Testing was conducted using the Sound Blaster Titanium HD audio hardware on an AMD/ASRock Phenom dual core platform @ 3.00GHz with 2GB DDR3-1333, running Windows 7 Enterprise.
Straight up, we found that the Sound Blaster Titanium HD is truly one of the best, if not the best sounding board we have tested. Build quality is good, although we feel in this area the ASUS Xonar STX wins out by a small margin, and also in some of the choices in capacitors used, although this is fairly academic stuff in the overall wash of things.
The choice of digital to analog converter is a great one also and gives the sound a very mature vibe, which when paired with the Creative proprietary main chipset makes for an engaging audio experience.
Without a shadow of doubt one of the most impressive we have tested in recent memory. The high end has an elevated and sparkling characteristic that sounds fantastic at any volume, and even better when the volume does go up; there is not a hint of fatigue to be felt whatsoever. Symbols and guitar runs were solid and present, while never being a bourdon or requiring a quick run to the EQ.
The high end also had a very controlled nature that seemed to be able to steer everything between the markers of being present, but not overly to the point of detracting, if you get where we are coming from. It was almost as if there was a built-in compressor working away, smoothing things over to make sure that there are never any nasty spikes or deviations occuring that can make the high end sound harsh and unpleasant. Perhaps it's a couple of filtering capacitors on there helping things out; all we know is it really does sound good to the ear.
Our testing of the mid range revealed again quite impressive results with a strong centre defuse point from which to listen outwards, as explained in our last article covering the Corsair HS1 headset. Usually difficult mid range duties such as various different drum transients and the like were handled with ease by the Titanium HD, with our listening tests of a live concert track coming through in nearly full HD (720p) sounding absolutely spot on in terms of that centre frequency as well as really nice contrasting transients going on through the mid.
What we witnessed here was a very detailed and wide soundstage that just has that open relaxed feel that is instantly attractive to the ear and without doubt making anyone who loves music want to keep listening.
The low end is an interesting beast indeed with this new Sound Blaster. And to cut right down to the chase, the only area that we firstly thought could have been more refined, and secondly was in our opinion better on the Xonar Essence STX. Now, the low end is a subjective thing and certain people will enjoy a slightly more excited character to the low end, which is fine. On the positive side of the low end, bass was not at all one notey with plenty of audible changes in bass note coming through our subwoofer and main speakers.
Because this board features full support for the latest iteration of EAX, there is plenty of scope for some top notch game audio, not withstanding that Creative sell a version of this for gamers already. Even so, we see no problems with plugging in some nice headphones and having a gaming session once in a while thanks to EAX handling surround duties. The only issue with external speakers is the lack of analog outputs for rear and side speakers.
The Titanium HD has the potential to be a really good board for some casual movie viewing. However, the only issue with surround is that the lack of analog outputs for the rears requires the signal be sent externally out for decoding, which means that all the Titanium is being utilized for is a 'digital pass-through', which is a little bit of a shame. Otherwise, connect some decent stereo speakers and enjoy! - We would take a nice two channel movie experience any day over a set of cheapie surround speakers, so just enjoy that sound quality for what it is.
There is also the THX suite of different options as well, which can add to the movie experience. However, these would have to be used with a set of headphones. Creative Labs do sell boards for gaming and movies specifically, so bare that in mind please before rushing into any purchases. But if you do these things secondarily to music listening, definitely consider!