Yours truly hasn't liked the Crystalizer technology from the very beginning. (In my personal vocabulary "Crystalizer" is equal to "bullshitizer".) Its mission statement and promotion methods are bewildering at best.
Let's analyze prerequisites for the rollout of this technology. Common users always want miracles. They need buttons and sliders to magically change audio quality. They need mind-boggling characteristics and mysterious innovations with weird names.
The new X-Fi cards had to illustrate the power of hardware DSP. According to Creative, it equals Pentium 4 3.4GHz (there were no Core processors at the time of this announcement).
This mutual desire gave birth to the miraculous 24-bit Crystalizer technology. It does supernatural things beyond any logic and common sense. Allegedly, Crystalizer improves the terrible quality of studio tracks, making MP3 files sound better than on the original CD.
In its advertising materials about this phenomenon, Creative often exploits the same misconception: Crystalizer rids the world of the stranglehold of compression.
Markeeting specialists apparently have no clue how studios record sound tracks and how they are encoded into compressed formats. Experts who know the real situation probably want to keep their good salaries. And the target audience of gamers and young journalists take everything they hear open-mouthed.
Historically, the word "compression" has been used with regard to two different audio processes:
Crystalizer actually increases peaks during attacks to make up for compression of the first type. However, the advertisement speaks of returning losses to compressed files like MP3s. So they apparently confuse two different notions.
Crystalizer's mission is based on several points mentioned in promotional materials and official statements or directly resulting from them:
All three points are absolutely groundless. Moreover, subjectively positive effects of Crystalizer have to do with the reduction of signal dynamics! Let's delve deeper into all this.
How can Crystalizer noticeably improve audio quality?
What problems are caused by Crystalizer? What are its peculiarities?
Is there an alternative to Crystalizer there where it's really useful? For example, in manual equalizing (e.g., reducing resonance and cosmetically increasing insufficient frequencies) may spice things up a bit. A manual 10-band hardware equalizer and SVM (Smart Volume Management) solve problems with equalizing and dynamic range gaps. These are the really important advantages of X-Fi cards. However, these features do not need a special DSP and, thus, cannot be boasted of much.
In my opinion, all this racket and proud announcements about Crystalizer are not worthy of your attention. Practice has completely confirmed our forecasts. No revolution in the audio world has taken place, nobody is in a hurry to license X-Fi for consumer electronics. But Creative does not give up and manufactures various devices with X-Fi buttons, for example, headphones and MP3 players.
Apparently Creative has a problem: their sound cards are equipped with very powerful DSPs, but there's nothing to load them with. Even Dolby Digital encoding is implemented on the driver level and is performed by CPU. There's some strange crisis in the system. It looks as if decisions are made by marketing people who don't know the difference between two types of compression. As if engineers and world-class specialists, who designed these wonderful devices, live in a parallel universe. There have been no new ideas how to use the powerful programmable DSP for the past four years of X-Fi existence. And there won't be. The ingenuity is completely focused on composing incredible achievements of Crystalizer.
It's up to you to form your own opinion on Crystalizer based on available information, even if you don't have such a sound card. The www.x-fi.com website has many materials on the topic.
Users practically forced Creative to support Dolby Digital Live, software encoding into Dolby Digital on the fly. For a long time people have considered the lack of this feature in Creative cards a drawback (and an advantage of integrated audio and C-Media cards). Creative representatives explained that this feature was necessary only for a few users, while everyone would have to pay for it. But then the company surrendered. It's good to be able to plug an AV receiver with a single cable. The reverse of the medal is that royalties from each product have to be paid. Multiple audio conversions and a small delay for encoding/decoding provide additional arguments against Dolby Digital Live.
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