Yesterday I talked about the Beyerdynamic MMX300 headset, which is probably one of the best consumer headsets money can buy (made in Germany and shit), and today it’s more like “Made in Korea”. Today, my Auzentech X-Fi Prelude 7.1 arrived, replacing my Creative Labs SoundBlaster X-Fi XtremeMusic. “Now”, you might say, “replacing one X-Fi with another doesn’t seem too smart”. Well. The chip is the same, sure, and so are the drivers and the rest of the software. But this is where the similarities end. What Auzentech – the only add-on board manufacturer ever allowed to use X-Fi chips – actually did was upgrade the whole rest of the board, that’s the new solid capacitors, the amplifiers (the front stereo OP-AMP is even socketed and replaceable) and some very high end AKM DACs, which are supposed to do digital-to-analog conversion at very low noise rates. And that was the thing I was particularily interested in.
You see, when I turned up the volume on my Lake People G93 amp, I could hear tons of background noise and some low frequency hum, and I simply didn’t like that audio pollution. Plus, when my fat graphics cards started computing and/or rendering, it got a lot worse even.
Before presenting the results, here are some pictures for you. As you can see, with the Auzentech Prelude I picked a card that sits on classical parallel PCI. I had to take that route because that PCI slot between my fat GPU boards is the only interface left for an internal sound card:
On the front picture you can see the socketed stereo OP-AMP for the front stereo channels, right beside the analog Aux/CD-ROM connector. This amp is [upgradeable]. This is the one powering the front channels, or your classic 2.0/headphone output. Above the X-Fi chips heatsink you can see the 2 x 32MB = 64MB Creative “X-RAM”, that can be used for caching audio samples for faster playback as a replacement for using system memory. Some older games like Battlefield 2 or Quake 4 and Doom 3 can actually use the X-RAM, not that it helps much.
The four small chips left of the X-RAM are the AKM DACs, and probably the parts that I’m currently profiting most of.
Now, I can turn the volume ALL the way up in idle, and there is nothing. No hum. No noise. It is only one simple thing. Dead! Silent!
This is perfection. All I hoped that card would do it does. Now, with the Beyerdynamic MMX300, my trusted old Lake People G93 and that “new” Auzentech X-Fi Prelude 7.1 sound card, my audio world has finally been fully restored to what it was always supposed to but never has been!
And as a little plus, the pre-amp seems to also be more powerful than my old X-Fi’s, which I welcome, having to drive some 600Ω headset.