Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Elite Pro Reivew - Page 8 of 9
Review by Kyle Kerley - January 15, 2006
ENTERTAINMENT MODE HOME As you can see, I’ve got my speakers set for 5.1 surround and the CMSS-3D, 24-bit Crystalizer and EQ are all on. I’ve got my master volume set at 57% and will elaborate on that more later. The bass is at 66% and the treble is at 60%.
Entertainment Mode Home
SPEAKER AND HEADPHONE SETTINGS I keep the speakers in 5.1 surround mode all the time, since that’s what I paid for when I bought them. Synchronization with the control panel is key for a hassle-free listening experience. Too many times in the past, Windows would reset my speakers to being stereo, even though I was always putting them back to 5.1. Now, there’s no more worries. Clicking on the THX symbol right next to that brings us to arguably the most important area in the drivers.
Speakers and Headphone Settings
THX SETTINGS Again, the speakers are set in 5.1 mode and the FlexiJack mode is set for my headset mic that I use for the occasional call on Google Talk. Digital output sampling frequency is at a crisp, refreshing 96KHz for the best quality sound this card can offer.
THX Settings: Speaker Selection
Moving to the next screen, Calibration, I’ve just left everything at the default settings. I found that the distance set for the speakers has no impact on the sound when all are the same distance. When ones are set further back from others, they are given a boost to make them louder. Since my speakers are basically a wall in front of me and the distance setting didn’t matter, there was no need to change the settings. Those with speakers that ARE farther away and set up in a 5.1 environment may want to mess with these settings more. I also played with the angular settings and didn’t find a difference when the angle was increased or decreased. Again, this may have much more of an impact in a true surround environment, I just don’t know.
THX Settings: Calibration
Finally, we come to bass redirection. Until last week, I didn’t really understand how this worked, I just knew that when I turned it on, everything sounded muddier and the bass would sound REALLY overworked. Forum member CaptNKILL filled me and many others in on how it works. Basically, it redirects audio from a specified level and above to your satellites while sending the rest to the subwoofer. That way, the sub is only putting out the low-end sounds it’s supposed to and the satellites are only handling the mid- and high-range that they are supposed to. Mine is set at the THX recommended 80Hz and it sounds SPECTACULAR. Changing this setting alone made more impact than any other aspect of this card. Sound has become so much clearer and crisper and I’m hearing things I never did before in NIN songs because now the speakers aren’t being overburdened with frequencies they shouldn’t be outputting. But, besides that…cymbals sound crisper and bass is no longer so muddy. What I used to think was sound perfection was muddy garbage compared to how the speakers sound now with redirection on.
THX Settings: Bass Management
EAX EFFECTS I’ve never found these useful. All they seem to do is add varying levels of reverb and that’s the last thing I want to have on my music and movies. EAX is off.
CMSS-3D SETTINGS I’ve found that the Stereo Surround mode is the perfect mode for MP3 listening. It takes a stereo signal and pumps it through both pairs of the front and back speakers and then combines the stream for the center channel. Stereo Xpand actually attempts to create a 5.1 output from a stereo input which I have found sounds pretty weak and muted. Why force something to be 5.1 when it’s only meant to be 2.1? This way, you’re effectively tripling the output of your speakers since instead of just the front right and left playing the MP3s, you’ve got the back left and right AND center. With my speaker setup, this makes for a formidable wall of sound, even at relatively low volume settings.