Auzentech X-Fi Bravura Review (Page 2 of 12)

Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware

Like all newer audio cards from Auzentech, the X-Fi Bravura is a PCI Express based sound card. The printed circuit board of the Auzentech X-Fi Bravura is very different both physically and hardware-wise compared to the X-Fi HomeTheater HD. For those who have been following our Youtube channel with regards to the Auzentech X-Fi Bravura video overview last week, you can see that this sound card is not only a bit smaller that its bigger brother, but their layout do not resemble each other either. The reason is because the Bravura packs a lot less hardware on its chestnut colored board. Fundamentally speaking, the analog circuit designs found on both sound cards are related, but the Bravura lacks pretty much all the specialized electronics found on the HomeTheater HD's digital side. In the end, you will still get full support for DTS Connect, DTS Interactive, and DTS Neo:PC.

It is easy to simplify the Auzentech X-Fi Bravura into three sections for simplified analysis. From the left, we have an array of audio grade filtering capacitors, followed by the row of user swappable operational amplifiers, as well as a series of integrated circuit chips including the DACs, ADCs, and audio processor. We will cover each section in detail in just a moment.

A look at the back of the Auzentech X-Fi Bravura sound card. Compared to the X-Fi HomeTheater HD, it is clear that this board is significantly less complicated due to decreased number of onboard components. This is especially apparent when viewing the card from this side. Capacitors are mounted using traditional mounting methods; additionally, printing at the bottom of the board indicates that the X-Fi Bravura is designed in the USA, and made in Korea. Please note that a red LED located at the outer edge fades in and out continuously during operation, and may prove to be a minor annoyance to some users with windowed cases.

Near the left edge of the sound card are the bi-polarized aluminum electrolytic Nichicon MUSE ES capacitors, as we have seen on the X-Fi HomeTheater HD from the company recently. The green capacitors with silver tops shown are highly regarded units among audiophiles for their excellent filtering characteristics for cleaner sound output. Also found on the X-Fi Bravura are WIMA MKP capacitors and other conductive polymer capacitors.

Shift your focus to the right and you will see an array of operational amplifiers residing in their respective sockets. These sockets allow users to easily upgrade their output OpAmps down the road, where all channels are swappable by the end user. The discrete headphone circuit features a National Semiconductor LME49720NA OpAmp. It promises very low distortion, low noise, and a high slew rate of ±20V/μs by the manufacturer. Rated voltage noise density is 2.7nV/√^Hz, and THD+N is specified at an optimal 0.00003%. Output current capability is +/-26mA. Furthermore, the 120dB CMRR and PSRR in conjunction with its 0.1mV VOS rating provide great DC OpAmp performance characteristics. The LME49720NA is also capable of driving 600Ω loads, according to the data sheet from the manufacturer.

Lower cost OpAmps are used for the rest of the card. We can see JRC5532s used for the front, rear, and side channels, and JRC4580s for the center channel and subwoofer output. These are relatively more generic OpAmps, and are very commonly found on many audio devices -- thanks to the fact that they are very common, arrive at a relatively lower price, and have reasonably good audio characteristics.

Worth mentioning is what Auzentech calls the Pointing Ground Design on the X-Fi Bravura sound card. Basically, they have implemented a common grounding point for the DAC, OpAmps, and output jack power supply to reduce interfering noise with the original signal. A ground source switch is located at the upper left corner of the card permits the user to switch between chassis or signal as ground to reduce noise issues, which is quite an innovative feature in my opinion!

A coaxial transformer can be found near the bottom left corner of the sound card, as shown in the photo above, to minimize digital output jitter. It is important to note that lower end sound cards with digital output lack this feature (That includes your motherboard's integrated audio, haha), but Auzentech certainly did not cut any corners when it comes to the X-Fi Bravura for digital audio output perfection in this regard!

Multiple digital to analog converters are found on the Auzentech X-Fi Bravura sound card. The multi-channel DAC is Cirrus Logic's CS4382A 24-bit 192 kHz 8-channel DAC. It has a dynamic range of 114 dB, and -100 dB THD+N with low clock jitter sensitivity. The independent headphone circuit features an AKM AK4396 24-bit 192 kHz DAC on board, with -100dB THD+N, 120dB dynamic range, 120dB signal to noise ratio, and 128x oversampling according to the rated specifications. Both DACs are well-regarded units in the enthusiast world.

Like the X-Fi HomeTheater HD, Auzentech's X-Fi Bravura has two analog to digital converters (ADCs) to simply record from two independent sources, on the input side of things. The Wolfson WM8775SEDS four-channel stereo multiplexed ADC is responsible for the rear microphone/line in input. The WM8775SEDS features a rated 102dB SNR, -90dB THD, and sampling frequency of 32kHz to 96kHz according to the manufacturer. Its secondary ADC is a Wolfson WM8782S that takes care of only the front panel microphone input, with rated 100dB SNR, -90dB THD, and sampling frequency of 8kHz to 192kHz. The X-Fi Bravura also comes with a microphone preamplifier to support balanced microphones.

Especially interesting are the User Mode Switches on the upper edge of the card (Shown on the right in the photo above). These are already preset for you out of the box already, but you can use it to customize the sound card hardware to match your analog microphone and speakers. MODE0 controls the input, and has six different setting options:

- SET1: Normal
- SET2: Headset microphone
- SET3: Stereo Pin Microphone
- SET4: Balanced Dynamic Microphone
- SET5: Desktop Standing Microphone
- SET6: Multimedia Pin microphone

MODE1 controls the speaker and headphone output, and the settings go as follows:

- SET 1: Performance sound (1) and Professional headphone (1)
- SET 2: Comport sound (2) and Multimedia headphone (2)
- SET 3: Comport sound (2) and Earphone (3)
- SET 4: Multichannel Movie (3) and Hi-Fi headphone (4)

Option settings are reflected by an array of LEDs adjacent to the switches. For detailed information on what each setting does, an extensive table can be found on Auzentech's website.

The heart of Auzentech's X-Fi Bravura is Creative's CA0110 audio processor. It features up to 24-bit/96kHz playback in multi-channel mode, and 24-bit/192kHz in headphone mode. The chip itself, as shown in our photo above, is physically smaller than the CA20K2 X-Fi processor found on the X-Fi HomeTheater HD, because it packs significantly less horsepower under the hood for reduced complexity. The CA0110 audio processor is actually based on the same chipset as the Audigy SE, Audigy Value, and SB Live! 24-bit bridged to the PCI Express interface which has only EAX 4.0 support. In reality, it is clear that the X-Fi Bravura does not have a 'true' X-Fi APU/DSP. Fortunately, while it lacks basic hardware acceleration, it still has trademark X-Fi audio enhancement features such as X-Fi CMSS3D and X-Fi Crystalizer, made available via software emulation (We will cover the drivers in detail on the next page). Creative ALchemy brings multi-channel audio back, but not hardware acceleration in games due to physical limitations as aforementioned.

Specifications of the Creative CA0110 digital audio processor are listed below, as obtained from Creative's website:

- Universal Audio Architecture (UAA) v1.0 compliance in HD Audio mode
- PCI Express to PCI bridge
- PCI specification 2.3 compliant. EEPROM interface to support up to 4Kbytes of EEPROM
- Playback of 5x stereo audio channels of sample rate up to 192 kHz 24/16-bit data, via PCI bus interface
(access latency @ 192kHz is 160us)
- Support 3 independent HD DMA channels
- 4 stereo output, 1 stereo HP out and 1 stereo digital channel
- Support Microsoft ‘out-of-the-box’ HAD driver
- 5 I2S outputs (4x I2S outputs at one sample rate and 1xI2S output supports an independent sample rate)
- I2S out supports 44.1kHz/48kHz/96kHz/192kH sampling rate
- Single SPDIF output
- 1 Stereo Line In with support in 48kHz/96kHz/192kHz sampling rate
- 1 Stereo Mic In with support in 48kHz/96kHz/192kHz sampling rate
- 2 SPDIF In with support in 44.1kHz/48kHz/96kHz sampling rate
- Router Module
- Volume Control Module
- 2 MIDI UART interface
- 2 Interval timer
- 2 22-bit wall clock counter
- General Purpose I/O Register
8 GPO and 8 GPI pins with de-bouncing (default) and 2 GPI_POWER and 4 GPO_POWER
- 1 serial SPI interface
- 2 serial I2C interface

At the end of the board are the internal connectors for front panel connections, S/PDIF in, and S/PDIF out. I don't quite understand why Auzentech decided to make all the pins facing out rather than facing down, since this would make neat cabling just a bit more challenging for the end user. This is especially an issue since it is near the outer edge of the sound card, which is less than optimal for the reason listed.

An array of connectors can be found at the back of the Auzentech X-Fi Bravura. From the left, we have the 3.5mm FlexiJack for line in, microphone in, or S/PDIF in, configurable via software. A 1/4" stereo phone jack leads out from the X-Fi Bravura's discrete amplified headphone circuit. This is followed by four 3.5mm multi-channel connectors for 7.1 support; the front channel is green, while the rear, center/subwoofer, and side channels are in black, orange, and gray, respectively. Lastly, we have a S/PDIF digital combo jack that can accommodate a coaxial cable in its native form, or an optical cable by an included adapter.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Specifications, Bundle
2. A Closer Look - Hardware
3. A Closer Look - Software
4. 16-bit/44.1 kHz Frequency Analysis
5. 16-bit/48 kHz Frequency Analysis
6. 16-bit/96 kHz Frequency Analysis
7. 16-bit/192 kHz Frequency Analysis
8. 24-bit/44.1 kHz Frequency Analysis
9. 24-bit/48 kHz Frequency Analysis
10. 24-bit/96 kHz Frequency Analysis
11. 24-bit/192 kHz Frequency Analysis
12. Subjective Listening and Conclusion