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Looking for a gaming soundcard

Thrall

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#1
Hi guys, I've been using integrated sound for the past year or so since I upgraded my rig (and lost all my pci slots where my old x-fi went) and I think I'm finally do for a dedicated sound card again. I usually play Starcraft 2 and Battlefield 3 with my Sennheiser HD280's, but have been known to break out some "classics" like UT2004 and BF2. I haven't been paying attention to sound card tech for the past few years, so I was wondering if you could fill me in an recommend a card for less than $120 and answer a few of my questions.

Is EAX support still worth anything? I know that since Vista, the standard was supposed to turn to OpenAL, but I'm not sure how many games actually use that.

Is Creative's Titanium HD worth the price increase over the regular Titanium version? Max PC was raving about how the HD was designed from the ground up for Vista/7, but I'm not sure that even means anything :confused: .

Finally, I remember "back in the day" X-Fi cards were probably the best in the business for positional audio (either through eax or their virtual headphone surround) and I was wondering if they still have that going for them or if other brands/oems (like asus) are similar.

Thanks for your help and I look forward to hearing back!
 
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#2
Creative's Titanium HD is optimized for headphones and stereo use ,if you are planning to use with speakers you may try auzentech cards (just dont buy auzen x-fi bravura it has not got x-fi chip ) x-fi forte and Home theater HD has x-fi chip but creative would/will launch new cards i am wating to see its reviews http://www.techpowerup.com/151477/Creative-Rolls-Out-Sound-Blaster-SoundCore-3D-Quad-Core-PCIe-Sound-Cards.html

About openAL it is an api to enable hardware accerelation at vista/win7 basicly and main source behind it is creative.
 

Thrall

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#3
I normally use headphones, but sometimes I'll break out the old Altec Lansing 2.1 setup for racing games. The new creative card sounds interesting. I can't seem to find the Auzentech cards anywhere but their website, do you know of any places that still sell them?
 
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#4
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#5
Check out Asus Xonar DG
 
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#6
If you're looking for the best gaming card - the Titanium Fatal1ty is probably your best choice. The card is native PCIE, so there's little to no latency throughout the processing stream . . . it effectively translates to less than 0.5% CPU use (although, that's a rather moot point, as with most current modern CPUs, processor utilization for even DSP based sound cards - i.e. Xonar, HT Omega, onboard, etc. - is about 1%-2%, which is extremelly negligible). The Creative APUs, though, can handle more audio processing without being bogged down than any other processing solution. These are actual processing units, not DSPs, capable of producing staggering numbers of both hardware and software voices without hiccuping at the workload.

The cards support EAX5 and OAL, but the industry move is now towards OAL. There are still some new titles that support EAX, but they're few and far between. More games support OAL, even if they don't mention it, and OAL carries many of the library calls of EAX5.0HD. It really boils down to game developers, and whether or not they want to impliment it.

Regarding positional audio - Creative's CMSS-3D is still the best solution on the market when coupled with an XFi APU. It's based off a lot of the preliminary work Aureal did back in the mid-late 90s. It's fully supportive with multi-channel setups, too, which can make 5.1 and 7.1 solutions sound even more dynamic than they already are . . . and a game doesn't need to support it to make use of it. The APU can create up to 5000+ software voices, which are necessary for such virtualized sound positioning.

All the other software features of the card (i.e. Crystalizer) are really down to personal taste - they can make compressed audio sound better, but raw audio sound like crap. But, it's not really meant to be used with raw audio, either.

As to the hardware audio quality - it's good. It's definitely within the range of "audiophile" tastes, albeit at the lower end. Although if you're using the card with analog devices (i.e. headphones of 90% of PC audio setups), it'll still sound great. Remember that how audio sounds is based on both your audio processing hardware, and your output hardware. If you're using digital or optical connections, though, through a reciever . . . it might be a different story. But if your predominant use will be for gaming or listening to compressed audio (mp3s, wma) you should be alright.

If you're looking more for a media center solution, with superb audio quality for DVD and raw media playback (i.e. CD, Blu-Ray, etc.) through upper-end high quality speaker setups connected via digital or optical cable, as well as the processing power for gaming - you might want to consider an Auzentech X-Fi.

Any of the in-between stuff, I'd recommend the Xonar series. Possibly an HT Omega, depending on your budget.
 

Thrall

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#7
Thanks for your help so far guys. Imperial--is there a reason to pick the Fatal1ty version over the standard Titanium? According to Newegg they both have the same specs, except for the EMI shield and x-ram.
 
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#8
Yeah - as far as hardware goes, they're identicle . . . the biggest difference is in their output capabilities. If you're using analog, the Fatal1ty is the better choice - it supports 7.1 and TOSLINK I/O . . . the HD, though, only supports 2-channel analog (which will buggar analog 4.1/5.1/7.1 hook ups), and although it supports digital and coaxial out, it doesn't support native optical.

The both do have an EMI shield, and the shield is actually effective for these cards (unlike some EMI shields I've seen on some other hardware out there). The XRAM isn't really much of a big deal, as few games actually make use of it . . . I personally recommend it though, as if a game doesnt make use of it or require it, the card will still use it. The card's BIOS will hot swap things in and out during the processing stream, drastically cutting down on latency. Not as much of an issue now as it was years ago with the X-Fi series were first coming out . . . the PCI latency and lack of good MEM on the card was leading to a lot of audio clipping.

So, it really boils down to what your stereo hookup configuration is, as to which would be the better choice for ya.
 
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#9
I just purchased a cheaper Creative sound blaster pcie card ,its low end and cost about 75$ but it sounds definatively better than the onboard asus/realtek i was using, i noticed the soldering is not high quality, i could have done a better job, ie the wire snipping is a bit shabby on the capacitors, yet it works fine and what can one expect for under 100$?

It sounds very nice in games and i played some old reggae numbers up loud last night to give it a whirl and sounded really good, just dont want to add too much eax or xfi crystaliser /virtual surround etc or it becomes too reverberative lol. So based on that i can recommend creative to a degree.
 

Thrall

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#10
Yeah - as far as hardware goes, they're identicle . . . the biggest difference is in their output capabilities. If you're using analog, the Fatal1ty is the better choice - it supports 7.1 and TOSLINK I/O . . .
I was actually referring to the base titanium model (the one without the emi shield) vs. the fatal1ty one. Also, does the HD being designed for Vista/7 audio stack mean anything? It would be nice to have those analog surround outputs, although realistically I might just use them once or twice.
 
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#11
Check out Asus Xonar DG
Some of Creative's XFi cards seem to suffer from crackling sounds. I would check reviews 1st, though Asus does a good job.
 
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#12
http://store.auzentech.com/pci-express-soundcards-c19.aspx

Auzen x-fi HD in stock now not forte i think ,if you are not in hurry wait a bit to see new cards .And HD being designed for vista/win7 means nothing .Creative had driver problems with vista at past i guess it is a kind of reference to working drivers :) .

I normally use headphones, but sometimes I'll break out the old Altec Lansing 2.1 setup for racing games. The new creative card sounds interesting. I can't seem to find the Auzentech cards anywhere but their website, do you know of any places that still sell them?