Creative Xmod review

Although the PC soundcard market has considerably slowed down since the heyday when computers became 'multimedia' devices back in the mid 90s, Creative Labs has remained strong and kept evolving as the leading manufacturer for add-in PC audio cards.

With the popularity of laptops over desktop PCs, and the zillion other portable media devices that interface with your computer rather than with your standard stereo system, it comes as no surprise that Creative is looking for ways to cater to that segment as well.

The Xmod is one of Creative's latest external audio product offerings, boasting support for the PC, Mac and standalone functionality, this little device is meant to sit between your audio source and your speakers, acting in real-time improving your audio output using the different tricks learned from developing those SoundBlaster boards for so many years.

View: Creative Xmod review @ TechSpot

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I would strongly urge people to try before you buy, as sample variance with any product can leave a very bad taste in the mouth, preferably at a dealer that has other USB soundcards/sticks. That does tend to be a problem, though; few dealers stock anything in any depth. I had sworn never to buy another Creative product after problems, specifically, with an expensive Creative Live Platinum soundcard that left me hopping mad. My experiences with the Xmod have been all good, bar on one occasion when it was picking up a hum from something somewhere. I haven't been able to repeat that experience. It looks a little better in the pictures than it does in the flesh, especially the rotateable knob. Can I rephrase that, please? The... whatever! In terms of signal to noise ratio, my Xmod seems extremely quiet, provided it is fed with a good signal. Forum board reviews from people who use it are varied, though, with people saying the filters are either great or awful. I dislike graphic equalizers and filters intensely, so try it out in a store and see if you prefer them on or off. I am less trusting of commercially written reviews of products but this one at least lists the stats and was more balanced than most. What sold it for me is that an Audigy USB soundcard doesn't work with Macs. The Creative Live USB does but sounds inferior.

Try before you buy! Actually, if sample variance is a problem, try several! Hmm.

I think you have a faulty unit, which isn't exactly encouraging. I have used them with all of my headphones and the sound, as long as you don't engage some of the intensely annoying filters and provided you use them with non throwaway headphones rated not significantly above 32 ohms, is vastly better than the integrated jobs on my Asus motherboards and on my HP laptop. Best of all, I didn't have to install any drivers to get it working. Just as well, since Creative's support often leaves a lot to be desired. You just plug in and it works. Still looks a bit like an 80s dimmer switch but what the hey. Don't mistake this with older Creative USB soundcards. This one works with Macs. A cheap USB soundcard works well, also, but the Xmod is certainly better than those, in my experience.

Headphones are OK(ish), but it's terrible with earbuds. I personally won't consider Shure E2c and V-Moda Vibe throwaway products. (Although, they are cheap.) :P

I have had one of these for around four months and the sound quality is excellent. If you are in the curious position of running an operating system that doesn't support your soundcard but your computer has a USB2 port, this is the perfect solution. Okay, plugged into my laptop it looks like a light dimmer switch from the eighties whose mom had sex with an ipod, but... I digress.

I'm done with Soundblaster audio cards... I've had the dreaded crackling problem with my last two Audigy and my current X-fi... Enough is enough. Their support is nothing short of disgusting and their audio products have let down way too many people for too long.

They'd better focus their development efforts toward making their current products effectively Vista-compatible instead of creating new products if they want to keep their customers. I've been waiting for my Audigy 2ZS Notebook to have proper support under Vista for long enough I think and I'm tired to see where all their developing efforts go and don't.