Soundblaster XtremeAudio PCI-Express

Posted on January 18, 2008
Author: Sean Potter
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Tags:

Linux Inst..al.lat...ion?

Using the same machine, I booted into my Ubuntu 7.10 installation. The card wasn't recognized as a soundcard, but lspci detects the presence of an "Unknown Creative Labs device".

Luckily, Creative released a beta 64-bit Linux Driver for the X-Fi series in September. I downloaded this to my machine and attempted to compile. The module compiled fine, but take note that you must have GCC 3.x on your machine, as the driver is incompatible with GCC 4.x and above.

After using modprobe to load the driver, the XtremeAudio remained as an "Unknown Creative Labs device". Blast! Did Creative change the architecture of the original XtremeAudio for the PCI-Express version this much, or is it a different card all together? Some sources point out that the PCI-Express version of the XtremeAudio is a Soundblaster Audigy SE in disguise. Even if that were the case, the Audigy SE worked in Linux with alsa drivers, and this does not.

We'll have to accept defeat for now and hope that developers bring an open source X-Fi driver to us soon, or that Creative wakes up to the popularity that Linux has gained in the last few years and release a real driver for us.

Final Thoughts and Conlcusion

PCI-Express has been bundled with motherboards upwards of 4 years now, and we are finally starting to see PCI-Express soundcards trickle into the market. Fortunately or unfortunately for Intel, their first venture into this new market is in the form of the XtremeAudio.

After running a few simplistic tests, we were able to determine that the XtremeAudio is on par with an original Audigy soundcard. Whether gaming or viewing orlistening to some sort of electronic media, the entry-level XtremeAudio delivers.

The configuration software is easy to use and has a small memory footprint too boot. The addition of ALchemy, which brings back hardware-accelerated effects and surround sound in Vista, is a blessing in itself after not having hardware acceleration since Vista was released. Gamer's and enthusiasts alike can find something in common with the Xtreme Audio: a great entry-level soundcard.

I would have liked to see a new revision of the X-Fi architecture that took full advantage of PCI-Express' bandwidth. Possibly with onboard encoders and decoders to faster CD ripping or burning, or even a small physics engine. Given Creative's strong prescence in the gaming market, I don't think it will be long before we see a bundled Physics/Sound combo card or something very similar. Their move to PCI-Express will open many new doors for the company.

The only downside for this card is that there is as of yet no support in Linux.

Pros

  • X-Fi Greatness in an entry-level card
  • Supports up to 8 channels of audio for 7.1 sound
  • Optical input and output
  • Equal performance to an Audigy
  • Fantastic Sound
  • Easy software usage
  • Audio Jack Detection

Cons

  • No Linux Support
  • No X-RAM

Rating

7/10

Jump to page:

blog comments powered by Disqus