I’m pretty sure we’ve all had Creative soundcards in our systems at one point. I’ve started with Sound Blaster 128 back in 1998. And continued this with Sound Blaster Live! 5.1, Audigy 4 Value, X-Fi Xtreme Music and Auzentech X-Fi Forte which was based on X-Fi chip, but with higher quality DAC’s, OP-Amps and audio capacitors. I’ve also had Diamond Monster II with Aureal Vortex and ASUS Xonar Essence STX in between, but that’s for some other time.
Things really changed when I’ve gone back to Sound Blaster with the newly released Sound Blaster Z series at that time. These were the first Creative Labs soundcard series which had zero problems on my system with any kind of audio, be it games or general multimedia. I literally never experienced anything serious with it. That was a good start. Then Sound BlasterX AE-5 happened. Probably the most advanced soundcard made by Creative after X-Fi, capable of outputting 32bit audio at 384kHz and having DSP unit capable of processing 32bit 96kHz audio. They crammed really high end components on it, the sorts you find in Class-D amplifiers. It even makes clicking sound as you’re switching audio/speaker modes and it’s switching circuitry, just like on high end amplifiers. But that’s no surprise, Creative has made high end soundcards before…
What’s really different this time seems to be the part which Creative has been lacking for years and decades. Software and tech support. If you got 2 updates a year and actually got a full driver for new version of Windows, it was basically a miracle. Creative just didn’t even bother. Software was often really buggy, problematic to install and use. Tech support? LOL, what is (was) that?
I’ve had Sound BlasterX AE-5 since October 2017 and what I can clearly confirm is the rate at which Creative is releasing updates for it. To this date, I’ve received 5 driver updates since its launch in August 2018. Last one just released on 9th February 2018. That’s more drivers than 2 old series of soundcards from the past combined! In just half a year time. I’ve also contacted their tech support during this time because AE-5 had a bit buggy software since it’s rocking whole new interface. And they always responded within a day and in case of microphone problems even supplied me a solution and in next update fixed the actual issue. They also dramatically improved installer which is ultra fast now and feels way less problematic than before. And for the new Creative Connect 2 control panel, they listened to our wishes and added few things that were necessary but missing at first (like more user defined EQ presets and not just a single “Custom”). And goodies like Filter mode for the DAC’s which just appeared out of nowhere in the Connect 2.
I have no clue how a long term software support for AE-5 will be, but if they continue this trend and actually provide this kind of level of software and support in the future, things are looking pretty bright for Creative. People won’t have to be scared of buying an expensive soundcard and finding out it’s just a nice paperweight after 2 years or when new major Windows version is released. I guess motherboard makers integrating more and more capable soundcards pressured them into being more active with software support if they want to sell more stand alone soundcards.
If you want an excellent soundcard that actually has superb driver support this moment, get Sound BlasterX AE-5 for sure. Time will tell, but this certainly surprised me. It was about time, damn it. 🙂
Been quite a while since last driver release of drivers for Sound Blaster Z. And Creative just released a new update. The changelog is as cryptic as the one ASUS releases for their devices…
Changes for version 13.1.01.10
- Bug fixes and general improvements for Windows® 10
Yeah yeah, I know that is a general belief that these driver updaters are garbage and that they always break stuff. Well, sometimes you have an unrecognized device listed and you can’t figure out which one it is. For such situations, these tools are excellent. Or you’re just one of those freaks like me who just wants all drivers fully updated.
I’ve posted Iobit Driver Booster in the past, but I think this one is even better, easier to use and with less clutter in the interface. Found it today by pure coincidence while I was browsing for some other tools.
It’s called SnailDriver and it’s a small, but very fast and minimalistic driver updater.
I’ve tested it on 3 systems, 1x AMD based and 2x Intel based and it worked pretty damn well. Updated all drivers super fast and with ease and while there were minor issues with the app, they weren’t show stopping problems. It’s a new app, it’ll get fixed soon for sure.
Few minor issues:
- Intel SST Audio Device driver causes audio device on Windows tablets (HP X2, ACER Iconia W4) inoperable. Had to rollback the driver manually (not an issue with SnailDriver as I’ve experienced it before).
- System Restore points don’t get created reliably despite this setting being enabled in SnailDriver. I recommend making it manually just to be sure.
- Sometimes you have to repeat scans to find new drivers that require updating. Not a huge issue, but should be checked.
Give it a try, it’s pretty good and can come in handy quite often 🙂
It has been almost a year since last Sound Blaster Z driver release and despite being totally problem free, new drivers are always welcome. I love hoarding fresh drivers 😀
Anyway, Creative hasn’t released anything specific, just “bug fixes and general improvements” for this new drivers release version 13.1.01.08. Which basically means these drivers give you 300% more framerate 😀 Just kidding. 🙂
Creative has released official Windows 10 certified WHQL drivers few days ago for their flagship soundcards Sound Blaster Z and Zx.
Be aware that Sound Blaster ZxR is not yet supported. Drivers for ZxR are planned for a slightly later time.
This is one of the rarest, hard to find drivers for Analog Devices SoundMax Audio chips with included BlackHawk control panel which features SonicFocus audio enhancements for deeper bass and richer sound.
I’m using a rather ancient ASUS Rampage II Gene motherboard with ADI AD2000b audio chip and these drivers are the latest I could ever find with BlackHawk panel (others are the same version without BlackHawk). They are specified as Windows 7 drivers, however I’m just using them on Windows 8.1 64bit and everything works perfectly. ASUS switched to Realtek after this so everyone still on SoundMax are stuck with this one…
I’ve been hosting it on my OneDrive for ages but forgot to make a blog post about it. Hope this will help people get it working again.
BlackHawk Control Panel
Details for Analog Devices (ADI) SoundMax BlackHawk Audio Driver
Provider: Analog Devices (ADI)
Driver version: 18.104.22.16885
Driver date: 2009/05/21
BlackHawk Control Panel (SonicFocus): YES
Supported OS: Windows Vista/7/8/8.1/10 (32bit and 64bit)
Supported audio chip: ADI AD2000b (may work on others)
I have just tested this driver pack on Windows 10 64bit and it’s working flawlessly. Installation went without any problems, device is detected as SoundMax HD and SonicFocus audio enhancements function as well. This is good news for all the SoundMax users!
To enhance compatibility of playing music in media player while playing games on Win10 with SoundMax, do the following:
Right click volume icon next ot the clock and select “Playback devices”. Select active SoundMax HD device and click Properties button and then go to Advanced tab. Change the sampling to 24 bit and 96000 Hz and click OK.
This resolved music playback corruption in MusicBee while playing Infinifactory. It might apply to other games as well.
Driver Download Link
AMD released new Catalyst driver version 15.15 which is designed for AMD Radeon Fury and R9-390X cards. But clever people have modified the INF file to support all AMD graphic cards (tested and working on my HD7950). I’ve also replaced certain files to ensure DXVA hardware video acceleration.