Speaking technically, let's start by looking at some specifications.
- RCA Line Out for audio playback up to 122dB, 24-bit/96kHz Digital-to-Analog Converters (DAC)
- RCA Line Input for recording up to 118dB, 24-bit 96kHz Analog-to-Digital Converters (ADC)
- 0.001% Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (THD+N)
- Headphone output for audio listening up to 115dB 33 Ohms, and 117dB, 330 Ohms, at 24bit/96kHz
- Replaceable Op-amps
- Hardware-accelerated 3D positional audio and EAX 5.0 effects that provide a truly immersive experience with headphones and speakers
- Dolby Digital and DTS encoding enables one-step single-cable connection to home entertainment systems
- TOS-link optical-in/out
- 1/8" microphone-in
- 1/8" headphone jack
- Creative Alchemy to restore EAX and surround sound that is otherwise lost in DirectSound game titles running under Windows Vista and Windows 7
- ASIO recording support with latency as low as one millisecond with minimal CPU load
- Works with Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems
On paper this is the most exciting and heavily spec'd Sound Blaster that's been made to date.
The above shots give a look underneath the boards cover unit with the use of many genuine audiophile grade components. Of specific interest in this area are a couple of key component choices that really help to position the Titanium HD amongst the very best out there.
The key role of converting digital data into analog is done by the Burr-Brown PCM1794 made by Texas Instruments. This is a 24bit 192kHz DAC and has been used to great success on many high-end CD players. The choice made here is a vital one, because it affects so heavily the final output sound of the board, and it's pretty clear Creative chose carefully with this one.
Also a very important area of component choice is of course the chipset being used, and in this case it's the CA20K2 (E-MU 20K2), which is a native PCI Express solution and can also be found on the X-Fi Titanium. Also included here is 16MB of onboard RAM to help with system resource draw during gaming sessions.
The final output stage is handled by some gold plated RCA connectors which allow for either analog out to be used, or alternatively the digital in and out, but not both at the same time. Stereo mini jack connectors can also be found to allow for the connection of a Mic or headphones. It's very nice to see this choice being made over the usual pastel colored mini jacks seen previously throughout the line of Sound Blasters.
Another rather interesting feature supported by the Titanium HD is the use of swappable op amps, which can color the sound in certain ways depending on the users needs and wants. We have seen this in the past and do like it a lot in terms of the notion behind it all. The only problem is that the company's never actually included one of these 'other swappable' op amps to test with the board. So by the time we have sent away for one and got it delivered, the article would have gone to print, so to speak.