In 2011 Creative introduced the Sound Core 3D audio chip, and recently a new series of Sound Blaster cards was released using that chip. We tested the most high-end ZxR version, which is available for 200-250 euros.
The Sound Core3D first came out as an external audio card, and later also in PCI-Express format. The new chip was far more basic than the EMU20K2, the last version of the chip in the X-Fi product line.
Instead of a completely programmable processor it contains a number of DSPs, AD and DA converters, a headphone amp and the instructions for running it all. It all fits on a smaller chip, covered by a larger cap. When you remove it you can see that it's the same chip used on several motherboards. That's because Creative developed this chip as a quality yet affordable audio solution for OEM partners. For its own sound cards the focus is more on the components surrounding the chip, along with the connectors and extra hardware and software features.