Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1
Quality audio for notebooks
- EAX and X-Fi support, versatile connections
- No Mac OS X support
The Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 is a portable, well-rounded external sound card with all the advantages of Creative’s internal sound card range. Some won't notice its benefits, but its support for EAX and X-Fi technology will be an advantage for most people.
Price$ 149.95 (AUD)
In an attempt to remedy the poor quality integrated audio in many notebooks, Creative has produced the external USB Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1. It features a good quality digital to analog converter (DAC) and integrated X-Fi and EAX technology support.
The X-Fi Surround 5.1 is highly portable; it's powered entirely off its host USB connection. A gloss black fascia and blue power LED create a nice aesthetic for the device. It features a large dial on the front for volume adjustment, and the device is appropriately sized given its connection options; it easily fits into a pocket.
Connectivity is quite extensive. The X-Fi Surround 5.1 can output sound to 5.1, 4.1 surround and 2.0/2.1 stereo speaker systems, either through its analog outputs or digital out. This device also has a headphone output, and two line-level inputs for microphone and other recording use. While it is unlikely that any user will make use of all connections, the wide variety of options allows it to suit most setups.
We were disappointed to find no support from Creative for Mac OS X. Our testing shows it will work on a plug-and-play basis on most Macs; using it as an external DAC eradicated the pesky line noise common in the Macbook Pro's integrated audio. However, it has a tendency to crash Mac OS X Leopard.
When used simply as an external DAC, the X-Fi provides a slight increase in audio quality over on-board systems. We tested it out using the Creative I-Trigue 3000i, a computer-based 2.1 system, and the Bowers & Wilkins VM6, a high-end surround sound home theatre system. In both cases, the X-Fi Surround 5.1 provided clearer sound compared to our test notebook's built-in headphone jack. Tonal range was also better, providing a balanced sound across all frequencies (the notebook's output was biased slightly towards mid-range frequencies).
Setup is easily accomplished through plug-and-play drivers, though full use of the device's capabilities requires the user to install additional software. This software allows access to a detailed control panel to adjust settings that relate to EAX, X-Fi Crystallizer and CMSS3D.
For music, EAX — Creative's marketing term for its environmental audio filters — is largely useless, as it simply adds unneeded reverb and distortion effects to the output sound; it is intended for computer games. Given that the Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 is designed specifically for notebook audio, the EAX integration may only benefit those with high-end laptops and desktop replacements that are able to play the latest computer games smoothly; its inclusion is still welcome.
X-Fi Crystallizer technology is essentially a dynamic equaliser, designed to improve the sound of compressed audio formats by restoring some of the higher frequencies normally lost in the compression process. In practice, its effectiveness is heavily dependent on the individual user's sound system. Those with properly balanced surround systems, such as the Bowers & Wilkins VM6, will suffer a loss of clarity in music as treble frequencies are given prevalence. However, users with more common audio setups will notice a difference as the Crystallizer compensates for the unbalanced sound offered by computer systems.
CMSS3D is designed specifically for surround sound enhancement; again this is largely useful for computer sound systems. The software allows users to easily adjust the stereo effect between front and rear speakers, enabling them to achieve a balance. Those with 2.1 systems should be warned that this is turned on by default and it may detract from the listening experience if rear speakers aren't being used.
Join the newsletter!
Apple iMac Pro
Bang and Olufsen Beoplay A9 Speaker
Samsung QLED 8K TV
Ballistix Sport AT
Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB 3000
Cartier Calibre de Cartier Diver Watch
Toys for Boys
Nix Pro Colour Sensor
ESET Smart Security Premium
Tivoli PAL BT
Little Bits DROID Inventor Kit
Oregon Pro WMR500 Weather Station
ESET Cyber Security Pro for Mac
Osmo Coding Awbie Game
ESET Internet Security
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth Speaker
SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3
Ikea RIGGAD work lamp with wireless charging
Naztech Xtra Drive Mini + 256GB microSD Card
TimeFlip Magnet Simple Time Tracking Device
Technology is revolutionising the way we do things and that includes in the kitchen where a wealth of must-have gadgets and appliances are the making life easier for home cooks.
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Samsung Tab S4 review: Freestyle
- 2 Sony WF-SP900 review: One step forward, two steps back
- 3 Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 review: Safety first
- 4 Oppo R17 Pro review: Oppo's thriftiest flagship yet drives a hard bargain
- 5 Lenovo Smart Display review: The bigger, better buy
Latest News Articles
- CES 2019: Mad Catz strike back
- CES 2019: Razer expand PC case lineup
- CES 2019: Intel to ship new Nervana neural network processor in 2019
- Razer have announced their first console keyboard
- New AMD processor spotted in Xbox console leak
PCW Evaluation Team
Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications
I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)
It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!
The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.
I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.
If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.
- CES 2019 Round-Up:
- Samsung’s Galaxy S10 will launch on Feb 20, and we only have one question
- Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: Full, in-depth, Australian review
- Everything you need to know about Smart TVs
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?