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Thread: Creative is dying; any decent alternatives?

  1. #1
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    Default Creative is dying; any decent alternatives?

    Hello,

    I have been increasingly displeased with what was once a favourite company, Creative Labs. Poor drivers even in W*in, outward hostility towards open-source, and lately they have stooped to unbelievable lows with this kind of attitude:
    Custom Drivers are "stealing"

    Unfortunately, despite their declining market-share and lack of any innovations in the past couple of years, they still make the (arguably) best sound cards, at least from an enthusiast perspective.

    However, it is time to move on. I will purchase a new system soon and I need something better than integrated audio; which one would you recommend? Ideally it would have the following features:

    - good drivers with low cpu utilization in both Vista (for games) and Linux (for everything else, movies especially, so working S/PDIF and optical outputs would be appreciated)
    - at least some support for EAX/OpenAL without needing a Quad-Core for it
    - wavetable support (yes, I like playing MID's and no, timidity doesn't cut it)
    - preferably pci-e but I'd settle for pci if no other choice
    - no extra "features" like Firewire or extension boxes

    What do you think? Any hope or is Creative still the only choice? What about not-yet-released hardware?

    Thank you for any ideas...

    Regards,
    Mihnea

  2. #2
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    Maybe the Asus Xonar DX or D2X are your options:
    http://www.alsa-project.org/main/ind...ClemensLadisch

  3. #3
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    You specify support for EAX. EAX is really non-essential these days. Vista did away with hardware acceleration of sound, so games process surround sound using software methods like OpenAL or the game's engine. ASUS boast the ability to add EAX5 support to their drivers at some point though.

    I would also add that it's only worth getting a sound card if you wish to use analogue sound. If you intend to use optical/coaxial, there will be no sound quality improvement.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shakey_Jake33 View Post
    You specify support for EAX. EAX is really non-essential these days. Vista did away with hardware acceleration of sound, so games process surround sound using software methods like OpenAL or the game's engine. ASUS boast the ability to add EAX5 support to their drivers at some point though.

    I would also add that it's only worth getting a sound card if you wish to use analogue sound. If you intend to use optical/coaxial, there will be no sound quality improvement.
    With one exception, if you are using optical/coaxial and want to get 5.1 sound in games (in windows) you need to have a card that can do Dolby Digital and/or DTS encoding on the fly.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by marakaid
    Maybe the Asus Xonar DX or D2X are your options
    I looked at those, the DX seems quite interesting when compared to the X-Fi Gamer, although it has some issues (see below), while the D2X is kindof expensive for what it offers. I am considering it though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shakey_Jake33 View Post
    You specify support for EAX. EAX is really non-essential these days. Vista did away with hardware acceleration of sound, so games process surround sound using software methods like OpenAL or the game's engine. ASUS boast the ability to add EAX5 support to their drivers at some point though.
    So this means that basically an X-Fi and on-board audio will have the same CPU utilization under Vista? I know that was the case until recently, but I was under the impression recent drivers add a form of hardware support via OpenAL... I've also seen some benchmarks which claim better FPS when using X-Fi, and for me that would be important. I don't really care for EAX5/6/whatever, I just want good EAX2 support (for example, some people report reversed channels in games with the ASUS Xonar) that doesn't entail 50% CPU usage.

    Quote Originally Posted by "Shakey_Jake33
    I would also add that it's only worth getting a sound card if you wish to use analogue sound. If you intend to use optical/coaxial, there will be no sound quality improvement.
    The ASUS Xonar DX for example shares the digital out with line in, which kills it for me (I want to use both)... Also, "quality" means more than just SNR, I also like the various CMSS features that Creative cards have (although none of it works in Linux AFAIK).

    No card I've found so far has any kind of wavetable -- I guess I could live with software emulation, but it's very CPU-intensive and the quality doesn't match a SBLive in my oppinion...

    From what I see, all the cards on the market nowadays (except Creative and maybe some Auzentech) are more expensive versions with slightly better components of on-board sound, which kinda sucks. Is there really no alternative even with future/not-yet-released cards?

  6. #6
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    mgc8, you can connect your case front panel mic and headphone to the Xonar DX, maybe this is enough for your needs.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by mgc8 View Post
    I looked at those, the DX seems quite interesting when compared to the X-Fi Gamer, although it has some issues (see below), while the D2X is kindof expensive for what it offers. I am considering it though.



    So this means that basically an X-Fi and on-board audio will have the same CPU utilization under Vista? I know that was the case until recently, but I was under the impression recent drivers add a form of hardware support via OpenAL... I've also seen some benchmarks which claim better FPS when using X-Fi, and for me that would be important. I don't really care for EAX5/6/whatever, I just want good EAX2 support (for example, some people report reversed channels in games with the ASUS Xonar) that doesn't entail 50% CPU usage.



    The ASUS Xonar DX for example shares the digital out with line in, which kills it for me (I want to use both)... Also, "quality" means more than just SNR, I also like the various CMSS features that Creative cards have (although none of it works in Linux AFAIK).

    No card I've found so far has any kind of wavetable -- I guess I could live with software emulation, but it's very CPU-intensive and the quality doesn't match a SBLive in my oppinion...

    From what I see, all the cards on the market nowadays (except Creative and maybe some Auzentech) are more expensive versions with slightly better components of on-board sound, which kinda sucks. Is there really no alternative even with future/not-yet-released cards?
    I just wanted to tune in here.. I'm not audiophile though so please take my opinion with more then a few grains of salt...

    As far as I'm concerned a sound card is a sound card, --but-- some are better then others... What I want is the highest possible volume with the clearest possible sound. I want perfect reproduction. That has a lot to do with the op amps that the chip uses for the analog outputs. If it uses decent op amps then it doesn't matter what chip you use. C-media, Realtek, or even X-fi. There are all going to sound the same.

    Now what you are essentially arguing for is a hardware mixer. I just don't see the need. Any dual core or higher cpu has more then enough cycles to process audio with like 2% or less cpu usage. I think a good software mixer is far more useful. Take Pulse audio as the perfect example. If compiz is eyecandy then pulse is ear candy. and --nothing-- that creative has can even come close.

    As long as you have a sound card with a well supported chip, decent op amps and a good DAC, you'll get as good of sound as anything that creative can make.

  8. #8
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    Auzentech is the new king offcourse!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by mgc8 View Post
    I looked at those, the DX seems quite interesting when compared to the X-Fi Gamer, although it has some issues (see below), while the D2X is kindof expensive for what it offers. I am considering it though.



    So this means that basically an X-Fi and on-board audio will have the same CPU utilization under Vista? I know that was the case until recently, but I was under the impression recent drivers add a form of hardware support via OpenAL... I've also seen some benchmarks which claim better FPS when using X-Fi, and for me that would be important. I don't really care for EAX5/6/whatever, I just want good EAX2 support (for example, some people report reversed channels in games with the ASUS Xonar) that doesn't entail 50% CPU usage.



    The ASUS Xonar DX for example shares the digital out with line in, which kills it for me (I want to use both)... Also, "quality" means more than just SNR, I also like the various CMSS features that Creative cards have (although none of it works in Linux AFAIK).

    No card I've found so far has any kind of wavetable -- I guess I could live with software emulation, but it's very CPU-intensive and the quality doesn't match a SBLive in my oppinion...

    From what I see, all the cards on the market nowadays (except Creative and maybe some Auzentech) are more expensive versions with slightly better components of on-board sound, which kinda sucks. Is there really no alternative even with future/not-yet-released cards?
    consumer level hardware sound is dying, even creative has a prototype card that is completely host driven. Vista through OpenAL still allows for hardware acceleration of sounds. That's how Creative's Alchemy software works, it converts all DS3D/EAX calls to OpenAL. speaking of sharing jacks, the x-fi also shares the digital out and the input jack, unless you buy the (overpriced imo) front module or external box.
    Last edited by seeker010; 04-18-2008 at 03:05 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by seeker010 View Post
    That's how Creative's Alchemy software works, it converts all DS3D/EAX calls to OpenAL.
    Not exactly true, it allows SOME eax titles to be wrapped to openAL, many eax titles simply do not work with Alchemy.

    Also if you campare it to the X-Fi extreme music to the sonar the X-Fi actually has higher CPU usage despite sonars drivers doing dolby encoding on the fly as well as making the EAX-->DS3D GX translations.

    http://techreport.com/articles.x/14500/5

    The performance hit (about 5%) that was present in DS3D GX 1.0 is all but gone in DS3D GX 2.0.
    Last edited by deanjo; 04-18-2008 at 03:42 PM.

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