Game Testing – Voices

Creative Labs has pegged X-Fi’s voice processing as one of the major technology features. They claim that they can process up to 128 voices with minimal performance hit using X-RAM. But what about the rest of us who can’t afford the Fatal1ty version of this card? What kind of performance improvement can we expect if at all?

The people at Croteam really take pride in cramming as many shootable targets on the screen as possible. It’s also no surprise that this makes a perfect test for sound cards as each enemy on the screen is emitting their own sound (“Whaaaaaaaa!!!“). Serious Sam 2 has a unique setting that allows you to adjust the number of simultaneous voices from 5 to 30. The following are the results of benchmarking Serious Sam 2 using 10 voices, 20 voices, and 30 voices.

Serious Sam 2 – 10 Voices

The following chart plots the distribution of frame rates over successive trials of Serious Sam 2 running at 1024×768 with medium details with EAX enabled and 10 simultaneous voices.

Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-Fi Review - General Tech 35

Average FPS



Audigy 2 ZS


VIA Envy 24-PT


Intel HD Audio


All audio solutions record decent results with the Envy 24-PT and the Intel HD Audio yielding the slowest, yet playable, scores. The X-Fi and the Audigy 2ZS are essentially identical in frame rate distribution.

Serious Sam 2 – 20 Voices

The following is the same test as above but with the number of simultaneous voices set to 20.

Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-Fi Review - General Tech 36

Average FPS

Change from 10 Voices (FPS)

Change from 10 Voices (%)



– 1.2

– 2.6%

Audigy 2 ZS


– 2.0

– 4.4%

VIA Envy 24-PT


– 9.1

– 29.5%

Intel HD Audio


– 8.2

– 19.2%

Using 20 voices now, we can see the differences between the different hardware more distinctly. The X-Fi and Audigy 2 ZS remain equally matched, whereas the VIA Envy 24-PT and Intel HD Audio perform successively worse. The distribution for the Creative Labs cards are very strong with majority of the frame rates above the 30 FPS mark. Intel HD Audio performs rather well with most samples in the 30-40 FPS range. The Envy 24 is the worst with the bulk of results spread over a wide range of frame rates (25 – 40 FPS).

Serious Sam 2 – 30 Voices

Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-Fi Review - General Tech 37

Average FPS – 30 Voices

Change from 20 Voices (FPS)

Change from 20 Voices (%)

Change from 10 Voices (FPS)

Change from 10 Voices (%)







Audigy 2 ZS






VIA Envy 24-PT






Intel HD Audio






With 30 simultaneous voices we see a strong case for going with a Creative Labs audio solution. While the VIA and Intel’s products drop drastically in performance, both the Audigy 2 ZS and the X-Fi perform remarkably well with just a small drop in FPS overall.

What is really interesting is the identical performances by the Creative Labs products – the Audigy 2 ZS matches its newer brother pound for pound in performance. I would have thought the “Audio Ring” architecture design in the X-Fi would have yielded some performance gains, but it’s not apparent here.

« PreviousNext »