Who’d have thunk it? Long considered a dead zone, soundcards are making a resurgence. Driven by an outcry for audio that doesn’t sound like a box of snap, crackle, pop every time you access your USB ports, manufacturers are releasing new soundcards that surpass the free audio that comes with your motherboard. This month, we test an Auzentech card that uses a Creative Labs chip and Asus’s new entry into PC audio.
It used to be that if you wanted the latest Creative audio chip in your PC, there was only one way to get it: buy a Sound Blaster soundcard. That changes with Auzentech’s X-Fi Prelude 7.1 card.
The Prelude packs Creative’s top-end X-Fi DSP along with 64MB of XRAM. Auzentech doesn’t stop with the vaunted X-Fi; the card also sports higher-spec’d digital audio converters and includes both SPDIF and optical I/O ports. An added bonus is the inclusion of a standard AC97 header that allows you to plug in your case’s front-panel jack. Finally!
In a listening test using 24-bit/96kHz audio samples, two editors compared the Prelude to Asus’s Xonar D2 and both preferred Auzentech’s card.
In gaming, the X-Fi Prelude represented well. Its scores were in line with a Creative X-Fi’s, albeit slightly slower. What’s really important, though, is the Prelude’s full support for all of Creative’s proprietary EAX technologies.
X-Fi and HD Audio headers on the card.
Must use Auzentech-provided X-Fi drivers.
X-Fi Prelude 7.1 Analog Mode
Xonar D2 Analog Mode
Xonar D2 Dolby Digital Live
Fear Software Mixing (FPS)
Fear Software Mixing with Advanced EAX on (FPS)
Fear Software Mixing with Advanced EAX off (FPS)
3DMark03 0Sound (FPS)
3DMark03 24 Sound (FPS)
3DMark03 60 Sound (FPS)
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a Windows XP Pro machine using a Core 2 Quad CPU, 2GB of DDR2/800 Corsair RAM, an EVGA 680i SLI motherboard, an EVGA GeForce 8800GTX, and a Western Digital 150GB Raptor.