Sound Blaster Recon3D Fatal1ty Sound Card Review
Creative's latest Sound Blaster flagship sound card features its new SoundCore3D chipset along with a powerful headphone amplifier, a beam forming microphone, and the return of the company's popular front panel audio I/O bay. Is this card a worthy successor to its Audigy and X-Fi brethren?
For twenty years, Creative has designed, manufactured, and sold the world's most popular PC gaming sound cards.
The company's extremely successful X-Fi product line was launched in 2005 and ended its run five years later with the excellent audiophile-grade X-Fi Titanium HD that we reviewed in October of 2010.
Creative's X-Fi software suite and or hardware chipset appeared in nearly twenty sound cards manufactured by Creative and Auzentech. Eventually, the hardware-based card’s audio capabilities, legacy software, and flexibility for further innovation were diminished by the limitations of the redesigned audio stack in both Windows Vista and 7.
Creative has finally retired the legacy X-Fi hardware chipset in favor of its brand new SoundCore3D quad core audio processor. Traditionally, PC sound cards can have many dedicated components that add DSP effects and perform digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital conversion, but the SoundCore3D processor performs all of those duties single-handedly.
Today, we will see if this all-in-one design coupled with the additional hardware and new software features of the company's new flagship card can provide you with the PC audio experience you are looking for.
Today we are looking at Creative's Fatal1ty Recon3D series of add-in cards for your PC. There are three variants in the Recon3D series of sound cards. The Recon3D PCIe is the bare bones model in the series. It can be found at NewEgg.com for $99.99 with $6.69 ground shipping and at Amazon.com for $85.82 with free Prime shipping as well.
The Recon3D Fatal1ty Professional adds a protective EMI shield to the card along with a beam-forming microphone, and a pair of red LEDs. The LEDs illuminate the card's PCB inside of your PC case. It can be found at NewEgg.com for $149.99 with $6.69 shipping and Amazon.com for $132.45 with free Prime shipping.
Lastly, the Recon3D Fatal1ty Champion, that we received for review, consists of the sound card, protective EMI shield, beam-forming microphone, and an audio I/O expansion bay. NewEgg.com (with $8.86 shipping) and Amazon.com (with free Prime shipping), both sell it for $199.99.
All three cards have a headphone amplifier and identical back panel and front panel Intel HD-audio connectivity. The bare bones Recon3D PCIe cannot be upgraded in the future with the expansion I/O bay accessory, while the Recon3D Fatal1ty Professional can.
The Recon3D Fatal1ty Champion sound card sports Creative's well-known SoundBlaster and Fatal1ty gaming logos on its red and black product box. The packaging highlights the card's 600 ohm headphone amplifier. Creative's previous flagship card, the X-Fi Titanium HD, only had a dedicated headphone-out port, not a true amplifier.
The product's specifications, connectivity, and gaming API's are listed on the box's back and side panels. We do not see any listing for the product's signal to noise ratio or any claims of "audiophile" performance. The Recon3D sound card line was designed with the PC gamer in mind, not music enthusiasts or recording professionals.
The Recon3D Fatal1ty Champion sound card and its included microphone were wrapped separately inside the box's first layer of cardboard packing material. Below, we found the sound card's audio I/O bay accessory, the product's driver and application CD, quick start guide, and warranty statement.
All three products carry a one year limited warranty. In our experience, we have found that sound cards are not upgraded as often as video cards and CPUs are, so we would have hoped for a warranty period longer than one year.