Sound Blaster X-FI Titanium HD Sound Card Review

Creative and Sound Blaster have been synonymous with high end sound products for years, but have recently fell on rough times. Today the company is back with its high end product offering for the audio enthusiast. Creative even states right on the box that it is "the audiophile's choice." Let's see that statement backed up.

Introduction

For over twenty years, Creative Technology Ltd. has been one of the world's leading manufacturers of PC sound cards and multimedia products. Creative's Sound Blaster and EMU product lines became known as some of the world's most popular, feature-rich, and compatible choices for PC gamers and musicians alike. In 2007, Microsoft released Windows Vista, and with its new operating system, the company brought numerous changes to its sound driver model and audio stack. Microsoft removed hardware sound acceleration from its DirectX gaming API and also completely changed the manner in which Vista, and later, Windows 7, would handle audio processing duties.

Many PC hardware manufacturers, including Creative, struggled to create compatible drivers and functioning applications in a timely manner. PC hardware buyers had to discover quickly if their previous brand loyalties would endure the new operating system's demands. It has now been three years since the debut of Windows Vista. Microsoft has since released Windows 7 to great success. As a result, many hardware manufacturers are steadily producing 32 and 64 bit drivers and compatible applications for their products under Microsoft's revamped standards. In order to regain its appeal to gamers and lure audiophiles away from relatively new competitors, Creative has designed and released its first-ever "audiophile class" sound card, the Sound Blaster X-FI Titanium HD. Today, we will put Creative's newest sound card through its paces to see if it has joined other worthy competitors in the audio enthusiast and gaming sound card market.

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The Product, Pricing, & Packaging

We were sent a full retail version of the Titanium HD sound card directly from Creative. The new card can be found on Amazon.com for $178.89 with Prime Shipping. NewEgg.com lists the card for $169.99 and $7.68 for regular shipping. The sound card's outer packaging has multiple input and output source examples and specifications on the back and side panels. The outer layer is made of very stiff and semi-clear plastic, contains Creative's signature X-Fi logos in black and silver and a see-through window that allows potential buyers to see the card's actual size and appearance before making a buying decision. The card carries a five year limited warranty on parts and labor. Inside of the retail box, Creative included a nearly flat orange box which contains the two included optical cables for digital output and input, an RCA to stereo mini cable for analog output, quick start guide and illustrated setup diagram with software and hardware instructions for installation and setup.

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ASUS and HTOmega both have already had current product lines and features very similar to the Titanium HD. We priced those companies' products on Newegg and Amazon and the prices were within a $10 to $40 range of current online retail pricing for Creative's newest sound card. We are ready to see if the Titanium HD can give those two companies competition in the enthusiast sound card market.