Friday, July 23rd 2010

Auzentech X-Meridian Back With a Bang in New Second Generation Model

Widely regarded in the audiophile community as one of the best sound cards ever made, Auzentech's X-Meridian 7.1 is being revived in a new second-generation (2G) model. Following engagement with Creative for supply of its X-Fi chipsets, Auzentech had stopped production of the original X-Meridian 7.1 sound card citing shortages of the C-Media CMI8788 Oxygen HD chipset, which it now seems to have come over. The new X-Meridian 2G 7.1 from Auzentech sports the same CMI8788 Oxygen HD chip, backed by a squad of channel-independent enthusiast-grade AKM AK4396 DACs, user-replaceable OPAMP chips, high-end electrolytic capacitors to maintain natural-sounding output in the analogue portion of the card, and high-end solid-state capacitors for the power-distribution and digital output. To ensure the lowest latencies, the card uses the PCI interface, because CMI8788 is a PCI chip, and adding a PCI-E bridge chip would step up latencies. More technical details can be found in the exclusive preview by Guru3D.

Source: Guru3D
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57 Comments on Auzentech X-Meridian Back With a Bang in New Second Generation Model

#1
Wile E
Power User
btarunr said:
I think you didn't get what I was saying.

If the DACs of this card are better than the DACs inside a particular >$500 receiver, then it's better not to use the receiver and instead just buy a decent $300 amplifier and use the analogue of the sound card. The DACs on this card are avant-grade and do the job of that receiver.
No, that's the same point I was driving at, only I'm using the receiver to simplify the chain and explanation. I left out the part about using the analog inputs on the cheaper receiver tho, so that's probably where the confusion stems from. I'll fix that now.

Replace receiver with separate amps if you wish, but the point remains. To get good DACs in home audio, you have to spend much more than you should. You lose source selection with just bare amps tho.


EDIT: Fixed original post to make the scenario more clear.
Posted on Reply
#2
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
I think there's still some confusion. Maybe I'm not putting it across well enough.



Now instead of spending $700 on a digital receiver with a lesser-quality DAC than the ones on this card, you can spend $300 on an amplifier of the same amplifier circuit grade for better quality (since the DAC sitting on the sound card is better), or you can spend the same $700 on a better-quality amplifier for an even better output.
Posted on Reply
#3
Wile E
Power User
btarunr said:
I think there's still some confusion. Maybe I'm not putting it across well enough.

http://img.techpowerup.org/100725/bta0983msd.jpg

Now instead of spending $700 on a digital receiver with a lesser-quality DAC than the ones on this card, you can spend $300 on an amplifier of the same amplifier circuit grade for better quality (since the DAC sitting on the sound card is better), or you can spend the same $700 on a better-quality amplifier for an even better output.
No, I understood you perfectly. But buying just an amp does not afford you source switching abilities. The receiver will allow more than just your computer to play thru the speakers. You could also buy a preamp and separate amps, but at that point, you're spending even more than getting a receiver, for even less gain.
Posted on Reply
#4
zAAm
btarunr said:
I think there's still some confusion. Maybe I'm not putting it across well enough.

http://img.techpowerup.org/100725/bta0983msd.jpg

Now instead of spending $700 on a digital receiver with a lesser-quality DAC than the ones on this card, you can spend $300 on an amplifier of the same amplifier circuit grade for better quality (since the DAC sitting on the sound card is better), or you can spend the same $700 on a better-quality amplifier for an even better output.
Why would you need ADC's on a sound card? I'd imagine all audio data will already be digital and will just be encoded to the correct format over digital SPDIF or optical... (Unless you're capturing the data from analog - which would normally not be the case since then you could just ignore the sound card and connect the analog input straight to the receiver/amp). Also, you would need to have an absolutely amazing setup to hear the difference between 110dB and 120dB SNR DAC's. :wtf:
Posted on Reply
#5
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
zAAm said:
Why would you need ADC's on a sound card?
To convert analogue to digital, duh. I made a typo, the ADC is the sound processor here, though every sound card has ADCs that convert inputs to digital.

zAAm said:
Also, you would need to have an absolutely amazing setup to hear the difference between 110dB and 120dB SNR DAC's. :wtf:
This sound card is targeted at people with amazing setups, though you don't really need amazing setups to hear the difference. Some subjective hearing with even mainstream speakers can tell the difference.
Posted on Reply
#6
runnin17
This is a killer sound card, I am still partial to my Xonar D2X though.
Posted on Reply
#7
zAAm
btarunr said:
To convert analogue to digital, duh. I made a typo, the ADC is the sound processor here, though every sound card has ADCs that convert inputs to digital.
What I meant to say is why would a sound card need ADC's in the output circuitry which you were clearly discussing. Really no need to get condescending... :wtf:

btarunr
This sound card is targeted at people with amazing setups, though you don't really need amazing setups to hear the difference. Some subjective hearing with even mainstream speakers can tell the difference.
I'd like to see some double blind tests on that :rolleyes:, but I guess in audiophile terms there's never enough (even though distinguishing 110dB from 120dB means you'd have to be able to distinguish noise that's 300 000 times fainter than the normal signal vs noise that's a million times fainter). Also, what do you classify as mainstream? $10k?
Posted on Reply
#8
PanzerIV
I used to have a Auzentech Prelude and found out that I could use the Optical to connect it on the Z-5500 I had and I was sure that it was better cause it shown (DTS Connect 5.1 blablabla) but in fact it was really stupid because I would use the very cheap DAC from the Z-5500 instead of the one from my sound card lol.

Then I bought a Onkyo TX-SR607 receiver with KEF KHT-3005SE speakers that are worth like 2500$ but got them for 1000$ + 5% Tax. Obviously optical on this would be better than analogue on Z-5500 but would had still been able to push the sound quality even further if I'd be able to use analogue on these speakers.. unfortunately I learned about the (Multi-Chanel 7.1 Analog output) severals months after and also learned none of the Onkyo have this so I sold my receiver to buy a Harman Kardon AVR-1600 at only 400$ which is almost the manufacturer's price and since I've been using my Auzentech Forte with this amp through analogue on my awesome KEF speakers, hell it sounds better than ever! Clearly worth every penny I've put into this setup.

What I hate from Auzentech is that they can't do a ****** card with everything on it. I wouldn't mind spending a premium price if I'd get the absolute best sound card but no they have to do for example:
1- Forte is the best for gaming. It's PCI-E and use the X-Fi chip with X-Ram.
2- Bravura doesn't have hardware acceleration, no X-Ram or X-Fi chip therefore clearly worse for gaming... BUT it let you switch all opamp instead of only the one for the headphone.
3- Now with this new card, it's not PCI-E and it's not hardware accelerated for gaming. To me it's like a enhanced Bravura in PCI version (-_-)

Why the **** couldn't they let us switch all opamp on the Forte too. Now either I get a "bad" chip for gaming but that let me change the opamp or else.. you see what I mean, I'm screwed no matter what I choose :banghead:
Posted on Reply
#9
eidairaman1
The Exiled Airman
My Next Sound card will be from this company or HT Omega aslong as it is not a XFi chip.
Posted on Reply
#10
AsphyxiA
PanzerIV said:

Why the **** couldn't they let us switch all opamp on the Forte too. Now either I get a "bad" chip for gaming but that let me change the opamp or else.. you see what I mean, I'm screwed no matter what I choose :banghead:
you could just clip the opamp off of your X-FI card and with a little soldering, put a new opamp in it's place ;) Anyways, EAX really seems overrated in my opinion.
Posted on Reply
#11
PanzerIV
eidairaman1 said:
My Next Sound card will be from this company or HT Omega aslong as it is not a XFi chip.
Why as long it's not a X-Fi chip. I've seen the software of the HT Omega since I recommanded a friend to buy it and it felt really old and cheap compare to the X-Fi software included with Auzentech cards.
Posted on Reply
#12
eidairaman1
The Exiled Airman
PanzerIV said:
Why as long it's not a X-Fi chip. I've seen the software of the HT Omega since I recommanded a friend to buy it and it felt really old and cheap compare to the X-Fi software included with Auzentech cards.
Tired of Creative Labs Bullshit
Posted on Reply
#13
AsphyxiA
PanzerIV said:
Why as long it's not a X-Fi chip. I've seen the software of the HT Omega since I recommanded a friend to buy it and it felt really old and cheap compare to the X-Fi software included with Auzentech cards.
What are talking about? HT Omega cards are some of the best cards out there as far as sound quality goesand the X-FI chip is seriously overrated. My cousins Claro XT is amazing and kicks the crap out of my Audigy 2 ZS and my bud's X-FI Forte. This is in game stuff too. Results were played through an amplified 7.1 set of Sennheiser headphones. Also, don't bash Auzen, they also make really really nice cards in comparison to Creative.


Like I said before, I'd rather buy a card that does everything well and really shines in audiophile applications rather than a card that only sounds good in games. I think that most of the people making comments about this card and who would ever think about throwing down this kind of money are looking for. Save your Creative fanboisms for another forum.
Posted on Reply
#14
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
zaam said:
I'd like to see some double blind tests on that , but I guess in audiophile terms there's never enough (even though distinguishing 110dB from 120dB means you'd have to be able to distinguish noise that's 300 000 times fainter than the normal signal vs noise that's a million times fainter). Also, what do you classify as mainstream? $10k?
$50~100 PC speakers. You will be able tell a Creative Xtreme Gamer from an HTOmega Claro in terms of audio quality with those speakers (the worse sounding one is the Xtreme Gamer). If you still can't, you probably should stick to onboard audio, since ALC889's rated 100 db SNR won't sound too different from a 110 db SNR sound card on speakers.
Posted on Reply
#15
zAAm
btarunr said:
$50~100 PC speakers. You will be able tell a Creative Xtreme Gamer from an HTOmega Claro in terms of audio quality with those speakers (the worse sounding one is the Xtreme Gamer). If you still can't, you probably should stick to onboard audio, since ALC889's rated 100 db SNR won't sound too different from a 110 db SNR sound card on speakers.
I'll leave this here, but I'm still not convinced. I'd imagine you'd be able to hear the difference in sound quality due to various OTHER characteristics of the sound cards (THD, that damn crystalizer thing on the X-Fi, if the card excels at bass response or mid treble or whatever and you're into that etc), but just the difference in 110dB and 120dB SNR? I'm skeptical. ;)
Posted on Reply
#16
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
zAAm said:
I'll leave this here, but I'm still not convinced. I'd imagine you'd be able to hear the difference in sound quality due to various OTHER characteristics of the sound cards (THD, that damn crystalizer thing on the X-Fi, if the card excels at bass response or mid treble or whatever and you're into that etc), but just the difference in 110dB and 120dB SNR? I'm skeptical. ;)
No, most audiophiles disable all those software enhancements. Fidelity is only lost.
Posted on Reply
#17
unknwn
PanzerIV said:

What I hate from Auzentech is that they can't do a ****** card with everything on it. I wouldn't mind spending a premium price if I'd get the absolute best sound card but no they have to do for example:
1- Forte is the best for gaming. It's PCI-E and use the X-Fi chip with X-Ram.
2- Bravura doesn't have hardware acceleration, no X-Ram or X-Fi chip therefore clearly worse for gaming... BUT it let you switch all opamp instead of only the one for the headphone.
3- Now with this new card, it's not PCI-E and it's not hardware accelerated for gaming. To me it's like a enhanced Bravura in PCI version (-_-)

Why the **** couldn't they let us switch all opamp on the Forte too. Now either I get a "bad" chip for gaming but that let me change the opamp or else.. you see what I mean, I'm screwed no matter what I choose :banghead:
If i am not wrong all or at least most of new games use software sound engines which are really good when talking about sound effects also there are less problems with compatibility. With windows 7, multi-core proccessors and software sound engines hardware acceleration of sound cards isn't needed anymore. If you are not in love with some old games i would say it's not worth to invest in those fancy x-chips and x-ram because there will be no use of them. I believe that's the one of the reasons why we don't see xfi chips in new cards.
Posted on Reply
#18
TheMonkey
Wile E said:
To get good DACs in home audio, you have to spend much more than you should. You lose source selection with just bare amps tho.
Not true, there are plenty of options for affordable high quality DACs. I am running the Maverick audio TubemagicD1 http://www.mavaudio.com/ and that is just one of many different options. The TubemagicD1 is a DAC/Preamp and handles your source switching, I paid $150 new off the website with upgraded NOS (New old stock) WE 5670 tube. This also has a dedicated headphone amp for those with nice cans. This is great for me as I listen to music more than anything, but some people will want more than 2ch sound and thats understandable. I myself prefer 2ch at all times, I appreciate proper stereo imaging worlds more than surround sound.

I understand we are in a thread talking about a sound card with good DAC but I thought I would mention that good outboard DACs are affordable.
Posted on Reply
#19
Wile E
Power User
PanzerIV said:
I used to have a Auzentech Prelude and found out that I could use the Optical to connect it on the Z-5500 I had and I was sure that it was better cause it shown (DTS Connect 5.1 blablabla) but in fact it was really stupid because I would use the very cheap DAC from the Z-5500 instead of the one from my sound card lol.

Then I bought a Onkyo TX-SR607 receiver with KEF KHT-3005SE speakers that are worth like 2500$ but got them for 1000$ + 5% Tax. Obviously optical on this would be better than analogue on Z-5500 but would had still been able to push the sound quality even further if I'd be able to use analogue on these speakers.. unfortunately I learned about the (Multi-Chanel 7.1 Analog output) severals months after and also learned none of the Onkyo have this so I sold my receiver to buy a Harman Kardon AVR-1600 at only 400$ which is almost the manufacturer's price and since I've been using my Auzentech Forte with this amp through analogue on my awesome KEF speakers, hell it sounds better than ever! Clearly worth every penny I've put into this setup.

What I hate from Auzentech is that they can't do a ****** card with everything on it. I wouldn't mind spending a premium price if I'd get the absolute best sound card but no they have to do for example:
1- Forte is the best for gaming. It's PCI-E and use the X-Fi chip with X-Ram.
2- Bravura doesn't have hardware acceleration, no X-Ram or X-Fi chip therefore clearly worse for gaming... BUT it let you switch all opamp instead of only the one for the headphone.
3- Now with this new card, it's not PCI-E and it's not hardware accelerated for gaming. To me it's like a enhanced Bravura in PCI version (-_-)

Why the **** couldn't they let us switch all opamp on the Forte too. Now either I get a "bad" chip for gaming but that let me change the opamp or else.. you see what I mean, I'm screwed no matter what I choose :banghead:
That's what I really want. Basically a Forte with all channels with swappable opamps.

AsphyxiA said:
What are talking about? HT Omega cards are some of the best cards out there as far as sound quality goesand the X-FI chip is seriously overrated. My cousins Claro XT is amazing and kicks the crap out of my Audigy 2 ZS and my bud's X-FI Forte. This is in game stuff too. Results were played through an amplified 7.1 set of Sennheiser headphones. Also, don't bash Auzen, they also make really really nice cards in comparison to Creative.


Like I said before, I'd rather buy a card that does everything well and really shines in audiophile applications rather than a card that only sounds good in games. I think that most of the people making comments about this card and who would ever think about throwing down this kind of money are looking for. Save your Creative fanboisms for another forum.
Agreed, they are amazing cards, but It doesn't kick the crap out of a Forte. Surround headphones are one of the worst pieces of equipment for comparing accuracy. Surround headphones are straight out crap. All of them.

Compare with a good set of IEMs or audiophile cans.

The forte shines as an audiophile card as well as a gaming card. It's a jack of all trades.

For most things, the Claro and Forte are equals, but the Forte uses less cpu, is cheaper, and is PCIe. The price difference puts them in 2 different markets, honestly.

btarunr said:
No, most audiophiles disable all those software enhancements. Fidelity is only lost.
This. I use no effects other than EQ to level out the tonal characteristics of equipment and/or room. Also to sometimes compensate for poorly mixed/mastered tracks.

unknwn said:
If i am not wrong all or at least most of new games use software sound engines which are really good when talking about sound effects also there are less problems with compatibility. With windows 7, multi-core proccessors and software sound engines hardware acceleration of sound cards isn't needed anymore. If you are not in love with some old games i would say it's not worth to invest in those fancy x-chips and x-ram because there will be no use of them. I believe that's the one of the reasons why we don't see xfi chips in new cards.
Even if games aren't coded for it, check out Guru3d's reviews on cards. Xfi based cards still use significantly less CPU, even in Vista or 7.

TheMonkey said:
Not true, there are plenty of options for affordable high quality DACs. I am running the Maverick audio TubemagicD1 http://www.mavaudio.com/ and that is just one of many different options. The TubemagicD1 is a DAC/Preamp and handles your source switching, I paid $150 new off the website with upgraded NOS (New old stock) WE 5670 tube. This also has a dedicated headphone amp for those with nice cans. This is great for me as I listen to music more than anything, but some people will want more than 2ch sound and thats understandable. I myself prefer 2ch at all times, I appreciate proper stereo imaging worlds more than surround sound.

I understand we are in a thread talking about a sound card with good DAC but I thought I would mention that good outboard DACs are affordable.
I was leaning towards surround setups. A preamp of that quality for a surround setup would cost 3x as much. I use only 2 channels for music, but I do still need surround for my games and movies. Somebody that does only 2 channel with no intention of going surround, and is looking for a sound card would be better served by a Xonar STX or similar.

Aka: I was exemplifying putting together the most versatile and "cheap" setup that is still of audiophile quality. And is very simple to set up.
Posted on Reply
#20
unknwn
Wile E said:

Even if games aren't coded for it, check out Guru3d's reviews on cards. Xfi based cards still use significantly less CPU, even in Vista or 7.
Most tested games are old like BF2,BF2142,COD2,HL2. Games like COD:MW2, BF BC2 doesn't use hw acceleration and doesn't benefit from xfi chips. For me biggest advantage of xfi chips isn't the 1-2 average fps difference but features like eax,3d sound effects and etc. which you already get with custom software sound engines. I believe it's more logical to invest money on sound card with better DACs and on main CPU(as a result you will have performance advantage in all cases) than pay money for sound card with dedicated xfi chips but worse
Posted on Reply
#21
PanzerIV
zAAm said:
I'll leave this here, but I'm still not convinced. I'd imagine you'd be able to hear the difference in sound quality due to various OTHER characteristics of the sound cards (THD, that damn crystalizer thing on the X-Fi, if the card excels at bass response or mid treble or whatever and you're into that etc), but just the difference in 110dB and 120dB SNR? I'm skeptical. ;)
Ya I'd be really suprised to tell a difference between 110 and 120dB SNR. It's like saying you can notice the difference between 44.1 and 48Khz. I've read in a review that the human ear actualy can't notice the difference of 192Khz so that's complete overkill and that's why no one record its music at this rate. To me the Crystalizer really helps, perhaps because I listen to high-bitrate MP3 rather than WAV/Flac stuff who knows. Hell I have a setup worth 2500-3000$ with very fine ears and I can't tell the difference between 320kbps VBR and WAV so it's just snob audiophile BS when they say mp3 sucks and that Flac is way better. However you have to not exagerate the effect of the crystalizer. I set it to 30% otherwise it's way too much effect.

unknwn said:
If i am not wrong all or at least most of new games use software sound engines which are really good when talking about sound effects also there are less problems with compatibility. With windows 7, multi-core proccessors and software sound engines hardware acceleration of sound cards isn't needed anymore. If you are not in love with some old games i would say it's not worth to invest in those fancy x-chips and x-ram because there will be no use of them. I believe that's the one of the reasons why we don't see xfi chips in new cards.
I read on a highly reputated reviewer website that many people misunderstand the X-Ram. Games using OpenAL, which is not all title but most I'd say since Vista killed Direct3Dsound, well the game with OpenAL won't need any addiotional programming to take use of the X-Ram, it will use it automaticly. However if it's not OpenAL then the game developper will need to implement it and most won't do it. So as you see X-Ram is not 100% obsolete and useless. There is clearly a difference from having a sound card without any acceleration thought the performance impact is not as big as before with today's cpu.

I'll just keep my Auzentech Forte until Auzen wake up and make a card that both merge audiophile + gaming in mind in PCI-E... AND with all opamp swappable. Why gamers wouldn't want to swap them? It's completely ridiculous not being able to swap them on the Forte, Prelude or even the overpriced HTHD.
Posted on Reply
#22
Wile E
Power User
unknwn said:
Most tested games are old like BF2,BF2142,COD2,HL2. Games like COD:MW2, BF BC2 doesn't use hw acceleration and doesn't benefit from xfi chips. For me biggest advantage of xfi chips isn't the 1-2 average fps difference but features like eax,3d sound effects and etc. which you already get with custom software sound engines. I believe it's more logical to invest money on sound card with better DACs and on main CPU(as a result you will have performance advantage in all cases) than pay money for sound card with dedicated xfi chips but worse
Except that my Forte is every bit as good in sound quality, has the added benefit of hardware processing in the apps that use it, AND is cheaper. I fail to see your point. I did not pay a hefty premium to have the X-fi processor.
Posted on Reply
#23
unknwn
Wile E said:
Except that my Forte is every bit as good in sound quality, has the added benefit of hardware processing in the apps that use it, AND is cheaper. I fail to see your point. I did not pay a hefty premium to have the X-fi processor.
It's like transition to multi-core processors. Except that you won't have to pay more. Someone will see the point someone will not. Depends on your needs and available $.
Posted on Reply
#24
unknwn
PanzerIV said:

I read on a highly reputated reviewer website that many people misunderstand the X-Ram. Games using OpenAL, which is not all title but most I'd say since Vista killed Direct3Dsound, well the game with OpenAL won't need any addiotional programming to take use of the X-Ram, it will use it automaticly. However if it's not OpenAL then the game developper will need to implement it and most won't do it. So as you see X-Ram is not 100% obsolete and useless. There is clearly a difference from having a sound card without any acceleration thought the performance impact is not as big as before with today's cpu.
I didn't mean that those are 100% obsolete. I wanted to say that there won't be enough use of them to benefit the price. I am not talking about transition from D3D to OpenAL. I am talking about game developers switching to software sound engines and most them doesn't benefit from hw acceleration. As new games implement more and more sophisticated software sound engines which needs more and more processing power which current chips on sound cards wouldn't be able to handle. As a result you need to improve those chips on sound cards and it's like buying second CPU as it was done before. I think it's more economical to switch that load to unsused cpu core which has much more processing power. And it's easier for developers to do that than use HW acceleration on sound cards.
Posted on Reply
#25
zAAm
PanzerIV said:
Ya I'd be really suprised to tell a difference between 110 and 120dB SNR. It's like saying you can notice the difference between 44.1 and 48Khz. I've read in a review that the human ear actualy can't notice the difference of 192Khz so that's complete overkill and that's why no one record its music at this rate. To me the Crystalizer really helps, perhaps because I listen to high-bitrate MP3 rather than WAV/Flac stuff who knows. Hell I have a setup worth 2500-3000$ with very fine ears and I can't tell the difference between 320kbps VBR and WAV so it's just snob audiophile BS when they say mp3 sucks and that Flac is way better. However you have to not exagerate the effect of the crystalizer. I set it to 30% otherwise it's way too much effect.
I can usually tell the difference between MP3's and Flacs because of the type of music I listen to. MP3's lose a little bass response which is important when listening to low hitting DnB and so forth. Obviously it's not always that apparent and I'd settle for 320kbps MP3's if I don't have a choice. I just rip my CD's to Flacs to ensure the best quality, I mean, why not? ;)

I've never heard the Crystalizer in action so I can't comment on that, but I prefer using no EQ's or effects - just the music as it was intended. Granted, EQ settings can compensate a bit when using inferior speakers/amplifiers or when speaker placement is restricted, but that's obviously not the ideal scenario.

Lastly, I'm not an audiophile, just a sound quality enthusiast I'd say, but I do spend a fair amount on sound (have a custom ~$1200 DLS SQ system in my car) and still don't think you'd be able to tell the difference between those two SNR's without some serious sound or I guess when listening to silence really loud... :rolleyes:
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