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Creative claims Xmod improves audio quality

Written by Ben Reid @ 04 Oct 2006 14:59 User comments (27)

Creative claims Xmod improves audio quality Creative has unveiled a new device called the Xmod, which the company claims gives MP3s and other compressed digital music files "better than CD quality" sound.
The USB-powered gadget, based upon the Creative's X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity audio platform, is expected to cost 60 in the UK and $80 in the USA when it arrives sometime this month.

The Xmod is said to up-convert the audio signal to 24-bit surround for cleaner, richer sound. There are two sides to the X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity technology - X-Fi Crystalizer and X-Fi CMSS- 3D.

The X-Fi Crystalizer identifies areas of the audio file which have been truncated or damaged during Compression. Creative says the technology can "restore" the highs and lows of the music that the listener would otherwise have not been able to hear.

Meanwhile, X-Fi CMSS-3D component creates virtual surround sound through speakers or headphones. It supposedly uses "advanced techniques" to place specific audio elements, such as the voice of a movie character, in a virtual centre channel while ambient sound is heard through virtual surround channels.

"There are more than 100 million people who listen to MP3, WMA or AAC music on their PCs, Macs or iPod or ZEN players, but the quality of this compressed music is highly compromised. The Creative Xmod enables them to listen to their music with audio that sounds even better than CDs," said Creative boss Sim Wong Hoo. "All your music is instantly upconverted to the Xtreme Fidelity standard in real time through a simple and compact device."

A relative downside to the device, though, is that it will require power via USB or a mains socket, therefore consumers cannot use it with portable media players when out-and-about.

Sources:
Betanews, and
Hexus.Net

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27 user comments

14.10.2006 15:03

I'll believe it when I see hear it..

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 04 Oct 2006 @ 15:04

24.10.2006 16:11

So..... In other words, this is like Dolby Pro-Logic? For those of you who don't know, Dolby Pro-Logic is a system of taking standard two-channel output, and upsampling and splitting those sounds into different channels, for which there is no signal. While there is a scientific basis for it's operation, it actually just makes an educated guess, as to how things would sound if the signal were actually four or five channels, rather than two. What does this have in common with the XMod? Both units take sound, and attempt to fill in gaps with a median that will create a more 'fluid' sound, without actually creating truly higher quality sound. And both methods of sound improvement equate down to one thing, scientifically based or not.... They are both ultimately GUESSING how something would sound if it were higher quality.

34.10.2006 16:23
tocool4u
Inactive

Its only $80....I don't think it would hurt to try it.

44.10.2006 16:46
OzMick
Inactive

What a steaming load of BS. That is like saying that you can make an enlarged JPEG look better than the original. Fact of the matter is they are only smoothing the sound by inter-/extrapolation, just about any existing DSP system could do the same thing.

54.10.2006 18:39
tocool4u
Inactive

Aren't DSP systems expensive? I could be wrong but I thought a middle quality was like 500 or 700 dollars. Heck I even saw some for 8-10 thousand.

64.10.2006 20:09

Ok so basically its a mini DSP system that runs off a USB port,the question is know any audiopiles that have tried it? I know a few that are fickle and hate mobo sound chipsts 0-o

74.10.2006 20:17

Mmm untill more reviews start comeing out it could be a fancy cheap simulated surround sound thingy,I jsut love SSR nothing like scoring a set of fake surround sound head phones to make your day....

84.10.2006 21:00

I don't understand... How will ths improve on the audio quality? You are upconverting the audio. Fine, but where is the missing information coming from? Is there an advantage on buying this to having an extra HDD and just keeping the original wave on your PCs?? I doubt this is for portable mp3, because then the player does not become so portable... Also, if you want to benefit from the quality of 24bit audio, you need the original tracks. Upconverting doesn't work. All it can do is give the impression of the music being more full, but in reality it causes damage to your ears by bombarding them with artificial frequencies and tones. MP3s are bad enough, do we need to make them worse??

94.10.2006 21:15

JaguarGod
forgive me for my stupidity and I know..thats a godly talent (the forgiving not the stupidity),but could it not upconvert as well as filter(make it sound better) ?

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 04 Oct 2006 @ 21:29

104.10.2006 23:11

Looks really interesting...

114.10.2006 23:44

tocool4u I forgot soethign sound cards with there equlizer programs and such can replace full audio equipment sets add extra audio programs and it can replace whole studios almost,creative is a sound leader so theres a 50/50 chance of it doing what they say and a 50/50 chance of it doing half that.

125.10.2006 6:46

anybody know if there is any advantage to buying this if you already have an X-FI plat?

135.10.2006 11:33

My biggest problem with MP3s is the warbles you get on the high-end when the full audio spectrum is hit all at once, and the compressor doesn't know what to sacrifice. They seem to suggest that the "compromised" aspect of the audio is a flat loss of high end and low end. This is not true. It actually changes the sound, adding warbles and such. This cannot be undone and fixed. You would just get super hi-fi warbles. What kind of improvement is that?

145.10.2006 13:42

@ZIppyDSM, What do you mean by filter? Do you mean filter out noise? I don't know much about audio editing and such. I only know that mp3s make my ears hurt and I attribute that to the compression and loss of informaiton. It is hard for me to imagine that this thing can fix this.

155.10.2006 14:09

JaguarGod filter/remove noise I guess so,altho I have asked acuple audiophiles and they doubt very much the abilty of this gadget to do what ti claims and say beter to stick with a lossless MP3 format.

165.10.2006 14:25

What is good about this device when you can only use it when plugged into a usb port. So much for portable devices. If they were going to make a device like this why did they bother making this a portable size, they should have made it bigger and just an addition to the hardware of the computer.

175.10.2006 14:27

borhan9 10 to 1 it needs "software" if they sold it as a ture stand alone device and it dosent work...well... that would hurt there image but if they sale it as a iffy comp gadget then all is well.....0-o

185.10.2006 14:50

CMSS 3D makes it sound like you're in a tin can and crystalizer is a joke on the xfi cards. You can achieve the same effect and better with some good EQ settings..

196.10.2006 13:51

Ultimately, this device comes down to a guessing game of fill in the blanks. The device interprets the current quality of the sound, and quickly calculates where it *thinks* loss or degredation has occurred. It uses these calculations to change on-the-fly, what the output will be.

The problem is this device has no way to tell the difference between fluctuations in the actual TRACK, and the loss that occurs from MP3, etc. So, it ahs to guess based on a system of averages, similar to the way that low grade anti-aliasing worked when it was first introduced. Imagine a square that contains four squares. Two black, two white, like this:

B |W
--|--
W |B

Anti-aliasing assumes that the average between the black and white is grey. So, it would tint the white a little closer to gray, and lighten the black to make it closer to gray. The purpose being to make each pixel closer to it's neighbor. It eliminates jagged edges and rough spots. It's a great guess, but the two colors are SO different that it may not be correct. This is the same way the X-Fi would be working, and it creates a 'smoother' 'more even' sound, but not a more accurate or higher quality sound than the original file.




"Its not stupid, its advanced!" - The Almighty Tallest, Invader Zim

207.10.2006 11:20

I'd be happy with any improvement. I tend to store music at 128kbs just to save disk space so that may be worth a try.

217.10.2006 14:32

@Handsom,

I like the way you describe the way it works. That was an excellent example!! I think I get the idea, and that was sort of what I was afraid of. If there is no data then the hardware just estimates what it should "sound" like.

Isn't there a difference between 16bit and 24bit something like 65,535 samples per frame vs. 16,777,216 samples per frame? This would be the "emptiness" it tries to fill no?

@KingNot,

I would highly recommend that you spend the $80 and get like a 300GB HDD. Just store your music in original wave.

I don't care what quality the mp3 is, you will damage your ears if you listen to it too much. If you have enough music where you need the space, then you are probably listening to a lot of music. Personally, when I do mp3, I go highest quality VBR and it ends up around 320kbs average. I still can't stand it, but I only use mp3s for my mp3 player, so that is the best I can get.

A 300GB HDD will cost the same as the xmod, only you can store the actual CD or music in wave format, so the quality will be much higher and it will not be as straining to your ears. Also, you can fit somewhere around 8,500 songs on a 300GB HDD, so that is more than enough.

227.10.2006 14:37

handsom
my crude understanding of it its a basically...a equalizer preset to "fixing" mp3s.


Copyright infringement is nothing more than civil disobedience to a bad set of laws. Lets renegotiate them.

---
Check out my crappy creations
http://zippydsmlee.deviantart.com/

238.10.2006 15:23

i saw one of these in action at a friends house, and trust me, its worth every penny. the quality of music will imporve so much you wont settle on anything else. WARNING: Hearing this will cause you to lose interest in your ipods or zen vision m's becuse they dont work with this.

248.10.2006 15:31

solargame not realy,now unless this a USB sound card you can make a cable for 6$ to power it off batteries,that is if it is not a sound card.

259.10.2006 10:55
juniorken
Inactive

I agree with JaguarGod. What's the reason of upconverting audio-quality if the source is of inferior quality or if it's just 16bit like cd-audio? Btw upconverting audio is also possible by software: check foobar. But these guys as well strongly disencourage it unless you really need that higher bitrate. Using a decent cd-grabber (f.i. EAC) and an audio-encoder like Lame with proper settings will do for a lot of people...

2612.10.2006 11:58

The key thing to notice here is "The X-Fi Crystalizer indentifies areas of the audio file which have been truncated or damaged during compression". There are many MP3 codecs out there in the hands of millions of users that do a poor job of audio compression at times. It is not the fault of the MPEG folks (I worked with them many years ago during MP1 and MP2 development) as great codecs are written for specific DSPs but may not do as great a job on different DSPs. This thing just tries to fix the bad comprssion jobs out there. If you have a good MP3, WMA, or the like with no truncated values, this thing won't do anything.

2712.10.2006 12:01

hotdotdog like most things I will need alot of reviews to debunk working fact from corporate fiction 0-o

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