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Creative Sound Blaster ZxR Review – Packaging and Bundle
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Creative Sound Blaster ZxR Review – Software
Creative offer a fairly hefty software suite with the ZxR which includes their WaveStudio, Audio Server and Smart Recorder applications. These allow us to share audio, record easily and tweak existing audio files. Also included in the bundle is Media Toolbox which allows us, amongst other things, to convert music from one format to another or attempt to fix low quality files. That said, it appears that it is only a time limited trial version of the Media Toolbox.
Our main software is the control panel and this provides much of the same functionality we recently saw on the Sound Blaster X7 review. We start with Pro-Studio which allows us to add virtual surround, enhance quality of files and boost dialogue clarity. Crystal Voice looks to maximise the quality through our microphone (e.g. noise reduction, echo cancellation) and also provides the option of enabling enhanced vocal effects such as making us sound like a robot, demon etc. Next scout mode enhances gaming audio, helping us hear our enemies more easily.
Speaker/Headphone configuration is up next with the key feature being selection of the gain of our headset. We can enable Dolby and DTS tech in the next section and control various volume aspects in Mixer before moving to EQ and its various profiles.
Creative Sound Blaster ZxR Review – Conclusion
Creative are off to a great start on the ZxR when it comes to build quality. Across the product we get high quality Nichicon components, good quality op-amps and impressive DAC and ADC chips. The Sound Core3D processor is tried and trusted (the inclusion of two is fantastic) and it is a bonus to get the high quality shielding. The gold finish is also a nice touch and overall the design and port layout is good, with one exception. It would have been better if Creative offered a more visually appealing cable to connect the main PCB to the daughter board. If we were being really picky we would also like to have seen some discrete red LED lighting for the case modders and maybe a blank PCIe tab on the daughter board to add some extra stability for those who have slots free.
As far as value goes, that is pretty good. High build quality, decent bundle of cables and the control pod all add value. The software suite is also good, though at £175/$200 the full version of Media Toolbox should be included.
So that brings us to performance where Sound Blaster ZxR excels across the board. The weakest aspect? Probably the microphone on the control pod. It is decent, but not up to the standard of something like a Blue Yeti/Razer Seiren or Audio Technica AR2020. For those who are not pro- podcasters it will of course be more than sufficient though. Other than that though the ZxR oozes quality. In music playback the sound is spectacular, regardless of the audio genre. Wide, detailed soundscape. Loads of bass, no distortion of note and great separation across the range. It really is one of those cards which allows you to hear your music in a new, more detailed way when compared to the vast majority of PC audio solutions. In gaming and movies the sound was immersive, very realistic and with plenty of power when required. Scout mode also works well, allowing us to pick out sounds such as enemy movement more easily than normal.
Summary: Whether you are a mobile user (E5), in need of an external sound card (X7) for PC/console or want a PCIe card such as this, Creative have an exceptional product catalogue at the moment. The ZxR is a great mix of build quality, design, features and performance.