In need of a pick-me-up to cure those mid-week blues? Here's a three-for-one announcement from Asus, which unveiled a trio of gamer-friendly products at the Consumer Electronics Show, all rolled into a single press release. New items include a dual-band wireless gigabit router (EA-N66), ROG Rampage IV Formula/ThunderFX gaming motherboard, and Xonar Phoebus soundcard set.
Don't try telling Creative Technology that discrete audio is for dinosaurs. Onboard audio has improved leaps and bounds in recent years, but there's still room in the market for add-in soundcards, and Creative will continue to cater to the discrete audio market with its newly announced Sound Blaster Recon3D audio platform.
When we reviewed Asus’s Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim in November 2009, we described it as a necessary evil for home-theater enthusiasts because of its unique ability to send Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio bit streams from a PC’s Blu-ray drive to an A/V receiver over HDMI. By the time you read this review, you should be able to do the same thing with any videocard equipped with a Radeon HD 5000-series GPU. How much value will Auzentech’s premium-priced X-Fi Home Theater HD retain under those circumstances?
The answer depends on how fanatical you are about audio quality. Auzentech’s PCI Express card features Creative’s awesome 20K2 audio processor and all the great software features that go with it, including the X-Fi Crystalizer for music playback, ASIO 2.0 support for audio recording, and EAX 5.0 and OpenAL support for gaming. The onboard Cirrus Logic CS4382 DAC boasts dynamic range of 114dB, and the stereo operational amplifier plugs into a socket, so you can swap out the stock National Semiconductor model for something stronger. There’s an onboard headphone amplifier, and a combo TOSLINK and S/PDIF connector on the mounting bracket, so you can use either optical or coaxial cables for digital audio connections.
Analog audio connections are handled by a D-Sub connector on the mounting bracket. This connector mates to a proprietary analog audio I/O cable with four 1/8-inch stereo line-level outputs, one 1/8-inch MIC input, and one 1/8-inch line input. There’s a 1/8-inch headphone jack on the mounting bracket, too. Internally, the board has an Intel HD Audio–compatible front-panel audio header, plus the proprietary connections to accommodate Creative’s X-Fi Titanium I/O Drive.
I have a problem with my X-Fi Platinum setup. It worked fine on my old Dell 8200, but I recently upgraded my mobo to an EVGA nForce 780i and now the front ports don’t seem to work. What gives? I reinstalled the drivers several times and nothing. The main card works just fine, but the drive bay interface is the whole reason I bought the card in the first place.
There’s no good reason for the existence of Asus’s Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim soundcard, and yet it’s a godsend for those of us who want to hear the high-definition soundtracks on so many of the Hollywood movies released on Blu-ray disc. Blame Microsoft for the contradiction: No one would need a product like this if Vista provided a protected audio path.
After all, this card doesn’t decode Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, nor does it enhance the audio or the video; it just passes the signals through to your A/V receiver. Using the included HDMI cable, the card takes the output from your videocard, re-encrypts the soundtrack so that no one can intercept the bit stream to make a bit-perfect copy, and outputs the encrypted audio and video to a second HDMI port. For those without HDMI, Asus also includes a DVI-to-HDMI cable.
The protected audio path requires a software component, too, so Asus bundles a copy of ArcSoft’s TotalMedia Theatre with the Xonar. Not your favorite media player? Too bad, it’s the only one that’s compatible. For what it’s worth, we don’t have any complaints about the program. There’s nothing objectionable about its user interface; it can handle all the major codecs; and it supports BD-Live, so you can access whatever online content is linked to the movie you’re watching.
There are a few dirty secrets in the tech industry, and one of the best-guarded among them regards multichannel audio—everybody wants multichannel audio but almost no one actually runs the speakers to use it.
Sure, we all cheered when PC audio went from 4.1 to 5.1, and then from 6.1 to 7.1, but who actually runs that many satellites around his or her PC? That’s why Asus’s Xonar Essence STX is a soundcard that’s long overdue. Instead of pushing pointless multi-satellite specs, the Essence STX is aimed at folks who spend more money on a set of headphones than some people put out for an entire surround sound set.
We'll admit that a soundcard isn't the first thing that came to mind when we heard you could order the "Tube Delight" online. But that's exactly what it is, and it's the funkiest USB audio solution we've ever seen.
The portable PC soundcard comes encased in a transparent vacuum tube with a fade-in-out blue LED for power-on and idle status indication. It supports 16-bit 16KHz/32KHz/48KHz recording and playback with both rated at THD+N -73dB and SNR 85dB, and comes with the obligatory 3.5mm headphone and microphone ports.
Hong Kong vendor Brando has the USB soundcard on sale now for $32, which is as cheap as you'll ever find anyone selling anything having to do with a Tube Delight.
On my old Windows XP PC, I used Audacity to record music, etc., from the Internet with great results.
Recently I bought a Dell XPS 420 with Windows Vista 64-bit and now Audacity (or even the PC’s Creative Sound recording software) can’t record any audio. I came across some related forums and tried a couple of suggestions (check disabled items on the Sound properties, etc.), which haven’t worked.
In XP I used the Stereo Mix setting in Audacity but in Vista I don’t have that option. And recording from the mic isn’t an option, either. Is this a Vista “feature”? If so, how can I record audio from the Internet? Vista has grown on me so I’d rather not downgrade to XP.
Tuning and tweaking cars and PCs are two hobbies that are often likened to each other because of the many parallels, and thanks to JC Hyun Systems, the two even share some of the same DNA. That's because the South Korean car audio supplier has just developed the first automobile infotaiment system using Creative's X-Fi technology.
"I believe all motorists seek to enjoy music and videos of the highest quality when traveling in their cars," JC Hyun Systems said. "They expect the same high standards of entertainment experience they enjoy at home, something which most car audio or car infotainment systems in the market have been unable to match so far. By integrating the state-of-the-art Creative X-Fi audio technology to the RUNZ CI-7100, I am confident that we can propel car infotainment enjoyment to the next level and set the standard for next generation systems to come in the near future."
The svelte looking RUNZ CI-7100 Dash-Car Navigation Device comes with a 7-inch display with an 800 x 480 resolution, an Intel dual-core 360/300MHz processor, MMSP2 MPEG video hardware engine, SiRF III GPS chipset, and Creative's X-Fi audio processor with support for CMSS-3D and 24-bit Crystalizer. Other features include an SDHC card slot, Bluetooth, iPod 30-pin socket, USB host, and support for a variety of media formats, including MP3, WMA, OGG, WMV, MPEG4, DIVX, and XVID.
Apogee Digital has begun shipping it's Symphony 64 soundcard worldwide. The PCI Express-based card supports up to 64 channels of 24-bit 192kHz digital input and output, or double the amount of I/O in Apogee's previous Symphony soundcard. Apogee has designed the card to interface the company's X-Series and Rosetta Series converters directly to the Mac Pro, the culmination of which would create The Symphony System, a complete pro audio solution.
Other goodies include Apogee's VBus technology, which gives users the ability to route stand-alone software instruments directly between Core Audio based applications rather than as plug-ins, and the company's SBus technology, which Apogee claims "doubles the DSP power of The Symphony System."
Gamers and PC users (as in, non-Mac owners) need not apply, and that's probably a good thing given the soundcard's $1000 price tag. Ouch!