updated 10:40 am EDT, Tue October 3, 2006
Creative has long boasted that its X-Fi technology can not only improve the quality of computer sound, but even restore detail to songs that was lost in digital compression. Its primary limitation has been its accessibility: X-Fi has so far been limited to expansion cards for Windows desktops. Creative's newly released Xmod adapter opens most of the audio improvements to Macs as well as almost any laptop. The USB-based adapter works by upconverting audio to a 24-bit signal before it reaches the speakers, says Creative, and uses a proprietary crystalizer to analyze compression artifacts to repair lost audio quality. The Xmod is also capable of applying virtual surround sound to stereo sources.
Importantly, no drivers need to be installed. Macs using OS X Panther or later as well as Windows XP systems can simply plug the device into their computers and speakers to see an immediate benefit. Music players such as the iPod or Zen series can also plug in by using a special AC adapter and will take advantage of most of the benefits. The Xmod will be available by late October for $80.