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.


Apples to Apples

When comparing the Titanium HD to Creative's last high end consumer card, the X-FI Titanium Fatality Professional, there is simply no contest. The Titanium HD sounded better in every listening test we performed. Simply put, the sheer audio fidelity blew the older Titanium Fatality away. We used the Titanium Fatality for two years, but after installing the Titanium HD, there is no going back, ever. The only thing we miss about the Titanium Fatality is that is has 7.1 analog as well as optical outputs. The Titanium HD only has two analog outputs and optical in and out. The software of the two generations of cards looks identical in every respect, so beginning our the use of the Titanium HD required absolutely no learning curve whatsoever. This will certainly be a boon and buying point for all Creative brand enthusiasts.

Apples to Oranges

For comparing the Titanium HD to a competitor's product, we used ASUS' Essence STX. The card is similar in specifications and also nearly every input/output possibility that is has. We have to say though, that there is no clear choice when trying to determine a winner between the two in terms of sound quality. It is simply each individual listener's preference.

The ASUS card can support headphones with impedance requirements up to 600 ohms. The Creative card can only support 330 ohms.

For software, the ASUS card's original software was created for Windows Vista. The current software available for the card for Windows 7 is less than 11MB. Creative's full installation requires over 350MB. When using Creative's software, a user can choose three separate modes of operation where he can have three sets of configurations that remain untouched when switching from mode to mode.

After having used the two cards' individual control panel programs and tray applets, we have to say that we preferred the Creative set. There are so many variables that can simply be overlooked in the ASUS set when playing a game or a "legacy" direct sound game. ASUS has an emulation program for DirectSound3d just as Creative does with Alchemy. Activating ASUS' emulation program required two clicks of the mouse to change the DSP mode. With Creative's Alchemy a user must add a registry style entry to Alchemy to configure the game, but afterward, the results are impressive in legacy games as we have said in the past. Honestly, for our readership, a simply registry-style edit should be no big deal.

Also in the ASUS software, a user must always choose the number of sound channels present in the movie he is watching and this is a pain. When you forget to see if you have 2, 4, 5, or 7.1 channels and set it incorrectly, playback is terrible. With Creative's software, we chose the number of speakers we had, turned CMSS-3d on for movies and games, and off for music.

If you are already a fan of one company or the other, switching sides to buy the newest sound card available from either company will definitely involve a learning curve.

The Bottom Line

Creative has done an excellent job of designing the Titanium HD to remain competitive in today's sound card market. It seems to us the company waited too long to design and release it. We did have an absolutely excellent experience with movies, games, music listening and recording. Simply put, if the company begins offering regular driver updates and support after the product's wide scale release, then we would have no reason not to recommend this card to all our friends, family or anyone else. Creative's support has faltered in the past and it is a primary concern of ours that the company stay on top of its customers' needs.

The Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD is the finest sound card we have ever used. That said, there is serious competition in this market place. When we say it is the finest, we are not saying that it blows the competitors away, but slightly edges those out. Creative and its Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD are late to the party, but we are damn glad it finally showed up.

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Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD