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Offline bloom  
#1 Posted : Thursday, 30 October 2008 7:07:49 AM(UTC)
bloom

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Sound Card Testing!

Tested Cards:
- Creative X-Fi Xtremegamer
- Asus Xonar DX
- Asus Xonar D2X
- Creative X-Fi Titanium Fatality
- Auzentech X-Fi Prelude


Please note all these cards were compared by myself and an audiophile friend for music and gaming only. Plenty of statistical reviews out there, this is based on personal audio representation.

Test Rig:
E3110 @ 3.6ghz (E8400 Xeon)
Asus X38 P5E
Axeram 2x1gb 1066mhz
Samsung F1 750gb
Sennheiser HD595
Bower & Wilkins LM1

Audio / Games:
Linn Super Audio Surround Collection Vol 3 Sampler - Classic & Jazz
Studio Master WMA, Bitrate average 3Mbps
BR Quality 100, 96 kHz, 2 channel 24 bit 1-pass VBR

Call of Duty 4
Assassins Creed
Crysis

Creative X-Fi Xtremegamer

Very nice compact, simple design with a black PCB and standard 3.5mm jacks. Don't let its size dismay you this packs a huge punch compared to on board audio as you would expect.

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Pro's:
- Cheap
- Excellent X-Fi technology
- X-Fi boost poor quality audio
- EAX support
- Numerous options for adjustment in Audio Console
- Great sound for mid range headphones and speakers
- Much better than on board
- Stronger bass definition

Con's:
- Reasonable distortion / noise
- Vocals not crisp
- Lacking sense of audio placement, very left/right
- Poor high notes
- Not very lively

This card is definitely more aimed at gaming and rock/metal music where crisp audio is not so necessary, a huge step from on board audio. Overall a great card for its price.

ASUS Xonar DX

Very similar look to the Xtremegamer although has a black I/O plate with gold connectors and uses PCI-E connection. ASUS have been working on their packaging as can be seen :) This does require a 4 pin power connector.

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Pro's:
- Clean audio
- Vibrant range of notes
- Strong dynamic range of notes
- Definitive bass
- Refined 3D direction
- Excellent on mid/high range headphones and speakers
- Better clarity
- Strong impacts for audio highlights
- Quality Vista support

Con's:
- Tiny bit of distortion / noise
- No lights at on I/O face
- High notes lacking definition
- Can be difficult to download drivers (Asus download page having issues with its Xonar range)

Was expecting similar performance to the Xtremegamer with this card and did so in many ways although vocal audio was much more crisp with a strong sense of direction. Despite not having X-Fi technology its gaming performance was excellent, close to on par with the Xtremegamer with cleaner sound from explosions/gunfire/voices. Highly recommend for those looking for better Audio performance than the Xtremegamer whilst keeping great in game sound.

ASUS Xonar D2X

Very sexy sound card! Rear lights so you can easily determine where to plug in cables and around the center circle a soft orange light glows. Full gold I/O plate with gold plated connectors. Also PCI-E connection (Xonar D2 is PCI) and requires a 4 pin power connector. Huge amount of accessories included!

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Pro's:
- Flawless audio
- No audible distortion
- Vibrant range of notes
- Strong depth and audio focus
- Definitive bass
- Uncompromising 3D direction
- Perfect high notes
- Crisp, clean and soothing
- Large amount of audio editing software
- Quality Vista support
- Extensive range of inputs/outputs including cables

[b]Con's:

- As mentioned previously ASUS download service poor
- Expensive
- Only appreciated with Mid/High end headphones or high end speakers

After using the Xonar DX I was doubting how much better the audio quality could get and was blown away by this card. High quality audio became a dream, could close my eyes and believe I was there listening Live. I expected the Xonar's gaming audio performance to be nothing spectacular although once again was very impressed! It recaptured my passion to play Call of Duty 4 with a realistic war zone of sound effects. Everything was extremely vibrant and dynamic making for a new appreciation of gaming audio. I have always been very skeptic of high end sound cards although can understand the price premium for this sound card is well justified in its performance.

Edited by user Thursday, 30 October 2008 7:19:26 AM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

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Offline bloom  
#2 Posted : Thursday, 30 October 2008 7:16:34 AM(UTC)
bloom

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Creative X-Fi Titanium

This card is quite short and of a reasonably light weight. Feels very well build and has a strong titanium shell. Few I/O connectors on the rear, all the standard 3.5mm front jacks including optical in and optical out. Has a cool X-Fi logo when running. Pity no gold shield plate or lighting on the ports but does have legible symbols. Box and accessories are kept simple with manual, booklet, drivers.

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Pro's:
- Clean
- Good bass
- Direction was strong
- Titanium casing
- Glowing logo
- Crisp range of notes
- Simple to use
- Gaming was very clear

Con's:
- Slightly limited dynamic range
- Requires more amplification
- Minor noise audible
- Vocals could be more clear
- High notes not well rounded, quite sharp
- Gaming was lacking effects

In comparison to the Xonar D2X this performed audio quite well, music was clean and well balanced, very pleasant to listen to although lacking the clarity of the Xonar D2X and that extra sense of depth in the notes and background instruments. At first the gaming performance was terrible! Realised I forgot to change to gaming mode which made a huge difference in quality. I can see why these would be popular for strong gamers, it was very clean and definitive. Definitely a less vibrant experience although top gamers prefer to hear the subtle noises of footsteps and gunfire in the distance of which the directional positioning was excellent. Definitely a huge step up from the Xtremegamer.

Auzentech X-Fi Prelude

A longer sound card unlike the Titanium and more like the D2X. Plenty of audio connectivity pins on the PCB although no additional power connector. The gold plated shield is great looking especially with S/PDIF (coax or optical) input and output. The symbols are very hard to read so you need to know by heart where to plug in as also has no 3.5mm jack lights. Lacking accessories with this sound card; just drivers, manual, setup guide and optical cable.

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Pro's:
- Clean
- Crisp audio
- Definitive bass
- Realistic vocals
- Vibrant range of notes
- Good audio directions
- Surreal gaming experience
- Quality vista support

Con's:
- Lacking amplification
- Audio depth could be stronger
- Hard to read I/O jacks
- Green status light flickering (can get annoying)

Comparing the audio of this sound card with the D2X they were very similar. I found the D2X had more depth to specific notes and effects where the Auzentech appeared to trim. As this card doesn't receive additional power I found it was limited to amplification, had my PC near full volume and would certainly run out for those who like their music very loud. The Prelude has a strong bass production which is great for rock/metal. In gaming is where this card really shines, very vibrant audio and effects for an intense experience. Overall I found the D2X slightly more pleasant for audio whilst the Prelude was slightly more exciting in games.

Final Words:

Listening to these sound cards had its ups and down, it made my current audio gear Z2300, PC151's sound extremely poor in comparison. I found myself everyday wishing I was home listening to music as this has been really insightful. Absolutely love the D2X's quality with little/no altering to its bundled software. ASUS's Xonar interface is very stylish and simple to use without an over clutter of options if not required. The Prelude was also a fantastic card for gaming in specific although its audio quality not far off the D2X. In a similar price bracket for a reason, these 2 cards really are excellent and almost a must have for this with high end headphones.

If your serious about gaming and semi/ professional I would recommend the X-Fi titanium strongly, its in game performance was truly exceptional for pin pointing enemy noises without being distracted by background effects.

Do note the Xtremegamer does require its X-Fi technology to be activated as by default is not and will sound very bland. I will very much be upgrading my gear now :D
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Offline DANGERDAN  
#3 Posted : Monday, 3 November 2008 1:20:12 AM(UTC)
DANGERDAN

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Ive seen this review before you must b the guy who works for paul??

you really think the d2x is great is there any tips/settings you could give me for gaming i feel it could inprove i have the d2x ultra and the hd 595 audio center alreaady on gameing profile on 8 channel and 192 KHz

Cheers

Edited by user Monday, 3 November 2008 1:45:51 AM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

Offline bloom  
#4 Posted : Monday, 3 November 2008 4:11:36 AM(UTC)
bloom

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Hey,

I use 96kHz, on headphones and Hi-Fi for music and DS3D GX for gaming. Should sound awesome :)
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Offline DANGERDAN  
#5 Posted : Monday, 3 November 2008 7:08:51 AM(UTC)
DANGERDAN

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WHY ONLY 96 khz??
WHAT ABOUT CHANNEL I HAVE IT ON 8 IS THAT GOOD 4 GAMING AND WHAT DSP MODE SHOULD I HAVE IT ON I ONLY PLAY CRYSIS THANKS AGAIN

Also spdif is not for my setup is it i shouldnt touch that

Edited by user Monday, 3 November 2008 8:22:04 AM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

Offline bloom  
#6 Posted : Monday, 3 November 2008 9:09:42 AM(UTC)
bloom

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Hi,

In reality games audio won't go above 96kHz, sounds never that spectacular.
Xonar console I set it to Hi-Fi only for music and also enable DS3D when gaming (Xonars version of EAX).

Leave it on headphones for input because they're not 8 channel at all. If your using 7.1 speakers you use 8 channel.
Headphone will give it a good balance of stereo + enhancements.
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Offline DANGERDAN  
#7 Posted : Monday, 3 November 2008 9:36:12 AM(UTC)
DANGERDAN

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added a amplifier sounds alright now

Edited by user Tuesday, 18 November 2008 10:43:40 AM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

Offline cronicash  
#8 Posted : Saturday, 3 January 2009 11:03:54 AM(UTC)
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I have the supreme X X-fi card (daughter mobo card). Apparently running EAX 4, I also own the XONAR D2X ULTRA FIDELITY with EAX 2.0 and preffer it.
Offline Rhysmcp  
#9 Posted : Friday, 19 June 2009 3:41:53 AM(UTC)
Rhysmcp

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Thanks for the great reviews

I have a Slight different set up to the normal computer speakers and need a little bit of advice.

Now a Bit of info would help you guys. My current planned computer will be running through a Onkyo 7.1 amp with a pair of Wharfedale floor standing Speakers with matching sub (basically on 2.1 at the moment).
Not sure if I will be running optical or coaxial plug yet, depends on what cables I have sitting around. This was built when I was into PS3 gaming and was too cheap to buy a guitar amp.

Now the question.

Will I see any improvement using an aftermarket sound card with my Onkyo amp?

If so any cards that the good forum people will recommend??

Only down side of using the Onkyo amp only is that if I get a Headset and run it from the case I will have to use the onboard audio. The Mic wouldn’t work if run from amp (I could be wrong thought).

Any other ideas would welcome as well.

Rhys
My build

Core i7 920@3800 | ASUS P6T Intel X58 | Prolimatech Megahalems CPU Cooler with Noctua NF-P12 120mm | Patriot Viper 3x2GB DDR3-1600 8-8-8-24 (6GB Kit) | Corsair 620W HX Modular Power Supply | Seagate Barracuda (500GB) 7200.12 16MB SATA II (Boot) | Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB 32MB 7200rpm SATAII (Storage) | LG 22X Speed Black DVD Writer | Lian-Li Lancool PC-K7B With Custom window | MSI NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX275 TWIN FROZR OC 896MB PCI-E | 3xScythe Slip Stream 120mm Fans (1200rpm) | Scythe Kaze Master Ace 5.25" Bay 4 Channel Fan Controller | Windows 7 Pro 64 bit | Canon 40D and lens | LG W2353V-PF 23" 2ms 1080P Full HD Monitor | M-Audio AV-40 | ASUS XONAR ESSENCE STX | Sennheiser HD595 Audiophile HiFi Stereo Headphones | Zalman High End Clip On Microphone | Logitech G9x Gaming Laser mouse | Razer eXactMat Mouse Pad & Wrist Pad | Cable Management By CL |

Future dreams

Blue ray drive

Old Rig
Dell 1150 laptop @1.3GHZ and 256mb ram, 20gb HDD(can you see why I need to upgrade)
Offline Computerlounge  
#10 Posted : Friday, 19 June 2009 3:55:50 AM(UTC)
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If you going to run a digital pass though signal to your amp then it wont make much difference at all. As it is a digital signal after all, nothing is really going to be processed at a PC level.

Some may argue the quality of connectors will make some difference.

But you can always start at the basic level and work your way up.

Going up to something like an Asus Xonar gives you the neat ability to up source your sound in divx movies to a digital signal so you don't have to screw around with your amp settings for surround sound etc. Makes things more convenient etc.


Edited by user Friday, 19 June 2009 3:56:57 AM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

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Offline feeblecom  
#11 Posted : Friday, 11 February 2011 10:31:21 AM(UTC)
feeblecom

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any chance of getting sum, ASUS Xense Premium Gaming Audio Sets in.Drool
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