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Creative Sound Blaster Z PCIe 116dB SNR Gaming Sound Card with 600ohm Headphone Amp and Beamforming Microphone

  • PCI Express x1 5.1 Channels
  • TOSLink Optical Input and Output
  • Sound Core3D Processor
  • Beamforming Microphone
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Sound Blaster Z

Designed around the powerful Sound Core3D™ audio processor, the Sound Blaster Z series once again raises the bar for the industry standard of PCIe sound cards. Sound Blaster Z has been designed to meet the standards of those who want a vastly superior experience over motherboard audio. With external DACs delivering 116dB SNR, a 600 ohm audiophile-grade headphone amp, and massively customizable SBX Pro Studio technologies, Sound Blaster Z packs a serious audio punch.


Sound Blaster Z

Sound Blaster Z


"The Sound Blaster Z offers crystal clear sound that allows me to
completely focus on the game."
- Joshua "Trimaster" Niven

"The Sound Blaster Z is prefect for all gamers. It allows us to focus on what's most important. Winning."
- Kevin "qxc" Riley

"With SBX Pro Studio, the Sound Blaster Z has everything a gamer needs."
- Michale "goswser" Dobler

"Gaming with the Sound Blaster Z is truly a spectacular experience."
- Chad "Minigun" Jones

"The Sound Blaster Z has great sound quality and is ideal for casual
and hardcore gamers alike."
- Brendon "ryze" Walker



  • newegg 116dB SNR OF SUPERIOR EXPERIENCE Sound Blaster Z has been designed to meet the expectations of those who want a vastly superior experience over motherboard audio. With external DAC’s delivering 116dB SNR, a 600 ohm audiophile-grade headphone amp, and customizable SBX Pro Studio™ enhancements, this sound card packs a serious audio punch.
  •   newegg 3D Surround Sound SBX Pro Studio technologies allow you to control the level of audio immersion in music, movies, and games. Go beyond ordinary 5.1 and 7.1 solutions with an enhanced sense of audio depth and spaciousness by creating virtual surround sound channels via SBX Surround.
  •   newegg Crystal clear communication The CrystalVoice™ suite of technologies ensures you’ll experience crystal clear communications while using VOIP services, chatting or gaming, as well as providing a set of enhancements to ensure that recordings are of studio quality.
  • newegg Sound Blaster Beamforming Microphone The bundled beamforming microphone is optimized for use with CrystalVoice technologies. The dual microphone array enables implementation of advanced noise cancellation, creating superior recordings, and provides a voice transmission platform over a standard single mic solution.
  • newegg Sound Core3D audio processor The quad-core Sound Core3D audio processor was designed to offload SBX Pro Studio and CrystalVoice effects processing from your primary CPU, improving your overall PC performance, resulting in drastically superior audio and voice quality.
  • newegg High fidelity surround sound Connect to your home theatre system through a single digital cable and enjoy cinematic DVD movies by transforming any stereo or multi-channel streams into high fidelity immersive surround sound.
  • newegg Never unplug your headphones again With the Sound Blaster Z-series Control Panel, just toggle between your headphone and speaker system with a flip of a switch.

Sound Blaster Z

Product Name Sound Blaster ZxR Sound Blaster Zx Sound Blaster Z
Newegg Part No. 29-102-050 29-102-049 29-102-048
Audio Processor Sound Core3D Sound Core3D Sound Core3D
Audio Resolution 24-Bit 24-Bit 24-Bit
Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR)
(20kHz Low-pass filter, A-Wgt),
@ 24-bit, 96kHz
124dB 116dB 116dB
Maximum Playback Quality 5.1 Mode : Up to 96kHz
Stereo Direct Mode : Up to 192kHz
5.1 Mode : Up to 96kHz
Stereo Direct Mode : Up to 192kHz
5.1 Mode : Up to 96kHz
Stereo Direct Mode : Up to 192kHz
Frequency Response @96kHz Front Channel Out : 10Hz to 45kHz
Rear Channel Out : 15Hz to 45kHz
Center Out : 10Hz to 45kHz
Headphone (33 ohms) : 10Hz to 45kHz
Front Channel Out : 10Hz to 45kHz
Rear Channel Out : 15Hz to 45kHz
Center Out : 10Hz to 45kHz
Headphone (33 ohms) : 10Hz to 45kHz
Front Channel Out : 10Hz to 45kHz
Rear Channel Out : 15Hz to 45kHz
Center Out : 10Hz to 45kHz
Headphone (33 ohms) : 10Hz to 45kHz
Frequency Response @192kHz (Stereo Direct Only) Front Channel Out : 10Hz to 88kHz Front Channel Out : 10Hz to 88kHz Front Channel Out : 10Hz to 88kHz
Maximum Recording Quality Up to 96kHz Up to 96kHz Up to 96kHz
I/O Ports (Main Card) Headphone : 1 x Amplified 1/4" jack
Speaker Out : 2x RCA (L / R)
2x 3.5mm jacks (Rear, C/Sub)
Microphone In: 1x 1/4" jack
Headphone : 1 x Amplified 3.5mm jack
Speaker Out : 3 x 3.5mm jacks(F/R/C-Sub)
Line / Mic In : 1x shared 3.5mm jack
Optical Out : 1x TOSLINK
Optical In : 1x TOSLINK
Headphone : 1 x Amplified 3.5mm jack
Speaker Out : 3 x 3.5mm jacks(F/R/C-Sub)
Line / Mic In : 1x shared 3.5mm jack
Optical Out : 1x TOSLINK
Optical In : 1x TOSLINK
I/O Ports (DBPro card) Line In : 2x RCA (L / R)
Optical Out : 1x TOSLINK
Optical In : 1x TOSLINK
Not Applicable Not Applicable
Connection PCI-Express PCI-Express PCI-Express
600ohm Amplified Headphone Output Y - 80mw TI TPA6120 Y - Maxim MAX97220A Y - Maxim MAX97220A
Swappable OP-AMPs Y N N
Included Acesssories Audio Control Module (with Beamforming Microphone Built-in) Audio Control Module (with Beamforming Microphone Built-in) Beamforming Microphone
Audio Technology  
SBX Pro Studio
- Surround™
- Crystalizer™
- Bass™
- Smart Volume™
- Dialog Plus™
- Noise Reduction
- Smart Volume
- Acoustic Echo Cancellation
- FX
- Focus
Speaker/Headphone Switch Y Y Y
Music & Movies  
Dolby Digital Live Encoding Encoding Encoding
DTS Connect Encoding Encoding Encoding
Upmixing of Stereo to Multi-Channels SBX Surround SBX Surround SBX Surround
Scout Mode™ Y Y Y
EAX EAX 5.0 HD EAX 5.0 HD EAX 5.0 HD
Max. No. of 3D Voices 128 128 128
Creative ALchemy Y Y Y

Learn more about the Creative Labs Z

Quick Info


  • Limited Warranty period (parts): 1 year
  • Limited Warranty period (labor): 1 year

Customer Reviews of the Creative Labs Z

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  • Georg R.
  • 4/17/2015 6:30:37 PM
  • Tech Level: High
  • Ownership: 1 month to 1 year

2 out of 5 eggsNot Worth It Over Decent OnBoard - Horrible Drivers

Pros: Sound Quality

Cons: Horrible Drivers, Control Panel Takes Forever to load with Win8.1, Gimmicky Features no-one needs, PCIE slot, bad too low input/mic level with some microphones

Other Thoughts: I got this expecting a significant upgrade to my onboard RealTek ALC1150 on my Asus Z87 Pro. In particular I expected a decent microphone input with good microphone volume levels, similar as I had with my very old Audigy 2 sound card. I am using speech recognition for work, this is why a good microphone input and mic preamp is important to me.

Let's start with the horrible drivers which result in the Control Panel taking forever to load on Windows8.1. Even after reinstalling, driver cleaning, disabling the onboard etc. the SB Control Panel still lags extremely and is pretty much unusable.

All the features of the card, whatever they call them in the Control Panel I consider useless *except* the equalizer. This can really help to turn "flat" sound into a really good, powerful experience with deep bass and clear treble. From that point of view I cannot complain about the card's sound quality.

BUT: I can do the same with my RealTek. This too has an equalizer where I can set sufficient bass and treble, depending on my headphones and speaker setup. While I am not using the SBZ on a "high-end" speaker system, subjectively I can not hear a difference in sound quality with the SBZ and the RealTek. From that point of view, the SBZ is entirely pointless.

I was hugely disappointed by the SBZ's mic input. It is not better than the RealTek and with dynamic microphones the mic level is far too low. If you increase mic boost, it introduces noise, indication of a low quality ADC/mic amp which is not better than OnBoard.

It's ironic I hadn't ANY problem with my very old Audigy 2 card and Daniel K drivers on my old system. Very good sound and also decent microphone levels.

Too bad that my new board has no PCI slots anymore otherwise I would continue to use the old Audigy 2 and be entirely happy with it.

THIS card I consider overpriced and pointless and this doesn't even include the driver/control panel problems with Win8.1

I can only recommend this if you have a really, really bad onboard sound...but I think those don't really exist anymore since onboard has come a long ways in the last few years. This is not 1995 any more where a dedicated sound card made a huge difference to onboard.

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful. Did you? Yes No

  • James P.
  • 4/13/2015 2:32:17 PM
  • Tech Level: High
  • Ownership: more than 1 year

1 out of 5 eggsA Piece of Junk

Pros: Sounds great, if it ever worked.

Cons: I have had nothing but trouble with this card since the moment I got it. I purchased the Astro A50 headset to use with this card. The problem is the sound only works through the USB of the headset most the time. I have it connected using a TOSLINK (fiber optic cable). But no sound comes digitally. Only stereo. I believe I did have 5.1 going once or twice. But being forced to listen to terrible 2.0 audio is infuriating.

Other Thoughts: I think I'm done purchasing from Creative. Hell, I'm done with Astro too.

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful. Did you? Yes No

  • Christopher M.
  • 4/10/2015 12:55:58 PM
  • Tech Level: High
  • Ownership: 1 week to 1 month
  • Verified Owner

5 out of 5 eggs

Pros: Works very well as an amp and 5.1 virtualizer for video games.
The crystalizer works surprisingly well on music, as well as the bass booster. Very clear sounds for music with out dampening or distorting any sounds.

Cons: In settings, make sure to manually turn on the surround sound and set the 5.1 up to 100%. I have no idea why you would want surround to be less than 100%.

Other Thoughts: Great card and amp

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful. Did you? Yes No

  • William S.
  • 4/9/2015 6:34:20 PM
  • Tech Level: Somewhat High
  • Ownership: 1 month to 1 year
  • Verified Owner

5 out of 5 eggsAwesome Bang for my buck

Pros: Increases sound quality tremendously, in games, music, movies, you name it. Comes with nice features like recording software, voice changer etc. Has been working solidly for about a year now. Will be buying Creative products again

Cons: Setup was somewhat frustrating with conflicting with the motherboards onboard audio drivers. Uninstalled the onboard drivers and problem solved

Did you find this review helpful? Yes No

  • Billy S.
  • 4/9/2015 4:14:27 PM
  • Tech Level: High
  • Ownership: 1 week to 1 month
  • Verified Owner

1 out of 5 eggsHardware fine, Software very bad.

Pros: Hardware is fine. I like the EMI shielding. Love optical-in for my PS3 (though has to be PCM audio selection, 1 less cable visible just for audio) to output over PC speakers. Monitor does not have speakers to use HDMI (oddly does have that new ethernet port based plugin that isn't used yet which will carry HD audio+video encrypted signals).

Cons: Creative control panel install removes the bass and treble controls Windows has by default. Worse still is it also disables other Windows audio controls, simple things that have worked for decades such as headphones plug in automatically swapped over to 2 channel audio instead of anything higher.

What does that mean? It means headphones plugged into speakers higher than 2 channels is garbled playback for various video formats (music is unaffected, even in video formats, everything else though...). Creative did not add the feature that existed in Windows for 20+ years to automatically disable surround sound when headphones were plugged into the speakers directly. It took me several weeks to configure this junk software to get it to sound like my previous Creative Sound Blaster card.

Creative support says those old settings are impossible to have due to OS changes for vista/win7/win8 (wrong). I had that older card working on Win7 without this issue. Headphones and all.

Added bonus, time tinkering with the Creative control panel lead me to not tinker very much since actually changing things in it sometimes crashes the program + kills the entire audio playback service (which Win7 can restart without a reboot happily). So attempting fixes is at your own risk just clicking basic settings/speaker configurations.

How to fix various issues with headphones:
In Creatives Control Panel, SBX Pro Studio section
Power button icon, alt text SBX Pro Studio On/Off. Turn it off for headphone usage.

How to fix overpowering Bass since you cannot adjust it in Windows sound with Creative Control Panel installed:
Under section Speakers/Headphones, Lots of tweeking with sub-woofer Crossover Frequency (Bass redirection ticked to be On)

Further fixing if you have full range speakers:
Equalizer section, The 3 sliders on the left are the lower frequency controls for Bass. Tweek as desired.

You can try to adjust Bass levels directly in the Creative Control Panel, if they weren't greyed out (disabled). Note Bass Redirection exists on the SBX pro studio section, greyed out. Speakers/Headphones section has the usable one (what?) but does not have the Bass volume control at all, that is in the first one where it is greyed out.

Other Thoughts: I spent more than a few days actual time (not entirely all at once) trying to figure out how to fix this junk. I'd fix one issue, find another. All of it stems from Creative disabling the most basic Windows OS sound control features in favor of their software in which they left out said features.

I made a phone call to Newegg (yes, actual phone call) asking them to drop Creative's products. They've known how their software was for years. I don't see them making any attempt to fix this so I think hitting them where it hurts (resellers dropping their products) is the most appropriate response.

1 eggs, not the hardware's fault the software to use it is garbage. Without software the hardware doesn't exactly work.

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  • Charles S.
  • 4/7/2015 8:11:48 AM
  • Tech Level: Average
  • Ownership: 1 week to 1 month

4 out of 5 eggsZ versus Realtek

Pros: - Easy of to install - throw it in and disable onboard in bios and off you go.

- I can set my volume to 30% and achieve the same output that my onboard was putting out at 100%... Now I can listen to music at deafening volume!

- For CS:GO I have not been able to find the correct settings to make this really shine. I do appreciate that everything sounds more CRISP. I can't comment on scout mode as it seems to makes to make initial sounds very loud for a few seconds and then fade back to normal... Still testing this feature.

Cons: The red LED is so bright and clashes with the blue LEDs of my case. I sometimes wake up at night thinking the police are outside my house if I forgot to put the PC into sleep mode.

Other Thoughts: The software isn't half bad. I've read a lot of complaints. It has crashed once in an entire month and a half of use.

If anyone knows how to set this bad boy up for gaming with studio quality headphones please leave a comment so that everyone else can get the best out of their purchase.

Did you find this review helpful? Yes No

  • Kyle B.
  • 3/26/2015 10:03:33 AM
  • Tech Level: Somewhat High
  • Ownership: 1 week to 1 month

5 out of 5 eggsThis VS onboard Realtek

Pros: I will be comparing this to the onboard Realtek HD audio that comes on most boards these days as it is what I have been using for years. The ALC892 is what I was using up until I got the SBZ.

On the surface, both the Realtek and the SB are the same. They even use the same Cirrus Logic DACs for the analog audio. If using the optical port, it doesn't matter which sound card you use as it is decoded by the receiver, so is the SBZ even worth paying $100 for if you already have onboard HD audio? If you have a 5.1 system, especially one as stupidly designed as the Logitech z906, then the answer is Yes, absolutely.

The difference between the onboard and the SBZ revolves around the software that the SBZ is able to utilize and accelerate via its own hardware and processes which gives a much more robust manipulation of your audio setup. It can even take the 5.1 analog streams and convert them into DTS on the fly, something that onboard can't do.

The best thing about it is the control it gives you of individual speakers and subs. If you have a 5.1 system like the Z906 which has a sub that has no level controls on it whatsoever, you can use the SBZ software to set the frequencies you want the sub to pick up in addition to the phase and gain. You can totally tweak every aspect of your system and tune it to get the perfect sound from it.

It also has some headphone-specific features that I haven't explored yet but, at a glance, it's already better than the Realtek's options which only let you control volume.

It also has proprietary methods of making voice chat crystal clear for you and the people who hear you if you use a mic/headset for online gaming. Also comes with a "beamforming microphone" which appears to just be an external mic like the ones that used to come with all pre-built computers, only a different shape. It's just a mic in the end though. Can't seem to get excited about that.

Very easy to set up and requires a couple reboots and a little bit of manual device management right out of the box and the software package takes care of everything for you, software-wise. It installs the entire suite of programs and then automatically updates them via the internet so you're up-to-date.

Cons: -This LED nonsense has got to stop. Every single performance component that goes into a custom PC these days has bright LEDs all over it and, for some reason, the SBZ also has BRIGHT RED lights coming from it. With the lights from the case, mobo and video card and now the SBZ, my machine looks like some christmas freak show. There is no way to tun off this light...

-This uses a PCI express port. Not a terrible thing on its own, but these ports are right next to your video card so expect to have some heat issues. You will need a case with sufficient airflow to keep everything cool.

-Not really a con depending on your level of knowledge, but Creative gives no explanations of audio settings which can seem like foreign babble if you don't know what you're doing.

Other Thoughts: Really don't like the bright red light on it. Totally unnecessary.

Got this cheaper from [somewhere else], which is where I've been getting all my PC components lately. Newegg has lost sight of all the reasons that people would shop here above any other online retailer. This place is now rip-off central and only worth visiting to read reviews.

4 out of 5 people found this review helpful. Did you? Yes No

  • Derek H.
  • 3/22/2015 8:19:01 PM
  • Tech Level: High
  • Ownership: 1 day to 1 week
  • Verified Owner

1 out of 5 eggsDoes not support linux.

Pros: Probably would sound good if it worked and Devs would support their hardware

Cons: Creative devs have made it clear that they will not support linux because "Linux is a lost cause. After 20 years market share is only STILL about 2%. No wonder vendors support is very often of lower priority. It is common sense - which business would lose much money & effort because of 2% of market?"

Stay far away from this card.

Other Thoughts: Devs are hostile towards open source community and state "ONLY Linux developers have the responsibility to provide a fix for Linux users.", but fail to provide technical information on their products to make such a thing possible. No Creative, it's YOUR responsibility to make YOUR card work. And dumping on the OS that will be taking over all markets soon (steamOS) is not a good way to keep afloat. I won't be purchasing any more Creative products. Not supporting an OS is one thing, (a bad thing at that) but being so crass as to say that I should be blamed for using linux, in fact I should develop my own driver because that's my responsibility, well that's a different thing entirely.

2 out of 5 people found this review helpful. Did you? Yes No

  • Harry C.
  • 3/21/2015 11:32:43 AM
  • Tech Level: Somewhat High
  • Ownership: 1 month to 1 year
  • Verified Owner

1 out of 5 eggsDont waste your money

Pros: Got some better electronics on the card.

Cons: Nothing special at all and there is a volume control problem with this soundcard. (either there is no sound or its full blast, no in between?)
there is no 2.1 speaker settings either? cmon everyone doesnt have a 7.1 speaker system on their desktop!
I since reinstalled my old Audigy card and it sounds 100% better that this junk.

Other Thoughts: creative is going downhill for sure.

0 out of 3 people found this review helpful. Did you? Yes No

  • jonathan g.
  • 3/12/2015 2:51:44 PM
  • Tech Level: High
  • Ownership: 1 month to 1 year
  • Verified Owner

2 out of 5 eggsstick with on board audio.

Pros: easy surround setup. a few preset "enhancements" that can make things easy for people who dont to spend 10 seconds tweaking an equalizer.

Cons: the quality of the sound is the same as an on board VIA chipset from this era. the "beamforming microphone" is just 2 worthless piezo mics, the lowest quality mic known to man. the speaker control is VERY limited.
you cannot run the subwoofer AND run full range front/side speakers.
you cannot simply expand stereo audio to the surrounds.
the equalizer attenuates very heavily. you cannot disable a clipping control, and as such turning up the bass, turns down the treble in a reactive manner. basically, you have to turn the EQ up to large amounts to get a good sound from it. this is the opposite as it should be.
the crystal voice enhancement is REQUIRED if you want to use the beamforming mic. otherwise there is massive echo and feedback.
the "surround" enhancement throws some terrible sounding reverb into your sides, making it worthless for REAL speakers.
"smart volume" dosent seem to do anything really. on one setting, everything gets loud, on another everything quiet. the same would be achieved by turning down the volume. it does not react dynamically to the sound.
NOT running the front channels as full range makes them have a noticeable lack of sound whenever you would hear low range things, while running them full range reduces availible signals to the subwoofer.

Other Thoughts: this is a waste of money. unless youre REALLY lazy and dont want to bother doing a few google searches and instaling a few things to have surround output through SPDIF, dont bother with this. the analog sound quality is on par with a VIA chipset on your motherboard, it just gets a little louder. but your speakers have an amplifier, so that dosent matter.

0 out of 5 people found this review helpful. Did you? Yes No

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