My Personal Gaming Experience: Zx vs AE-7 VS ALPHA S

Discussion in 'Soundcards, Speakers HiFI & File formats' started by Eastcoasthandle, Mar 29, 2020.

  1. Eastcoasthandle

    Eastcoasthandle Ancient Guru

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    [​IMG][​IMG]

    https://********/7QgRkT2/contentteller.png


    I've decided to update to the AE-7 for the headphone surround sound that the SB Command offers over the headphones. With the Zx I had a very hard time determining footsteps in Modern Warfare and those on console had a pretty big advantage over me if they were quick enough.

    So I decided to get a AE-7 over the AE-5 as I wanted the ACM as well as encoding capabilities that I have with the Zx. I do actually use those features so that was important for me.The AE-5 was a slight down grade in that regard. However, with the AE-7 I lost the case audio header connector (at the back of the unit) that the Zx offered (the AE-5 did offer that). But it was something I could live with.
    (In hindsight could I have used the ACM from the Zx with the AE-5...yes. However, I still wanted the use of the Encoding).

    I also wanted 32bit audio capabilities as well. And I don't have any use for Optical In either.

    The software for the Zx is the Sound Blaster Z-series Control Panel.
    The Software for the AE-7 is called Command.

    Now this isn't a complete list of differences but here is what I noticed so far.



    Scout Mode
    Scout Mode is much better with the AE-7. With the Zx all the sound was simply low. With the AE-7 all other sounds except footsteps, etc were lowered. I could tell what direction a player was coming from without seeing them (this is within a 10' radius IMO). This was a huge difference between the 2 cards. I really don't know if that was a result of the card or the software. But now all ambient noises are reduced so that you can hear the player. That includes movement, footsteps and other sounds. I can even hear difference in footsteps between indoors and outdoors for example.



    Audio Control Module
    The ACM that came with the AE-7 exhibited a hum that I was able to fix by taking the unit apart and cleaning the the 1st and 2nd circuit board with 90% alcohol as it had a film of something on it. Perhaps it was flux? Not sure. I also cleaned the inside of the 3.5mm and 1/4" jack ports. I have special needle like cotton swaps that I use for other electrical stuff for the 3.5mm jack port. I don't have pics of the new ACM but it's identical to the old one. Here:
    https://********/c6vPWJT/Inked20181025-225703-LI.jpg
    https://********/Zm14vjW/20181025-230732.jpg
    https://********/7NVBWRs/20181025-230432.jpg

    Once cleaned the noise stopped. And I haven't had a problem since.



    Software
    If you were use to the "Control Panel" from the Zx it's going take getting use to the "Command" as it re-organizes things and makes it a bit more cumbersome using the SBX Pro Studio. The sliders and radial dial buttons on the Control Panel are replaced and consolidated into "Dials". Not hard just a tad less intuitive then before. But it does work. I haven't tried many of the other profiles though. Pitty, I didn't find a profile for Modern Warfare. I had to create my on.
    https://********/C9Gkyfs/controlpanel.jpg
    https://********/ygyb6nn/Command.jpg



    Headphone Used: Sennhesier 598 @ 50 Ohm
    Audio Quality for both: 24bit 48kHz

    AE-7: 7.1 Surround Sound Headphones vs Zx: 2.0
    In games Zx has shown it's age in Modern Warfare. Although I could hear footsteps and could tell where they were coming from it wasn't precise. I was limited to 2.0 audio in Control Panel for headphones. Although I could trick it in win10 to use 5.1 it wasn't reliable in games. And in all honesty only seem to be 2.0 as well. I do wonder if Commander could be used in Zx and instantly get 7.1 virtual? I really don't know at this point and don't believe that Commander would recognize Zx as compatible.

    With AE-7 Surround Sound sound is more directional and I can pinpoint it better. With Scout, although it's a bit quieter I hear footsteps and other movements with more precision now. I can tell when they get close to me vs just hearing them on the other side of the wall, for example. I can tell when someone is passing me now and can change direction and follow them although I can't see them. This is a huge difference between the AE-7 vs the Zx. Keep in mind this is when players are sprinting, etc. Not when dead silence is used.


    One Caveat
    With the Zx I never had any volume issues. But wit the AE-7 it was always low. I would keep the audio in win10 around 30-50% and keep the knob no more then half way. So whenever I used the volume for Youtube, VLC, etc it would be set to low.So when I installed the new card I was surprised that the sound was low. It took me a day to realize that Headphone Gain set to Normal (in Commander) was still to low for my headphones. I had to use the highest setting to get the volume to where I had it before. So if you notice low volume check with that 1st.

    [​IMG]



    Second Caveat
    The icons that show up in the lower right corner are different. Personally, I liked the old one.
    AE-7
    [​IMG]


    Zx
    [​IMG]




    Third Caveat
    The Command offers updates that you simply cannot get through the Sound Blaster website. You have to navigate Commander and check for updates in order to get the most current driver (at the time of this writing): 3.4.62.0 (Jan 2020). I don't understand why this version is not available from SB own website (IE: AE-7 > Support > etc) which shows the latest from October 2019. I highly suggest you get the update as it re tweaks the GUI and adds features missing with the Oct 2019 version. Odd though, as it was there in "Control Panel". For example the Level option found in the EQ. etc. I am not sure why it took them so long to fix that?
    [​IMG]
    Update from Last Year (which is available from SB website). This is from an AE-9 though. As I didn't take a pic of the EQ before I updated myself. However, this still represents what I saw on the AE-7.



    [​IMG]
    3.4.62.0 Update from 2020.



    Although I didn't included BF5, BO4 and other games I wanted to concentrate on a game that actually is known for directional audio cues like footsteps, etc. Which is why I used MW 2019. I'm sure I missed some things as this is an initial impression.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2020
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  2. OnnA

    OnnA Ancient Guru

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    Im interested into AE-07.
    I have Audio-Technica ATH-AD1000X + 5.1 in Wood (~300W, 3 jack connectors) and Mic from SB-Zx
    Maby i will aquire one sooner or later :D

    Note:
    If it's better in Game then im 100% sure i will get this.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2020
  3. Eastcoasthandle

    Eastcoasthandle Ancient Guru

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    If I had the zxr I would want the AE 9 in order to compensate for what you're replacing.

    I originally considered the AE 5 until I notice the comparison and thought no way.

    Trust me I considered returning the ae7 if it wasn't to my expectations and just live with the Zx. But so far I am pleased with the AE 7. Although it is my opinion that it is priced too high. If it's on sale for less it is a very good deal.

    With a cursory glance between the ZX iand the ae7 they are almost identical. I still question why they remove the PC case audio header which should have been a feature on the ae7. This was a cost-savings just for Sound Blaster. I can only imagine that the header itself will cost $0.20 each.
     
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  4. Eastcoasthandle

    Eastcoasthandle Ancient Guru

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    OK I just played Division 2 and there is a big difference between the ZX and AE7 in that game. Division 2 also uses Dolby access. I really did notice it’s use with the Zx. But with the AE7 I hear a lot of audio position ambient cues. The direction of wind, an owl hooting in a certain direction, etc. The audio aspect of the game brings real life sound to life in the game as you walk about.

    Even without Dolby Access aka Dolby atoms for headphones, I still hear positioned audio cues for gun fire and other chatter. Where as before with the Zx I heard it but the position wasn’t clear.

    Very interesting...
     
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  5. OnnA

    OnnA Ancient Guru

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    That's why i need AE-7 :p
     
  6. Eastcoasthandle

    Eastcoasthandle Ancient Guru

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    Go ahead and splurge yourself....deeeww eeet :D
     
  7. Chastity

    Chastity Ancient Guru

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    I prefer my G6 to internal soundcards. Nice being able to use it on anything, including laptops.
     
  8. Eastcoasthandle

    Eastcoasthandle Ancient Guru

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    I have to admit that the Scout Mode really does work well for sound pinging enemies. Even if they crouch walk I can still hear them going up and down steps. Something I couldn't hear before.
     
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  9. Eastcoasthandle

    Eastcoasthandle Ancient Guru

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    1st Week Update
    I'm not going to repeat everything I've said so far with this sound card. All of it has been positive. And I really do like that led AE-7 in orange and Sound Blaster in white Logo on top and side of the card. It's a very nice, subtle touch. I have only 2 complaints so far though.

    1. Software updates appear to be only through Command Software. If you want to make a copy you have to go to: ProgramData\Creative\Software Update to make a copy.
    2. It was not until 2020 they fully update Command to mirror the same feature set as Control Panel. It's not a big deal now but had I bought this last year I would have returned it.
    3. Headphone Gain appear to be identical to Zx at the highest setting. I had to use the highest preset to use 50 ohm headphones. The highest gain is suppose to be 150-600 ohm. Which I find very hard to believe if you are using the Audio Control Module. Did Sound Blaster really compensate for the ACM when making those claims? I've found no material to address this.
    This is a big deal for me as I was actually looking to upgrade the headphones that would take a higher ohm. Now lets be clear the Zx ran my cans just fine. The issue is that the AE-7 is no better (as long as I use the highest preset). Which was one of the reason why I bought the AE-7. I expected to use Normal which is 32-149Ohm rated preset. In which I can hear the sound reduce in overall volume when I set it to Normal. Which now becomes lower then Zx. At a guess, this very software feature would do the exact same thing for Zx Control Panel if made available IMO. So, headphone Gain:
    Low: 16-31Ohm
    Normal: 32-149Ohm
    High: 150-600Ohm
    These settings, IMO, are arbitrary. It's no way High is starting at 150 Ohms using the ACM. No way!!!!! 50 Ohms...now we talking. But not 150 Ohms.

    Now, I'm taking a bit longer to discuss this because there is another aspect of this that needs to be talked about, the volume of the ACM. 100% volume is never an acceptable option. And although, technically, above 50% is acceptable to reach 150 Ohms it's still should be better then the Zx. That's the point here, not what the pot can do but how it compares to the Zx. With the Zx 50% volume vs Ae-7 50% volume on the ACM with volume of win10 at 40% the Zx is louder then the AE-7 (Normal headphone gain). Sure, I could increase the ACM to 80% and get it just as good. I didn't have to do that with the Zx (although the Control Panel doesn't offer a headphone Gain option).
    Did I place the AE-7 in the same PCIe slot as the Zx? Yes.
    Did I use the ACM from the Zx to see if Gains improved? Yes, no change
    Well then smartie pants why not use the jack on the back of the card and ditch the ACM? The gains are louder from the port on the back of the card true. But that's true for both the Zx and AE-7, it's a given.
    Did you use the 3.5mm jack or the 1/4 jack? I used the 1/4 jack for my headphone
    Buts reviewers have said that the AE can handle well over 150 ohm cans just fine so I'm not sure why yours can't? Correct, reviews did say this but they didn't compare it to the Zx. And there was no actual comparison to say if the gain was on par either. And if I'm not mistaken it was the AE-9 that did this. Which require an PCIe power connector on the back of the card.

    Overall I'm still satisfied with the AE-7. I was a bit skeptical but so far after a week of use I'm satisfied with the overall product a mentioned earlier in this thread. I can't express enough how much I can now sound ping enemies now in Modern Warfare. This is were the Zx feel short and why I have the AE-7 now. Furthermore, compared to the GSX1000 I choose the AE-7 for the higher bit rate. For example the GSX1000 can only do 16 bit at virtual 7.1 (24-bit at 2.0) while the E-7 can do it at 32-bit right out the box. If I hadn't looked at the white papers on the GSX1000 I wouldn't have known. Furthermore, Dolby Access is also capped at 16bit. So if you decide to buy it make sure you are aware of this caveat from the Microsoft Store.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2020
  10. Chastity

    Chastity Ancient Guru

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    It smells to me that the ACM port isn't putting out 2v RMS, especially is the line-out on the card is louder. (Probably just 1v RMS) Typical PC audio design bullshit. The RCA spec exists for a reason. The simple solution to this is to use an external amplifier, and just use the rear-port for Line-Out. I also find the output from most soundcards and motherboard solutions are lacking in proper FR balance. This is one reason why I use my G6 as a DAC only, and use Line-Out to an external amplifier. (Asgard 3)

    It's difficult to notice these things unless you've used properly set hardware and train yourself to know what it should sound like.
     
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  11. Eastcoasthandle

    Eastcoasthandle Ancient Guru

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    IMO, I really do believe that the headphone Gain feature is AE-9 exclusive feature as you have to plug in a pcie power connector to the back of the card. To me, this makes sense how the card can drive actual 50 Ohm at Normal Gain. Since the AE-7 doesn't have that option it appears to operate the same as the Zx.
     
  12. Eastcoasthandle

    Eastcoasthandle Ancient Guru

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    Watch these 3 videos with decent headphones. One will be on PC, the other on Console (doesn't matter which). Listen for the audio cues to see if you can tell the direction and position of footsteps, gun fire, etc.

    Youtube isn't the best way to demonstrate audio quality in this fashion, I know this. However, the distinction is so clear to me in the video that I still believed it will still work. As it does resembles my own experiences. The PS4 encodes audio at 128kbps at 48kHz which is standard on the PC audio like Realtek, Sound Blaster, etc (unless you select something very low).



    1st 10 seconds. This is the correct audio fidelity.
    Listen to the 1st 10 seconds . You should be able to hear the footsteps but also can tell that they sound very soft, when far away, to loud, "better" the pitch of the audio cue changes just before the enemy becomes visible. If you look at the player, he actually backs up just before the enemy is visible. Which is a natural thing to do. Unfortunately, again, this is youtube, and can't really audio ping the player for a pint point position. But on console, you certain can pinpoint the enemy position audibly. Well, at least I can with my cans.



    This is PC version of audio. It starts at 6:00 mark. Audio is unknown.


    This is PS4. Start at the 9:07 mark.

    I used the same maps which explains the different starting points on each video. Best viewed/heard with some decent headphones. Take note of the audio cues which would cause you to move your head left, right, front, back when looking for the enemy between PC vs PS4.

    Another caveat is that the audio position would technically be better on both PC and Console vs what's compressed to work with Youtube so keep that in mind as well.

    If there was a better way of demo'ing this example I'm all "ears" (LOL). Jokes aside, before I updated my audio, the PC version is very similar to what I heard in the PC video. I can hear gunshots, footsteps, and other ambient sounds. But I couldn't always tell the position of the enemy player as they run by. Regardless of Boost, Boost Low, Boost High.
     
  13. Eastcoasthandle

    Eastcoasthandle Ancient Guru

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    Video
    I posted 2 videos using Modern Warfare, same map, to show you the difference. Now, I understand this isn't as much of a direct comparison do to many variables including audio compression from youtube itself. However, I still believe that you should get a good idea of the difference in hearing the direction foot steps, gun fire, air assets, etc. I suggest that you wear a good pair of headphone when watching them.


    AE-7






    Zx
     
  14. FR4GGL3

    FR4GGL3 Member

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    Interesting.
    Do you have experience with the X-Fi Titanium HD? Because I still use this Card. One Reason is the Support of MIDI in Hardware (Old Games). The other Reason is CMSS3D. Simply because it works nearly everywhere. The Third Reason is its Sound Quality. It is nearly as good as the Asus Essence STX II which I also own.

    Are the new Cards worth it - Especially if I don't need the Headphone Amp as I use a Violectrc HPA V90?
     
  15. OnnA

    OnnA Ancient Guru

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    Ok, now i have one :p :D
    Waiting for delivery....
     

  16. Chastity

    Chastity Ancient Guru

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    Ahww, Onna bought an AE-7. :) You could have bought the new AE-5 Plus.
     
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  17. OnnA

    OnnA Ancient Guru

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    Nahh, AE-5 was to small step up ;)
    AE-9 to big... so AE-7 it is :D

    I just plug my 5.1 into it + Mic + HP, i will not use this add. Volumne control.
     
  18. Eastcoasthandle

    Eastcoasthandle Ancient Guru

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    Ah man, that was a long time ago. Sure I had the None HD one and between that that the Zx I didn't notice much difference. I don't remember why I upgraded to the Zx though. One of the reasons was do to having the pot on the Zx. I also recall having issues with win10. If for any reason you have the "itch" your best upgrade path would be the AE-9. But since you have the Violectrc HPA V90 the AE-7 would suite you well. I personally don't use Creative ALchemy, DD Live Pack and the Host OpenAL apps that come with it. So I cannot comment on that. But they still offer it.


    Let us know how it goes :)
     
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  19. Eastcoasthandle

    Eastcoasthandle Ancient Guru

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  20. -Tj-

    -Tj- Ancient Guru

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    Thanks for the mini review :cool:



    Btw, could you please fix those pictures in 1st post? You can use forum "upload a file" function to upload again :)
     

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