This is Creative’s ‘entry level’ sound card featuring its current flagship Audio Processing Unit. The mid tier ‘Professional ‘variant was reviewed here earlier.
The main difference between the Professional variant and this card is that this card lacks the EMI shielding found in the higher end card and also the attachable boom microphone. However, the APU is the same on both cards so sonically there should be no differences.
There is an even higher end ‘Champion’ card that comes with an I/O box for external controls.
For those who don’t want to use up a PCI-E port Creative is also offering a USB version of this card featuring the same Core 3D APU that is at the heart of this sound card.
One of the USPs of Creative sound cards is the wide plethora of enhancements to further tweak the sound. Creative provides features such as voice processing, Dolby Digital Live surround sound that is primarily used for games and movies, THX TruStudio Pro Surround which creates the impression of additional virtual surround sound speakers even when using 2 channel sources like headphones and speakers, plus the usual bass enhancement and equalizer settings that you’ll find in most audio drivers. There’s also a so called Scout mode, which enhances the sounds made by other players – such as footsteps and gunshots that Creative claims will give you an advantage when playing FPS games.