Creative Sound Blaster Z and Zx Sound Card Review


Creative Sound Blaster Z and Zx

For some time, weve shared our underwhelming experiences with sound cards and headsets with integrated audio processors that featured virtual surround sound. For the more modern implementations such as Razer Surround and Dolby Home Theater V4, simulated positional audio was hardly noticeable. The more extreme case is Dolby Headphone which degrades audio quality when it is enabled. Then there are true surround sound headsets, those that pack multiple drivers on different channels into each earcup. Those dont work too well either to the point we have never recommended a headset on that feature alone. Positional audio is a desirable and much wanted feature gamers want, but obtaining a set of 5.1 or 7.1 speakers may be neither reasonably priced nor practical for some people.Creative Sound Blaster Z and Zx

Unfortunately for headphone users, it is an unattainable challenge to recreate the sound of six or eight speakers on just two speakers. However, some implementations are better than others and we listened to the few audio recordings on the internet that gave us the opportunity to listen to those implementations we previously were not able to experience. One in particular, Creative X-Fi CMSS-3D featured on the Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium sounded the best, providing the best virtual surround audio compared to its competition. We looked forward to a chance to get our hands on some hardware from Creative to thoroughly explore its capabilities.Creative Sound Blaster Z and Zx

Previously, we looked at the Creative Sound Blaster ZxR to which praised its capabilities including its unnamed virtual surround engine. Our primary criticism was the excessiveness of its features and pricing for most gamers especially when compared to the Sound Blaster Z and Zx cards, which this review focuses on. These two products use the same sound card and only differ by their bundled accessories. The Sound Blaster Z is available for $100.99 and the Sound Blaster Zx is available for $125.85 both on Amazon with free shipping.

Sound Blaster Z and Zx Features:

  • 116dB Signal-To-Noise Ratio
  • Sound Blaster Beamforming Microphone for Z or Accessible Audio Control Module (ACM) for Zx
  • 600 Ohm Dedicated Headphone Amplifier
  • SBX Pro Studio
  • Advanced home entertainment audio
  • Pristine audio recordings with ultra low latency
  • 24-bit / 192kHz audio output

Sound Blaster Z and Zx Specifications:

  • Audio Processor: Sound Core3D
  • Audio Resolution: 24-Bit
  • Digital Audio Convertor (DAC): Cirrus Logic
  • Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) (20kHz Low-pass filter, A-Wgt): 116dB
  • Maximum Playback Quality:
    • 5.1 : Up to 96kHz
    • Stereo Direct: Up to 192kHz
  • Frequency Response @96kHz:
    • Front Channel Out : 10Hz to 45kHz
    • Rear Channel Out: 15Hz to 45kHz
    • Center Out: 10Hz to 45kHz
    • Headphone (33 ohms): 10Hz to 45kHz
  • Frequency Response @192kHz (Stereo Direct Only): Front Channel Out : 10Hz to 88kHz
  • 16-bit to 24-bit Recording Sample Rates: 8,11.025,16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, 48, 96 (kHz)
  • 16-bit to 24-bit Playback Sample Rates: 8,11.025,16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, 48, 96, 192 (kHz)
  • Maximum Recording Quality: Up to 24-bit/96kHz
  • I/O Ports (Main Card):
    • Headphone : 1 x Amplified 3.5mm jack
    • Speaker Out : 3 x 3.5mm jacks(F/R/C-Sub)
    • Line / Mic In : 1x shared 3.5mm jack
    • Optical Out : 1x TOSLINK
    • Optical In : 1x TOSLINK
  • Audio Control Module / Front Panel Connectivity (for Sound Blaster Zx):
    • Volume Control Knob Built-in Beam-Forming Microphone
    • Headphone-Out : 1x 3.5mm jack, 1x 1/4 jack
    • Microphone-In : 1x 3.5mm jack, 1x 1/4 jack
  • 600 Ohm Amplified Headphone Output: Maxim MAX97220A
  • Included Accessories: Beamforming Microphone with Sound Blaster Z or Audio Control Module (with Beamforming Microphone Built-in) with Sound Blaster Zx
  • Technology
    • Audio Enhancement:
      • SBX Pro Studio
      • Surround
      • Crystalizer
      • Bass
      • Smart Volume
      • Dialog Plus
      • CrystalVoice
      • Noise Reduction
      • Smart Volume
      • Acoustic Echo Cancellation
      • FX
      • Focus
    • Speaker/Headphone Switch: Software Controlled
    • Dolby Digital Live: Encoding
    • DTS Connect: Encoding
    • Upmixing of Stereo to Multi-Channels: SBX Surround
    • DTS & Dolby Digital Decoding via Cyberlink PowerDVD Download: via 3rd party software download
    • Scout Mode: Yes
    • EAX: EAX 5.0 HD
    • Max.No. of 3D Voices: 128
    • ASIO: ASIO 2.0 support at
      • 16-bit/44.1kHz
      • 16-bit/48kHz
      • 24-bit/44.1kHz
      • 24-bit/48kHz
      • 24-bit/96kHz with direct monitoring
  • Compatible With: PC – PCIe x1 Connection
  • Operating System: Windows 7/8
  • Warranty: 2-year in EU, 1-year worldwide

Creative Sound Blaster Z

The back of the Sound Blaster Z boxCreative Sound Blaster ZxThe back of the Sound Blaster Zx box