Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro – High Quality Audio for the Gamer on the Go
One of the cardinal problems in dealing with laptops – even performance laptops – is the limitations of audio hardware. In many cases, the out-of-the-box hardware is very restricted in its capabilities. True, many modern performance systems have 7.1 output capabilities, but they’re usually limited to very low sound quality ranges on the recording side. This may not affect the gamer at the console except in how his or her voice is perceived on the other side of the screen. However, for someone on the go that needs a bit more for recording podcasts, SoundBlaster has an excellent and cost effective solution.
The X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro USB device is compact and easily fits into any pocket of your laptop bag. But most importantis the quality of the device itself.
Installation on my Windows 7 enabled Alienware M11x laptop was a snap, as the native drivers work just fine for the device. However, in order to install the factory SB drivers and software, I did have to copy them on my desktop PC to a flash drive. While it isn’t the fault of Sound Blaster that I don’t have an optical drive in my netbook, I do find it inconvenient and a bit disappointing that they don’t have drivers on their website. Yet the software installed without issue, and I was happily on my way to playing with this new toy.
The X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro USB device is very simplistic in its design. It has a large volume button at the top for ease of use, as well as your standard 1/8 inch jacks for headphones, line in, and mic in ports. On the back, it has additional plugs for output including RCA left and right jacks, a rear speaker output, subwoofer output, and an optical output. This allows you to plug your laptop, via the device, into just about any sound system out there, enabling you to have an audio powerhouse on hand at all times. Also, a USB port obviously is present to be able to plug it into your Desktop PC or Laptop.
Even though I primarily purchased this for the improved audio capabilities for podcasting, being the naturally curious person that I am I promptly plugged in my headphones and tossed in Guild Wars to see how it would sound. And I can honestly say that I was absolutely blown away by the sound quality improvement through my headphones. Everything from the effects to the music is improved dramatically over the stock Realtek HD Audio sound in my laptop.
Recording quality is significantly improved as well. The 24-bit audio at 96 kHz easily doubles the quality of my voice through my microphone and makes my narrations and podcasts that much more crisp and clear.
The X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro also includes a remote control, which I mused over for a little while. I mean, why would you want to have a remote control for something that would be right in front of you, right? However, I realized that my laptop also supports HDMI out, so I plugged it into my TV with the sound card optical running to my receiver. I ran Halo Legends in 1080p from my Windows Media Center which not only sounded absolutely breathtaking, but the remote worked with WMC as well as my Zune software, which makes this package more than an option for the next time I’m on the road.
For the audiophile on the go, the Creative X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro USB audio card is most definitely the $60 option that makes everything from gaming, to music, to podcasting that much better.
This product receives a full 5/5.
About This Post