Keep Audigy2 ZS or get an X-Fi?

Just built a new main rig and I’m trying to decide what to do about sound… I’m planning to run XP for day-to-day stuff and my existing game library, but I’ll also have Vista installed for Halo 2 and future games.

Trying to decide what to do for audio. The board is based on the Nvidia 680i reference design, so it has 7.1-channel HD audio onboard.


  1. Stick with the onboard Realtek ALC885 chip. Looks to have the best support in Vista right now, and I’m not finding any audible interference on this setup so far.
  2. Go with my existing Audigy2 ZS. Always been happy with the audio quality, and it should have cleaner audio than the motherboard sound. But Vista driver support is apparently poor.
  3. Upgrade to an X-Fi. Will this offer me noticable improvement over an Audigy 2 ZS under XP for gaming and listening to compressed audio? And will it buy me anything at all compared to the other options under Vista, given the hardware acceleration issues?

I’m leaning towards option 1 or 2, since the chipsets coming later this year that omit PCI support mean Creative’s going to have to bite the bullet and do a PCI-E card.

I’ve got an X-Fi with my Vista machine. I’m actually surprised that Creative has its driver house in order compared to Nvidia. There have been two Vista driver updates that I know of for the X-Fi boards, and there are 32-bit and 64-bit drivers. The only hardware issues with my machine stem from my crappy Nvidia drivers. The Creative ones have been rock solid. Of course, that’s probably due to the audio stack being taken out of the kernel, which has improved stability greatly. However, I’m just not sure how useful the X-Fi is now, especially in non-game applications. I don’t know if my regular iTunes music is being enhanced or amplified by the X-Fi now that Vista doesn’t support hardware acceleration.

Get an X-Fi.

The X-Mod works in Vista, so I don’t see why the X-Fi wouldn’t. You should obviously be able to test it by switching the enhancement settings on and off. The X-Fi definitely rocks in XP though, which is where I use mine. It’s essential if you have 5.1 speakers, and the 3D sound using headphones is very well-done.

Good to hear the Vista drivers are working out. Considering how late Creative was to that party, it’s a pleasant surprise.

But is the X-Fi really that much better than an Audigy 2 ZS?

Use the onboard sound for now, and buy a new one whenever they show up.

I’m interested in this myself. I’ve been pondering the X-Fi since late 2005 when I built my current system but have stuck with the Audigy 2ZS because it seems to be just fine. Since I’m going with Vista (dual boot with WinXP) sometime soon, I’m debating just like DennyA.

I didn’t hear about PCI being dropped. That’s actually an important point. Why would I want to get a PCI card if my next mobo isn’t going to be able to use it?

I’m primarily a headphones kind of guy and I don’t notice any difference between X-Fi and my Audigy 2 ZS. If anything, the 2 ZS LiveDrive i/o thing has firewire whereas the new Platinum one does not.

I remember CGW/GFW’s gushing exclusive review over it on how the Crystalizer was revolutionary but it sounds like crap to me.

The X-Fi has this virtual 3D surround thing for headphones which is neat if you’re using headphones. It does sound better than the Audigy overall but that’s an incremental improvement, nothing earth-shattering. The main reason would be that you don’t really have a choice if you want good sound and Vista support…

As for the PCI thing, board makers want to drop PCI because they need to support PCI Express anyway and all expansion cards could theoretically work with various sizes of PCI-E. Most boards still have at least one PCI slot but if you use more than one PCI card there are already some boards you can’t use. However, card makers have been really slow to make PCI-E cards so maybe board makers will just drop the idea of moving everyone to PCI-E…

Go X-Fi.
I have both (ZS in my kitchen and X-Fi on my main pc) and X-Fi is an improvement - it’s not the most important decision when building a new machine, but if money isn’t the issue fo X-Fi.
I’ll second the quality of Creatives Vista drivers (but I’ve never had problems with Creatives drivers, something others on this borad ahve apparently).

The 24-bit Crystalizer is excellent for badly compressed music - 128 bit or less

  • but messes with phasing and a bunch of other stuff, so some music will sound much worse.
    But the virtual surround for headphones and speakers work really well - so good in fact, that I ditched by THX surround setup and went 2.1.

Audigy 2 ZS works for me under Vista 32bit. Just make sure to keep upgrading your drivers as they release new ones. If you’re getting weird interference issues, try switching which PCI slot your card is in. Your motherboard may have some isolation issues…

What the Xifi has that the Audigy 2 doesn’t have is the real-time binaural synthesis that gives you surround sound in your headphones. It’s useful late at night when you don’t want to disturb anyone in the house with your game playing.

While it’s not as convincing as a real 5.1 speaker set up, I’d say it’s probably 30% as convincing. It’s going to be a different experience for everyone, but for me, sounds from the front seem to come from slightly above and in front, and sounds from the rear seem to come from where my neck meets my spine.

It’s good enough for me to know in STALKER, for example, that the gun fire is coming from behind rather than from in front.

my aureal vortex2 had more convincing headphone 3d sound though :/

Cool. How’re the Vista drivers?

Non-existent. Same for XP. :P

Oh, btw, anyone want an Audigy 2 ZS? I’ve got one for cheap. :-)

Hey, man, I’m still mourning the untimely demise of SoundStorm. :-(