Top end sound card mini review


floppybootstomp

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Recently I’ve had occasion to use three top end sound cards from the three major manufacturers – Creative, Asus & Auzentech.

This is a brief summary of what I thought of them.

Here’s the three cards in question:

Asus Xonar D2X pci-e 7.1

Creative X-Fi XtremeGamer Fatal1ty

Auzentech Prelude X-Fi 7.1

A brief explanation of how I came to use all three cards.

I bought the Asus Xonar almost a year ago and was initially extremely pleased with it but then discovered it wouldn’t work with three games – The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion IV; Fallout 3 and Call Of Juarez DX10 patched version.

I tried the card with all games in two separate machines, AMD & Intel and the result was the same in both – Call Of Juarez wouldn’t work at all and the two Bethesda titles crashed and froze after different lengths of playtime, typically about 5 to 10 minutes.

No drivers from Asus solved the problem so I decided to bite the bullet and get a replacement. The Asus Xonar is currently in my media machine where it sounds great but is somewhat wasted as it’s only being used to play back audio and movies on a normal stereo sound system, no games.

After some deliberation I ordered the Creative Fatality with front interface panel from Scan. The card itself worked fine but the front panel didn’t work at all. I rma’d it and at time of writing these cards are not in stock at most online computer parts suppliers, including Scan, so I opted for a refund. As of this time, Monday evening October 12th, I still haven’t had my refund from Scan (they took my money September 15th) but that’s another story.

So, I took a deep breath and ordered the Auzentech, by far the most expensive of the three options and I’ve just played some music, watched part of Batman The Dark Knight and played some CoD5 online and a little Wolfenstein single player using the new Prelude card.

First off, the Asus Xonar D2X pci-e. If this had worked with the two Bethesda games, I’d have stuck with this card. By far the best, warmest overall sound and good looking as well. I liked the fact it used the pci-e bus, the card itself was illuminated and a nice touch was that all the rear sockets were illuminated with coloured led’s to denote their function, red for mic etc.

Apart from incompatibility with some games other moot points were that the enclosed full copy of Win-DVD wasn’t supplied with a serial number and was therefore worthless and the fact that it needed a floppy disk power plug to work. That’s extremely annoying, especially if you use a floppy disk as most modern PSU’s only supply the one floppy connector.

Next up, the Creative Fatality. I can’t comment on the front panel as mine didn’t work. But all it seemed to have of any use as far as I was concerned was a headphone and mic socket and a button to switch to gaming mode instantly. And a volume control for the headphone socket.

Personally I could live without those and if you can too then instead of costing around £155.00 you can pick up the Fatality card on it’s own for around £105.00.

The card looks cool, something like a high tech piece of military equipment and overall sounds great. The Fatality card was the best out of all three for music playback and also uses the pci-e bus.

And lastly the Auzentech. By far the most dull looking but easily the best sound for gaming. Solidly built, gold connectors and a nice touch is that it has an interface for computer case front audio panels, I’m using mine, works fine, although headphones don’t mute the speakers, you have to turn them off manually.

The Auzentech Prelude comes as a very Spartan package, all you get is the card, CD, mini setup leaflet, optical cable and two optical socket plugs. That’s it.

The Auzentech, incidentally, uses what looks to be identical software to the Creative Fatality, which is probably because it uses the Creative X-Fi chipset.

It's worth mentioning that the Auzentech Prelude has now been on the market for three years and uses the pci bus as opposed to it's two competitors using the pci-e bus. I think what bumps up the price - apart from the sound quality itself - is the very solid build construction.

It works well, I’m pleased with it, at last I have me’s a nice high end sound card :)

Whether it justifies a price tag of £150.00 or not only time will tell after I’ve used it a while, it’s mostly just circumstances that led me to this card, I probably would have been quite happy with the Creative Fatality.

When I have described differences between the cards, incidentally, the differences are minimal, every one of these cards is great, in my opinion.

The only really noticeable differences were music with the Fatality and gaming with the Auzentech and even then perhaps I’m being nit-picky.

So there you go, if you’re in the market for one of these I hope my experience with them all has helped you.
 
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Ian

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I'm glad you've finally got a sound card that you're happy with :nod: I know how long you've been plagued by that Xonar problem ;)

I'm still using an old Audigy 2 SE sound card, but it really lacks compared to some of the modern ones. It's better than my current onboard sound card though, so I'll still be using this for a few more years to come.

Thanks for the review Flops :thumb:
 

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