Today, we will be looking at a most unusual beast, the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD. The Sound Blaster name instantly brings up thoughts of gaming audio, and the X-Fi chip certainly provides the muscle for that. Take a look at the card itself though, and you could be forgiven for thinking that the designers could not have cared less about gaming. The box prominently features talk of SNR, THD, ASIO drivers and interchangeable op-amps—all the hallmarks of a music-oriented card.
The designers at Creative have taken on an apparently impossible task: try to make a card that pleases gamers and audiophiles alike. The goal is a lofty one, and the price certainly reflects those sought-for heights. So, nothing for it but to hop off the cliff and see if this card rises to the heights, or plummets to the ground.
“The Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD is powered by the second-generation Creative X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity audio processor for PCI Express slots. The Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD combines captivating industrial design with audiophile grade Digital to Analog Converters (DACs) and components to produce a 122dB signal-to-noise ratio, the highest SNR ever produced by a Creative sound card. A replaceable Op-amp is also a distinguishing feature allowing users to customise audio output with colouration that is refined to their personal tastes.”
Additional product specifications include:
- RCA Line Out for audio playback up to 122dB, 24-bit/96kHz Digital-to-Analog Converters (DAC)
- RCA Line Input for recording up to 118dB, 24-bit 96kHZ Analog-to-Digital Converters (ADC)
- 0.001% Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (THD+N)
- Headphone output for audio listening up to 115dB 33 Ohms, and 117dB, 330 Ohms, at 24bit/96kHz
- Replaceable Op-amps
- Hardware-accelerated 3D positional audio and EAX 5.0 effects that provide a truly immersive experience with headphones and speakers
- Dolby Digital and DTS encoding enables one-step single-cable connection to home entertainment systems
- TOS-link optical-in/out
- 1/8″ microphone-in
- 1/8″ headphone jack
- Creative ALchemy to restore EAX and surround sound that is otherwise lost in DirectSound game titles running under Windows Vista and Windows 7
- ASIO recording support with latency as low as one millisecond with minimal CPU load
- Works with Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems
All of this talk of audiophilia attached to a Sound Blaster card is historically unprecedented for Creative. In the past, Sound Blasters have been more game-focused, whereas the E-MU line has been geared at audiophiles and audio recording professionals.
That said, the list of features is fairly impressive. The RCA line-out port provides a convenient output path to external headphone amplifiers, which usually take RCA input to help minimize channel cross-talk. The RCA line-in is useful if you are inclined to record lots of older vinyl albums to digital backups—though the fact that the line-in shares physical plugs with the TOSLINK line-in and line-out means you will be doing some frequent cable swapping to use this card to its fullest potential.