Creative X-Fi 5.1 USB Review

Well, I bought Creative x-fi USB 5.1 external sound card today. I was excited to pump up my laptop audio to HD 5.1 surround experience. I already own Logitech’s z5500 speakers which kick ass with 505Watt RMS expandable upto 1000W RMS.
My HP Laptop shipped with built in Conexant HD audio, it was sufficient till I started to think about surround sound in Games, movies and giving a new definition to Music.

Well, this sound card has it all. Initially when I attached them to speakers, I felt as if there is not much difference. But over time I made some adjustments and realized the Fidelity difference. Here are the certifications and standards that Creative promises to live up with.

  1. Better music and movie sound, made easy
X-Fi revitalizes downloaded music and movies

2. Revitalize your downloaded music and movies

Surround sound from stereo music and moves with X-Fi CMSS-3D

3. Surround sound from your stereo music and movies

4. Headphone surround that sounds like multi-channel speakers

EAX ADVANCED HD

5. Get realistic sound effects in your games

6. Cinematic surround sound from DVD movies

Okay, enough about what company claims, lets throw some sound over what this system is really capable of.

Music: What makes up good music ? Good High pitch, clarity of sounds, clearly distinguish individual sounds with higher reolution, crisper and punchier sound.

Fidelity: Well, luckily, Creative has lived upto all of these. There was good level of clarity at all types of sound effects supported. I liked the way it was able to surround 2 channel music into 5.1. This was bit different from what z5500 does in music mode, it tries to take some background music into rear channels while creative x-fi tries to put main, background music in rear channels. Thanks to CMSS 3d & x-fi crystallizer.

Bass: OOOH! Bass became more punchier and responsive on all music tracks that i played. Jazz reproduced better accuracy. Rock was kicker, Hip-hop was more happening.

Surround: There are various settings for EAX, sound gives good echo and reverb as compared to other softwares like DFX and SRS 3d.

Movies: This was the part where I feel my investment paid back the most.  God! I played the same movie that i earlier played on Conexant, there was hell lot of difference. 5.1 adds a different dimension. Even though z5500 upchannels 2 to 5.1 very well, still there was a huge difference when you upgrade to 5.1 audio.

Dialogues: On z5500 i played movies in 6 ch direct, didnt use any dolby effects like movie or stereo and sound was great.

Action: It was full of surprises and real. Helicopter scenes, gun shots, machine guns all sounded just near perfection. I often go to imax, but believe me, My Home audio sounds better that their’s.

Gaming: I’m not a hardcore gamer or smthin. I m a occassional passionate gamer, loves to play first person action shooters and racing. There was not much difference in nfs underground2. Then i played UT 2005,  Whoooooaaa! EAX 5.0 really works! Its worth every bit of it.  The ambiance, the gun shots, the dialogues, all were breathtaking.

Conclusion:

If you are a Higly ambitious and Geeky about music, movies, games, you should consider this upgrade. If you own a low-end music system that is lower than 100Watts RMS ( or 3000Watts PMPO) you shouldnt consider this upgrade as it isnt for you. Its for speakers which can really do well at 96Khzor 48khz and 24bit sound. You will not observe much difference on these lame audio systems. Its better to invest in upgradingg your speaker system.

It costs around US$60, Rs.4500 in India and is worth, if you can recognize its worth. Else its just a wastage for Lames.

If you wish to get more info on this product or need more advisories, you can reach us @taranfx on twitter.

We write about appleiPhoneiPadOpen Source and latest in Tech @taranfx (Twitter).

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  • pat

    Hi,
    i also have an hpdv5 and a z5500 speaker system.
    at the moment, the z5500′s on their own sound very muddy and super bassy.
    what would u suggest i do once i buy the 5.1 surround xfi sound blaster. what settings should i tweak?
    at the moment, the satellites on the z5500′s are not delivering vocals well with dance music, house etc.

    i have two 2.1 systems as well. which delvier vocals well. but i need the logiz to sound just as good.

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  • http://www.Taranfx.com Taranfx

    z5500 are powerful but SLOPPY! bass is not precise and mid-range is poor. high pitches are never heard!

    The best thing to fix it is this creative x-fi or an equivalent card. If you are on notebook, you don’t have many options, creative is the best.
    If u buy x-fi, i would recommend :
    X-fi CMSS 3D: Surround: Stereo Surround
    X-fi crystallizer: 80%
    Equalizer: Custom – raise the last three bars in this order
    from left to right 1unit, 1.5 units, 2 units.
    As far as Logitech console is concerned, keep it to 6Channel direct. Center channel to a bit more than mid, surround to 70%, woofer to 70% (if u like bass) else around 50%. Also, add volume boost of +9 (achieved by holding MUTE and turning the volume up ) Volume boost also enhances Bass+treble.

    For even better results, orient all the satellites towards yourself. Since the satellites are highly directional, when oriented towards listener, produce decent high pitches, essential for music, Movies.

    By doing all this, you achieve pretty good vocals and high pitches from your z5500 which were earlier absent. I’ve tried almost everything, and these settings worked best for me.

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  • pat

    thanks so much for your quick reply.
    seems like i have no other choice but to get the XFI 5.1 surround USB Sound Box as it has 3 open ports for all 3 of my speaker systems.

    so u wouldnt suggest using the dolby setting for movies either?

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  • http://www.Taranfx.com Taranfx

    if u have good movies like original DVDs or blu-ray or downloaded ac3, u dnt really need to modify any setting on control pod. all time it would work best in “6 channel direct”.
    If u download low quality dvdrips, still 6channel mode is acceptable, but Dolby pro logic gives better effect. Remember dolby mode is pure 2channel format upscaled to 5.1, it ignores rest of the channels input from your x-fi. so good for only few movies. Its always better to let xfi handle the audio upscaling.

    Creative has one more model which is PCMCIA slot but it’s 7.1, I never preferred that one coz it looks ugly. usb over a hub is much more cleaner. Also, I no longer see it on Creative products site. have a look here http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=253922

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  • pat

    i’m going for something less ugly lol

    im going to buy the 5.1 xfi surround usb card tomorrow will let u know how it is by tmr

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  • pat

    hey
    just bought the xfi surround 5.1′s and im having trouble connecting up the other speaker systems to it.
    i have 2 altec lansing 2.1 systems. and there are 2 free ports. (line in) and (Headphone)
    how would i adjust the settings so that all 3 speaker systems work at the same time.
    the z5500′s i have are hooked up and are working perfectly.

    would i be able to tweak settings to make this work?
    Thanks!

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