Monday, January 25, 2010

My Love/Hate Relationship with Creative

Every time I pull a SoundBlaster card from my system, I swear I'll never go back to Creative. Somehow, I always do.

My latest row with the makers of the oldest name in quality PC sound come from something some of us SB users know casually as SCP. That clever acronym stands for snap, crackle, pop, and it has nothing to do with Rice Krispies. Google something like "SCP x-fi" and you'll come up something like 65,000 hits. There's a reason for that. There are also dozens of threads (example) on Creative's own forums on the topic.

I just yanked a Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Titanium out of my system because, no matter what I did, I heard SCP whenever I played music, games, movies, etc. Little pops of crackling static, every few seconds, permeated everything I did with audio on my computer. Here are things that had no bearing: Drivers, speakers, motherboards, installed graphics cards, and standing on my head.

In the SB's place is an ASUS Xonar PCIe of some sort, and everything sounds terrific.

Why, then, do I go back? I don't really know. I've given outstanding reviews to competing sound cards in places for which I used to write, but somehow when the latest Creative effort comes out I jump all over it. Then the SCP returns. Creative denies it. Blames motherboards. Tells you to update your drivers. Etc.

I think maybe I'm a Xonar guy from now on. I've got a little Logitech X-540 5.1 speaker system on my main rig (my big, X-5500 is in the basement where I can crank it; and thanks, Jason, for sending me the x-540) and I'm getting excellent surround sound as I play my tunes, games, and films.

Creative, I've always loved you. And hated you. But for now I think we should see other people. Don't worry; we can still be friends.


  1. Heh, I think I can relate to that... I had bought an X-Fi Titanium myself a few months ago but my PC went all buggy and started hanging all the time. I went to the forums and somehow read about some major problems between X-Fi Titanium and 8800GTS video cards (which, of course, happens to be what I'm using)... There was some conflict between the 2 when it came to power consumption or something like that... Anyway, while in the process of removing it, I found out my PSU had been damaged (my PCI-e connector turned black and the wires were over-heating) and it was impossible to get my PC stable again... It only worked after uninstalling my 8800GTS drivers. Luckily, the shop refunded the X-Fi Titanium (well, I got a cash coupon but it's good enough) and I used the money to buy a new PSU...
    So after what happened, I'm not really inclined to go back to Creative either... I'm now using my onboard sound chip, it's not super duper great but it does the job. I'm currently thinking of getting a soundcard and was about to do the same mistake as you did (go back and buy a creative) but after reading your post, I'll probably hold and try to look for something else. Xonar seems nice, but it's somehow hard to get around here. I've had it in mind for a while, I think I've probably read your review on it over at extremetech and thought about trying it.

  2. I've been a Creative Person from the mono original SB to the fake Ensoniq cards, to awe32's to my latest X-Fi titanium. I've never experianced the SCP and I use analog jack headphones almost exclusively with card.

  3. Ricardo,
    I'm glad your Titanium is working out for you and hope it continues to do so. I have noticed on the dozens of X-Fi/SCP threads on various tech boards that it's pretty random regarding which machines it afflicts.

    Mortenzen, all of the Xonar cards I've reviewed have been outstanding. Pick based on your needs, and you won't be disapponted.

  4. Hi Joel,

    Well the local shops decided to make a big liar out of me as they're now selling Xonar sound cards... Or should I say "A" Xonar card. Yes, I can only find the high end model (Xonar HDAV 1.3 Deluxe or something) and is currently being listed at around USD250...

    I'm morelooking for something equivalent to the X-Fi Titanium for casual gaming around (or below) the USD100 mark. I've just had a good deal on a Steelseries Siberia V2 (USD55 on ebay, you should look it up... comes with nothing though) and wanted to pair them with a better sound card.

  5. Mortenzen, can you mail order the Xonar DX from Newegg? It would be perfect:

  6. Hey Joel,
    thought about ordering from Newegg or Amazon before but the thing is Newegg won't ship anything to my country and Amazon won't ship any electronic items to my country... They send books or CDs without any problem, but not electronics... I think that's because I live in Macau, which is, in their minds, probably part of China so it's on their blacklist... Funny thing is they ship to Hong Kong... Anyway, I'll be in HK this week for a couple of days and will go to Taiwan later this month so I'll have a look-see.