Overclock.net › Forums › Components › Sound Cards and Computer Audio › Ricsim's guide to computer audio
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Ricsim's guide to computer audio

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
Updated 02/05/2010. Please go to the bottom of this first post for all the links for this guide.

This guide is intended to provide information about any audio needs. I am writing this to inform those who may be on the fence on whether or not to buy a sound card or not, which to buy, etc.

A sound card can be a very confusing purchase, especially for those who are not experienced with computers. I decided to take my knowledge of computer audio and apply it to a guide, I have the hardware and wanted to describe the strengths and weaknesses of each card. This may make it easier for those trying to figure out what is the best sound option for their needs.

I will also include a bunch of information about other audio equipment, such as receivers, speakers, and more. Please see the links at the bottom of this post for the navigation links for me guide.

About me: I play the keyboard and while I do not really consider myself an audiophile, I DO enjoy music and sound and try and get the best components I can afford to play the sound through.

I hook my computer sound up via an analog connection to my Pioneer VSX-1019k receiver. This is a very good receiver, many argue it is one of the best around $500.00 and I would have to agree. If unable to use digital, I use a standard 1/8" miniplug to RCA connector to run my sound through my receiver. My receiver is capable of louder and more accurate sound than any PC speakers (I should know, I have owned many sets and have always ended up selling them).

I do still have a set of Klipsch Promedia 2.1 that I refuse to part with, they are still my favorite set of computer speakers and the only ones I have found that initially rivaled many home stereo systems I have heard. They have the right combination of clear highs, good mids, and excellent bass. They are easily capable of shaking a room too. They will also be used for this performance test.

For speakers, I have a decent setup but I did not spend thousands on my speakers (you do not need to). My speakers are well balanced, work well together, and sound amazing in my 10x12 ft. computer room.

All Polk Audio with a 5.1 setup
Fronts: 2x Monitor 70
Center: 1x CS2
Surround: 2x Monitor 30
Subwoofer: 1x DSW 400

Your sound is only as good as the components you run them through, and these speakers along with the receiver deliver. This setup is likely to exceed the performance of most setups people are using, so it is a good way to really test the mettle of these sound cards and see what the results are.

For sound cards, I have owned many and tested many with this same sound setup. Here are the ones I have owned. I consider myself pretty experienced:
  • Creative Labs Sound Blaster (original)
  • Logitech Soundman 16
  • Creative labs SB-16
  • Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live (original)
  • Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy
  • Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2
  • Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 4
  • Turtle Beach Montego Dolby Digital Live
  • Asus A8N-SLI built in audio (Realtek AC '97)
  • Sound Blaster X-FI Extememusic (original)
  • Blue Gears B-Enspirer (Oxygen chipset)
  • Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Fatality Edition (PCI-Express)
  • DFI Lanpaty Onboard audio (Realtek AC '97)
  • Asus P6T Deluxe Onboard audio (ADI SoundMax 2000b chipset) with Sonic Focus
  • Asus Xonar DX PCI-Express (High end Oxygen with AV100 name)

As you can see, I have owned and used LOTS of different audio cards, I was a long time fan of Sound Blaster, but we will get to that soon.

Now, for all tests, let me run down exactly what I used for each one. I tested the sound card's analog and digital output. I wanted to see if one was superior to the other. I tested them with both Prologic II 5.1 sound and with 7 Stereo mode (Pioneer feature, allows all 5 speakers to provide stereo sound). I calibrated the speakers using the mic and manually tweaked some settings. Crossover is set at 80.

Computer used for these tests:

Antec 1200 Case
Asus P6T Deluxe Motherboard
Intel Core i7 920 C0 at 3.8 Ghz (21x 183) with 1.275 volts CPU
OCZ Platinum triple channel 6 Gigs of memory DDR3 1600
Western Digital Black 640 GB (OS Drive)
Seagate 500 GB
Corsair 850 Watt Power supply (TX 850)

Please note: I used no brand bias, and no sound solution is going to be perfect for everyone. I just noted every good and bad thing that could be said on the card, based on my testing and experience.

Ok, well now you know what I am using, lets get down to the tests, shall we?

Note: All sound cards are using the latest Windows 7 drivers available from the manufacturer's website.

Guide Links:

For test 1: Realtek AC '97 (onboard sound)
For test 2: Sound Blaster Audigy 2
For test 3: Sound Blaster X-fi Titanium Fatality Edition
For test 4: Bluegears B-Enspirer
For test 5: Asus Xonar DX
For test 6: ADI Soundmax 2000B (onboard sound)

Sound card buying advice
Receiver buying advice: Comparison of brands, what to buy, etc.
Use your video card as a HDMI sound device
Edited by ricsim78 - 2/5/10 at 11:13am
     
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
486DX Some Intel 3d Rage baby! 4 Megabytes (Main RAM) 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSKeyboard
20 GB Maxtor (massive!) Some Day Windows 3.1 Matches case, yellowing 
PowerCaseMouseMouse Pad
250 Watts of awesomeness Yellowing IBM Clunker Dirty trackball IBM Cheap but good 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
  hide details  
Reply
     
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
486DX Some Intel 3d Rage baby! 4 Megabytes (Main RAM) 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSKeyboard
20 GB Maxtor (massive!) Some Day Windows 3.1 Matches case, yellowing 
PowerCaseMouseMouse Pad
250 Watts of awesomeness Yellowing IBM Clunker Dirty trackball IBM Cheap but good 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
  hide details  
Reply
post #2 of 40
Thread Starter 
Realtek AC '97 onboard audio

Price paid: Motherboard audio (motherboard was $169.99 at the time I purchased it).

I chose this first because according to specs, this is the weakest and should provide us with a good baseline for subjective testing. I had to use an older Athlon 3500+ Asus A8N-SLI Motherboard with this test because of course I am unable to move it to my computer. That would make no difference, anyhow.

I am quite sure many people are using this (or a variation of it at least). If you have a slightly older motherboard, chances are you are using a Realtek AC '97. Lets look at the technical specs:

* Single-chip AC'97 Rev 2.2 compatible codec
o 16-bit DAC SNR 90dB, THD+N -85dB
o 16-bit ADC SNR 85dB, THD+N -80dB
o Supports all WinCE variable rates (8kHz, 11.025kHz, 16kHz, 22.05kHz, 24kHz, 32kHz, 44.1kHz, 48kHz)
* One analog stereo input (LINE-IN)
* One analog MONO single-ended or differential input (PHONE and PHONEN input)
* Stereo, single-ended MONO, or differential analog microphone inputs, with boost pre-amplifiers (+20/+30/+40dB)
* BTL (Bridge-Tied Load) Max. output with on-chip 1W speaker driver (SPKVDD=5V, 8W load)
* Stereo headphone output with on-chip 45mW headphone driver (HPVDD=3.3V, 16W load)
* 25mW SE or 75mW BTL MONO output support (AVDD=3.3V, 32W load)
* Microphone switch detection
* Power management and enhanced power saving
* Supports digital 5 band equalizer (EQ)
* Supports digital spatial sound and pseudo stereo effect
* Supports pop noise suppression
* nternal PLL can receive wide range of clock input (Digital IO power > 2.3V)
* Digital power supplies from 1.8V to 3.6V, speaker amplifier power supplies from 2.3V to 5V
* Analog power, headphone power, and touch panel power supplies from 2.3V to 3.6V
* Resistive touch panel interface
o Supports 4-wire panel
o X, Y axis and pressure measurement
o 12-bit resolution AUX_ADC for battery measurement, DNL<±1 LSB, INL<±2 LSBs
o Supports pen-down detection in power down mode
* 48-pin QFN package

Those specs are directly from the manufacturer's web site.

I got two other people with me, my friend and my cousin. We are going to sit, listen, and give subjective opinions on the sound through 3 different devices:

Receiver with analog connection
Receiver with digital (Toslink) and Coax (if able to)
Klipsch Promedia 2.1 computer speakers with the sub at recommended point from manufacturer.


I will test all 3 using 3 different songs, (one CD, 2 MP3), 2 games (Unreal Tournament 3 and Crysis), and 2 movies (Lord of The Rings: Return of the King (DVD) and Terminator 2 Blu-Ray).

I am using XMPlay with WASAPI output on Windows 7 64-Bit. I am using 24-Bit 48,000 Khz output.

Songs: Bring Me to Life by Evanescence, In The Club by 50 Cent, and (CD song) Ship of Fools by Robert Plant. This is a decent mix of varying styles.

Receiver with analog output: Sound output is pretty low, even cranked to the max. The overall sound is pretty decent, yet more tinny sounding than any of the other sound solutions. Messing with the control panel and it's limited options (EQ) makes it sound slightly better, but we all felt that this was easily the weakest sound solution. The treble is good, bass is muddy, and mids are hollow sounding overall.

Receiver with digital output: Slightly louder with clearer vocals and noticeably better stereo reproduction. Even with these added nuances, the sound is even more tinny and very non dynamic sounding. We thought it sounded better than the analog but overall "lacking feeling" as my friend put it. The sound is not warm and is unlikely to "wow" anyone. The treble is good, bass is muddy, and mids are hollow sounding overall.

Klipsch Promedia 2.1 (Analog) Highs are ok, mid and bass are both lacking excitement at all. No where near the sound of the reciever, but still decent sounding. Basically the same results as the receiver, tinny and not that warm. Bass is boomy rather than clear and tight.

Best sound quality:
Ship of Fools by Robert Plant (fairly clear with decent dynamics)
Worst sound quality: In The Club by 50 Cent (too boomy, vocal/music mix muddy)


Game sound quality EAX only capable of up to 2.0 (may effect game performance)

Unreal Tournament 3: With an electronic/techno soundtrack and booming gun shots and explosions, it makes for a great game to test the quality of the sound card in a gaming setting.

Crysis: With a very movie like soundtrack and decent explosions and voiceovers, Crysis offers a decent mix of movie sound with realistic explosions and gun shots.

Receiver with analog output: Both games sound pretty good, little tinny compared to other sound devices used in all of these tests. Volume is relatively low, even maxxed out. Explosions are more boomy, but still sound realistic and the performance is pretty good. The music in these games was difficult to get a good mix of music volume as opposed to sound effects volume. The music reproduction fared worse than the sound effects, lacking dynamics though still decent. Nothing special.

Receiver with digital output: Harder to tell the difference when gaming rather than listening to pure music. Little more dynamic, louder, and crisp sounding than the analog.

Klipsch Promedia 2.1 (Analog) Actually sounded pretty good, with the right mix of highs, lows, and mids. Sound effects still more muddy and boomy.


Movie Performance:


Receiver with analog output: Sound output is pretty low, even cranked to the max. The overall sound is pretty decent, yet more tinny sounding than any of the other sound solutions. Battles in Lord of The Rings sounded fairly impressive, but not as loud or clear as other sound solutions.

Receiver with digital output: Slightly louder with clearer vocals and noticeably better stereo reproduction. Even with these added nuances, the sound is even more tinny and very non dynamic sounding. Battles sounded slightly more dynamic yet voices sounded tinny and the overall mix bland.

Klipsch Promedia 2.1 (Analog) Highs are ok, mid and bass are both lacking excitement at all. No where near the sound of the reciever, but still decent sounding. Basically the same results as the receiver, tinny and not that warm. Bass is boomy rather than clear and tight.

Better than: None
Beat By: All

Analog Performance: Slightly More Dynamic
Digital Performance: Better stereo separation, louder, superior overall to analog.
Recommended: Use Digital if possible.

Music performance: 2.5 of 5
Game performance: 3 of 5
Movie Performance: 3 of 5
Score: 8.5 of 15

Best suited for: Those who want basic sound, or have low quality speakers.

Recommended: Get a sound card

Final thoughts: The higher performance of the receiver did a better job of showing the weaknesses of the card. The control panel is very easy and straightforward to use, but does not offer many ways to tweak the card. The EQ is decent and allows you to fine tune the audio. In short, it works but almost any modern card would be better.

If you have older or inexpensive computer speakers, you would be hard pressed to tell a sound difference anyhow. A good pair of headphones would also show the weaknesses compared to a dedicated sound card as well. I mean, this is old and over time, onboard sound has gone from bad, to ok, to decent, to pretty darn exceptional. Still, was fun to throw this in here for a comparison.

That is it for today, tomorrow I will be doing the same tests with a very popular sound card: Sound Blaster Audigy 2
Edited by ricsim78 - 2/5/10 at 11:19am
     
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
486DX Some Intel 3d Rage baby! 4 Megabytes (Main RAM) 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSKeyboard
20 GB Maxtor (massive!) Some Day Windows 3.1 Matches case, yellowing 
PowerCaseMouseMouse Pad
250 Watts of awesomeness Yellowing IBM Clunker Dirty trackball IBM Cheap but good 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
  hide details  
Reply
     
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
486DX Some Intel 3d Rage baby! 4 Megabytes (Main RAM) 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSKeyboard
20 GB Maxtor (massive!) Some Day Windows 3.1 Matches case, yellowing 
PowerCaseMouseMouse Pad
250 Watts of awesomeness Yellowing IBM Clunker Dirty trackball IBM Cheap but good 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
  hide details  
Reply
post #3 of 40
Thread Starter 
Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2

Price paid: $99.99 at time of purchase

An old but good sound card, Audigy 2 has long been a standard by which many cards are judged. Predecessor to the X-fi, the Audigy 2 was long considered THE sound card to get compared to onboard and any sound card out at the time.


Technical specs:
High Definition Audio Quality for Playback & Recording

24-bit Digital-to-Analog conversion during playback with sampling rates of 8, 11.025, 16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, 48 & 96kHz in 6.1 mode & up to 192kHz in stereo mode.

24-bit Analog-to-Digital conversion during recording in 8, 16 or 24-bit at sampling rates of 8, 11.025, 16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, 48 & 96kHz.

SPDIF output up to 24-bit at 48 or 96kHz.

ASIO drivers for low latency (as low as 2ms) multi-track playback & recording at 16-bit/48kHz.


Advanced Audio & 3D Audio Technology

Dolby Digital audio decoding to 5.1 (digital or analog modes) or Dolby Digital EX decoding to 6.1 (analog mode only) speaker channels.

Hardware acceleration of EAX & EAX Advanced HD for games.

32-bit Professional Quality Effects Engine with support for real-time digital effects like reverb & chorus across any audio source.

Wave-Table Synthesis & MIDI Features

Creative Hardware synthesizer (2x16 Channels) with 64-voice polyphony featuring E-MU's patented 8-point interpolation technology for accurate sample reproduction.

Creative Software synthesizer - multi timbral wave-table (16 Channels).

Sound Blaster Audigy On-Board Connectors

Line level out (Front/ Rear/ Centre/ Subwoofer/Rear Centre).

Digital Out for 5.1 support.

Sound Blaster Audigy Audio Performance

Signal-to-Noise Ratio (AES17, A-Weighted) Rated Output 2V:1V.

Stereo Output = 106dB: 102dB.

Front & Rear Channels = 106dB: 102dB.

Centre, Subwoofer & Rear Centre =~90dB ~86dB.

Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise at 1kHz (AES17) = 0.004% (1V, 2V Rated Output).

Frequency Response = <10Hz to 46kHz (1V, 2V Rated Output).

(+/-3dB, 24-bit/96kHz input)

Those specs are directly from the manufacturer's web site. I got two other people with me, my friend and my cousin. We are going to set and listen and give subjective opinions on the sound through 3 different devices:

Receiver with analog connection
Receiver with digital (Toslink) and Coax (if able to)
Klipsch Promedia 2.1 computer speakers with the sub at recommended point from manufacturer.


I will test all 3 using 3 different songs, (one CD, 2 MP3), 2 games (Unreal Tournament 3 and Crysis), and 2 movies (Lord of The Rings: Return of the King (DVD) and Terminator 2 Blu-Ray).

I am using XMPlay with WASAPI output on Windows 7 64-Bit with 24-Bit 48,000 Khz output.

Songs: Bring Me to Life by Evanescence, In The Club by 50 Cent, and (CD song) Ship of Fools by Robert Plant. This is a decent mix of varying styles.

Receiver with analog output: Sounds very clear, the flat frequency response helps the sound, the output is well balanced and clear. Fairly accurate production and leagues ahead of the Realtek AC '97

Receiver with digital output: Not available

Klipsch Promedia 2.1 (Analog):
Very good sound yet again, everything is clear and stereo seperation is solid.

Best sound quality: In The Club
Worst sound quality: Bring Me to Life.


Game sound quality:


Unreal Tournament 3: With an electronic/techno soundtrack and booming gun shots and explosions, it makes for a great game to test the quality of the sound card in a gaming setting.

Crysis: With a very movie like soundtrack and decent explosions and voiceovers, Crysis offers a decent mix of movie sound with realistic explosions and gun shots.

Receiver with analog output: Games sound amazing on this card. Everything sound good and the positional audio is good. Surround sound sounds amazing.

Receiver with digital output: Not Available

Klipsch Promedia 2.1: Very good performance, with the right mix of highs, mids, and lows.


Movie Performance:

Receiver with analog output:
Not quite as stellar as the music and gaming ability of the card. Movie sound is good, yet seems to be "Blah" (as my cousin put it, matter of factly). Still, much improved over the Realtek Ac '97 and sounds pleasing; booming sounds, voices clear, and mids are good.

Receiver with digital output: Not Available

Klipsch Promedia 2.1: Overall sound is crisp and clear, harder to tell the imperfections yet again.

Better than:
Realtek AC '97
Beat By: Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-fi, ADI Soundmax 2000B, Asus Xonar DX, Bluegears B-Enspirer (for music and movies only).

Analog Performance: Only option.
Digital Performance: Not available
Recommended: No choice! Use Analog or buy breakout box.

Music performance: 4 of 5
Game performance: 5 of 5
Movie Performance: 3.5 of 5
Score: 12.5 of 15

Best suited for: Those who are on a budget, do not mind the absence of the Digital Toslink or Coax ports, or who want to get something that is good for games.

Recommended: For games mostly, music is good too.

Final thoughts: The lack of a coax or Toslink port stinks, you are forced to use analog or purchase the breakout box from Creative Labs (platinum edition comes with it and has slightly better specs as well, but hard to find and usually expensive nowadays).

Creative Labs usually makes good sound cards, but their drivers are absolutely terrible. They are bloated, want to install a ton of things that slow down your startup, and are known to be problematic. In fact, Creative is notorious for stopping support on older products, likely to cause you to go out and buy a newer card. Other manufacturers seem to have no problem, for some reason. Still, lots of tweaking options to tailor the sound to your needs.

That is it for today, tomorrow I will be doing the same tests with another popular sound card: Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-fi (Continued on Post #7)
Edited by ricsim78 - 1/9/10 at 7:31pm
     
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
486DX Some Intel 3d Rage baby! 4 Megabytes (Main RAM) 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSKeyboard
20 GB Maxtor (massive!) Some Day Windows 3.1 Matches case, yellowing 
PowerCaseMouseMouse Pad
250 Watts of awesomeness Yellowing IBM Clunker Dirty trackball IBM Cheap but good 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
  hide details  
Reply
     
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
486DX Some Intel 3d Rage baby! 4 Megabytes (Main RAM) 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSKeyboard
20 GB Maxtor (massive!) Some Day Windows 3.1 Matches case, yellowing 
PowerCaseMouseMouse Pad
250 Watts of awesomeness Yellowing IBM Clunker Dirty trackball IBM Cheap but good 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
  hide details  
Reply
post #4 of 40
Good stuff +rep
sound and fury
(13 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7 920 d0 @ 4.2 EVGA x58 SLI LE EVGA GTX 285 1gb OCZ Gold 6GB (3 x 2GB) DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSMonitor
Western Digital Caviar Black 640gb 7200rpm Liteon DVD R+ Vista Home Basic 64 Bit LG 37" 1080p Samsung 22" HP 17" 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Logitech G11 Antec True Power 1000w Antec 1200 Logitech G5 
Mouse Pad
Sheet Metal! 
  hide details  
Reply
sound and fury
(13 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7 920 d0 @ 4.2 EVGA x58 SLI LE EVGA GTX 285 1gb OCZ Gold 6GB (3 x 2GB) DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSMonitor
Western Digital Caviar Black 640gb 7200rpm Liteon DVD R+ Vista Home Basic 64 Bit LG 37" 1080p Samsung 22" HP 17" 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Logitech G11 Antec True Power 1000w Antec 1200 Logitech G5 
Mouse Pad
Sheet Metal! 
  hide details  
Reply
post #5 of 40
im still using my audigy 2 i had for years. i cant see spending a lot of money on a sound card and hooking them up to a plastic speaker (computer speakers). if you had a nice reciever or amp/preamp setup with real speakers and good speaker cables then its worth it . when im ready to listen to music i have a $8,000.00 set up. so sweet!
post #6 of 40
Thanks for the input, great info here. I added a link to the essential thread stickey
Darkness
(14 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Q6600 G0 Gigabye GA-EP45-UD3P EVGA GTX660 8GB G.Skill PK 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSMonitor
WD 640GB & Samsung F1 750Gb LG BD & HD Windows 8 Pro x64 HP w2207 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
FILCO FKBN87M/NPEK Enermax Modu82+ 525w CM 690 Logitech G9x 
Mouse PadAudio
Razor Destructor ODAC 
  hide details  
Reply
Darkness
(14 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Q6600 G0 Gigabye GA-EP45-UD3P EVGA GTX660 8GB G.Skill PK 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSMonitor
WD 640GB & Samsung F1 750Gb LG BD & HD Windows 8 Pro x64 HP w2207 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
FILCO FKBN87M/NPEK Enermax Modu82+ 525w CM 690 Logitech G9x 
Mouse PadAudio
Razor Destructor ODAC 
  hide details  
Reply
post #7 of 40
Thread Starter 
Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-fi (Titanium Fatality Edition)

Price paid: $139.99

Well, we already reviewed it's predecessor, the Audigy 2. How does the X-fi stand up? Is it REALLY THE ultimate sound card? This is the PCI Express Sound Blaster Titanium Fatality Platinum Super Duper Awesome Amazing edition! (Say that 3 times fast!)


Technical specs:
24-bit Analog-to-Digital conversion of analog inputs: 96kHz sampling rate
24-bit Digital-to-Analog conversion of digital sources: 96khz to analog 7.1 speaker output
24-bit Digital-to-Analog conversion of stereo digital sources: 192kHz to stereo output
16-bit to 24-bit recording sampling rates: 8, 11.025, 16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, 48 and 96kHz
ASIO 2.0 support: 16-bit/44.1kHz, 16-bit/48kHz, 24-bit/44.1kHz, 24-bit/48kHz and 24-bit/96kHz with direct monitoring
Enhanced SoundFont support: Up to 24-bit resolution
Audio Performance (Rated Output @ 2Vrms, Typical Value)
Signal-to-Noise Ratio (20kHz Low-pass filter, A-Weighted): Stereo Output: 109dB
Front and Rear Channels: 109dB
Center, Subwoofer and Side Channels: 109dB
Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise at 1kHz (20kHz Low-pass filter): 0.004%
Frequency Response (-3dB, 24-bit/96kHz input ): <10Hz to 46kHz
Frequency Response (-3dB, 24-bit/192kHz input): <10Hz to 88kHz (Stereo only)
Connectivity
FlexiJack: 3-in-1 function (Digital I/O1 / Line In / Microphone) via 3.50mm mini jack
Line level out (Front / Rear / Side / Center / Subwoofer): 3.50mm mini jacks
AUX_IN line-level analog input: 4-pin Molex connector on card
One AD_Link (26 pin) connector: For linking to the X-Fi I/O Console (upgrade option)


Those specs are directly from the manufacturer's site. This card also is superior to most other X-fi cards, as far as specs and components used (at least on paper). Though a very cool looking sound card (personally it is my favorite as far as looks), the EMI shield has been proven to be more for looks than performance.

I got two other people with me, my friend and my cousin. We are going to sit and listen, giving subjective opinions on the sound through 3 different devices:

Receiver with analog connection
Receiver with digital (Toslink) and Coax (if able to)
Klipsch Promedia 2.1 computer speakers with the sub at recommended point from manufacturer.


I will test all 3 using 3 different songs, (one CD, 2 MP3), 2 games (Unreal Tournament 3 and Crysis), and 2 movies (Lord of The Rings: Return of the King (DVD) and Terminator 2 Blu-Ray).

I am using XMPlay with WASAPI output on Windows 7 64-Bit with 24-Bit 48,000 Khz output.

Songs: Bring Me to Life by Evanescence, In The Club by 50 Cent, and (CD song) Ship of Fools by Robert Plant. This is a decent mix of varying styles.

Receiver with analog output:
Sounds very clear, the flat frequency response helps the sound, the output is well balanced and clear. Without audio enhancements, it actually sounds identical to the Audigy 2 (surprising maybe?) The "24-Bit Crystalizer" does make things sound better, but then the bass is a little boomy-sounding. Overall, sounds very good. X-fi sound does have a notorious reputation for vocal bias, this card is no exception. Vocals are a lot more prominent than the music in sounds.

Receiver with digital output:
Woah (insert Keanu Reeves soundclip here). This sounds like I hooked the Realtek AC '97 back up! What happened to the sound? Much quieter, pretty lame sounding (even with enhancements). Proof positive that there is (much) better quality components on the Analog side than the digital. Without Digital, you cannot use DTS or Dolby Digital Live Enhancements. I would rather use Analog though it stinks not having DDL or DTS!

Klipsch Promedia 2.1 (Analog): Very good sounding yet again, everything is clear and stereo separation is solid. Crystalizer does sound better, but only at low settings (around 5-15%) Anything more and it gets too boomy.

Best sound quality (With Crystalizer Enabled): Bring Me to Life
Best sound quality: In The Club
Worst sound quality (With Crystalizer Enabled): In The Club
Worst sound quality: Bring Me to Life.
(ironic, no?)

Game sound quality:

Unreal Tournament 3:
With an electronic/techno soundtrack and booming gun shots and explosions, it makes for a great game to test the quality of the sound card in a gaming setting.

Crysis: With a very movie like soundtrack and decent explosions and voiceovers, Crysis offers a decent mix of movie sound with realistic explosions and gun shots.

Receiver with analog output: Games sound amazing on this card. Everything sounds good and the positional audio is good. Surround sound sounds amazing. It is a Sound Blaster, developers usually go out of the way to make games work best with their cards. For this, the X-fi is spectacular and easily it's biggest strength. The positional audio is awesome and can actually help you in FPS games where it is important to know where the other players are.

Receiver with digital output: (Insert previous Keanu Reeves "Woah" sound clip again) I must have accidentally hooked the AC '97 back up again! (Who the hell brought that old clunker computer back in here?) So, in essence: enjoy awesome sound quality with the analog and sacrifice DTS and Dolby Digital Live (which really stinks when games like Street Fighter 4 and Devil May Cry 4 that use DDL), or use digital and make your ears bleed but enable DDL and DTS! Even the good DAC in my receiver with sound retriever enabled cannot save the sound. More compromise.

Klipsch Promedia 2.1:
Very good performance, with the right mix of highs, mids, and lows. With Crystalizer, gets a little boomy but sounds a bit better. Use low % and you should be fine.


Movie Performance:

Receiver with analog output: Not quite as stellar as the music and gaming ability of the card. Movie sound is good, yet seems to be "Blah" (as my cousin put it, matter of factly). Still, much improved over the Realtek AC '97 and sounds pleasing; booming sounds, voices clear, and mids are good. Exactly the same as Audigy 2 without Crystalizer, with it sounds a bit better and more dynamic.

Receiver with digital output: Need I insert another "Woah"? Same as before...'nuff said

Klipsch Promedia 2.1: Overall sound is crisp and clear, harder to tell the imperfections yet again.

Better than: Realtek AC '97, Audigy 2 (with Crystalizer)
Equal to: Audigy 2 without Crystalizer, Bluegears B-Enspirer (music and movies sounds better on the Bgears, games sound worse).
Beat By: ADI Soundmax 2000B, Asus Xonar DX
Analog Performance: Awesome and preferred
Digital Performance: DDL and DTS are awesome, but might as well use an AC '97
Recommended: No brainer! Use Analog or make your ears beg for mercy!

Music performance: (Analog) 4 of 5
Music performance: (Digital) 2.5
Music performance: (Crystalizer) 4.3 of 5
Game performance: (Analog) 5 of 5
Game performance: (Digital) 4 of 5
Game performance: (Crystalizer) 5 of 5
Movie performance: (Analog) 4 of 5
Movie performance: (Digital) 3 of 5
Movie performance: (Crystalizer) 4.2 of 5

Score: (Analog) 13 of 15
Score: (Digital) 9.5 of 15
Score: (Crystalizer) 13.5 of 15


Best suited for: Games with decent all around performance (unless you have a receiver and plan to use Toslink. If so, use another card!) No coax option available.

Recommended: One of the best choices for games with decent music and movie performance. For those who can live without DDL and DTS Encoding and use analog. For those still using Windows XP.

Final thoughts: The horrible digital performance was a huge shock to me. Even hooked up to the decently expensive receiver and speakers, justice was not served by the digital. It sounds like a totally different sound card on the analog side. Actually, to say it better, it sounds like a totally cheap and generic sound card on the digital output!

Creative Labs is still having hard times with the drivers for their cards, apparently. Congratulations! They have the distinction of being the ONLY piece of hardware that has caused my Windows 7 to have a Blue Screen of Death! I went to change from Entertainment to Game Mode and my screen turned blue! It is like their driver makers are so in love with XP that they have NO CLUE how to deal with the different audio stack of Vista and 7. They also blamed Microsoft for disabling features on their audio cards, yet a lone person named Daniel K was able to do what Creative Labs could not: Enable all features and make older cards like the Live work in Vista or 7, with full features enabled. They then threatened to sue him, I think they should have employed him!

The X-fi is and will continue to be an extremely popular sound card. There is like 100 different versions, even some impostors which are not even true X-fi cards! If it costs less than $60.00 new, it's probably not a true X-fi.

The control panel offers tons of different ways to tailor the sound, perhaps more than any other card. I am no fan of the mode switcher, because to me I feel I have to compromise benefits to enjoy others. All the other cards have everything work without the need to compromise. Even worse, the mode switcher can cause lots of problems in Windows XP, even more in Vista and 7.

They did learn from their past mistakes in one way; there is only a few start-up entries and for the most part, all of them can prove useful. Their drivers are still bloated and still point out the difficulties Creative Labs has continued to have with Vista and 7. If you have an older computer, likely the drivers and amount of bloat will cause the computer to slow down a bit. Still, some interesting questions to ask:

1. How come other manufacturers have seemed to have no such problems getting their cards to work? Even if it took a few months, functionality was fully restored. We are talking even cards that are cheap and poor quality! Even companies like Asus, who are newer to the sound card market, (meaning less experienced) got everything working. Funny how?

2. How come no one else has to have so much stuff just to run a sound card? Yes you do not have to install everything, but then you are not using the card's features (to me, if I pay over $20.00 on something, if it says it can do things on the box...that is what I expect it to do!)

3. How come Daniel K, a lone guy that got no paycheck for doing his work, was able to do what a well paid TEAM of software writers could not do?

Interesting stuff, yet still the X-fi has many fans. I am sure the game performance, availability of the cards, and the fact even games advertise the X-fi has a lot to do with the amount of fans. For me, unless they get their act together, a Creative Labs product will never reside in any computer I own and I will not recommend them. Pity, because the hardware is very good and game performance is top-notch.

For people who are on the fence about this card, I have to say if you have an Audigy 2, there is no real compelling reason to upgrade to an X-fi (unless you really need a mode switcher, EAX 5.0, or Crystallzer). You then have to ask yourself if it is worth compromising the stability of your computer to run an X-fi? Maybe some will get lucky and have no problems, but I think those people are rare compared to those who do. Most of those users are still using XP as well.

Lastly, try completely removing the X-fi software! Your hard drive and registry will have leftover garbage all over the place. You will need to use either the free Revo Uninstaller, or a driver cleaner program. Sometimes this will not even remove everything!

In conclusion, despite the driver problems, the Xfi is a decent performer. The audio processor is quite dated nowadays, but still immensely powerful. Unfortunately, the X-fi sounds great....until you listen to a C-media card or especially an Asus Xonar card. Going back to the X-fi after that will make the X-fi sound lifeless and mediocre. The OPAMPS and components used are of low quality compared to most modern, good quality sound cards.

Oh, want X-fi level game performance with better components, drivers, and PCI Express? Get the Auzentech X-fi Forte. You can even upgrade the OP AMPS (which are already better than the OPAMPS on this card) to tailor the sound to your liking. The cost is around the same as this card. I would highly recommend the Forte, Auzentech is amazing and the sound is exceptional. The Auzentech X-fi Prelude is better as well, with even better components than the Forte. But, it is older and PCI only, so may be hindrance for some with modern systems. The Forte is a better choice for a HTPC.

That is it for today; tomorrow stay tuned for a sound card with one of the best Oxygen chipsets, the Bluegears B-Enspirer. (Continued Post #9)
Edited by ricsim78 - 1/9/10 at 9:05pm
     
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
486DX Some Intel 3d Rage baby! 4 Megabytes (Main RAM) 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSKeyboard
20 GB Maxtor (massive!) Some Day Windows 3.1 Matches case, yellowing 
PowerCaseMouseMouse Pad
250 Watts of awesomeness Yellowing IBM Clunker Dirty trackball IBM Cheap but good 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
  hide details  
Reply
     
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
486DX Some Intel 3d Rage baby! 4 Megabytes (Main RAM) 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSKeyboard
20 GB Maxtor (massive!) Some Day Windows 3.1 Matches case, yellowing 
PowerCaseMouseMouse Pad
250 Watts of awesomeness Yellowing IBM Clunker Dirty trackball IBM Cheap but good 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
  hide details  
Reply
post #8 of 40
I'm impressed!
My System
(13 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel 920 Asus P6T + LSI 9240-4i SATA6GB/s card Nvidia 8800GTS Patroit Viper 6GB of D3-1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSMonitor
Crucial C300 256GB Benq 1655 W7 Ultimate x64 NEC MultiSync LCD2470WNX 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Logitech diNovo cordless Corsair 650HX Lian Li A10-B Logitech MX Revolution 
  hide details  
Reply
My System
(13 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel 920 Asus P6T + LSI 9240-4i SATA6GB/s card Nvidia 8800GTS Patroit Viper 6GB of D3-1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSMonitor
Crucial C300 256GB Benq 1655 W7 Ultimate x64 NEC MultiSync LCD2470WNX 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Logitech diNovo cordless Corsair 650HX Lian Li A10-B Logitech MX Revolution 
  hide details  
Reply
post #9 of 40
Thread Starter 
Bluegears B-Enspirer

Price Paid: $99.99

I bought this card as kind of an impulse buy (which I rarely do!), my older Creative Labs X-fi Extrememusic was causing me grief and I wanted something that did both DTS and Dolby Digital Decoding (which at the time the X-fi did not) so I picked this up. Blue Gears may be new at the game, but I will tell you what: This card packs some serious firepower!

Technical specs:
Model
Brand bluegears
Model BG01091 8C
Audio core
Audio Chipset C-Media CMI8788
Channels 7.1
Sample Rate 192KHz
Digital Audio 24-bit
SNR 110dB
Hardware Decode AC-3, DTS
Ports
Line In Yes
Line Out Front/Rear/Center/Subwoofer/Rear Center
SPDIF In Optical
SPDIF Out Optical
MIC In Yes
MIDI/Joystick No
Spec
Interface PCI
Remote Control No
Features
Features DTS Interactive - a real-time 5.1 channel encoder that takes 2 or more channels and encodes them into a DTS bit stream.
DTS NeoPC - an up-mix matrix that turns any 2 channel audio into 7.1 channel surround sound.
Dolby Digital Live(AC-3) real time 5.1 channel encoding bit-stream to facilitate the connection with CE AV receiver.
Dolby Pro-Logic IIx surround processor, spreading stereo audio into 7.1 channel surround sound.
Renowned Dolby Headphone technology, conveying 5.1 surround and 3D gaming audio over stereo headphones.
The latest Dolby Virtual Speaker solution, creating amazing virtual surround sound from a generic two-speaker configuration.
C-Media FlexBass- configurable LFE channel crossover frequency(from 50 to 250Hz).
C-Media Magic Voice, a popular feature for disguising voice in online chatting.
C-Media Xear3D 7.1 Virtual Speaker Shifter technology.
C-Media's unique Karaoke functions: Microphone Echo, Key-shifting.
Individual 10-band EQ for each channel.
27 global reverberation environments.
Play 3D demo program.

Those specs are from a retailer site, as specs are hard to come by. The company is relatively new in the game, yet they packed this board with features.

I got two other people with me, my friend and my cousin. We are going to sit, listen, and give subjective opinions on the sound through 3 different devices:

Receiver with analog connection
Receiver with digital (Toslink) and Coax (if able to)
Klipsch Promedia 2.1 computer speakers with the sub at recommended point from manufacturer.


I will test all 3 using 3 different songs, (one CD, 2 MP3), 2 games (Unreal Tournament 3 and Crysis), and 2 movies (Lord of The Rings: Return of the King (DVD) and Terminator 2 Blu-Ray).

I am using XMPlay with WASAPI output on Windows 7 64-Bit with 24-Bit 48,000 Khz output.

Songs: Bring Me to Life by Evanescence, In The Club by 50 Cent, and (CD song) Ship of Fools by Robert Plant. This is a decent mix of varying styles.

Receiver with analog output:
To make this test more interesting, I put the Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-fi Titanium Fatality Edition in another computer for a head to head. Results were shocking. Though cheaper, this soundcard kicked the X-fi in the head as far as music. Everything is better! Stereo separation, dynamics, this thing sounds very good!

Receiver with digital output:
Wow, sounds the same here as with analog (Creative should take note!).

Klipsch Promedia 2.1 (Analog): Bass, treble, midrange; they are all there with flair. All 3 songs sound equally good with their respective style and nuances. Write me down as impressed!

Best sound quality: All 3 songs sounded very good
Worst sound quality: None


Game sound quality:

Unreal Tournament 3:
With an electronic/techno soundtrack and booming gun shots and explosions, it makes for a great game to test the quality of the sound card in a gaming setting.

Crysis: With a very movie like soundtrack and decent explosions and voiceovers, Crysis offers a decent mix of movie sound with realistic explosions and gun shots.

Receiver with analog output: Sounds quality is better than an X-fi, but EAX effects are not. Nearly as good as the X-fi, but not quite there. Truthfully, it is very hard to tell the difference, but the X-fi IS made for gaming. Still sounds great and far superior to the X-fi when the X-fi is using digital output!

Receiver with digital output: Basically identical to the analog, an indication of high quality components on both sides of the card. Much improved over the X-fi via digital, DTS and DDL give a much better experience here. Though only EAX 2.0, games sound good on this card.

Klipsch Promedia 2.1:
More of the same, good all around. Voice/sound/music mix is very good, bass sounds smooth, mid and highs are just right. Impressive sound quality!


Movie Performance:

Receiver with analog output: Most impressive, the movie sound quality is up there with the music quality. Between Arnie's 1 liners in Terminator 2 Blu-Ray,. explosions, gun shots, and every little subtle sound, you can hear it all. Surround sound is impressive.

Receiver with digital output: Same as above pretty much, either interface works extremely well and sounds awesome to all 3 of us.

Klipsch Promedia 2.1: Awesome yet again, the sound card does this 2.1 system justice.

Better than: Realtek AC '97, Audigy 2, X-fi
Equal to: ADI Soundmax 2000B
Beat By: Asus Xonar DX

Analog Performance: Awesome
Digital Performance: Awesome, too.
Recommended: Whatever way is best for you.

Music performance: (Analog) 4.8 of 5
Music performance: (Digital) 4.8 of 5
Game performance: (Analog) 4.7 of 5
Game performance: (Digital) 4.7 of 5
Movie performance: (Analog) 4.8 of 5
Movie performance: (Digital) 4.8 of 5

Score: (Analog) 14.3 of 15
Score: (Digital) 14.3 of 15

Best suited for: Well, with high quality components, this card can do it all and do it well. The lack of coax is the biggest issue, you are out of luck if you want to use coax. EAX 2.0 is a drawback, but in most cases you will be hard pressed to tell a difference. In truth, I would take this card over an X-fi any day. Music and movies especially kick the snot out of the X-fi and game performance is right up there.

Recommended: For any looking to have a hassle free, flexible card that sounds amazing and are using either analog or digital Toslink. Music and Movies are the strong points, DDL and DTS encoding are awesome too.

Final thoughts: Yep, to say this is impressive is an understatement. The card looks pretty generic, but once you plug in into your audio system, I do not think many will find themselves disappointed. There are other cards made by HT Omega, Auzentech, and others that have the same chipset with more connectivity and features, so maybe they could be better. Maybe better warranties and longevity, too.

Yet, this card is ultra efficient; you plug it in, install the drivers, and go! The drivers are small, yet give you lots of options to tailor the sound. No problems using this with Windows Xp, Vista (both 32 Bit and 64 Bit), and Windows 7. Install, install drivers, enjoy!

The impressive audio performance and decent gaming performance makes this highly recommended. There is no mode switching, bloated drivers, or stray running processes.

You can have the best audio card in the world, but if you have to fight with the drivers constantly and cross your fingers to make it work, you will not enjoy using it.

That is it for today, next time we will test out my newest sound card The Asus Xonar DX. (Continued on post #11)
Edited by ricsim78 - 2/5/10 at 11:28am
     
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
486DX Some Intel 3d Rage baby! 4 Megabytes (Main RAM) 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSKeyboard
20 GB Maxtor (massive!) Some Day Windows 3.1 Matches case, yellowing 
PowerCaseMouseMouse Pad
250 Watts of awesomeness Yellowing IBM Clunker Dirty trackball IBM Cheap but good 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
  hide details  
Reply
     
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
486DX Some Intel 3d Rage baby! 4 Megabytes (Main RAM) 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSKeyboard
20 GB Maxtor (massive!) Some Day Windows 3.1 Matches case, yellowing 
PowerCaseMouseMouse Pad
250 Watts of awesomeness Yellowing IBM Clunker Dirty trackball IBM Cheap but good 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
  hide details  
Reply
post #10 of 40
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by soloz2 View Post
Thanks for the input, great info here. I added a link to the essential thread stickey
Thank you SoloZ2, very much appreciated
     
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
486DX Some Intel 3d Rage baby! 4 Megabytes (Main RAM) 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSKeyboard
20 GB Maxtor (massive!) Some Day Windows 3.1 Matches case, yellowing 
PowerCaseMouseMouse Pad
250 Watts of awesomeness Yellowing IBM Clunker Dirty trackball IBM Cheap but good 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
  hide details  
Reply
     
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
486DX Some Intel 3d Rage baby! 4 Megabytes (Main RAM) 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSKeyboard
20 GB Maxtor (massive!) Some Day Windows 3.1 Matches case, yellowing 
PowerCaseMouseMouse Pad
250 Watts of awesomeness Yellowing IBM Clunker Dirty trackball IBM Cheap but good 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core I7 920 @ 3.8 Ghz Asus P6T Deluxe Gigabyte Geforce 560-TI 6GB (3x2GB) OCZ Platinum DDR3 1600 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOptical DriveCooling
640GB WD Black, 500GB Seagate + 500 WD Backup (... Samsung SATA 22X Burner Asus BR-04B2T Blu-ray Drive Thermaltake Venomous X 
OSMonitorKeyboardPower
Windows 8 Ultimate 64-Bit 50" Pansonic ST30 3D Plasma  Logitech Illuminated Keyboard Corsair 850TX 850W 
CaseMouseMouse PadAudio
Cooler Master CM-690 II Logitech G500 Steelseries Klipsch Promedia 2.1 
  hide details  
Reply
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Sound Cards and Computer Audio
Overclock.net › Forums › Components › Sound Cards and Computer Audio › Ricsim's guide to computer audio