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on 18 January 2013
Well this is awkward, only a few days ago I was reviewing the Creative Sound Blaster Z and today its bigger sibling. The Sound Blaster ZX arrives from America... I hope junior does not get jealous.
So, I've been using add on sound cards since forever ago, from the old Mocking Board on my Apple II, though various Sound Blasters, Gravis and Orchids of the 80's and 90's, right through to the modern X-Fi, Recon and now the Z series.

Some cards have been amazing (AWE64 and Audigy 2 anyone?), and some less so (I still wake up screaming, having nightmares of trying to configure IRQ and DMA settings for the Adlib Gold cards). So in short, I've used a few sound cards over the years.

However, there is a big elephant in the room with sound cards these days; on-board sound.

On-board sound used to be a joke, crackles and pops, slow, tinny sound bad drivers etc. Today though on-board audio is very good, better even than the best sound cards from only a few years ago. Companies like Creative Labs have had their work cut out to remain relevant as add-on sound cards are no longer a must-have item.

Enter the 'Sound Core 3D' Cards, namely last year's Recon3D and now the Z-series; these are the sixth generation of Sound Blaster cards, and with the Z-series in particular, they have really raised the bar.

These latest cards basically package up all the best 'consumer' features of recent years, improved the quality, reduced the size and de-cluttered the installation software. The result is a beautiful, focused package which in a nutshell delivers fantastic sound for gaming, music and day-to-day use.

Gone is the lengthy installation process of the earlier high-end cards, the Zx is a top end card with a refreshingly simple install process. Also, the driver software itself is now far simpler, allowing even a novice to get the most from the card and see actual value in their purchase.

In use, the card sounds superb, easily the best sounding card at this level (i.e. cards without removable DACs etc.), and it simply blows on-board sound into the weeds. Gaming the best yet, surround World of Warcraft has always been one of my favourites :), while music and system sound is crisp and detailed, absolutely top marks on all counts.

Where the Sound Blaster Z comes bundled with a `Beamforming Microphone', the Sound Blaster Zx comes with an `Audio Control Module' which is basically a break out box that has its own microphone array containing the beamforming microphone of the Z, sockets for headphones and a microphone and a rotary knob to control the headphone volume.

Initially I expected the microphone to be a gimmick but in use it's remarkably good, ideal for Skype where you don't want to always use a headset.

It's worth noting, that this is not a 'professional' audiophile or recording card; you won't see these in many recording studios. The Z series is aimed squarely at consumers who want the best and use their computers for multiple, if typical tasks.

Reading this, you may be getting the impression that I really like the new Z series cards, and you would be right, I do. It's the best new card from Creative in a very long time.

I finally feel that Creative have got right back on track with this card, and not before time. I can hardly wait to see what the flagship ZxR model is like (though like the Titanium HD from a couple of years ago, the ZxR appears to lack analogue 5.1 outputs for gaming speakers).

To summarise then, the Sound Blaster Zx is an absolutely superb card. It's simple to install, relatively inexpensive, easy to configure and delivers sensational performance.

Is it worth purchasing this over the cheaper Z? Well for me no, but I already have audio sockets on my system case and use a separate headphone amplifier, for anyone who does needs these features and does not have them already, then the Zx may be worth the extra £30 pounds.

Almost five stars, but not quite as good value as the all but identical but cheaper Sound Blaster Z.
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on 24 June 2013
I write this review having replaced my trusty, 10 year old Audigy 2 Platinum with this Sound Blaster ZX....

I skipped the X-fi generation of products, as although the reviews were great, I read a lot about bad drivers. I also don't get to play games so much these days so the Audigy 2 was fine.

I then got Windows 7 a couple of years back, and while there were drivers for Audigy 2, things weren't always right. After one system wipe and Windows reinstall, the Audigy's software no longer wanted to hear my mic input (so killed skype use) when it had been fine in Windows 7 prior to the wipe. Sometimes the speakers went buzzy and I'd have to open the SB control panel, switch to 2 speaker output and then back to 5.1 to clear it. So obviously a software issue.

At this point I began looking for a more modern and replacement card. Knowing that Windows Vista and 7 had changed the way soundcards are accessed and used, a lot of hardware features on Audigy and X-Fi lines were kinda redundant now.

So I was looking at Asus, and Xonar.
But none of their offerings quite offered what I wanted in terms of all-round features, software, or physical socket outputs from the cards.

Creative then had their Recon range.... which just sounded underpowered and audio quality somewhat of a drop from prior cards let alone their competition.

Well, with the newer Z (and ZX in this case) range, (let alone the ZX-R), they've sorted that out. Even if the cards are based on the same sort of tech as the Recon line, they've got the audio quality much higher. I got it plugged in. Software installed hassle free, and it just works. And it works so well, and the clarity is so much greater that I found myself listening to my favourite tunes while I work, which I'm most familiar with, and there is so much more detail, and so much less noise and hiss.

I've not tried it with games, as the card went into my graphics workstation. I am hoping it works well for games as I'll likely buy another one of these cards for my 'desktop' machine which does gaming.

But for everything else I have tried, I really couldn't be happier. Its sound quality is great, the drivers are stable, and it just works like it should.

Creative Labs are back on form.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 30 January 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In the box you receive 4 parts:

- SB1506 sound card
- audio control module
- 2 cables

Installing the hardware was, for me, a difficult and nerve-racking thing, as this is the first sound card that I had ever installed. I had never opened up a computer to fit any part before.

In order to install the Sound Blaster sound card, you must remove the cover from your PC, after disconnecting it from the mains. This was not as easy as it sounds. I wasn't sure how to do it but managed to get help, and I truly believe that if it hadn't been for my helping hand I would not have been able to work out how to do it myself.

Once you have managed to get inside your computer you need to find the current sound card, remove it and replace it with the Sound Blaster sound card. When you have done this (and once again I thank my "helper") you put the cover back on your computer.

After everything is back in place you connect the "control unit" to the sound card using the attached cable.

Now power up the computer and put the program disc and load the program.

I have to say that the results were unexpected. I could hear things with greater clarity.

I play a number of games on my computer and I am sure (though I admit that it could have been my imagination) that I could hear things I had never heard before such as my minions grumbling and the chickens clucking before they are eaten (Dungeon Keeper 2); commands and (especially) battle sounds have more clarity than they did (Command and Conquer,The Lord of the Rings); background sounds and key sound indicators are clearer but don't interfere with the main sound or activity (Sims,Sims 2 and Sims 3).

Talking over Skype is better: voices, even from Australia and New Zealand, are less dulled and more lifelike). The sound on movies is much better than before; you can even hear the zombies moaning! And so on.

I would normally never have tried this; I would just have stuck with the sound card that came with the machine, and I certainly would never have dreamed of opening up my tower and taken things out or put things in (it's amazing the amount of space in there), but it is something I am glad that I did.

It was difficult to fit but once in the sound difference was quite incredible. The only thing is I have 2 cables left over in the box and I don't know what they are for.
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on 23 August 2013
There are only a hand full of good points with this latest version of Creative Sound Blaster cards.
Starting from the top, the outlook of the card and the accessories is good there is clear sound & it works well, but the software supplies is a let-down.

1. SBX Pro: I do not recommended for use with games nor movies, audio programs like iTunes only.
2. Crystalvoice: will only work when you speak through a microphone, it doesn't do anything with pre-recorded voice/audio.
3. Scout mode: will make things in the audio louder, not recommended with skyrim if close to the ocean that will be the only thing that you hear, also the hot key's will not work with any steam powered games.
4. Speakers/Headphones: Nice system the downside is that it can't be accessed externally and can only be accessed through the software only.
5. Cinematic: can only be utilised properly by connecting the PC to a stereo/equivalent.
6. Mixer: Allows you to control the input/output audio.
7. Equalizer: is a standard, but can't be used if other features are activated.
8. Advanced Features: Useless.
9. Profile: cane be used to create a audio profile for each individual audio programme/game if you have the time to waist in creating them. (there are 5 presents already in-place)

The major downside to this cards software it that unlike the other pro versions this one doesn't come with any audio recording/mixing software.
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on 8 April 2014
seems like quite a nice card, but I can't really say that it's better than the on-board sound I got with my motherboard.

Problems I had:

1. doesn't work at all if you don't disable your on-board sound in the BIOS (this might be a problem with windows 8)

2. the control panel refuses to work with optical-out; I don't have analog connectors, or appropriate speakers to connect them too, so I don't know how well it works then, however with only optical-out the control panel does not function usefully in any way - you can press the buttons (and watch the silent animation) but you get no sound; thus most of the reason for buying a sound card is invalidated. I've tried contacting customer support but they haven't gotten back to me after a month.

3. the volume control is very nicely built, solid and finely engineered, however it's only useful if you use head-phones, which I don't

4. the volume control also has an on-board microphone, and this is probably another windows 8 problem, however it does not work well with others, and the active noise cancelling does not appear to work at all. I have a web-cam with microphone - if I have the sound blaster microphone plugged in then no combination of settings (enabled/disabled for either/both)., gives you useable sound - the usual problems with multiple microphones; constant feedback, the other person hearing themselves repeated back from you etc. The web-cam active noise cancelling works well, but the sound card doesn't appear to do it at all.

If you must get a card, get the one without the "Accessible Audio Control Module"
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on 19 September 2015
I bought this to replace an Asus Phoebus solo card. So far I'm impressed. The desktop volume and earphone unit is handy as well. However, it only adjusts headphone in line volume and NOT system volume... So beware when you use the software to switch from headphones to loudspeakers and make sure your pacemaker batteries are fully charged.

Aurally I'm not convinced it sounds as good as the Asus but their lack of Windows 10 support makes keeping the Asus a non starter. The supplied software is easy to use.

However the Asus suffered from interference which this sound blaster does not ( and it's half the price of the Asus)

The only other thing I miss is the lack of port illumination on the card, though the desktop ports make this a non-issue really

For the system builders there's a red led onboard.
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on 21 August 2014
The sound is great: some very well defined sub and rich in the other areas. However, I can't get the software to work no matter how many times I try to install it. I am having to use generic software so I can't access its features properly. It also has a red light that shines through the ventilation holes in the computer all the time the PC is switched on: rather cool!
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on 2 May 2013
Having been consigned to on-board sound for several months I had actually forgotten how good a well tweaked sound card can sound. I had also noticed that on headphones the volume of the on-board version was somewhat lacking if I wanted to turn the music up.

I know I'm not using a great number of the features on this card, there are so many more aimed at gaming that I'm not entirely that interested in. However, it makes music sound great and the built-in microphone on the volume unit is rather cool too, if I ever get round to installing and using Skype I'm sure it will be most useful.

Also very pleased it's future-proof, at some stage I might manage to upgrade my speaker kit to something fed from the optical-out as I'm pretty sure that's better quality.
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on 7 October 2014
When I built my computer I had installed Asus Xonar DG sound card due to not having enough funds to buy a good sound card. Good thing I did because my onboard sound was extremely low, no matter what I've tried, it was impossible to hear anything.

Asus Xonar DG had fantastic volume range but nothing else, it would disappear from devices list drivers were crap, asus software really bad and top it all off, always got buzzing and hissing.

I had enough of this and 4 months ago I've decided to buy this sound card. Let me tell you, it is an incredible piece of kit. Sound is so clear, software is great, drivers works flawlessly. After using it for 4 months I haven't had a single problem. It's so good even my £10 headphones sounds amazing plugged in to Zx, where previously with my old sound card it would crackle and get distorted sound when to volume is increased.

If you plug in a high quality headphones to Zx you will be amazed by the sounds you will hear. I'm extremely satisfied with this purchase and recommend to anyone on the market for a sound card.
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on 5 July 2016
I have used Creative products for many years and, in my opinion, this sound card does the job for me. Yes there are other cards out these, which are for more expensive, but I cannot fault this card. I have it linked to a Cambridge Soundworks 5.1 speaker system, with amplifier. Sounds great!
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