Page 6 - Subjective Listening and Conclusion
Third time around saying this, but I always had this feeling when reviewing sound cards. When it comes to subjective listening, it's always interesting on how to retain the objectiveness in subjectiveness. Okay, I realize it sounds like a paradox. The reason of its subjectiveness can extend beyond because pulling the objectiveness out of this subjective aspect is very hard. Typically, I see results from 95% of audio reviews stating how (Insert whether it is a headphone, speaker, sound card, MP3 player, or something related to audio output)'s the bass is so awesome, it shook the house so much that I had to get my house's structural integrity checked and the midrange is so awesomely clear that it sounds the person is really in the room, I swear someone touched me on my shoulder during that time, as well as the treble is so freakin awesome it's so high yet natural the percussion instruments sounds soooooo fantastic. While there are undeniable truths to these observations, personally I feel that there are things beyond this. But regardless I'll try to express my feel on this subjective matter to the best of my capabilities.
Generally speaking, I've definitely appreciated the flexibility and scalability of this product. The X-Fi processor is generally capable of customizing the way you want things to sound; and though these settings the perceived sound can vary greatly depending on your settings -- much unlike the mostly non-customizable settings (Non-EQ responsive) neutral type that most become used to in C-Media based chips. They are excellent audio chips providing excellent capabilities in many areas, but they can't really 'push' specific frequencies to accommodate components that does not excel in certain areas; for example, bass.
Containing a Creative DSP/APU, the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude certainly retains the traits of a Creative card with the capability of giving the user very vivid, colorful and punchy sounds, yet it is just as capable of working on a neutral basis to allow other components to handle the original signal -- typically used with higher end home theater setups that works best with unaltered and non-after-processed signal. Generally speaking, if you use lower end computer speakers, the X-Fi Prelude can be customized to unleash some potential of those speakers -- there's certainly no lack of bass, midrange, or treble either way -- while when paired up with high end components the X-Fi Prelude combined with its excellent onboard hardware will certainly not be a bottleneck until some point up high in the ladder.
Being that, the quality of the analog sound is clean, clear, and natural with use of the excellent onboard electronics such as the excellent National and Texas Instruments OpAmps, as well as AKM DACs. While my previous Creative X-Fi XtremeMusic uses the same audio processor, with similar characteristics as previously described -- capable of pushing all frequencies with vivid sounds, excellent optional after audio processing capabilities (Still can output neutral, untouched sounds) on the analog side, the benefits of much better operational amplifiers and digital to analog converters that's proprietary to the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude is not there. This is certainly something on the X-Fi Prelude I've come to appreciate -- much cleaner and clearer sound as seen in other high end sound cards such as the Asus Xonar D2. And this is just to say the least.
It's an audiophile product alright, for music fans -- but as far as gaming goes, support for proprietary Creative technologies such as EAX 5.0 as well as hardware acceleration for games under Vista with Creative ALchemy is what's on paper, but low CPU utilization and excellent gaming audio position is a great combination. To put it in a slang, the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude is basically a Creative X-Fi on crack haha.
The only thing I can complain about during usage is that, the microphone input volume is especially low; I've searched around and it does not seem to me that I am the only one experiencing this problem. The latest drivers from Auzentech didn't fix it, so hopefully this will be fixed sometime soon -- I don't like sitting 2cm away from my mic every time I need to start an audio chat on Windows Live Messenger.
The Auzentech X-Fi Prelude is probably the best sound card in the market today. Combining the most powerful, and arguably, the best sound processor in the market today, with some of the highest quality and a reasonable price consumer audio electronics, the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude is a very scalable product when it comes to compatibility -- whether it's in unleashing the potential of relatively weaker speakers by emphasizing on certain frequencies, or working with high end home theater systems in outputting raw unprocessed audio while retaining as much quality as possible -- the X-Fi Prelude is a winner not only on paper as shown in our RMAA test graphs, but also in real life performance. I am only going to complain on a few things. Hardware wise, there's certainly no lack of audio connectors, but how it's labeled is highly ineffective as discussed on page 2 of this review. Driver wise, there's a few odd bugs as well as the low microphone volume input issue. We'll certainly look forward to Auzentech's next driver update, hopefully to include all the rest of the home theater features they've promised. Performance wise, I don't have much to complain about -- well actually, there are better operational amplifiers and DACs out there, but will it come at this price? To say that I am impressed by this sound card is only saying the least. The X-Fi Prelude is definitely priced reasonably, pick yours up today and rock!
Special thanks to Stephane over at Auzentech for making this review possible.
APH Recommended Award | APH Review Focus Summary:
8/10 means Definitely a very good product with drawbacks that aren't likely going to matter to the end user.
9/10 means Excellent product with very minor drawbacks that does not affect the overall product.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 8.2/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
To say the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude is an X-Fi on crack is one way of putting it, but the other way of saying it is that the X-Fi Prelude is pretty much one of the best sound cards available in the market today!
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1. Introduction, Specifications, Bundle
2. A Closer Look - Hardware
3. A Closer Look - Software
4. RightMark Audio Analyzer 24-bit/48 kHz
5. RightMark Audio Analyzer 24-bit/192 kHz
6. Subjective Listening and Conclusion