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4.4 out of 5 stars107
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 20 November 2012
This was an impulse buy when I found out that Creative have released a new generation of Fatal1ty sound blaster cards (ZXR, ZX and Z). At the time of writing, the ZXR and ZX are not yet available. I really did not need a new sound card as I already have the Creative Recon3D. However, I am the sort who is always tinkering around and upgrading pc components. Item arrived on Monday 19/11/12. It came in a snazzy box. The card itself has a red EMI backing plate to reduce electrical interference from other components. The Z is the same size as the Recon3D. Physical installation was a breeze (as was software installation, no 'bloatware' whatsoever). This is a big step up from the original Creative Sound blaster Fatal1ty sound card, where the sofware installation was very problematic and came with too much 'bloatware' (in the end, the trick was to install only the drivers and control panel and to do it one at a time). The Recon3D had some minor bloatware but to a much lesser degree than the original Fatal1ty.

Once the card and software was installed, it only took 5 minutes to tweak settings in control panel to my liking (I am accustomed to the format). I am impressed with the sound quality. I am using it with the Logitech X540 speaker set (as with the Recon3D). I can confirm that at 50% speaker volume, this card is circa 20% louder than the Recon3D. Sound is also a touch clearer and more crisp. It also has the added benefit of the addition of the latest 'SBX pro technology', which is an improved version of the 'THX professional sound studio' as used with the Recon3D. The control panel with both cards are virtually identical. However, the Z series also has the additional feature of the 'Dolby DTS' software. At time of writing, the Dolby DTS software is not yet available for release, but as soon as it is, it can be downloaded from the Creative website.

I was told by overclockers tech support that there would be no noticeable improvement of the Z over the Recon3D. However, I disagree. The improvements are noticeable by a modest yet realistic margin. Upon comparing the technical specifications of the entry level Z to the ZX and ZXR, there is improved frequency response rates in the higher (ZX) model and the highest (ZXR) model.

I have no regrets purchasing this card. As soon as the ZX or better still, the ZXR become available, I will purchase either of those sound cards (ideally the ZXR but my choice will be influenced by pricing). I was originally thinking of purchasing the Asus Phoebus. However, I am glad I did not (even though the hardware of the Phoebus is of the highest calibre, sadly the software leaves much to be desired and there are many issues with regards to games not working properly and/or crashing with the Phoebus. Asus is aware of these software issues but still has not released a patch).

How times have changed!. Creative used to be associated with poor software and software compatibility issues as well as the hardware not being as good as it should have been, whilst Asus used to be the clear leader in pc audio technology (hardware and software). It seems Creative have now cleaned up their act, with substantial improvements to their hardware and software.

Well done Creative. You deserve a pat on the back.

Update 1- 06/12/12, 8.50pm. Creative have finally released the 'DTS connect and DTS neo' software upgrade. I have installed this and I can say that the sound quality is tremendously good. Better than before. More crisp and clear. During gaming, I can hear even water droplets dripping onto the ground. Sweet.
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on 26 October 2013
The sound card is working well and sounds great. However the Sound Blaster Z-Series control panel software takes an age to start up, literally minutes. It works OK once it has started up although it takes a devil of a time to switch to the CrystalVoice, Cinematic or Mixer tabs, again minutes.

I have discovered that if the Sound Blaster Z is connected to a x16 or x8 PCI express slot there are issues with the software initialising as described above. On my motherboard these slots are connected to the X58 IOH northbridge chip. The Sound Blaster Z ideally should be connected to a x1 PCI express slot which on an X58 motherboard would be connected to the ICH10/ICH10R southbridge chip.

My advice is check your motherboard and make sure you have an available x1 PCI express slot (I don't). The hardware does work with x16 and x8 PCI express slots but you would not want to be going into the software regularly! I posted about this problem on the official Creative - Product Board - Sound Blasters forum and asked for technical help and no response at all after four weeks which is not indicative of good customer service.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 February 2013
Upgrading from a Creative X-FI Xtreame Gamer sound card, my main usage is gaming with headphones, i was spoilt for choice with the vast offerings out there. After hearing about the hit & miss performance of Creative's previous sound card generation with the Recon3d(i believe), i was tempted to avoid them & go with Asus. So, i was looking at anything between a budget Asus Xonar DGX to an audiophile Asus Xonar Essence STX, but didn't want anything that was more than my needs required, for the price. So, when i was recommended to this Sound Blaster Z sound card, it seemed the perfect choice for price & performance, regardless of brand. My experience thus far:

The good:
+ Easy to install & get straight into tweaking the sound.
+ Sound quality is noticeably better, with more weight to it.
+ The card is solidly built, nice fancy shroud & the audio section is separated inside to prevent outside signal interference.
+ The manual is very detailed & came in handy for knowing where to plug in what was needed (there is also an online version as well).
+ When plugged in separately you can easily switch between speakers/headphones via the Creative control panel, by a click of a button.
+ The Creative control panel interface is easy to navigate & not overly confusing with tons of options(i like the voice distorting section, to make you sound funny on microphone).
+ Well packaged.
+ Optional boom microphone to use.
+ Plenty of connectivity options for audio devices.

The meh:
- The Sound Blaster Z interface wasn't compatible with the PCI slot the X-FI Xtreame Gamer sound card came out of. Luckily i had a spare PCI-Express 1x slot available below it.
- Although the card was well packaged overall, it had some annoying wire cable ties that secured it to the box, which was the most effort i had in installation, to get them off through the cards shroud.
- I wanted to use my 2.1 speakers pod for my headphones, but it didn't sound right in stereo or 5.1 setup. imo for the best audio experience, you need to plug in your headphones/mic & speakers separately into the back of the card.

In conclusion, so far iv'e been impressed with the Sound Balster Z, and i'm only knocking off half a star for value for money. Recommended.
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on 12 September 2014
This sound card is quite simply amazing. Ive owned the now ancient Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 since the early 2000's and its seen numerous high spec PC's since then and only now have I begrudgingly retired it. I liked that sound card to much I wasn't sure just how today's technology could improve on it, but wow this new Sound Blaster Z is on a whole new level.

If I could describe music on this new 'Z' card (in conjunction with Creative speakers) in two words, it would be "high definition". The detail in my music is incredible and it just sparkles. Gaming is just as awesome, playing Battlefield 4 is a hair raising experience and the explosions going off and bullets flying over your head sound so real it sets the pulse racing.

If there is one warning I would give, its that the Z is so high performing it will show up shoddy speakers and / or audio cables so make sure you pair the card up with something half decent.

So go on and treat yourself. You will be shocked just how crap your on-board sound or cheapy sound card really is in comparison!!
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Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Anyone looking for a good boost in audio/mic quality coming out from your speakers or headset, then your looking at the right product.

Obviously there is only so much certain speakers can do, this will depend on how good quality they are, that said by connecting them too a sound card such as this, your going to be much more out of them than you could ever expect, so I would advise getting a sound card like this one before thinking about upgrading speakers as this may be just the thing you need.

That said it's important to note this sound card does have some requirements, so make sure your computer has the following or is higher spec'd:
Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD equivalent processor (2.2 GHz or faster recommended) | Intel, AMD or 100% compatible motherboard | Microsoft Windows 8 (32/64-bit) or Windows 7 (32/64-bit) | 1 GB RAM | Above 600 MB of free hard disk space | Available PCI Express (x1, x4 or x16) slot | Available CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive.

Anyone who is unsure of their computers specifications, go to the start bar and search for "dxdiag", it will give you all the relevant information you need.

Once the sound card is inserted, you will need to go through the pain of the installation CD which did take quite a bit of time to install for me.

When everything is set-up and installed, if you can't hear any audio, find the; program "Sound Blaster Z-Series Control Panel", once opened go to "speakers/headphones" and make sure you have the correct one selected.

The speakers I use are some old Dell ones that I had got with my computer around 5 years ago,

From here you can adjust your audio/mic quality, which is simply laid out.

Afterwards, plays some music or watch a movie and prepare to be blown away.

Oh and one other thing I like which may seem sad, there is a red LED that's inside the sound card that gives off a nice subtle glow, which makes the inside of my desktop look awesomely cool.
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on 17 December 2012
Really perfect sound quality with great voice sensitive recording, i recommend any one looking for quality and also if you are a gamer this is the best to get.
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on 26 January 2016
This IS the soundcard for those who love gaming, films and music on their PC. Maybe there are better cards for music with higher end components but for me it is enough for music. Games and films on the other hand are just great. I am specially talking about sound quality via headphones and with 100% SBX Pro virtual surround. I am using 5.1 speakers but later in the night I can't use them so I use the headphones and I always thought virtual surround would never sound as good as the real 5.1. I even had True 5.1 headphones that didn't sound good for chanel separation.
Well, with Sound Blaster Z and SBX Pro virtual surround at 100%, it is as good as the real thing! I consider myself an audiophile and never thought I would say something like this but it is true. With this card you would only need a good stereo headphones with 50mm driver in each cup and you are set. Sounds in films and games are just amazing in full surround sound in 5.1 or 7.1 chanels and you can recognize each chanel easily with the headphones.
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on 9 January 2015
Bought as a replacement for my old Creative Pro gamer card. A nice balance of sound quality for video/music and gaming. Video/music sounds good, clear, with enough punch with bass levels, all adjustable of course with the equalizer. I use headphones so haven't tested the cinematic functions.
The SBX sound and scout system is nice for gaming (the scout system amplifies footsteps). However I was a big fan of the old cmss system which my old card had which gave you precise directional sound via headphones. This card has its own version of it, but its is not as effective and sometimes leaves you wondering which direction the sound is actually coming from. Creative may have been better off keeping the old cmss feature, maybe a dedicated gaming card is needed in that regard. Nice build quality, bright red LED which some complain about but its no issue if its not in your direct line of sight. Firmware is good and easy to use, I have had no issues with it so far.
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VINE VOICEon 17 November 2012
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
For a long long time i have been a fan of Soundblaster, they create affordable yet well made and well designed sound cards for those who wish to add a little "boom" to their pc experience.

For the last few years i have used my SoundBlaster X-Fi Extreme Music with no complaints, in fact i was a bit put off upgrading to this for the mere fact it has done me well for such a long time.

But upgrade i have and i have to say i'm happy so far!.

First off the box itself. Inside you will find the manual (does anyone read these?), installation CD which has the SB control panel and several drivers with extras, the CrystalClear mic and the main card itself.

The card itself has a nice steel matt finished shell which is a deed red color with a circle window showing off the soundcore chip. It uses the PCIE x1 slot (this is the small tiny slot thats on most boards) But note this can be used in PCIE x4x8 and x16 slots if like me your PCIE x1 is in a bad position. Mine is unfortunately sat next to my water cooling pipes and the cards too big to fit, so ive put it in an x16 slot and it works fine. Also you will notice upon turning the pc on, the card is fitted with Red LED lighting, so if like me you already have LEDs on your pc case, your gonna have even more now! In fact mine now looks like an 80s disco which im not too fond of!.

Setting up is a doddle, windows 7 will add its own drivers for you upon fitting it, but its advised you run the installation CD for the real drivers and control panel.

The control panel software is great, allowing control over several aspects of the card from the SBX Pro Studio section controlling the Surround, Crystalizer, Bass, Smart Volume etc. The CrystalVoice section controls the mic that comes with the card. Scout Mode section controls a feature which enhances games audio for online gaming, allowing you to hear enemies coming at you better, wether this works im not sure as i do most online gaming via Xbox. Speaker/Headphones setup section for multiple speaker modes etc. Cinematic allows you to enable/disable Dolby Digital and the new Dolby DTS Connect which has needs a download to enable but at the time of this review it is not yet ready. A few remaining panels are Mixer, Equalizer and Advanced features.

The panel is easy to use and fluid, you can access what you need right here and get the card sounding like you want.

So far tested on some lossless music, mp3s and the odd blu-ray there is a definate difference from my older X-FI card. Sounds sharper and the bass has been boosted and sounds more responsive. I'm using this on a 5.1 surround system from Logitech, nothing fancey but cost a few hundred a few years back and it sounds fantastic, even more so with this card.

All in all this is a great feature packed card, its the baby of the trio released from Creative, but it certainly warrants investment if your building a new system or want some extra kick in your audio or gaming.
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on 19 August 2015
I bought this card as a replacement for my aging Ausus Xonar DX soundcard due to the fact that the card would not run properly on a Windows 10 clean install. The old card had served me well up to this point, but I felt that it was time to retire her, and I was impressed with the reviews for the Soundblaster Z. Up until the release of Windows Vista, My previous soundcards had all been Creative cards so it felt like I was returning home.

The product came well packed within secured in it's box with cable ties, along with a very clear manual for installation and a driver CD.

Installation of the card was a doddle and I was pleased to find that unlike the Xonar DX that the card took all it's power from the PCI-E slot.

To ensure the latest drivers for Windows 10, I downloaded the latest drivers from the Creative website and found installation was quick and painless and used Creatives own auto-update tool to ensure I had the latest version of their utilities.

Having been happy with the Xonar DX up until this point, the improvement of audio quality from the Soundblaster Z through the same Logitech Z906 5.1 speaker system has impressed me immensely, although there are some caveats.

It took me a while to set up the card to my liking using the SBX Pro Studio Utility. Some of the functions for the utility are better served for videos such as the Dialog Plus function that makes speech easier to hear. I also found that the only way to adjust the sound quality, (although the default setting of 48000 Studio quality is perhaps more than adequate) was directly through the windows control panel functions. Often using the presets within the creative software would return the sound quality to the default setting.

The beam-forming mic is quite good and clear however the echo cancellation software and auto volume settings within the SBX Pro software cause severe degredation in voice quality, and I found it best to leave these unchecked.

When it comes to playing games I was blown away by the quality of the audio.

I tried a number of games. Batman Arkham Knight, Dark Souls, Metal Gear Rising Revengance, Shadow of Mordor and Xcom enemy unknown. In all cases I was able to pick up little bits of extra sound that had not been evident on my old Xonar card. Positional audio felt much improved also with me being able to clearly define where enemies were approaching from.

Again when playing audio and video I was able to pick out little bits of extra soud due to the clarity of the studio quality sound reproduction.

I have no hesitation in recommending this card. A lot of people will balk at the price, and many more will be happy to continue with their onboard sound. I would also add that this is a card aimed more at gaming and everday use (which is my use entirely) than music recording, To those looking for a requisite improvement in audio quality or needing to upgrade due to Windows 10 issues, I recommend it.without reservation.
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