Asus ROG Crosshair IV Formula
Creative X-Fi Audio
As previously mentioned, the Crosshair IV Formula supports a variant of Creative's Supreme X-Fi Audio. It should be made quite clear that contrary to what you might believe, the hardware is based upon a VIA Audio Module. As such, if you were to proceed to install the Creative X-Fi software alone, you will find yourself out of luck due to the device being unidentifiable. In order to make Creative X-Fi fully operative, you are required to install the VIA Audio Driver first and then install Creative's X-Fi Software.
We concede that the solution may not be a dedicated Sound Card alternative for the audiophiles out there, however it's only fair to objectively test the Creative X-Fi software before forming any judgement.
The major component of the X-Fi Software is it's Control Panel.
The main section of the control panel allows you to define your speaker's configuration. As the drivers default to a 2.1 style setup, being able to reconfigure our speaker configuration to it's true 4.1 configuration made a significant difference to the audio output. The first notable feature is Creative's SVM. Known as Sound Volume Management, the feature does exactly what it says on the tin. The feature acts as a form of normaliser that attempts to maintain a standardised volume level across all music tracks being played back. From our testing, it seems to work reasonably well.
Also included in the Audio Control Panel is Creative' EAX Effects Package. This tends to be a rather marmite feature as it attempts to simulate the echos of different sized rooms and also adjusts bass and treble. It's great to see that the option has been included however we're less than certain that users are likely to use it.
The utility also allows the user to adjust the depth of sound. Two different upmix modes are available; Stereo Surround and Stereo Xpand. For our 4.1 sound configuration, Stereo Surround offered better sound quality.
Finally, Creative have included their X-Fi Crystalizer. This is a feature that aims to restore aspects of sound that are lost during the compression from a high quality format to MP3 or equivalent. While it's arguable as to how much difference it can really make, enabling Crystalizer vastly improved sound clarity over the basic VIA Sound Driver.
As mentioned already, the sound implementation is not necessarily a sound card replacement. As a matter of fact it really isn't as those who truly care about sound quality will go out and buy the latest and greatest sound orientated equipment. However, as far as sound quality goes, it appears to be a better solution than some of Realtek's Audio Modules.