SoundBlaster X-Fi Fatality FPSManufacturer: Creative Labs
Price: $279.99 / 249 EUR
Four years and roughly 100 million USD is the end results of today's tested product people. You can imagine I feel quite flattered that we are amongst the earliest to actually review Creative Labs's newborn baby, the X-Fi series soundcard. Not many websites were able to bring you a decent review on the new X-Fi product so we'll do our best. I say decent because we will not go 100% in-depth as we will do in a follow up article on a X-Fi soundcard that'll be written by Brann Mitchell. BTW if you need really in-depth technical information please visit Tom's Hardware, they actually copied pretty much the entire whitepaper from Creative Labs on X-Fi and pretty much presented it as their own written article.
I can imagine that for Creative it is getting increasingly difficult to sell low and mid-range soundcard products as it is getting harder and harder for the company to compete with the endless and very progressively increasing number of integrated sound solutions on mainboards these days. I mean, you've gotta have a product out there that can really hammer these solutions. The Realtek High Definition Codecs, VIA's Envy and NVIDIA's Soundstorm are seriously good solutions and yet it is very direct competition for Creative Labs as it's integrated on the mainboard for almost free.
Luckily for Creative they have monopolized themselves with the greatest goodness of them all called diversity, think of the heaps of software, functions like EAX and of course Creative's pure focus on that high-end quality level of your sound experience. So I've been asking myself this question for roughly two years already now, how on earth is Creative Labs going to compete with the quality of integrated solutions and that small range of other manufacturers soundcards on a consistent level? Well the Audigy series proved 100% that Creative can bring something on the market that others can't and actually sell it for some pretty good money.
While asking myself that question my dilemma always has been this thesis 'How can you prolong a studio quality product; what on Earth can you improve about it'?
Can you invent the wheel twice (or in Creative's case five times, 5th generation product), is basically the underlying thesis here. I honestly did not see a way to improve, for example, the Audigy 4 Pro from a sound quality level... then they release the X-Fi, shooting that thesis to little pieces. The concept and ideas brought into this product are innovative and offer better quality compared to the last generation, but unfortunately also more expensive.
With a product name reminiscent of Hi Fi, which basically means an electronic system for reproducing high-fidelity sound (the reproduction of sound with little or no distortion), Creative called their new gem "X-Fi" that is short for eXtreme Fidelity. As you'll find throughout the review, this is mostly true. The new series has some amazing new features and reproduces sound quality at the level you can find in a modern recording studio.
What we are going to do today is bring you our first review on the X-Fi Fatality. I will give you an overview of this product series, some extensive objective and subjective listening tests, fire off some benchmarks on the card and we'll have a look at the software. Overall we'll give you a pretty decent overview of the new product series. In a couple of weeks Brann Mitchell is going to do a follow up review on this product series, but he'll write it from his point of view. Brann teaches music at the Conservatory of Music in San Francisco and is a true audiophile, I just like to play games in multi-channel sound and listen to music in good quality :) So the contrasts between the two of us always gives you the reader a broadened view on how to look at these products. Today, my view...
Let's see if this X was objectively placed next to the Fi, next page please.