Testing the X-Fi Prelude 7.1
Playback of audio via this connection method proved itself to be very respectable indeed. There is clearly a hallmark of quality components used in the construction of the board, as I found the signal to be clean, clear and punchy without lots of noticeable digital compression. This would be an ideal way to configure your setup for music digitally while leaving the Preludes analog ports wide open for other uses.
So, initially we know that the Prelude has a good digital pathway that is very capable of sending a high quality (up to 96k) digital signal where ever you want it.
Now, let's have a shot at music testing which should give a very solid indication as to where the Prelude stands. As mentioned above, my direct comparisons are made against my Xonar 7.1 sound card which is without doubt one of the Preludes toughest competitors right now.
My first impressions were good with a very noticeable notch up from the low-end after swapping from the Xonar. Not only did the low-end sound a lot beefier, it had a lot more character to it; more warmth and depth. Now, I'm not sure how or why the low-end had been tweaked like this, but it certainly makes for a strong impression. However, if things get a bit too much down there, you can always use the quick access bass control on the front of the control suite to attenuate things to personal taste.
I also found the midrange to generally possess a lot of warmth and clarity aided by the very cool crystallizer when used, but also no less respectable when not in use. Mid-range transients were well reproduced and overall I found the middle to be very warm and inviting, less clinical than the Xonar with more mid-bass and timbre to the sound.
To carry on the statements made with regard to the mids, I found high-end reproduction to be of high-standard providing clear sparkling treble to blend seamlessly with the midrange tones. Even when the treble dial starts to slide up, things do not deteriorate at all, again demonstrating the high-quality pathways being used here.
To offer a summary to the statements made regarding musical nonce; I have over the last few weeks during testing grown very fond of the warm lush audio being processed by this card, and must say that from the perspective of a music listener this is a great card with a heap of functionality to offer and sound quality that is simply that; quality.
Gaming and DVD Use
At the time of writing, Auzentech are working on a driver revision with full Dolby support along with DTS surround to boot. So at this stage I cannot really make a full assessment of the card in this area; only to offer the same positive comments made just above regarding music playback. I had some problems with the updating of some drivers, but this was no doubt due to a windows issue. I have no reason at this stage not to recommend Auzentech's drivers.
Gaming support is complete here because it's a Creative chip being used, buyers will reap all the many benefits of EAX in its latest 5.0 incarnation. This is one area the Xonar gets left in the dust, as it only supports EAX 3.0. It's clearly not going to be the gamers' first port of call.
To conclude, while I was not able to test movie playback with Dolby support included, all of the positive comments made above apply here in totality to the audio integrity of this board. And when matched with total support for EAX 5.0 with 64MB of RAM to aid the course, things become very attractive indeed. I have found performance to be solid right across the deck on all fronts, music, games and video.
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