So I wanted to write up this quick guide to gaming with the Sound Blaster Z/ZX/ZXR.
There seems to be the same questions always being asked, especially how to set up the card for gaming and surround through 2 speakers/headphones. Hopefully this will cut down on those questions while helping people out and getting them gaming faster out of the box
First and foremost, this will explain how to get surround sound virtualized through a 2 speakers or headphones via SBX Surround option. This will assume you just installed the card and installed the drivers fresh.STEP 1: WINDOWS SOUND CONTROL PANEL
Before anything can work properly, you need to make sure your sound blaster is set for 5.1 speakers in the windows sound panel. This can be found by right clicking on the speaker icon in the windows tray and selecting PLAYBACK DEVICES, right clicking on Sound blaster device and CONFIGURE SPEAKERS. When going through the speaker setup, do not select full range speaker option as this is what Creative recommends for proper SBX playback. It will revert back at reboot anyway so it’s pointless to change it. By finishing this step, the windows mixer will now send a 5.1 signal where available in a program/game to the sound blaster itself ready to be processed
You can also double click on the sound blaster device in this panel and choose the Bit Rate and Sampling frequency. I personally keep mine at 16 bit/48 khz as that is what games are all mixed at and I primarily game. If you have a lot of music or movies that feature 24 bit/96 khz then you can go ahead and set that. You WILL NOT get an increase in audio quality by just setting this higher but not having anything that is encoded that high. In fact its been tested and proven that the windows mixer actually degrades audio when it has to resample source audio to match what you set here. So it will be in your benefit to leave it at what you use the most.It is worth noting that some users have reported that setting 96khz/24 bit increases the ability of the crystalizer to restore lossy music and sound better. You can experiment and see what you think is best.
Lastly uncheck “Allow this device to take exclusive control of this device”. This seems to help with crackling, popping and in general sound issues you may experience.STEP 2: SBX SURROUND(SOUND BLASTER CONTROL PANEL)
The SBX surround feature is Creative’s HRTF(HEAD RELATED TRANSFER FUNCTION) algorithm. Similar to DOLBY HEADPHONE or CMSS3D. It takes a 5.1/7.1 signal from a game or program and virtualizes it to work out of just 2 speakers. Basically allowing you to get virtual surround without an actual 5.1 speaker system. Make sure you turn this option on. What level to leave it at is all on you. Creative recommends 67% however I personally use 91% for a little more presence in the rear speakers. Its all how you like your sound so go ahead and experiment.STEP 3: IN GAME/ IN PROGRAM
Now that the rest is done, all you have to do is make sure the games or programs you use are set in the menus to use surround sound/5.1 etc.
AND THAT’S IT!
All newer games will now send surround sound to the sound blaster and SBX will virtualize it through the speakers/headphones.
Now before I wrap this up, I do have to touch on what happens with some older games.
You will run into 2 different sound engines/APIs on older games. These are:1) OPENAL
2) Direct Sound 3D
1) If your game uses OpenAL and you want surround virtualized, it should be straight forward. Some games use pre-baked 5.1 signal and will just send it to the sound blaster like newer games and SBX will take care of this.
The OpenAL game could also use its own 3D HRTF algorithm instead of 5.1 signal. This is basically like a binaural recording and is the most accurate virtual surround I have heard. If your sound blaster detects that the game uses this, it will turn off SBX automatically(since it doesn’t need it to virtualize surround). Sometimes you can see this as the control panel unticks the option and the reticks it when the game exits, sometimes it doesn’t but it always turns it off then on again.
Either way, you will get 3D surround automatically in game. An example of this is the Penumbra Series.
2) If the game uses the older DIRECT SOUND API then you have to use creative’s alchemy software that comes bundled with the Z driver. This is due to Microsoft dropping directsound support in windows vista.
Alchemy will realtime transcode the directsound 3d steam to an openAl stream. This should allow you to get 3D surround from these older games just as back in the XP days. Directsound 3d uses its own HRTF as well and will not require any special setup in game.
Example of this is Prince of Persia Warrior Within.
Hopefully this guide helps you get going and gaming a lot quicker and more efficiently.
DJriful is going to link this to the OP so it should be easy to find.