Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Elite Pro Reivew - Page 7 of 9
Review by Kyle Kerley - January 15, 2006
CONFIGURE ENTERTAINMENT MODE: INTRO
After a number of months of having this spectacular card, I believe I’ve found the perfect settings in terms of how music and movies sound to me and I’d like to offer up my settings to any that would like to experience music and movies at the pinnacle of auditory pleasure.
I like my music to attack me with menacingly low bass rumbling through my body, shaking me to my core and making my chest feel like a second, 100 watt heart is beating the hell out of my ribcage. I want cymbals that crash like broken glass and sparkle in a fashion similar to how one’s kitchen floor looks after a run-in with Mr. Clean. And with a combination of three equalizers—Winamp 5.12, 4Front EQ10 and the one in the X-Fi’s drivers—and the tweaking of a few other key features offered by the X-Fi, I’ve reached that level of sound quality I so desperately crave, or have come close enough to satiate the audiophile beast within.
To make sure I was at the perfect levels for each of the EQ bands, I used a smattering of music to test. “People = ****” and “Left Behind” by Slipknot on their second major-label effort Iowa; “Milk It” and “tourette’s” by Nirvana from 1993's masterpiece In Utero ; And to round out, a large selection of Nine Inch Nails, including: “March of the Pigs,” “Big Man with a Gun,” “Eraser,” “Reptile,” all from The Downward Spiral 5.1 surround sound mix on the DualDisc rerelease; and “Terrible Lie,” “March of the Pigs,” “Gave Up,” “La Mer,” “The Mark Has Been Made,” “Wish,” and “Head Like a Hole” from Live: And All That Could Have Been. The songs were chosen due to the range of sounds that each displays. Slipknot covers the extra-heavy end; the two Nirvana tracks feature some of the most intense drumming and, in the case of “Milk It,” most menacing bass lines I’ve ever heard and are in the hard rock/punk categories. Then, to round out the rest of the spectrum, Nine Inch Nails covers the synth, symphony, so-many-layers-I’m-lost, and lighter side of rock categories—at least compared to the other bands I used to test.
I chose to focus on the harder end of the musical spectrum because it is there that distortion would be present from bass far too low and a cymbal overload. If I was able to find settings that still made these sound as they were intended to without distortion, then I could rest assured that anything I listened to would be distortion-free.
Keep in mind, these are all setting that I have found to be the best, the settings that I prefer. This is completely subjective and is by no means a memorandum telling X-Fi users how to use their card. I just wanted to give an option for sound that I think shatters everything else I’ve ever heard. Now, these settings are all for a set of Logitech Z-5300 speakers. I would assume that they would sound as good on the 5500s, but the budget sets are a whole different beast and other brands are completely up in the air, so take everything you read here with that in mind.
Also, due to the position of my desk, my room is not conducive to having my speakers actually set up in a 5.1 environment. My desk has the desktop that is about three feet deep. About two feet back from the edge I sit at, there are two podiums raised six inches from the desktop, about one square foot each, that each house a 17” monitor. There is a lowered platform that runs between these two that is three inches high. On that, my front left, right and center speakers sit. Down on the desktop, in front of the two podiums, my rear speakers sit. So I’ve basically got a wall of sound coming at me. It’s great for music since 99% of music is just stereo (NIN being the only exception I know of) and gaming is okay, too…the positional audio works wonderfully, but is lost on me, just as surround sound movies are. But since the walls are too far away, this is what I’m stuck with.