Installing the card and drive unit was straightforward. I happened to have a spare floppy drive power cable on my PSU to connect to the X-Fi’s power connector. Creative supply a suitable splitter for those who do not have a spare PSU connector.
The software installation went without a hitch, after downloading the latest version from the Creative website.
Unlike previous SoundBlaster software, the software interface is very slick. Creative have kept the clutter to a minimum, whilst retaining full functionality.
The X-Fi has three modes of operation:
- Entertainment – Listening to music or watching movies.
- Audio creation – For all you musicians.
- Gaming – For when you want to relax and play games.
The software interface changes to suit the operating mode in use. For example, when in audio creation mode, the software looks and acts like a mixing desk, whereas when listening to music or watching movies the interface takes on the guise of a home theatre receiver. In other words, users should find navigating the interfaces intuitive.
Choosing an operating mode is done using, believe it or not, the mode switcher.
Since this is the Fatal1ty gaming version of the X-Fi we shall look at that mode first.
The various options available should be self evident from the screen captures below. It should be noted that the screen caps were all taken whilst using headphones. When using speakers the appropriate 5.1, 7.1 etc. setup will appear.
The CMSS-3D setup: in this case, I am using a full 360 degree surround sound with ordinary stereo headphones. I will talk about this in more detail later.
Here is the much vaunted 24 bit Crystalizer, designed to put back what the MP3 compression pixies took away. Again, more on this later.
A ten band graphic equalizer. Comes with a range of presets or you can create your own.
The standard mixer. Here EAX and SVM can be turned on or off. SVM is “Smart Volume Management” which in essence evens out the volume difference across music tracks, thus eliminating any large swings in volume. Useful if you have a mixture of music tracks recorded at different volumes or for late night listening of dynamic music which might otherwise disturb sleepers. Given that we have had, so far, the Crystalizer and the Equalizer, why not just call this the Normalizer?