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Onboard sound card VS PCI sound card

Tan DJ

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#1
Hi all,

I have a system with an Intel D845GRG motherboard which has an "Audio subsystem for AC '97 processing using the Analog Devices AD1981A codec featuring SoundMAX Cadenza"

Recently I managed to score a PCI sound card (from my mother-in-law's old computer) that has a label on the back that says it is from Creative Labs, model number: CT4740.

Will this card provide any better performance/quality than the built-in one on my mother board? Some of my old games have a bit of a "stuttering" problem that I think might be caused by the built-in sound card.

This card doesn't appear to have any connectors for connecting to the front audio ports, so would it be a correct assumption that if I used this card, the front audio ports would no longer be useable?

Also, if I inserted this audio card, would I need to do any configuration of the MB to make the sound go through the PCI card, or is that something that would be available in the OS?

I'm either going to use the card, or sell it on e-bay, so even if I'm not going to use it, I'd like to be able to connect it up to confirm that it works.


Regards,

Tan DJ
 

Jimmy 2004

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#2
Normally I'd say that the PCI card would be slightly better because it would take some load off the CPU, but in this case I'd say stick to the AC'97. The Creative card looks like it is very old and I doubt Creative still offer driver support for it, so it probably wouldn't run as well as newer sound cards like the AC'97, because those drivers are still updated regularly. You could try connecting it and see if it sounds better, but I think the difference would be negligible so I would stick to the AC'97.
 

peach1971

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#3
You can measure the performance of both, onboard and PCI with RightMark Audio Analyzer.
http://audio.rightmark.org/index_new.shtml

But I´d also say got with the AC´97 in this case.
The CT4740 doesn´t feature EAX which offers a real improvement for in-game sound.
 

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#4
EAX is over rated, and the 4740/47xx are just sblive variants, nothing fancy, ur ac97 will probbly gave the same or better perf with the advantage of having newer driver support.

i would also advise that you search the forums b4 you ask these kinda questions, the onboard vs pci/addin card sound things been talked about like 15+times since i been here!!!!
 
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#5
Theres a little performance loss, maybe 5%. What´s more important is the audio quality. It´s signifantly worse than even average old sound cards. Earphone output is distorted at high output levels and when there should be silence, theres a little noise instead.

This board cant handle many irq too well, therefor it would be best to turn off the onboard sound in the bios.
And no, theres no connection to the front connectors.

If you are using anything newer than win98 with this mobo, the stuttering will most likely come from irqs conflicts.
In others words, you may want to buy a new mainboard.
 

DaMulta

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#7
i dont know about that man...when i play red orchestra with eax on, its like a whole new gameplay.
FTW
 

tigger

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#8
i just got a x-fi extreme music and it rocks.i can even hear cloth rustling in 2142 now.
 

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#9
my 1988 soundmax is working great after some driver tweaking thanks to KET, no quility issues at all, and perfs better then the 3 addin cards i tested(old cmi8738,audigy3,sblive5.1)

ur best bet with onboard sound is ALWASE to update the drivers to the newest you can find for that chip, even if they are from another board maker(like asus or intel)

also i would update ur bios if you havent, thats alwase a good idea, if you get problems with audio quility set the pci latancy to 64 if you can, sometimes boards, specly older intel ones need that done for their onboard audio.
 
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#10
i just got a x-fi extreme music and it rocks.i can even hear cloth rustling in 2142 now.
LOL!!!

I tried my friend's PC with the Fatal1ty FPS Sound card installed. I could hear a guy throwing a medkit IN THE COMPLETELY CORRECT POSITION WITH TWO CRAPPY SPEAKERS, it was real... I thought I was in 2142 (yay for snowboarding)! There wasn't any stuttering before any major sound events occured.
 

Carcenomy

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#11
The only major bonus I'd see in running a CT4740 or equivalent would be for older games. The Vibra128Ds I've owned have always been pretty good for DOS support, critical if you want to play something like Duke Nukem 3D or Death Rally with proper SB16 support.

I wouldn't agree totally with the performance arguments... I only just gave up my poor old 845D based system with that very same AC97 setup. There's no way that horrible contrivance is better than the Ensoniq AudioPCI/SoundBlaster 128/ViBRA128D. I only used the AC97 for three weeks until I picked up an original Live with the matching Cambridge SoundWorks FPS1000 speakers. Faaaar better :)
 
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#12
XFI should be fairly decent for the fact they can support 2-3 times more voices than the average sound card.
 

AshenSugar

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#13
XFI should be fairly decent for the fact they can support 2-3 times more voices than the average sound card.
ah but the human ear and brain cant prosess that many, voices, read up and you will know that creative just uses that to sell cards to uneducated foolz who buy things because of a brand name not because they are really better.

if you want a high end audio card grab something from auzentech, there cards are far and above the winners when compared with anything creative offers!!!!!

and they update drivers regularly for those cards/chips where creative takes years to upgrade anything.........
 

Tan DJ

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#14
i would also advise that you search the forums b4 you ask these kinda questions, the onboard vs pci/addin card sound things been talked about like 15+times since i been here!!!!
Yeah, I did that, but couldn't find anything about the ct4740. I already knew that in general the PCI card will be better than the onboard, but I was having trouble finding out anything about the ct4740.

My problem with my existing system is several of my games have a bad occasional stutter, one game (theme park world) the game freezes while it is stuttering, and does nothing until the stuttering stops. Another, one of the kics games, the stuttering stops when you click the mouse button. A couple of other games that the kids like to play don't stutter, but every voice clip has the last half a sylable of each sentence missing.

I'm not real concerned about the sound quality at the moment as my speakers are not the best - $20 ones from Tandy. :eek:

The only reason I was considering the ct4740, was that I got it for nothing.

Cheers,
Tan DJ
 
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AshenSugar

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#15
i would advise a card based on the CMI8768 chipset then, drivers are better then that old sbive card.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16829130002
its 19bucks
drivers can be found (up to date ones) on the cmedia forums, they are updating them regularly, these cards also support DTS and DolbyDigital in hardware!!!!

good stuff!!!!! and kills the 4740/4760 cards :)
 

Carcenomy

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#16
The only reason I was considering the ct4740, was that I got it for nothing.

Cheers,
Tan DJ
Go for it. The old SoundBlaster128s might not have new drivers, but it's because they're GOOD SOLID CARDS. They don't NEED new drivers. Just throw it in and go nuts, it'll cause no problems.
 

tweakboy

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#17
Dedicated sound means the CPU can be free to do other tasks,

Onboard sound will use CPU a lot, and slow down your games and pc,

gl,
 
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#18
Dedicated sound means the CPU can be free to do other tasks,

Onboard sound will use CPU a lot, and slow down your games and pc,

gl,
its very minimal. most benches say ac'97 vs the xfi only gave the xfi and advantage at most 2-4fps...now is it worth speeding 150+ smackers for the increase? I would say no, use the money on upgrading you gcard or get some more memory.
 
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AshenSugar

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#19
Go for it. The old SoundBlaster128s might not have new drivers, but it's because they're GOOD SOLID CARDS. They don't NEED new drivers. Just throw it in and go nuts, it'll cause no problems.
no the reasion they lack new drivers is that creative dosnt want to support them they want to support/sell newer cards that make them more profit.

also creative driver support has alwase sucked, and sucked hard core to!!
 

Jimmy 2004

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#20
Onboard sound will use CPU a lot, and slow down your games and pc,
Although it is true that dedicated sound often reduces the load on the CPU it doesn't use a lot of CPU relative to what the games are using once you consider the performance gain you'll see. For a similar price to something like an X-Fi most people could buy a better CPU which would improve overall performance a lot more.
 

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#21
truth is anymore with HD audio onboard most people are far better off using onboard sound with the latest drivers and use the $ they would have spend on a sound card to get a better cpu and more ram.

if in the case of this system you need addin sound then go sith a CMI8768 (or better) chip based soundcard, driver support stomps creative and via into dust!!!!
even then if you go with an auzentech card you could still afford a better cpu or more ram because even their cheapest card(58bucks) is better then x-fi ;)
 

Carcenomy

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#22
You are clearly retarded if you think C-Media soundcards are superior. The CMIs are a $10 OEM piece of crap for a reason... they're a piece of crap. There's no way, NO way those incompatible piles of incompatible junk can usurp a Creative. They use ugly software 3D, have damn near no compatibility mode, and are just a plain ugly device... which is why they're so cheap.

The drivers are updated often for C-Media cards because they're poorly coded from the start. It's like patches on EA games. The older model Creative he has (which is fully supported I might add - all the drivers AND SoundBanks are available still) is a considerably better card that will be considerably more stable than any AC97 or C-Media crap you could dredge up.

Given I use the onboard on my new motherboard (ASUS P5B Deluxe... so it's 8-channel HD somethin), but it won't be staying that way - NONE of the cheap crap does EAX. Most games use EAX. See the problem here?
 

AshenSugar

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#23
read some reviews of auzentech audio cards, cmedia use to have problems but since they steped their driver support up(via forums) they have started to really shine!!!!!

and c-media updates them by request to try and work out spicific problems, creative ignores problems and blames the game maker, read their forums, if you think creatives drivers are great, you're wrong!

adi on asus boards fully supports eax2.0, any higher is not allowed by creative, they wont licence it out to anybody, its their only way to make people buy their x-fi cards....

try these
http://www.extremeoverclocking.com/reviews/sound/Auzentech_X-Plosion_1.html
Performance Summary & Final Conclusions:

The Auzentech HDA X-Plosion is a product I think will start to bring about some big changes in the sound card industry. Intel brought back Dolby Digital Live technology to the PC with the HD audio specification and implementation in current Intel Express Chipsets. Entrepreneurs saw the potential in DDL and other new audio enhancements (like DTS Connect), and implemented it in standalone sound cards.

Previously using an Intel system with HD Audio, I thoroughly enjoyed my 5.1 audio for everything. My receiver for my PC only has a single stereo analog input and SPDIF input, so running separate cables for each audio channel is impossible (not to mention bulky and unappealing even if it did support them). When I switched to my current dual-core Opteron system I lost the Intel/C-Media HD Audio, and was back to using only two speakers for games and music. I bought a Creative X-Fi, but discovered that the CMSS-3D did not up-mix via SPDIF, so back to the store it went. Finally after more research I came across several sound cards that had Dolby Digital Live, and a new card by Auzentech that also featured DTS Connect (which sounded particularly appealing). Eureka!

After using the X-Plosion sound card for several weeks, I don't know how I ever managed without it. In fact, I plan on purchasing another card for my HTPC. To me, running a rats nest of separate audio cables from a PC to a receiver for surround sound is a little antiquated <cough>Creative</cough>. A single SPDIF is all that should be needed, and thanks to the Auzentech HDA X-Plosion with DDL & DTS Connect that's all I need.
or the sub 60$ XMystique (cmi8768+ based)
Although there are certainly several soundcard manufacturers around offering up respectable options, I think Creative’s Sound Blaster line most readily springs to the minds of most gamers when the topic comes up. In fact, I have only purchased two soundcards in my life. The first time, I spent $20 dollars on a low-end card (the name of which I cannot recall) years ago when the card in my old machine crapped out on me. The only time I spent any real sum of money on a card was when I was building a serious gaming rig and figured that the on-board sound chip probably wouldn’t perform as well with my new 4.1 speaker setup as a Sound Blaster Live 5.1 Gamer would.

My SBL 5.1 Gamer served me well for several years (and through several machines), and I saw no need for an upgrade until it began its descent towards the hardware tomb which is the trashcan. It has recently been acting up – crackling loudly in the background of my music, constantly forgetting that I have not two, but four speakers, and sometimes simply refusing to utilize EAX support in games. It was, then, with arms wide open that I accepted the review of HiTec’s new HDA Digital X-Mystique 7.1 Gold. Timing couldn’t have been better. Let’s look at the features.

Sound Processor:
C-Media CMI8768/PCI-8ch+ PCI Chipset
8 channel codec embedded PCI audio single chip
Full-duplex 8CH 24bit/96kHz DAC / 2CH 16bit/48kHz ADC
Integrated S/PDIF receiver/transmitter supports 44.1kHz/48kHz/96kHz samplerate and 16/24bits resolution

System Interface:
PCI Rev. 2.2 compliant with 32bit PCI bus mastering modes
Onboard TOSLink transmitter for up to 24bit/96kHz Optical digital output, Gold Plated RCA connector for Coaxial digital output. Two SPDIF input for CD_SPDIF input (S/PDIF-IN #1), Digital I/O(SPDIF_EXT) input (S/PDIF-IN #2).
Built-in earphone buffer at Front Output (32 Ohm Loading)
External EEPROM Interface for Sub-Vendor/Sub-Device ID using custom driver
16Pin MIDI_IO Header for supporting MPU-401 MIDI UART Port
Swappable four high performance dual DIP type OPAMP for output channel, two high performance dual DIP OPAMP for MIC input – increase gain level and improve SNR

Package Includes:
HDA Digital X-Mystique 7.1 Gold audio card
MPC to MPC (2pin-2pin) CD S/PDIF audio cable
English Owner’s Manual
TOSLINK fiber optic digital cable
Drivers/Applications installation CD

I may be able to put all of the parts to a computer together and make it work, but I’m not technically savvy enough to translate all of that stuff into anything decipherable. So sue me – I was never an audiophile. This review will focus on what the majority of people out there will want to know about this soundcard – how it performs.

First things first, though. I performed the installation by the book – by first disabling and uninstalling the drivers for my older card, and then physically removing my dead SBLive card and replacing it with the X-Mystique (I even used the static armband to ensure no complications). With XP Professional SP2, the overall installation was a snap, requiring no more than the included installation CD.

HiTec’s card comes packaged with some useful sound applications that are worth mentioning. The best of which is the Xear 3D audio configuration. It allows you to switch between analog and digital sound output (SPDIF) and select how many speakers your system has. It also shows a graphic representing the connections on the back of the actual card, and highlights those that you ought to be using with the number of speakers indicated. It also sports a mixer, some effects you can add to the ambiance, and karaoke settings. The main feature of Xear 3D, however, is the 7.1 Virtual Speaker Shifter. This handy 2D picture shows a figure in a chair surrounded by a 7.1 speaker system. Simply clicking and dragging the speaker icons from their default position to where they actually are in your own setup customizes their output levels to ensure you get the best surround effect possible, even when not all of your surround speakers are actually behind you.

The CD also comes with some diversionary programs that let you test your setup. You can move a helicopter around and hear the difference as it moves behind your view, or around to the front. There’s also a terrible little game called Rockwar that asks you to shoot at meteors that are flying towards you. You can move the mouse to rotate your view 360 degrees, and you must figure out which direction the next meteor is coming from solely from the 3D sound. It’s a terrible game, but it proves its point well – this is a great card, and the 3D effect works. I was actually able to close my eyes and try to find the next meteor before I opened them – and I could do it pretty easily.



The sound quality in games is great in most cases. My main test was to be Half-Life 2. For one thing, Half-Life 2 has some incredible sound effects but let’s also not forget that I could never get it to run with more than two speakers for some reason with my SBLive card. Valve’s masterpiece was an audible treat, with the reverb and echoes of explosions low and dull, and audio cues of bullets hitting the environment crisp and believable. Results of other titles (Doom 3, Thief 3, and even Worms Armageddon) yielded similar results. I did experience an issue with Dungeon Siege 2, however. For some reason the sound effects faded out to almost inaudible levels sometimes based on where the camera was. DS2 is a mostly top-down view, but when the action was near the top of the screen, it was hard to hear. On the bottom of the screen, everything was fine. It was probably more of a positioning issue than anything else. The X-Mystique offers support for EAX 1.0 and 2.0, but there won’t be any for the upcoming EAX 3.0, unfortunately. How many gamers will ever notice, is to be seen.

MP3 and DVD playback is also superb – an obvious upgrade from my previous card. Highs sound much cleaner than I’m used to, and the lows thumping out of my subwoofer are perfectly matched, rather than being too rattly or muted. One big feature of the X-Mystique is its being the first PCI sound card to offer direct Dolby Digital Live – in other words, you can plug it into your home theatre system and use those monster speakers to hear true Dolby Digital processed through the sound card. I for one already have a monster setup in the living room, and while this feature did work well when I tried it, I don’t recommend anyone buy this card to replace his or her existing home theatre equipment. It’s a good feature if you can’t currently get DVDs to play on your home theatre surround sound, though. X-Mystique is the first card to do this, but rest assured it won’t be the last.

Overall, this is a great card for readers out there in need of a new soundcard. If you really need the Dolby Digital support for some reason, it’s an easy purchase at a reasonable $99 – or if you don’t currently have a surround capable card. You won’t be disappointed by its performance.
http://www.ngohq.com/home.php?page=articles&go=read&arc_id=29

Introduction
As you probably already know the Audio market is being dominated by Creative Labs. From the current view it looks like a monopoly, and as you probably know, monopolies are very bad for the consumers. For a very long time now I have tried to find an alternative for the Sound Blaster series but unfortunately I couldnt find a real competitor. Few weeks ago I read at NvNews about a new sound card named HDA Digital X-Mystique 7.1 Gold with Dolby encoding support and many cool features. I pulled out a few strings and managed to get a sample of this card. The one million-dollar question now is does the HDA Digital X-Mystique 7.1 Gold offer a real competition to the Sound Blaster series? Read this review to find out.


About
HDA Digital X-Mystique 7.1 Gold comes from a less known company called HiTech Digital Audio. Its powered by C-Media CMI8768 audio processor chip. C-Media chips are already known around the onboard audio. Personally I never had a chance to test their products before.
The card is equipped with a Dolby Digital Real-Time encoder and support the latest Dolby technologies such as: DTS-ES, DD-EX. Dolby licensing isnt cheap, if you remember NVIDIA has decided to remove the Dolby encoder from the nForce audio due to the high fees paid to Dolby Labs. The card supports both Analog and Digital Speakers.

We all know that the current status of the audio market isnt that good. Only few high quality products are available and most of them are from Creative Labs. The Sound Blaster products arent cheap. The HDA Digital X-Mystique 7.1 Gold price is around 100$ USD which is very cheap compared to the other products out there. Lets hope it can deliver the goods.


Package details
- HDA Digital X-Mystique 7.1 Gold audio card
- 2Pin-2Pin CD S/PDIF audio cable
- TOSLINK fiber optic digital cable
- Drivers/Applications Installation CD
- User Manual


Product Specifications/Features
- C-Media CMI8768/PCI - 8 Channels
- Full-duplex 8CH 24bit/96kHz DAC / 2CH 16bit/48kHz ADC
- Integrated S/PDIF Input/Output supports 44.1kHz/48kHz/96kHz samplerate and 16/24bits resolution
- Supports Dolby Digital Live Real-Time Contents Encoder.
- Supports the latest DTS-ES, DD-EX sound (6.1/7.1) playback (also including Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 playback)
- Supports 44.1 kHz / 48kHz / 96kHz S/PDIF Output through both Coaxial RCA and Optical Toslink
- Onboard COAXIAL RCA output connector, OPTICAL Toslink trasmitter for high quality Digital Output
- PCI Rev. 2.2 compliant with 32bit PCI bus mastering modes
- Two S/PDIF Input for CD_SPDIF Input (S/PDIF-IN #1), Digital I/O(SPDIF_EXT) Input (S/PDIF-IN #2)
- Built-in earphone buffer at Front Output (32Ohm Loading)
- External EEPROM Interface for Sub-Vendor/Sub-Device ID using custom driver
- Four high perfomance OPAMP for Output control, Two high perfomance OPAMP for MIC Input - increase gain level and improve SNR
- Onboard TOSLINK transmitter for up to 24bit/96kHz Optical Digital Output, Gold Plated RCA connetor for Coaxial Digital Output
- 16Pin MIDI_IO Header for supporting MPU-401 MIDI UART Port
- C-Media Xear 3D 7.1 Virtual Speaker SHIFTER technology
- Sensaura CRL3D HRTF 3D positional sound enhancement with multi-drive 7.1, EnvironmentFX, ZoomFX, MacroFX, etc.
- DirectSound 3D HW acceleration
- A3D 1.0 , EAX 1.0, 2.0 (powered by Sensaura), HRTF-based 3D Positional Audio (C3DX ), Direct Sound 3D SW
- Unique Karaoke functionality : Mic Echo, Key-shifting, Vocal Cancellation
- Support Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003, Windows ME, Windows 98 SE, Windows XP x64 (Beta)


A good looking card. The Dolby seal looks very sweet and the text near the plugs makes it even more easy to use. Dont laugh at me but sometimes it could be pretty annoying when you switch audio cards on a weekly basis :)

More action in the next page.


Installation
Ive plugged the card into the system and installed the latest drivers from HiTecs website. Installation went smooth without any problems.
I connected my 5.1 analog speakers to the soundcard and everything seemed to work fine. Then I plugged my cheap unknown Dolby Digital/DTS Receiver to the sound card and both Digital/Analog ports seemed to work very well. HiTeC included a few applications with their package such as, Media Rack (Player) and a few 3D Audio demos. Kind useless for a guy like me :)


The Control Panel
The control panel allows you to setup: Output devices, Advanced Mixer, Special environment effects, View the audio jacks functions, test your speaker system setup, Karaoke mode, 7.1 Virtual Speaker shifter, DSP Modes and Equalizer.


Xear3D 7.1 Virtual Speaker shifter
To be honest I never trusted the "Virtual Speakers" until today. For this review I had to test it and its working pretty well. The Xear3D Virtual Speaker adds a real deep to the sound and it really feels like a 7.1 speaker system.


S/PDIF and COAXIAL
The card supports both channels both analog and digital outputs. In the past some cards didnt like my receiver. Both S/PDIF and COAXIAL seem to work perfect without any issues.


24bits/96KHz
You heard it right! The soundcard supports 24bits/96KHz with Digital output. Same like the new cards from Creative Labs.


Gaming
I tried Doom 3 with the Dolby Digital Live and its just perfect! Forget the Analog speakers, Dolby is the real deal. The sounds are so realistic, the neighbors almost called the cops because of the great quality. I tried some EAX games and everything seems to work perfectly. It seems all the games are working great in both Analog and Digital mode but I must say that the Dolby Digital produced the best sound quality.


DVD Playback
I launched WinDVD and loaded up a few DVD movies with DTS and Dolby soundtracks and the quality was just amazing. The card and my setup produced great quality sound. This damn card supports everything!


Music
After hours of listening I must say the quality is just great. I really liked the low frequency sounds the card produce. I even couldnt notice between a Radio station and a CD, both sound good with this card.


CPU Usage
I shutted down all the process and launched Winamp and the Task Manager. I compared this card to an onboard Realtek ALC850. I really wanted to add a Sound Blaster Comparison but I dont have any creative cards around. (Hint)



Its about time to find out how the card and the features influence games performance. I ran each test few times to verify the results and all the latest patches were installed.


Computer specification
Hardware:
AMD64 3500+ Winchester Core @ 2300MHz (11x200)
Gigabyte GA-K8NS-939 nForce3 250
2x512Mb Kingston PC3200 2,2,2,5
ATI Radeon 9800XT 256Mb - AGP

Software:
Microsoft Windows XP SP2 with the latest updates
nForce Drivers 5.10
ATI Catalyst 5.6
Doom 3
Half-Life 2
Quake 3

http://img176.imageshack.us/img176/6452/ngohqoc0.jpg


It seems the more channels, the higher performance hit, thats very common among the soundcards. Dolby Digital Live may result in a small performance hit but it’s worth it. The quality it produces is just amazing.





Final Conclusions

So does the HDA Digital X-Mystique 7.1 Gold compete with the Sound Blaster series? Hell yeah! A great card with great quality and a low price tag. Im pretty surprised how good it is. Even a driver for the Microsoft Windows x64 is available. Im very happy to see this player in the game after all, the competition between the manufacturers is only good for us. More competitors the better. The HDA Digital X-Mystique 7.1 performed perfect. It delivered all the goods without problems. If you have a Dolby decoder/receiver and good speakers set you should consider buying this card. Maybe HiTech isnt that famous but they proved themselves with this product. Maybe it doesnt support EAX Advanced HD 4.0 but who needs it while you got Dolby Digital Live and 24bits/96KHz?

Since this card really impressed me I decided to give it our golden award and recommend it to you. Grab it while its hot!

Pros:
* Great sound quality.
* Very low CPU usage.
* Dolby Digital Live encoder with DTS,DTS-ES,DD-EX support.
* Price.
* Not a Creative Labs product.

Cons:
* Availability
im gonna give ya a bit more on the Xplosion card, its the newest mid range card(there top end is for audio files and pros only, 200+bucks)
http://www.thinkcomputers.org/index.php?x=reviews&id=376&page=4
Testing

The first test is the music test. We put the DTS Connect vs. the Dolby Digital Live. The track we tested was Matt Darey's 2005 New Years Eve set. It is an hour and a half set, but I listened to the first 15 minutes to hear the differences between the DTS Connect and Dolby Digital Live. After listening to the 15 minutes of the set almost 10 times on both settings i would have to say the DTS sounded a bit better. Don't get me wrong it sounded amazing on both settings, but the DTS seemed to play more effortlessly and more crisp than the Dolby Digital Live.


Now for gaming, a lot of people do not play games with speakers, especially hardcore gamers. They all use headphones so they can hear everything without outside noise. I tried a few different setups for gaming. The first was of course just headphones. The headset I used was the Altec Lansing AHS615. I played a few games including Call of Duty 2, Unreal Tournament, and World of Warcraft. Everything sounded great, in Call of Duty 2 when being bombarded with artillery and grenades it all sounded very crisp and real. Now of course I took advantage of the DTS connect and Dolby Digital Live. I played World of World of Warcraft and the sound was amazing. The ambient sound in the game is just great. I did notice a small difference between DTS and Dolby Digital Live. Just like with the music test it seemed like the DTS connect was crisper.


Conclusion

The Auzentech X-plosion offers so much at such a great price. Selling for $114.99 over at Newegg. The low-end X-Fi sells for 121.99, the higher-end card, the X-Fi Elite sells for $385, and still does not offer what the X-plosion has. The ability to have both DTS Connect and Dolby Digital Live you can't go wrong. Also the fiber optic out is great; who wants a ton of cables going from your PC to your receiver? This card will sure turn heads. I am currently using it in my HTPC and it is amazing watching movies and other videos. On the gaming side of things I would also use this card if I had 2, but I do not have that much time to play games so I decided to put it in my HTPC. It is the perfect card at the perfect price. If you are looking for a new sound card I would suggest this card over all others. That is why I can give it a perfect 10 out of 10 and our Recommended Award!
http://www.rage3d.com/reviews/sound/auzentechxplosion/index.php?p=7

Conclusion

AuzenTech’s maturation in the sound card market is the single most significant development in PC audio over the last few years, aside from the release of Creative X-Fi. Why? Gamers and HTPC enthusiasts finally have an opportunity to use a viable product other than the often bemoaned Creative sound cards that are equated with ticks, software bugs and random work-arounds. We finally have a product that allows for add-in card support of DDL. We finally have accompany that is not resting on it heels adding features and a refresh product one year after their push into the US market.

C-Media will undoubtedly continue to go up-market with success. Game developer support for open surround sound engines will be vital to their success as EAX has a strangle-hold on nearly every game engine. OpenAL FTW.

In Theory

Now specifically about the HDA/AuzenTech X-Plosion DTS Connect 7.1, I was delighted by this opportunity to be one of the first. I was the first to review the BlueGears X-Mystique and thought it would rest in my system through a few upgrade cycles. The addition of the X-Plosion’s DTS Connect support should excite HTPC enthusiasts and the growing number of gamers that blur the line between gaming and multimedia PC enthusiasts. So many of the current Home-Theaters-in-a-Box support DTS decoding that Logitech and Klipsch should have worry that the small satellite, DVD-equipped systems could easily displace the 7.1 systems fetching a premium on the web and at the big-boxes. We have already seen the adoption of widescreen monitors and TVs for PC use, yours truly included, and that the reality and evolution of home PC use will move towards a balance of gaming and general entertainment use. I regularly watch TV or catch a flick the wife doesn’t want to see in my overly comfortable desk chair or the futon behind it.
Less prophecy and more observation…

In Practice

The X-Plosion did address one of the biggest driver bugs of the X-Mystique. Thank you, AuzenTech. I no longer need to cheat the registry or reset the speaker modes when restarting. I do wish that they could address the loss of sync issue that causes shorter sounds after inactivity to not be heard. The work-around mentioned earlier of enabling Karaoke is fairly harmless, unless you use you audio input for a gaming headset, in which case you might sound a little funny to your Counter-Strike teammates when you switch to 2CH analog for your headset/microphone combo.

Performance was on par with the X-Mystique and DTS Connect has no effect on overall benchmark results when gaming. The Synthetic benchmarks lead me to make certain deductions about the effect of these encoding methods causing certain instructions to take longer to execute as the X-Plosion gets the audio channels rerouted to the SPDIF port. Once the system is under any load, the performance drop from enabling DTS Connect or Dolby Digital Live disappears.

The X-Plosion is well made, better supported and full featured. It’s only real disadvantage is the lack of support for newer revisions of EAX. However, most games that support EAX4 or even EAX5 also support EAX and EAX2 which is handled by Sensaura emulation. Hopefully, AuzenTech’s efforts to support OpenAL in conjunction with other HD Audio adopters will move the game industry into supporting the open standard audio engine.

The Home Theater PC crowd has another option when it comes to outfitting their systems with an audio card. DTS Connect has an advantage on paper that shows up subtly when listening. Soundstorm and Azalia are now a feature behind when it comes to the stat sheet. Moreover, the X-Plosion’s inclusion of socketed OPAMPs allows for improved analog output signal quality after a quick trip to ebay. Digital or analog, the X-Plosion has you covered.

The card is not perfect. We still have the afore-mentioned keep-alive problem. The X-Plosion is not as feature rich as the Creative X-Fi in terms of software bundle or audio modes. This is not as polished, however, Creative’s polish usually exposes issues of compatibility or stability. At its $139 MSRP, the X-Plosion is a relative bargain compared to the X-Fi cards.

Final Comments

Thanks to Stephen for the review sample, for his patience and for taking part in the Q&A.


Thanks to AuzenTech for adding worthwhile products to their line of cards.

I will be recommending the X-Plosion in place of the X-Mystique for friends building systems going forward. I can not find a reason why the X-Plosion will not be more successful than the X-Mystique.
note that the mentioned bug with stay alive was fixed with a driver update(and x-mystic can be fixed by using c-media drivers dirrectly from the CMI website insted of auzentechs)

http://www.nvnews.net/reviews/hda_xplosion/page_3.shtml
OPERATION

As far as benchmarking goes, I used Audio WinBench and Rightmark Audio Analyzer for the synthetic benchmarking. For real world usage, I used a rather rudimentary method. I opened up the task manager and checked CPU usage while running iTunes to play some of my favorite mp3s.

With Audio WinBench, I ran the DirectSound and DirectSound3D tests for 16-bit and 44.1 kHz. The CPU utilization never reached 5%.



With RightMark Audio Analyzer, I tested at 16-bit, 44.1 kHz and 24-bit, 96 kHz. The RightMark results were all in the excellent range for the HDA X-Plosion.



CPU usage while listening to music during iTunes fluctuated between 0% and 4%. I had tested this previously with the Audigy 2ZS, and found that CPU usage fluctuated between 2% and 5% with that card. It appeared that the HDA X-Plosion was more efficient at mp3 decoding and up-converting than my old Audigy 2ZS.

The other testing that I did was purely subjective. My ears had the final say in how good this sound card sounded. The first ear test was playing mp3s in iTunes. For this, I used the poopy stock iPod headphones that came with my iPod. I tested the HDA X-Plosion against my 40GB iPod Photo, using the Rock EQ setting. The findings were straightforward, the HDA made my iPod sound tinny. The sound that I've gotten used to over the past year was proven to be garbage compared to the fidelity of the HDA X-Plosion over even the most generic headphones.

OPERATION CONTINUED

Then, I played the games. Doom 3 came alive. When I had reviewed the game, I had played it in all of my 2.1 glory. Now, with Logitech THX Z-5300e 5.1 surround, it was absolutely jaw-dropping. My initial tests with Quake 4 were terrible. It failed to recognize the surround sound speakers at first. When I finally got Quake 4 to recognize surround sound, the game would occasionally fail, and the audio would loop continuously. The sound made me feel like I was stuck in a Moby nightmare. Auzentech pointed me to some potential fixes, but I found that simply re-installing the drivers for the HDA X-Plosion fixed the issue. Quake 4 then ran like a dream.

My last test was placing my PC in my home theater. I hooked it up to a Sony Wega KDF-42WE655 TV via DVI to HDMI cable, and to my Yamaha HTR-5730 AV Receiver. It's a meager home theater, but the room is only 3-passenger, so it's not so bad. I booted the machine, opened the PCI 3D Audio Configuration and set the output device to Dolby Digital Live 5.1. I set the Yamaha to Dolby Digital + Matrix 6.1. I popped in Star Wars Episode I. I like the podracing scene, so that's what I decided to use to test the DVD portion of the audio. Wow! What an awesome sound. Then, I switched the Audio Configuration on the PC to DTS Connect 5.1, and changed the Yamaha to DTS + Matrix 6.1. Damn! I think I may have actually soiled myself. I didn't even have to crank it up to notice a huge difference in my receiver between Dolby Digital Live and DTS coming out of the HDA X-Plosion. Then, I started playing some mp3s. This was the way that audio was meant to be played. If you ask me, this was the true test of this sound card and it kicked ass. I think I will build a small form-factor machine around this device just so I can play mp3s in exquisite fidelity in my TV room, just as soon as I change my underwear.

CONCLUSION

Overall, this card is an excellent alternative to the Creative Labs Audigy 2ZS that I was using. It was missing some features that made usability easier like a connector for the front ports, but the card makes up for that in versatility of the Dolby Digital Live and DTS Connect features. If you already have the Audigy 2 or better, and it is working fine for you with your current speaker setup, there may be no compelling reason to upgrade to this card. If you find yourself needing the features of the Dolby Digital Live or DTS Connect, then is your card of choice. Based on the multitude of features and the sound quality in my TV room, and despite front connector shortcomings, I give the HDA X-Plosion a Grand Slam! Thanks to Stephane Bae of Auzentech for the review sample.
seems they all dissagree with you, as has ever review of the auzentech/bluegears sound cards i have found to date, i think your living back in 1997/1998 or something!!!!

as to creative driver support, it sucks, they NEVER fix anything in a timely fassion, they ignore bug reports, and this after they charge you thru the arse for their cards.

truth is that cmedia's current lineup is killing creatives for the avrage user, its all about the support you get, and cmedia/auzentech give you GREAT support, if you find a driver bug, post it, you will get a responce witin a few days from their driver team, oh yeah, and they are making new drivers for even their disscontinued chips like the 8738, full vista support!!!!

creative will get you drivers when they feel like it, if they feel like it, and if they dont work properly, well thats your problem!!!!!!
 
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#24
they steped their driver support up(via forums) they have started to really shine!!!!!
I just check it out and they have nothing but complaints and few drivers that are dated about 3-4 months now. But they do have some recent vista "beta" drivers...but dated 3 months ago??

http://www.cmedia.com/forums/viewforum.php?f=6&sid=45648dd973822c712cd576a467199c14

and c-media updates them by request to try and work out spicific problems, creative ignores problems and blames the game maker, read their forums, if you think creatives drivers are great maby your the one who is retarded!!!!
C-media is telling most of the posters ...

"C-Media is a chip/solution vendor, not a consumer product company. C-Media did not produce, market, or sell you your sound card as a finished product. If you want to seek compensation, you should find out who manufactured your sound cards and contact them."

and most of the thread have 0 replies...hmmm.


adi on asus boards fully supports eax2.0, any higher is not allowed by creative, they wont licence it out to anybody, its their only way to make smucks like you buy their shitty x-fi cards....
WHY NOT! EAX is the product of creative, therefore the have all rights to hold there "property to themselves"

If you cant beat them, join them...if you cant join them, die!!!!

^^pretty sad but true^^^



Not to bash on c-media or you, i am personally ALL up on anything that is better and cheaper, but really i dont see much out of c-media...

i would fork over 40 bucks and get a refurbished audigy 2 zs from creative's ebay store, than fork over 20 bucks on a cmedia card.

http://cgi.ebay.com/Creative-Sound-...QtcZphotoQQcmdZViewItem?hash=item170067487190

with audigy2 zs's eax4.0 and all, i would say its the best sound card to support quality for 95% of games out there...
 
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#25
Do x-fi's actually do dolby live and dts? as ive got a dd/dts receiver (yamaha too) and am still using my old nforce2's soundstorm for its dolby digital live, and would really like to use my newer pc through the receiver instead(my current mobo hasnt even got spdif, but i did try my mates a8nsli dlx a while back, and its spdif didnt do either format)

If not i'll get one of them auzentech's instead, seen a few good write ups on them now