A Fusion of Digital Acoustics
A Fusion of Digital Acoustics
It isn't easy to surpass Creative at their own game where PC audio enhancements are concerned, but Auzentech's radical step of incorporating Creative's X-Fi technology in its aptly named X-Fi Prelude 7.1 sound card does offer gamers and audiophiles another alternative from Creative's market dominance. At the same time, it remain reassuringly familiar, due to the X-Fi chip onboard.
If there's a prize for sound cards to cram as many features onboard as possible, then the X-Fi Prelude easily takes the crown. From Creative's restorative X-Fi components to the swappable LM4562NA Op-Amps for the left and right channels, to the 3-meter TOSLINK optical cable included in its contents, Auzentech has thrown everything but the kitchen sink into this sound card.
Like most of Auzentech's products, two swappable ICs are found, namely the low noise National LM4562 and TI OPA2134 operational amplifiers which, as an added bonus, are both upgradable by the hardcore audiophile. Furthermore, Auzentech has also included two Microtech 32MB PC133 SDRAM chips to help offload system memory and CPU cycles with the decompression of compressed audio signals.
Installation for the Audio Console proceeded smoothly; we only had a slight scare when the device showed a "Code 37" error in Vista's Device Manager. This was easily remedied though by a quick check on Auzentech's website, which revealed that the X-Fi drivers had an issue that was mainly caused by a timeout of the chipset's drivers. Once the patch (X-Fi Prelude-RC5) was applied however, the issues were gone and everything was all fine and dandy once again.
Can You Hear Me?
We tested the the Auzen X-Fi Prelude by using RightMark Audio Analzyer 6.0.6 and found that while the Auzen X-Fi does have a good noise level reading of -94.4 dBA and a decent Total Harmonic Distortion rating of 0.0028, it didn't fare too well for some of the other tests. On a positive note, our own listening tests of the soundcard's features like the X-Fi Crystalizer showed that audio translation to 24-bit quality successfully enhanced bass and treble levels without pushing it to the brink of distortion.
Furthermore, highly compressed tracks like Bruce Springsteen's "Murder Incorporated" packed a greater clout with better bass while leaving the vocal range untouched. Running UT3 with OpenAL enabled also showed that the Auzen X-Fi Prelude's localization ability could probably give the Creative Fatal1ty a good fight.
It's a good thing to know that consumers have a wider range of choices where the higher end soundcards are concerned. With Creative's recent debacle over the issue of driver modding and the cries of boycott raised by unhappy customers, Auzentech's X-FI Prelude 7.1 comes at a time when people are looking for other options. It may not contain an additional IO drive or a remote like the Fatal1ty, but for US$199, it does its job for those who can do without the frills. Entry level sound buffs might also want to consider Auzentech's X-plosion with DTS support, which is offered at a much cheaper price tag of US$99.