Announced last year was the Creative Sound Core3D audio processors as the long-awaited successor to the Creative X-Fi audio processors. When the Creative X-Fi sound cards were introduced more than a half-decade ago, the Linux support for these sound cards were a big issue. There wasn't any support at first (Microsoft Vista made Creative Labs dupe Linux), Creative then released a binary-only Linux X-Fi driver and to make matters worse was Linux x86_64-only. In the end, Creative's binary Linux X-Fi driver was unmaintainable so they ended up joining the open-source bandwagon.
The open-source Creative X-Fi driver was still quite horrific, but in late 2008 an ALSA X-Fi driver finally came about. Since then, there's been support for the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi products and the support for this driver has continued to improve. However, for the bigger scoop on the X-Fi Linux perspective, see the Creative Labs Continues To Shaft Linux article.
Anyhow, the X-Fi line-up is being done away with for future products and since last May there's Sound Core3D products. The Creative Sound Core3D audio processor was announced last May (the press release). Sound Core3D is quite different from the X-Fi audio that relied upon RISC processors with now the new audio processors relying upon four digital signal processors. The Sound Core3D with its quad DSPs provides features like CrystalVoice, THX TruStudio Pro, and audio toolbox algorithms.
One year after the Creative audio processors first were announced with Microsoft Windows support, there's finally Linux audio support coming from this latest hardware.
Being pulled into the Linux 3.5 kernel will be support for Sound Core3D. As indicated by this ALSA patch, "The controller is compatible with HD-audio 1.0a with some specific restrictions. - The BDLE entries can't be over 4k boundary - No position-buffer and no MSI." As such, for this basic support at least, it comes via just modifying the Intel HDA PCI driver. You're dreaming though if you think this Linux support/patch comes from Creative, but rather it comes from Takashi Iwai -- the prolific Linux audio developer who maintains the kernel sound sub-system upstream and is employed by SUSE.
The patch that was originally published last week adds in the support for the Sound Core3D audio processors with the PCI product IDs of 0x0010 and 0x0012 (the Creative PCI vendor ID is 0x1102). The Sound Core3D is found in new Creative Sound Blaster cards as well as offered to OEMs by Creative.
The two popular sound cards sporting the new audio processor right now is the Creative Sound Blaster Recon3D and Creative Sound Blaster Recon3D Fatal1ty Professional. The Recon3D retails for $100 USD while the "Fatal1ty" model costs an additional $50. Both of the Recon3D Sound Blaster cards are PCI Express based. On the Creative product pages, they only advertise Microsoft Windows 7 support.
It's nice to see that Linux will finally support Creative Sound Core3D hardware when the Linux 3.5 kernel is introduced (the 3.5 sound pull request was sent this morning), but it's unfortunate that it's taken one year to materialize and that Creative remains an unfriendly company towards Linux.