Closer look at the Recon3D THX PCi Express Card

A few days spent with Creative Sound Blaster Recon3D sound card, and I have realized a couple of things. First and foremost: this is the best sound card ever. To get highest performance levels, you are going to have to cut down on all the whining and have to have some kind of abstinence when it comes to reading negative reviews about the Recon3D.

What’s with the negative reviews about Sound Blaster Recon3D THX sound card?

A couple of reasons that people got trippy when reviewing this sound card can be summed up as lack of knowledge, lack of professionalism and pure lack of patience. When developers at Creative were “creating” this card, they cut down on excess ports and many other things, while maintaining the card’s results at same output levels.

There are people complaining about lack of bass levels, treble and the card’s failure to interpret digital signals. While it is true that you will probably need a DAC (Modi and Fiio preferred), you need to have a high quality surround sound system and optical cables for optimum results. I saw this guy complaining about the ReconHD’s “inability” to stand up to its advertisement because its results were allegedly awful on Bose AE2.

Remote control and DAC comes integrated in the control panel

Seriously dude, if you are going to bitch about a remarkable sound card just because they didn’t make it compatible with lousy 2.1 speakers and Bose AE2s, you need to have your priorities right. Bose AE2 are great headphones, but the ReconHD THX Creative sound card deserves a high end surround sound system.

Creative Sound Blaster Recon3D first impressions:

You can call me a Creative X-Fi purist because I have been using the popular franchise for a very long time now.  Eventually when the company introduced the PCIe Recon3D card with a brand new, never-before-heard-of chipset, I had to give it a shot.

Despite of being a high quality Digital Signal processor, it can also handle high quality audio conversion and other X-Fi suite functionalities like THX TruStudio Pro and Crystalliser.

Creative, as always, has a strong ambition to make sound experience better and better for the gaming and yet, they never fail.  A hard-core gamer will always have a distinct tactical advantage over competition while using a good soundcard. Why do I say this? If you must know, granted that you have a proper setup for the Sound Blaster Recon3D, you’ll hear sounds that you never heard before.

Paul talking to the Prophet in Crysis 3 screenshot

Crysis 3 was an overwhelming experience because I could hear the pitter patter of water drops, wind blowing through lush trees and the kickback effect of the game’s weaponry in a very unique, but equally impeccable way.

Specifications Snapshot for your ready reference

As seen at new egg website

Prior to using the Sound Blaster Recon3D, my rig had the X-Fi Titanium series sound card on it. Alongside the Titanium, I was using the Roccat Kave 5.1 headphones for the sole fact that I knew they’d work perfectly with the X-Fi series. In its own way, the old sound card was a great companion to my leisurely afternoon gaming marathons.

Transitioning to the Recon3D was a different experience. The compact design of this card is very eye catching, especially with the alloy shielding running along the entire outside body. Shielding protects from any kind of electric noises that other components produce and hence giving noise-clear sound output. The card is smaller in size, thinner, lighter and almost four-five inches in length.

Box packaging for Recon3D sound card

What’s in the Box?

  • A very elegant IO drive bay for headphones, line-in and microphone inputs.
  • SoundBlaster BeamForming Microphone
  • Product drivers and applications disc
  • Quick start guide
  • Official Sound Blaster Recon3D Warranty Card

Compared to its predecessors, such as but not limited to:  X-Fi series or ASUS XONAR DG, the Recon3D sounds a lot better. The last few models were more like all rounded cards; good for movies and games but not specifically made to exceed expectations level.

Front panel of this sound card looks awesome

On the contrary, this new card is more of a page turner. In gaming, Recon3D performs really well; better than its previous generation. Scout Mode lets you eaves drop on enemy conversations and incoming clatter of footsteps long before anyone is in sight.

Goods stuff about Sound Blaster Recon3D sound card:

  • Powered by Soundcore 3D chipset: This new technology puts minimum load on the computer’s CPU, whilst handling the actual sound related functions directly through the sound card.
  • BeamForming Microphone: Allows you to hear to crystal background sound without any interruption or humming.
  • Overall amazing sound quality: Good for home theatre systems and gaming with 5.1 surround headphones.
  • Scout-mode: This automatic mode always comes in handy when you need to listen to distant objects.
  • IO drive bay switch for converting headphones to speaker and vice versa. In a nutshell, you don’t have to disconnect your headphones when you need to switch to speakers.
  • Improved software: Far better than previous drivers. It also provides intuitive Sound Blaster Recon3D control panel to PC users.

The bad stuff about this card?

  • Expensive: Costs a lot as compared to same specifications sound cards and sound quality doesn’t justify the price.
  • Not so good headphones Amp: should have put replaceable amplifier as 60USD amp may sound better than this one.
  • No 7.1 surround: Some user may want to hook up 7.1 DTS, sadly this card doesn’t support.

I’d like to go into a few details, because otherwise I won’t be able to shed some light on the drawbacks of this sound card. From a general perspective, the Sound Blaster Recon3D is a marvel to own, i.e. as long as you have the recommended speakers, DAC converter, a decent amplifier and a high quality cable network.

Failure to have the aforementioned products will result in poor ReconHD performance. Some people said that the card touts an exact ¼ second delay between rear and side speakers whenever a movie or game is playing. It happens because of low cable quality and DAC quality. If your sound system is not compatible or delays the sound output levels, try installing a new DAC.

Moving on, you cannot control the native bass and treble levels independently on Sound Blaster Recon3D. An alternative approach is to customize equalizer profiles and use them from next time onward, or an increase in your speaker’s bass/ treble through manual controls on the main unit.

  • Try these settings if you are not getting true 5.1 – 7.1 surround sound on Creative Sound Blaster Recon3D sound card:

Creative Trustudio control panel

You have to make sure that a couple of things are in check. I spent two days beating my head against a wall when it came to getting optimal surround sound experience with the Recon3D. By the way, Creative’s official knowledgebase is not going to help you out. This sound card needs a bit of extra pimping.

  • There is a high probability that you will not see all the options in the Creative Control Panel after installing the Creative Sound Blaster Recon3D. Especially if it is not a new installation, i.e. you just unplugged your old sound card, the new drivers can and will conflict. It will take you multiple attempts to see all options as clickable.
  • Turn off virus protection programs or disable them during installation and download process of drivers.
  • Play around with the Creative control panel settings instead of relying on pre-set options for the recon3D sound card. To get 100% Surround, it makes sense for the rear and side speakers to give Digital Mix output.
  • Disabling Windows “Speakers” through the Windows Sound Control will mess up the Recon3D settings. Both the SPDIF Out and Windows Speaker options need to be enabled, and the speakers have to be set as default listening device in the drop down menu.

Closing thoughts:

Functionality of the card is as good as Creative promises. The card performs well and supports all the technologies up to date. It also sums up all the perks that a medium-to-hard core level gamer would want. If you are a competitive gamer and happen to be looking for a good headphone amplifier, this sound card is definitely worth using.

This sound card also offers all the features that an old X-Fi does. The included microphone works pretty fine. I would not want to waste money on an additional microphone after buying this bundle.

The Head Unit is really impressive and may become the reason of purchase for a lot of users. It allows changing volume, turning ON/OFF THX and microphone volume control disregard of any application being used in PC. So it really comes in handy while one is busy performing another task.

Word from Creative:

Sound Blaster and Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel have once again teamed up to create the ultimate PC gaming audio card. Whether you game on a headset or through desktop speakers you’ll have a distinct tactical advantage over the competition. Massively powerful THX TruStudio Pro audio technologies are powered by the revolutionary SoundCore3D quad-core audio and voice processor delivering incredibly immersive surround sound with pin-point accurate audio placement.