Creative Labs SoundBlaster X-Fi Elite Pro

Creative Labs SoundBlaster X-Fi Elite Pro
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Excellent signal-to-noise ratio, Plenty of inputs, Excellent results for music and movies

Cons

  • No FireWire port, Games need to be specially programmed to make full use of the card

Bottom Line

The X-Fi Elite Pro is an extremely impressive sound card. The audio performance rivals that of many professional cards, and the break-out box offers more connections than a BT exchange. However, it's also seriously pricey, and unless you're a dedicated audiophile we don't think it's quite worth so much.

Would you buy this?

Special Offers

Last year's Creative Audigy 4.0 Pro was a tad disappointing because it used much the same technology as its predecessor. But now, after having spent around $100m on developing the new X-Fi chip, Creative is back with a true next-generation audio card.

The X-Fi Elite Pro sits at the very top of Creative's new range and as such includes a number of extras. It has 64MB of onboard RAM for storing game sounds and, whereas the entry-level X-Fi cards have a signal-to-noise ratio of 109dB (decibels), this one boasts an astonishing 116dB. The biggest visible difference, however, is the break-out box, which is twice the size of the old Audigy desktop unit.

Unlike previous models, the Pro includes a pre-amp for hooking up a turntable to it, which is handy if you want to convert your old vinyl into MP3s. Unfortunately the FireWire port has been given the old heave-ho.

As with all top-of-the-range cards from Creative, musicians are well catered for with this offering. There are both coax and optical digital connectors on the break-out box, as well as a pair of full-sized midi ports. It's easy to hook guitars or microphones up to the card via the jack sockets, while the low-latency Asio drivers for use in applications such as Cubase make recording as painless as possible.

But even when used for day-to-day music listening and movie-watching, the X-Fi puts in a cracking performance. The new '24bit Crystalizer' mode is especially impressive for listening to MP3s. Through a process of up-sampling it restores some of the punch lost during the compression process - the results are startling. Music is meatier and crisper when the effect is turned on and, unlike competing systems, it makes it sound natural rather than processed, so your ears don't tire of the effect.

Creative's cards have always been a benchmark for gaming performance because they offload processing onto the card rather than using the PC's main CPU. This means faster frame rates in games. The X-Fi is no different in this respect. Our test using the Right Mark 3DSound benchmarking software showed a CPU utilisation of just 4.3 per cent on a 2GHz Pentium 4. However, that was only a marginal improvement on previous results from an Audigy 4.0 Pro. Also, in the patched X-Fi version of Doom III we used there wasn't really a noticeable improvement over the Audigy 4.0.

Games will need to be specially programmed to make the most of the X-Fi's abilities, and we expect greater things to come in the future.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

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

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?