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Creative Sound Blaster Z PCIe Sound Card Review

Creative Sound Blaster Z PCIe Sound Card Review

Sam ChenDecember 17, 2012

A New Standard

It’s only been about a year since we reviewed Creative’s Sound Blaster Recon 3D soundcard and they’re back again with a new line of products, the Sound Blaster Z series. Today we’ll be reviewing the Sound Blaster Z, which is the entry level soundcard in the Sound Blaster Z series of soundcards. While the Sound Blaster Z will be available for purchase starting now, Creative also has the Sound Blaster ZX and the Sound Blaster ZXR coming, both of which I’m told should be available for purchase in Q1 2013.

Despite the Sound Blaster Z being the entry level Sound Blaster Z series soundcard, the Sound Blaster Z is still a very high end product with features such as a SNR of 116dB, a 600 ohm headphone amp, 24 bit resolution, 192kHz sample rate, and of course, Creative’s Sound Core 3D audio processor.

Is Creative’s latest and greatest worth the money? Let’s find out!

Sound Blaster Z Specifications

Output Level (Full Scale)
  • Front Channel Out : 2Vrms
  • Headphone (33 ohms): 1.3Vrms
  • Headphone (600 ohms): 2Vrms
Maximum DAC Resolution
  • Front Channel Out : 24-bit, 192kHz
  • Headphone (33 ohms): 24-bit, 96kHz
  • Headphone (600 ohms): 24-bit, 96kHz
SNR (20kHz Low-pass filter, A-Wgt), @ 24-bit, 96kHz
  • Front Channel Out : 116dB
  • Headphone (33 ohms): >105dB
  • Headphone (600 ohms): >105dB
Frequency Response @ 96kHz
  • Front Channel Out : 10Hz to 45kHz
  • Rear Channel Out : 15Hz to 45kHz
  • Center Out : 10Hz to 45kHz
  • Headphone (33 ohms): 10Hz to 45kHz
Frequency Response @ 192kHz(Stereo only)
  • Front Channel Out : 10Hz to 88kHz
Speaker SupportDescription
Supported OutputStereo/2.1 Speakers
5.1 Speakers
Headphone1 x Amplified 1/8″ mini jack
Speaker Out3 x 1/8″ mini jacks
Optical OutTOSLINK
Line In / Microphone InShared 1/8″ mini jack
About The Author
Sam Chen
Hardware and Technology Enthusiast. SSD Evangelist. Editor-in-Chief. You can find Sam's full biography here
  • Jaroslav Douša

    I was a proud user of SB Live for ages. But buying a new X-FI approx one year ago was a big disappointment. Well, I cannot evaluate the quality of the analog output, since I use the new card with optical output and receiver. But I would suppose, analog output is still good as mentioned in the article. In my case was the ability to encode DD Live and DTS Connect the most important reason to buy the sound card. Unfortunately, the drivers and software tools delivered with the card are disgusting. Opening tools, switching between modes, this all takes time. I was already forced to restart my computer many times, because of driver crash. Moreover, I experience some breaks in the output, e.g. playing music, there is a small pause, volume level drops to zero for a second and jumps back to the original level. My be there is some hardware issue with my card, I am going to ship it back. But anyway, there are many users on internet reporting problems with current SB cards. It is sad to hear, that also this new card has driver issues.

  • Dani

    U should compare this to some Asus see how it stands against them

    • Oscar

      Most ASUS soundcards do not have a good audio quality.

      • Shiv

        source please? In my practical experience the Asus cards rival and sometimes beat similar priced competitors. The major drawback of Asus cards are the terrible drivers. Not to mention people do use Asus cards so I for one would like to know how they compare.

  • Oscar

    It is such a pity that this new series (at least this model) does not support 7.1, and when I read that “…the Sound Blaster Z also uses the exact same CA0113-4AF chip aka “Sound Core 3D…” It only makes me thing twice or more before deciding to upgrade my X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Champion. Last year I bought a “Recon3D” and its sound is by far one of the ugliest and mediocre I’ve ever heard.

    • Joe

      you are mislead, recon3d still sounds awesome with its $hitty mobo dac because of the sound core 3d chip ingaming.

      The Z series are using a much better DAC and headphone amp to go along with Sound Core 3D.
      didnt you even read the review here? or you just went straight to here to post the 1st negative thing you can find.
      you must be some Asus fan.

      • george

        Bought a New Z series, going back on the weekend – its a WINDOWS ONLY card. No Linux.

        • -__-

          You’d think they’d have it by now….

          • Plästik

            But, no…

  • jz100

    Your video of this card is a little different than the video posted by Newegg on Youtube. They have the Creative guy talking about this card, and their card has gold colored capacitors in it, yours are black.

  • You should have considering using better headphones for the “test”

  • James J

    Newegg users LOVE this card. I just got rid of all the red in my case, but I still might pick one up if I see some more solid reviews.

    In the Performance section of the review i would have liked to have heard about some references to Creative’s X-Fi cards (I have the X-Fi Fatal1ty and it also has Crystalizer support). I also would have liked to have read about the performance of the included monitor mounted microphone. :(

  • Paradyn

    I am having trouble using a set of headphone with a mic? I have a Sound Blaster Z installed, I have use the front connection points and the rear one on the sound card but nothing is happing.

    • AdamLucifer

      It’s always best to download the latest drivers for new hardware and use those rather than use the drivers supplied on the disc. Should be standard operating procedure when installing any new hardware really.

      • Κωνσταντίνος Κ.

        sometimes regarding the mic u need to manually chance the source, I mean for example in skype sometime it chances from analog to digital(where other party can’t listen to you)’s just settings, happened to me with realtek onboard card as well :D

  • Meringo

    When gaming with headphones, should I use SBX and Scout mode at the same time?