A box shot of ASUS Crosshair IV
It looks like consumers aren't being treated fairly once again. It has come to our attention that a few popular vendors are now offering motherboards with a built-in X-Fi advertised as part of the features. Now you would expect to see an X-Fi audio chip on those motherboards - well, this is not the case. What you are going to get is a regular onboard audio chip (VIA, Realtek, AD) with additional limited Sound Blaster X-Fi software. It seems that Creative Labs is now licensing its X-Fi software to OEMs:
"The Sound Blaster X-Fi MB solution provides premium audio quality, effects and features for PC systems equipped with only basic onboard audio.
For gamers, the EAX ADVANCED HD 4.0, with its state-of-the-art Multi-Environment rendering and reverb modelling, delivers a much more realistic and immersive 3D gaming experience than your motherboard audio ever will.
In addition, X-Fi Crystalizer adds dynamics and punch to every gunshot, explosion and music track while X-Fi CMSS-3D provides an incredibly realistic surround sound experience from just a pair of stereo headphones.
Due to changes in Windows Vista's DirectSound3D implementation, certain legacy DirectSound3D games will have its audio compromised, resulting in only stereo output without any effects.
Creative ALchemy is a powerful tool that restores the EAX effects and full surround sound when running these DirectSound3D games in Windows Vista so that you can enjoy true 3D interactive gaming again.
Native OpenAL support is a cross-platform 3D Audio API used by many games and music applications developers to deliver superb 3D audio simulation. Since the Sound Blaster MB includes native OpenAL support, you can be assured of an incredible 3D audio experience on many PC game titles.
For music lovers, the X-Fi Crystalizer can restore the details and vibrance, (lost during the compression process) back to your mp3/wma. Also, X-Fi CMSS-3D gives a whole new, 3D-surround sound dimension to your existing stereo music. Other audio effects such as EAX reverbs, Smart Volume Management and a 10-band graphic equalizer allows you to enhance your music even more. All essential audio effects and controls are conveniently placed in a central and intuitive console."