Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi ExpressCard and Wireless Receiver
Film fans and game buffs, rejoice
Whether or not all this user choice is worth the effort depends on how you like your music. For instance, the CMSS-3D software allows you to move a singer's voice either more to the front or more to the rear, but we quickly came to the conclusion that the best place for Seth Lakeman's vocals was just where the producer had put them to start with. Ditto the differences between the loud and quiet bits of La Traviata. Verdi scored it that way for a reason.
Tweak the sound like you're in the Royal Albert Hall
For film and games buffs, the card makes far more sense. You can download a free copy CyberLink's PowerDVD application complete with Dolby Digital and DTS decoding. Allied to CMSS-3D, it makes watching a DVD on your laptop with headphones quite a bit more entertaining from a purely audio point of view.
CMSS-3D also makes for great positional sound effects during gameplay, while Creative's EAX Advanced HD makes things that go bang go with a bigger bang if a quick romp around Red Faction 2 was anything to go by.
Of course, all these modifiers work better with headphones than speakers – though you can set the X-Fi control panel to favour either, and it has a handy set up feature for standalone surround sound speaker systems. Creative reckons a pair of its Aurvana X-Fi cans are what's needed to really blow your socks off, though at £150 a pair we would hope for nothing less.
The PC card's integral wireless transmitter allows you to stream music to Creative's Wireless Receiver, a 95 x 60 x 25mm black box with RCA and 3.5mm audio out jacks at the back. The receiver comes with a handy little remote that allows you to alter the volume, change track, and enable or disable the various X-Fi sound modifiers. There are also a few wholly useless buttons as it's the same remote that ships with other Creative products, such as the Xdock.
Stream music to four zones
Set up of the Wireless Receiver couldn't be more simple. Plug it in, connect it up, switch on and wait for it to pick up the signal from the Sound Blaster X-Fi Notebook. Sound quality is not at all bad. We hooked our unit up to the Edifier speakers and to an LG 5.1 home cinema system and the resulting sound from both showed little if anything in the way of distortion or degradation.