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Sound Blaster X-Fi Issues Explored
Published on December 26th, 2006

Back in May, we published an article and report about many issues reported on the latest Creative Labs product The Sound Blaster X-Fi. A few weeks later Creative released information and blamed DDR Dual Channel for these related issues. And, after a few months, they changed their version and blamed Nvidia's nForce4 for these issues, instead. Nvidia never responded to us about their side in the story, but they denied it on a chat.

We kept following this story and we received a lot of reports from users without nForce4 that claimed they had the same issues. So, to investigate these issues, we grabbed an X-Fi XtremeMusic from the closest hardware store and checked it out on the following motherboards: Asus M2R32-MVP, Asus A8N-SLI, Asus A8N32-SLI, ECS RS482-M and Gigabyte GA-965P. We used Windows XP SP2 with the latest updates and the latest drivers for all the devices. We also used the latest BIOS versions and ensured that the X-Fi was not sharing an IRQ with any other device by plugging it into a non-shared PCI slot.

IRQ Sharing
Talking about IRQ Sharing: Most of the time, Creative Labs and some other audio card manufacturers blame IRQ Sharing for its issues. Currently, Creative and everyone are saying that the issues and reports are caused by IRQ sharing.

Let me explain something to you, IRQ Sharing is not a bad thing! In these days devices are supposed to share an IRQ with other devices, but the device has to support both hardware and software. IRQ Sharing is in the latest PCI bus specification and every manufacturer needs to follow and make their products support fully the latest PCI specification. If Creative's products are unable to support IRQ Sharing, Creative has to take their products from the shelves or make it work. When someone tells you that IRQ Sharing is an issue, tell him that IRQ Sharing is a feature of the PCI bus and devices are supposed to support it.

Most of today's motherboards use IRQ Sharing mostly due to SLI and Crossfire. Therefore, manufactures have to accept the PCI specification and make their hardware work and support IRQ Sharing. Failure to do so means that the manufacturer's product is breaking the PCI bus specification.

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