being "re-wired" to rear mounted RCA jacks
) which all use BurrBrown PCM1804 AD's and a very-high quality line-in (AKM AK5394a) on the versa-jack at the back of the PCI card, and since I have an AudioAuthority spdif switch, I may be able to pull the Delta 1010lt which I love for it's multiple audio inputs.... a free slot at last!!!!


Hey Elvis!, you might want to come back!!!



... more to come....

 

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Jim,


Thanks for posting this. I was waiting to read your initial review when you mentioned that you were ordering X-Fi last week.


How many different music/movie formats have you tested? I'm interested in how the X-Fi handles DTS music CD playback, too.


I may be upgrading from my RME card in the future, and it sounds like the X-Fi is going to make things interesting



Please keep updating this thread as your continue your testing...


- Steve O.
 

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Excellent news, Jim. It seems Creative has finally delivered on their promises.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
"How many different music/movie formats have you tested? I'm interested in how the X-Fi handles DTS music CD playback, too."


All of my ripped tracks are in WMA lossless, so that's all I've tried so far, but as for ape, flac and shn, I don't see any reason why they wouldn't play okay, given the correct directshow filters to decode them.... I haven't tried an actual DTS CD yet, but I did try a ripped DTS track in WMA Lossless format and it only gave static, but that was with creatives player only .... but as I said, more to come....

 

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I have an M-Audo Revolution 7.1 with analog outs to my Outlaw 7100 amp and 7 Atlantic Technology speakers (also D'Appolito) and an HSU VTF-2 subwoofer. I have no need for inputs since all sources are in my HTPC. How is the X-Fi connected to your amps? Would I have to use the 3.5mm mini outputs for 7.1 surround?


I might consider the X-Fi Elite for some of the following reasons:


1. It sounds better than the Revolution. How does the sound compare to your Firewire 410?


2. I can play DVD-Audio at full resolution.


3. It has DTS-ES, DTS Neo, and Dolby Digital EX decoding. I currently use SRS Circle Surround II for utilizing all 7 channels of my system. However, it does not sound good with some sources, particularly DTS CD's that I play with Theatertek 2.0.


4. If it does not cause a "pop" when the system boots or shuts down and the amps are on. Have you checked this yet? I currently turn my amp on and off manually, but I would like to just leave it on.


I currently change settings in Theatertek, JRMC, and the Revolution drivers depending on what I am listening to. It sounds like this card might provide a better overall solution for decoding and surround processing. I look forward to more of your review.


Michael
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Okay, some more....


I only had 20 minutes last night and about 10 minutes at 5:30 AM this morning with coffee, but:


The BEST NEWS!: I popped in my "reference" DTS CD this morning at 5:30, Steely Dan's Gaucho, fired up the creative audio player and ba-da-bing, beautiful 5.1 sound coming from my speakers
Note: this is with decoding enabled in the X-FI and analog-connected speakers.... I will not be reporting any time soon on spdif output to an outboard pre/pro as this seems ludicrous to do with an X-FI when a Chaintech 710 will work fine in that scenario at a $330 saving. I haven't played a lot with DTS rips, but I'm optimistic that they can be played.... I just need to find the right set-up...


A note about some peoples worries about ASIO and bypassing K-Mixer. Forget it. The problems with K-Mixer are (or rather, were) twofold.... First, it would not allow bit perfect transfer of non-audio (AC3, DTS) for external decoding.... at this point, who cares? The X-FI senses the non-audio stream and automatically decodes it for you! Second, it did a TERRIBLE job of sample-rate-conversion to achieve a common 48khz sample rate for the mixer module itself.... but now the X-FI does the sample rate conversion and the artifacts from this conversion are at -136db or some such rediculously low level.... so, the arguments for "bit-perfect", in this context, seem kinda silly to me, and belong in the league of bricks on amplifiers and green markers for CD edges.... put it in perspective and try to remember why you needed bit perfect output !


Now for the not as good news..... lip-sync delay.... there is a very slight delay, I don't know how much quantitatively, but certainly less than a second.... it's the type of delay that you wouldn't notice if you weren't looking for it or particularly sensitive to it.... but I know it's there, now.... put it this way.... I've watched broadcast TV that has equally bad sync problems right from the feed.... it's an issue that probably could be addressed in the drivers, since the DSP code is dowloaded to the DSP chip during driver init.... possibly changing DSP task priority in Entertainment mode.... will it be addressed? I don't know but I will be posting about this in the creative forums and I've applied to join the developer community, so I will push for it.... but right now, it's not bad enough for me to get worked up over...


more to come....

 

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I think everyone knows what I think of Creative
, anyway, some random thoughts from someone following this thread a bit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimwhite /forum/post/0


Okay, some more....


I only had 20 minutes last night and about 10 minutes at 5:30 AM this morning with coffee, but:


The BEST NEWS!: I popped in my "reference" DTS CD this morning at 5:30, Steely Dan's Gaucho, fired up the creative audio player and ba-da-bing, beautiful 5.1 sound coming from my speakers
Note: this is with decoding enabled in the X-FI and analog-connected speakers....

This is definitely good news if it works with other audio players.

Quote:
I will not be reporting any time soon on spdif output to an outboard pre/pro as this seems ludicrous to do with an X-FI when a Chaintech 710 will work fine in that scenario at a $330 saving.

Agreed, but it's still ludicrus that a $400 audio card can't pass 44.1k DTS over S/PDIF.

Quote:
I haven't played a lot with DTS rips, but I'm optimistic that they can be played.... I just need to find the right set-up...


A note about some peoples worries about ASIO and bypassing K-Mixer. Forget it. The problems with K-Mixer are (or rather, were) twofold.... First, it would not allow bit perfect transfer of non-audio (AC3, DTS) for external decoding.... at this point, who cares? The X-FI senses the non-audio stream and automatically decodes it for you! Second, it did a TERRIBLE job of sample-rate-conversion to achieve a common 48khz sample rate for the mixer module itself....

Bit of clarification, Kmixer get's a bad rap for resampling, when in fact it's the audio card's drivers that do that.

Quote:
but now the X-FI does the sample rate conversion and the artifacts from this conversion are at -136db or some such rediculously low level.... so, the arguments for "bit-perfect", in this context, seem kinda silly to me, and belong in the league of bricks on amplifiers and green markers for CD edges.... put it in perspective and try to remember why you needed bit perfect output !

There are really two modes of operation, as a processor and as a transport, with bit-perfect playback being very important, and completely unimportant respectively. As a transport bit perfect playback is essential as you don't want the transport introducing anything to the audio stream.


As a processor, bit-perfect playback is basically pointless because bass managment, distance correction, etc will all alter the bits anyway.


So in this application, agreed, bit-perfect playback is unneeded.


Overall sounds like a step it the right direction. One question I have is: Is Dolby Pro Logic IIx implimented? And if not, why the heck not? It's about the best 7.1 channel processor out there save for maybe a few of the proprietary ones (Logic 7). IMO this is essential to any 7.1 setup. Heck when Dolby recommends DPL IIx over EX processing...
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimwhite /forum/post/0


The BEST NEWS!: I popped in my "reference" DTS CD this morning at 5:30, Steely Dan's Gaucho, fired up the creative audio player and ba-da-bing, beautiful 5.1 sound coming from my speakers

Jim,


My favorite DTS audio CD is Dave Brubeck's Take Five. It sounds almost as good as Sony's SBM Mastersound version.


Thanks for trying this out. I know most folks will be getting this for movies and high-quality PC game sound decoding, but some of us are also interested in music only. I'm sure if enough of us make a ruckus, Creative will release a driver update that allows for 44.1 digital output.


Some folks have asked about how you're getting sound card output to your amps. Is it 1/8" stereo split into and unbalanced pair, and then 1/8" or 1/4" unbalanced to TRS balanced?


Thanks - you should post pics of your HTPC audio setup (PC, amps, DIY loudspeakers)


- Steve O.
 

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I have an X-Fi Extreme Music, but I'm sure the same applies to the more expensive siblings: There is no pop or other noise in the speakers when turning on or off the computer. My subwoofers makes a humming noise during startup and shutdown which makes me think the X-fi is cutting its power in time before Windows shuts down completely.
 

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Perhaps there is a way to get 44.1 kHz DTS through SPDIF:

If you enter Creation Mode, set the master sampling rate to 44.1 kHz and set 44.1 kHz for SPDIF output (button says "Stereo Only" but it could still be worth a try) and then also enable bit perfect playback as well as bit perfect recording.


As for the ongoing discussion I also own an Elite Pro (review sample recieved two months prior to the official launch so I've had it for some time now) and I concur with jimwhite.

DTS/DD decoding is very nice. A major plus for me is that it automatically upmixes to 7.1. Software decoders just spit out 5.1 leaving my "side" speakers silent or else I have to use some funky upmixing algorithm that alters the sound too much for my taste.

I just route all my sources through the HTPC and let it decode and upmix everything. Stereo sources are left untouched though unless you enable CMSS3D.


As for CMSS3D for music I think it's worthless but for (stereo) movies and especially TV shows it's pretty cool. It surely does a very good job anchoring dialogue in the center channel while still leaving the stereo image in general intact. It also does a fairly good job of ambience extraction to the side and rear speakers.


Regarding Dolby ProLogic IIx my guess is no. All help files for the X-Fi only states "Dolby ProLogic (R)" I'll ask Creative though.

I haven't really figured out how it works though, if I send in a Dolby ProLogic signal through spdif (from my laserdisc player for an example) I only get stereo even if I have toggled Dolby ProLogic to On in the control panels.



And jimwhite, I also suffer from slight lip sync problems (not worse than one sometimes see "natively" on some transmissions though, just as you too have observed). I'll harass Creative's press reps to see if they'll implement some adjustments for it in an upcoming driver (being able to manage it manually would be cool
).
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
"Once again: are you connected to external amps or are you running computer speakers? "




"Driving 3 Carver M500t power amps, home built D'Appiloto MTM speakers and Yamaha sub."

 

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jimwhite,


Thanks for taking the plunge - your report fired me up. My first pre-pro experiment never got farther than an imperfect DRC setup for 2 channel music, but the promise has been tantalizing. Seems like all the elements discussed since the old elvisincognito threads are finally coming together. I posted this over at creative forums, but no reply; if you're playing with the card this weekend, could you check this if you have a minute?

____________________________________________________________ ____

Want to run analog out directly to power amps, which drive a set of 4-way fronts and a set of large bookshelf rears. (Actually, they are more like sides, but whatever.) The fronts are biamped, xo'ed at 100hz. The front low drivers are basically my sub. Rears are good down to about 50hz. So I need front outs >100hz & rear outs >50hz & sub out with redirected front and rear + the .1 (when it's DD).


Think I saw a thread somewhere indicating X-Fi can't run 4.1, only 4.0. Can't find it now, or remember if it said what I thought. Please tell me I'm wrong, and that X-Fi bass mgt allows the plan above. Thanks.

____________________________________________________________ _____


Thanks again for the info!
 

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I might get one if it had xlr connectors too.... and normal 44/16 output would have been nice.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by earthmonkey /forum/post/0


Think I saw a thread somewhere indicating X-Fi can't run 4.1, only 4.0. Can't find it now, or remember if it said what I thought. Please tell me I'm wrong, and that X-Fi bass mgt allows the plan above. Thanks.

Though I'm not jimwhite I'll take a stab at this.

The cards have an option called 4/4.1 so that should work. However there are no bass management options for speakers other than the subwoofer.


"normal 44/16 output would have been nice"

You can get 16/44 in stereo and surround through the analog outputs and in stereo through the digital outputs.

Only thing missing is DD/DTS via SPDIF in 44 kHz. (Dunno about WMA though, Creative doesn't say anything about WMA through SPDIF.)
 

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The X-Fi is an excellent card indeed, however the 48KHz digital out (re)sampling rate is still the only problem. I have the card connected via the SPDIF out port to the coax digital in of my pre/pro. I play my music(CD, Lossless ape encoded CDs) via Winamp (Configured to use Asio output plugins)


The 48KHz sampling rate is no longer an issue if you use the analog outs of the card, however, the bass management is still the weakest link. You can only setup the sub crossover point. You can also set the speakers to either small or large, but this setting doesn't seem to make any difference for the front speakers.


Creative needs to re-think the bass management feature. I was about to dump my $3000 pre/pro until I played with the bass management feature of the card.
 

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Thanks, UndaC.


Is there no sub out at all in any 4 channel mode? That's what other posts seems to imply, but I haven't confirmed exactly.


Pythagore, I know what you mean. I am about ready to replace my Lex DC-2, and was hoping this would be the way. Everything but FM and HD cable come from my HTPC anyway. So even if I found a way to shoehorn a good sounding center into my setup & gain access to bass mgt, I'd be hosed b/c no per channel (or channel pairs) highpass w/ sub redirection?

 
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