soundblaster Recon 3D Fatality connectors 2

Creative Recon3D Fatal1ty Professional PCI-e x1 Sound Card Review

  1. Introduction
  2. Specifications and Photos
  3. Hardware/Software Installation and functionality
  4. Gaming and Audio Performance
  5. Conclusion

Many would still remember the good old days when discrete/separate sound cards and graphics cards were the norms and inbuilt sound cards were unheard of.

The Creative Soundblaster series were very popular then as a more premium solution. When integrated sound cards started to become common they used pretty poorly performing audio chips and the results were that even budget discrete sound cards offered a noticeably better performance. Coming to this day and age, onboard sound cards have become much better. So much so that budget discrete sound cards have practically vanished from stores and only mid range and premium sound cards are available.

Creative had plenty of mid-fi and high-end audio solutions a while back with their X-Fi series which launched in 2005. The X-Fi series chipset was very popular and was featured in both Creative branded sound cards as well as Auzentech branded cards. However Creative did not update their X-Fi audio processor even as competitors like ASUS launched some interesting products with their Xonar range that had features like a built in headphone amplifier and 192 kHz support which became rather popular and sought after. Additionally, Windows Vista and Windows 7 rendered many of the X-Fi capabilities redundant with the disabling of EAX support in games in addition to many other changes to the redesign of the audio stack by Microsoft.

With the launch of the new quad-core Sound Core3D audio processor, Creative has finally discontinued its X-Fi series and have launched 3 variants with the new audio processing chip. The basic Recon 3D PCI-E sells for about $99 and is a bare card. The card on review is the Recon 3D Fatal1ty Professional which adds a protective EMI shield to the card, a beam forming microphone and a red LED which glows inside your case. Finally, there is the flagship Recon 3D Fatal1ty Champion which adds an audio I/O audio expansion bay. The audio I/O expansion bay can be purchased separately for the Fatal1ty Professional card but cannot be used on the basic Recon 3D PCI-E card.

  1. #1 doesn’t it say on the box that drivers only support windows 7? if it does then isnt it the user’s fault for not reading (and if it didn’t, that’s awfully strange from a company like creative but if you see the ongoing trend, lot of companies dont bother to mention warranty period either)
    #2 not dissapointing but rather strange considering drivers for xp and vista usually works well with 7 as well so… but will creative support windows 8 officially?
    #3 did you just say that you can fit xonar dg, a low profile sound card but you were able to install this? what are the dimension of both the cards?
    #4 you do realize thx is a load of crap yes? designed to fool people to pick it up?

    what i am dissapointed is that you are testing this with a headphone. the least that can be tested with is with a 5.1 speakers set. that would be cool. personally i dont see the point of 5.1 headsets but i think most of them are usb.

    1. Hi,

      First off thanks for taking the time to read the review. Will attempt to answer all your queries one by one. :)

      #1 – It says OS supported Windows 7 in the fine print at the back of the box. Hardly anyone checks there and it doesn’t say explicitly that the card won’t even install on XP or Vista.. If there is some major compatibility issue then its mentioned in bold on the front like how Microsoft adds ‘Kinect required’ on the front of the jewel case of such games or how Steam games have an ‘Internet connection required’ on the front of the jewel box.

      #2 – Will have to wait for Creative to release a statement on the compatibility of this card on Windows 8. Don’t have any news on the same as on date.

      #3 The Xonar DG is a half height full length card of around 17 cm length. Creative hasn’t disclosed the length of the Recon3D but it was a little less than half that length while being a full height card. This is probably a one off issue with a few mATX boards since there aren’t many installation problems with the DG reported online.

      #4 I agree with you wholeheartedly on THX ! I did mention that not everyone would like them. My exact words in the review were – ”

      THX TruStudio Pro Surround adds the feeling of having a surround
      sound system even if you are using just a headphone or a two speaker
      system. Again its something of a hit and miss as some would like the
      effects but some may not.”
      I agree again that a 5.1 speaker system should have been tested along with this card but alas I do not have one on hand, I did have a 5.1 headset but that was a USB version only. The earlier Coolermaster headset did have analog inputs but we had to return the headset back to Coolermaster.

  2. yea true…sound cards should not be that long too, even if its a high end. its a sound card, not a graphic card. any details if creative will give support for windows 8 once it releases this october? i have some faith in asus, but seeing that creative didn’t support creative value when vista came but did so with the higher end cards that came at that time i have that doubt.

    1. but also hardocp says that this card is fit only FOR gaming. to be honest, the products that are not usually upgraded on a regular basis should have more than 1 year warrany. i know asus doesnt offer but they should. high end power supplies come with 5-7 years warranty and a card ridiculously priced for 11k should have justification that it would probably not screw up. maybe if you’ve tested regular recon 3d first and then the gaming version your opinion might be a lot different. yea as said by everyone- 5.1 speakers…

      1. Hi Shivam, thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the review.

        Creative still hasn’t made any noise about support for Windows 8 and considering that it doesn’t support Vista which is practically the same as the Windows 7 audio stack then I am not certain Windows 8 support is guaranteed.

        Agree on the warranty part. A graphics card also has tons of components and generates plenty of heat but still most manufacturers give 3 years warranty. An audio card generates much less heat and has no moving components that can break either so its surprising no one gives more than a years warranty.

        Finally Hardocp tested the top of the line Recon 3D which btw sounds the SAME as the cheapest version since they use the same chip. :)

        They didn’t think too highly of the audio capabilities but I did compare it with my favourite sound card and I had to struggle to hear the differences. Considering the Recon 3D is relatively still a cheap card I found it very good VFM though of course everyone ears are different and their views may not match mine.

  3. contrary to the popular myth amongst manufacturers like asus rog, Gigabyte Assassin, ASROCK’s fatality series and Creative’s upper end Fatality “gamer” series who think every gamer owns a $2,000 min. rig a gamer does not spend that much unless he’s a retired and old veteran playing Battlefield 3 all day- and there’s a lot of them in Portland. we lesser mortals however prefer cheap and good quality stuff. creative should have made a cheaper option with gamer tag. we like flashy stuff but not that much we cut off our pockets. no word about windows 8 support is a silence that no1 will appreciate from the manufacturers especially when someone is buying something like this. that’s why lot of companies here sponsor gaming tournaments in campus areas, because they get to try out the stuff and then clan members decide to cash in, go to a store and buy. that’s the only way gamers get the try stuff. but that’s just for keyboards and mouse. no1 has the time to check out tessellation and groovy mystical sparky sparky boom boom when someone trying to shoot us in the end.

    and next time could you also put pictures when installed and test it out with a 5.1 speakers? something we mortals normally use.

    1. Hi Anthony, thanks for your insights. :)

      Yes its a bit strange that Creative has been silent on Windows 8 support for so long. However in this post here –

      The OP has managed to set up the card on Windows 8 so it seems likely Creative will be able to provide full support for Windows 8 when it officially launches.

      I will keep in mind your suggestion of clicking photos when installed as the card has a red LED light. Also agree with the suggestion of testing it out with a 5.1 speaker set but the thing is, here in India we non professional reviewers have to give back most of the stuff we test so that card went back to Creative a long time ago. Also I don’t have any 5.1 speaker system on hand in the slim chance I can get my hands on the card again to test out 5.1 speaker performance.

    1. I haven’t used the X-Fi but I did try an STX for a few weeks. However that was quite a long time ago and without simultaneous testing its very difficult to compare two products.

  4. does it have front panel headers? You need to put more photographs. do these card get too hot because of the casing?

    i have swans M10 but I am planning to get the cheapest 5.1 from onkyo. so should i pick xonar stx or this?

    1. Hi,

      No this version doesn’t have front panel headers or I would have posting pics of them. The more expensive Champion version comes with an expansion I/O bay.

      The basic version is the same as this card but lacks the EMI shielding. I haven’t tested the heat from this intermediate card but I did remove it once after testing it and It didn’t seem very hot at all.

      I haven’t compared the Xonar STX with this card so I cannot say which is a better card but from my initial impression with the STX is that it too is a good card. I haven’t see the Recon 3D readily available at most online stores but the ASUS is available quite readily online.

      The STX lacks analog 5.1 outputs but your Onkyo setup is sure to have an SPDIF input and both the Asus and the Creative will be able to output 5.1 audio via SPDIF.

      1. is emi shielding even important to begin with? Oscillation happens even on the soundcard itself- so what protects the sound card from its own EM?

        this is what i dont like creative. even asus xonar dg has a front panel connector. i dont want a piece of contraption infront of my case, i would like to use the front panel audio ports. its strange you haven’t marked it down as a con. i am not familiar with auzentech and other sound cards to be honest…

        that guy above brought a good point.- but i shouldn’t have that problem with SPDIF, yes?

        1. and while we’re on this topic, I thought pc cases usually protects the system from EM and the power supply has em filtering usually so why would one need redundant em shielding on the sound card?

          1. Hi Rick. I too doubt the effectiveness of an EMI shield. But at least the capacitors and components inside the card are protected from physical damage which is always a good thing. The EMI shield looks sturdy enough to withstand some abuse for sure.

            Using audio headers for inexpensive speakers on lower end sound cards is a decent idea since any degradation in the audio signal is not significant enough to be heard over a pair of inexpensive speakers. However when you are using a quality sound card like this you don’t want a cheap cable connecting the card to the front audio ports to be a weak point. So its best to use the gold plated jacks at the front of the card for the least chance of the the signal being polluted on its way to your receiver.

            Auzuntech and Asus (even their lower end cards) provide a front panel header though some (like the Asus D2 and D2X omitted this feature).

            If this was a mid range card I would have put that omission in the cons box but I believe when you a sound card of this caliber its best to have as little audio degradation as possible.

            The higher end PSUs are sure to have very good EMI filtering components but the mid and lower end ones are probably skimping somewhere. In any case besides EMI filtering the EMI shield acts as a physical protection. If you have a good quality PSU you can go for the basic version as the audio capabilities are the same.

            Even the ASUS Essense ST/STX have an EMI shield present. Also EMI interference can come from other sources next to your PC so having an EMI shield is better than not having one at all.

            Regarding your query on the USB sound card, it believe it will still disable the Creative even if you are connecting it via SPDIF. However I do not have a digital receiver to test out that theory.

  5. I’ve observed in my audigy sound card (my onboard is dead) that when I use USB headphone without mic, I cannot use any of the ports on the sound card- including mic port that i am using. is this an issue that all sound cards have?

    1. Hi, Yes this phenomenon takes place because your USB headphones come with their own sound card. So when you connect them to your PC, the USB sound card becomes active and overrides your oboard/dedicated sound card.

      However you can switch between headphone and sound card via Windows volume control options.

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