Hey, I just got a Creative x-fi sound card, and if many of you follow tech news you should know that the hype machine behind it has been kind of insane, so I just thought I would share my opinion.
The card has a pretty impressive processor designed to analyze all sound the computer produces and converts it to 24bit/94khz. The card analyzez the sound and tries to guess what the original master recording was supposed to sound like. Audio purists will shun this, as it does modify the sound by some guessing algorithim, but humans do the same thing when we hear a crappy recording; we can imagine what it was supposed to sound like, and it will sound better in our head even if our imagination is wrong. So, I went into this with an open mind.
Enabling the crystalizer has, at first, a fairly subtle effect - a good thing in my book. The dynamic range of the music is increased quite a bit by the sound card (more so for mp3 files than say, a DVD soundtrack or a CD, which is also a good sign that the card is earnestly trying to increase the quailty, not just make a good impression). All in all I think the card does a very good job making everything more dynamic and cleaner, although I think I will need to buy a headphone amp now since, ironically, the card can't really handle outputting its own improved dynamic range without a good amp. I will certainly be leaving it on indefinately, and since creative is licensing its technology to cover R&D costs, I would like to see this appear in pre/pros as an option. Its far far better than reverb effects, and would be fantastic for playing MP3s over your home stereo.
I will try hooking it up to my main system in a few days to see if the improvement holds up with some respectable speakers (polk Lsi) this review was done with Sony MDR-SA5000 headphones with no amp.
On a non crystalizer related note, the 3D headphone technology on the card, CMSS-3D is really amazing and is far better than the dolby heaphone technology in most recievers / pre/pros.
No, I have no affiliation with any tech company, I just think this card has some neat technology, and most comments I have read online are dismissing it without hearing it.