Monday 17 September 2007

Windows Vista - Creative X-Fi Snap, Crackle, & Pop Noises on Vista x64 with 4GB+

No, we are not talking about the breakfast cereal! ;)

It seems that there is an issue with the Creative X-Fi sound cards and their drivers on Windows Vista x64 with 4GB of RAM or more.

After installing the drivers, the sound coming up right the first time, it was a complete and utter shock to have this incredibly rude sound screaming from the speakers. Good thing no one was holding their tea or coffee at that point! :O

So, after a great deal of searching, we came up with this: Vista X64, released drivers, scratchy / snap / crackle sound - XFI. The Creative Forum posts are dated in March or thereabouts. Apparently there were a number of people with the sound problem if they had 4GB of RAM or more.

Fast forward to May: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi series Vista Driver 2.15.0002 - 30th May. These are the drivers that are still available via Creative's Windows Vista x64 download page. Guess what? Still the huge snap-crackle-pop and static noises from the card on boot up. This is not the case for everyone however. For some, the noise went away and the card started to produce the proper sounds.

BTW, Creative has pulled out native support for digital sound decoding, such as Dolby and DTS Digital signals, at the driver level. One has to go out and purchase some sort of video player that can do it. Not too sure about the ability to pass digital out of the system for decoding on an audio/video receiver yet.

For now, a workaround is to hit the Device Manager and uninstall the card after a reboot, rescan for new hardware, and allow itself to install again. For the most part, it works almost every time. When it doesn't, it is pretty shocking.

It means turning those speakers off before leaving, or they could be damaged.

Hopefully, Creative will get their stuff together and work out what the problem is, and update their drivers accordingly.

UPDATE 2007-11-12: There is a new driver set for the X-Fi on Windows Vista x64. They are dated November 5, 2007.

This is the Canadian Link: Sound Blaster X-Fi Elite Pro on Windows Vista x64.

The drivers make a huge improvement on the sound card's performance. MSN pings actually work now, the click sounds in IE are working for the most part, and the sound is way better.

Good on Creative!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.


Anonymous said...

Well, I just hit this issue after a RAM upgrade from 2 to 4 GB this week. First, I sent an email to the Creative support only to get a standardized reply saying that my warranty period had expired and listing the support options I had at this point. So, I called them saying that I was pretty disappointed and still expected an answer. They were "kind" enough to spend time with me on the phone without charging $12.99 and they even had a "solution": Downgrade the machine to 2 or 3 GB RAM. There you have it folks, all of you who are facing this issue and have 4 GB+ in your machines just for fun, remove some of the RAM and the day is saved. For people like myself who actually need 4 GB the only "solution" is not to use their X-Fi cards. Another funny claim I'd like to add is that the support technician claimed that there is no soundcard from any manufacturer on the market that works on Vista x64 with 4 GB of RAM or more and he also mentioned the fact that X-Fi cards have their own processor (which actually is a DSP) on board (it's strange though that this is true for all graphic cards too and they usually work just fine). Long story short, there is still no real solution, he couldn't tell me if they were working on a new driver because that information is confidential (and I'm only a customer who paid $100 for one of their products which I can't use anymore) and I probably simply won't buy Creative products anymore - at least not until they drastically change the way they support their products and treat their customers.

Philip Elder Cluster MVP said...

Yes, it is sad. The whole experience is sad. :(

Yet, given my experience with vendor/manufacturers that don't seem to have their Vista stuff together, I am not surprised.

Hopefully there is a vendor out there who can take the dropped ball and run with it.