Breathing new life into an "old" soundcard. Creative X-Fi Titanium HD

Discussion in 'PC Audio' started by GotNoRice, Dec 2, 2020.

  1. GotNoRice

    GotNoRice Member

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2003
    Messages:
    25
    Location:
    Northern California
    Here I have my trusty old X-Fi Titanium HD. I've owned it for about a decade now. It has been a great card for me that entire time. For a long time, I used it in my main computer. A couple of years ago I swapped from using the X-Fi Titanium HD in my main computer to using a regular X-Fi Titanium (feeding an external DAC via SPDIF). I then moved the X-Fi Titanium HD into the computer that serves as the main source for my dedicated music stereo system, so that I could continue to make use of the excellent DAC that the X-Fi Titanium HD has.


    My Music system consists of:
    Refurbished Phenom X4 9750 Computer (used as dedicated music source, playing Foobar2000 and streaming music)
    X-Fi Titanium HD
    Yamaha C-80 Preamp
    Yamaha M-2 amplifier (~240wpc) powering JBL 4412 Studio Monitors
    2x Yamaha P2200/P2201 amps (~700wpc bridged) powering JBL L100T Speakers (crossovers upgraded to L100t3 spec)
    2x Yamaha P2200/P2201 amps (~700wpc bridged) powering JBL L150 Speakers
    Yamaha P3500 Amp (~500wpc) powering 2x 15" Dayton UM15-22 Ultimax Subwoofers in sealed cabinets.
    Beyerdynamic DT770-Pro 80 Ohm (for headphone testing, plugged into the Preamp)


    [​IMG]


    The X-Fi Titanium HD has been fantastic in stock form. The card includes two pairs of socketed opamps. One pair of single opamps that are used as a buffer, and one pair of dual opamps that are used in the I/V stage. To get to them, the cover on the card has to be removed. There are three screws on the bottom that hold the plastic shell on and then 4 screws on the back that hold the metal shield on.



    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    The screws that hold the front of the metal cover on also double as the screws that hold the rear bracket on. Without the cover, there is nothing for those screws to screw into. If I continue to use it without the cover, I will need to get some small nuts so that the screws have something to screw into. For now, I simply used two tiny zip-ties to hold the rear bracket on. It was snug.


    The stock Opamps are two JRC 2114D dual Opamps in the I/V stage and two LME49710 single Opamps in the buffer section. My attempts at Opamp rolling so far have been limited and/or unsuccessful. The LME49710 single opamps in the buffer section are basically the single opamp version of the LME49720 / LM4562 dual opamp, which has always been one of my favorites. For that reason I've had little desire to swap them out. Also, almost all of the Opamps in my "opamp collection" are dual opamps, not single opamps. The I/V stage uses dual Opamps, but I had bad results when swapping in my favorite dual Opamps such as the LM4562 or the OP627 (two single OP627 opamps on an adapter board to create a dual opamp). It always sounded like something was missing from the midrange when using anything besides the stock JRC 2114D Opamps. I just chalked it up to being something in the design that the JRC 2114D was particularly well suited for and basically gave up on those Opamps.


    Given how well this card has served me, I decided to try taking the Opamp upgrade to the next level. I decided to try some Opamps from Burson Audio. https://www.bursonaudio.com/products/supreme-sound-opamp-v6/ They make discrete opamps that can sound quite nice compared to more traditional Opamps. Given my strange experience with the I/V stage Opamps, trying to swap out the buffer opamps first seemed like the safe bet. I got a set of V6 Vivid single Opamps. The process of installing them was pretty simple.



    [​IMG]


    They are very tall opamps, and also fairly wide. The Opamps include an optional small riser which is necessary to be able to plug in the Opamp without it contacting surrounding components. That makes them even taller. This makes the card too wide to use the neighboring PCIe slot, and even puts the components very close to the PCIe slot one further over, but it does not touch. Here is an angle shot for a better perspective:


    [​IMG]


    Putting the Burson V6 Vivid Opamps in the buffer section yielded very good results. I've always liked Opamps such as the stock LME49710 Opamps because of their texture but they can be a bit on the harsh side. Other opamps such as the OPA627 tend to be much more smooth, but almost too smooth, lacking texture. The Burson V6 Vivid Opamps seemed to be able to strike that perfect balance of having great texture but also remaining smooth to the point of not being harsh. Although it was definitely an improvement, the result was not really night and day. The stock opamps were already very good. The improvement from using the Burson V6 Vivid single Opamps in the buffer section was subtle, but ultimately I was happy with the result.


    That left me wondering about the JRC 2114D dual opamps. I had sort of written-off the idea of swapping them out, but then I thought about the fact that I also have two Burson V6 Opamps in my Maverick Audio Tubemagic D2 Dac (which is what I use with my main computer via optical output from a regular X-Fi Titanium). In this case, they are two Burson V6 Classic dual Opamps. The differences between the V6 Vivid and V6 Classic Opamps are detailed in the picture below.


    [​IMG]


    In practice, the Classic has a bit more of a midrange focus compared to the Vivids. When I used the V6 Classics in my Tubemagic D2 Dac, I was very impressed with the midrange. I was not eager to take them out of my external DAC but I really wanted to see if they could actually work well in the I/V stage of the X-Fi Titanium HD, unlike all of the other dual opamps that I had tried.


    [​IMG]


    That was one very snug fit. Like with the buffer Opamps, I had to use the riser in order to get it up above the other components on the card. They are slightly too wide, forcing them to be installed at a very slight angle. Thankfully, with the riser, it wasn't a functional problem. If they were even a tiny bit wider however, it would not have worked without a much more involved workaround.


    [​IMG]


    The result really came as a big surprise to me. The difference was huge. Like I mentioned before, I thought the improvement when I swapped the buffer opamps was subtle, but swapping these I/V stage Opamps on the other hand really was a night and day difference. I was so impressed with the result that I now have serious doubts about putting these back into my external DAC. I think they found a new perminant home on this card.


    The most noticeable chance was in the midrange, from the vocal frequencies down to the midbass. Vocals were much more energetic while the texture of the midbass was absolutely fantastic. I listened to quite a few songs with this configuration. After what I thought was an hour or so, I looked at the clock and 4 hours had gone by. It's been a while since I really got sucked into the music like that. At that point, I switched my amp off and plugged my DT770-Pro headphones into my preamp for headphone testing. The results were equally impressive.


    I am very satisfied with this upgrade. I will not be able to put the metal cover back on, but it doesn't seem to matter, as I am not getting any background interference with it off. The internal layout of the PC I'm using for this is very sparse, with no major components near the soundcard, and only using integrated video. That probably helps. I hope to continue using this card for many more years to come.


    Note about drivers: One thing that might seem odd about upgrading a card so old is driver support. Creative has had some issues with drivers in the distant past but my experience with their drivers over the last decade has been fantastic. The latest driver for the X-Fi Titanium HD was released in 2019 and works great with Windows 10 20H2. The last driver was released after changes in Windows 10 version 1903 broke the older drivers. Despite the fact that many of the X-Fi cards date all the way back to 2005, Creative still released an entire new set of X-Fi drivers and got everything working great again. The fact that they still release drivers for cards that are ~15 years old when other companies like Nvidia abandon cards after ~8 years is pretty impressive, and quite frankly what I consider an example of good driver support. Who knows how long into the future they will continue to release new drivers (and/or how quick Microsoft will break the old ones again), but in a worst case scenario I could get away with running an older OS version on my music computer since that computer only has one purpose in life. In various computers, I'm running an X-Fi Titanium HD card, 2x X-Fi Titanium cards, 2x X-Fi XtremeGamer cards, and an X-Fi XtremeMusic card. For now they are all still going strong in their respective computers.
     
    cdtoaster, Xenomorph, juzz86 and 2 others like this.

Share This Page

Advertisement: