The X-Fi Prelude chipset offers a lot of features, but all of them are not available yet.
On the website of Auzentech you can find a schedule for when certain options will be available in the software.
But don’t worry, the software that is available right now is already working and gives you something that soundcards without the X-Fi chipset can’t give you.
Our testing system for this soundcard will be using the following components;
- Intel Core2Duo E6600 @ 2.4GHz 4MB FSB1066
- Gigabyte GA-965P-DQ6 iP965
- BFG GeForce 8800GTX OC2 626MHz 768MB
- 2 GB Corsair XMS2-6400 Twin2X2048
- 3x Western Digital WD2500JS 250GB 7200rpm 8MB SATA2
- Windows XP Professional, Service Pack 2 ( Latest patches )
The installation went on pretty straight forward without any troubles. When installed you have a few options in the installed software to choose from.
First of all, choose your type; Entertainment, Game or Audio Creation.
All of the three gives you different options, depending on what environment you want or need to work with. Even though this card is kind of like an “all-in-one” card, it sure is in the high performance segment.
You can be sure that this soundcard covers all your music needs for watching movies or playing games in 7.1 surround or for those of you who just want to listen to your favourite music.
Below you can find some information from Creative and Auzentech about the different modes.
The testing part was made by playing Battlefield 2142 and Quake 4, listening to movie effects and listening to different types and genres of music.
When playing games, especially FPS online games, you really need to know where your enemies are located ( without using cheats ;). Therefore your soundcard is one of the most important pieces you have in your gaming system.
Both in Battlefield and Quake you want to be able to rely on the sound to hear if someone comes behind you or from which direction those rockets are coming from.
In both games this can easily be heard, also thanks to the “game mode” that you can choose in your soundcard software. It emphasizes all the important sounds needed to stay on top of your opponents.
When listening to music there are several different things to take in consideration. The most important parts for me is the bass, the clarity of treble and no audible distortion. I need to be able to turn the volume up pretty much, no matter music, and it should flow like the purest water flow.
I choose to listen to several songs made by “Bond”, which is a group of girls playing violins and double bass. I’ve also been to a concert with them so I definitely know how the sound should feel and sound.
While you’re watching movies, just like with games, you want to hear and really feel where the bullets are coming from. From what direction the murderer is running towards you and so on. Just basic stuff that just has a few years on its back for your home theatre.
This has “just begun” and every year we get even more advanced and cheaper equipment to get the same sound and feeling as if you were in a cinema.
Together in all three tests this soundcard really scores. Compared to a Creative Live! soundcard it’s not way ahead as its basically, the same company that manufactured the two. But there are some differences when listening to the sound effects and to music.
For example the new X-Fi Prelude really can handle the bass much better even on higher volume, even though the Live! card can as well. But compared to another test card, the GameSurround Fortissimo III 7.1, there is a huge difference.
I’m not that much informed on the Fortissimo card, but both the Creative based cards do handle the sound a lot better.
One major difference between the Live! and the X-Fi is the Crystalizer option. With this option turned on at just 50% you hear such a big difference in clarity. If this is just an increase in treble, I don’t know. But it's a huge difference and sometimes hard to tell if it’s good or not so good sounds coming out of it.
But it sure does make you aware of the difference between middleclass recorded mp3 and CD/DVD-audio. You can hear the difference in form of distortion all over the frequency band, especially when you turn the volume up.
From experience when I was working with repairing and helping customers with their TV and surround sound products, normal users just want sound in all speakers. No matter what they are watching or listening too, they want sound to stream out of their newly bought hi-tech speaker set.
The only thing we could do, except try explaining for an hour without the customer even trying to understand the difference, was to set their surround receiver to the “Hall” mode. This enables all the speakers with stereo output instead of surround sound.Conclusion
Why am I telling you this then?
Well, there are at least two types of users; the “Hall” and the audiophiles.
I guess that, while I have some characteristic points of an audiophile, deep down inside I’m just an audio lover who wants audio to stream out of the speakers.
For me, the Creative Live! cards is just about enough to give me a wonderful sound. But the X-Fi series gives you a little more, also the Prelude series gives you even more.
So if you want the best of the best, you just have to get your hands on an X-Fi Prelude card and if you really want the highest quality of components so that you can sleep well at night knowing that you won’t have to buy a new soundcard the day after your warranty expires, the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude is the card for you.
I would like to thank Stéphanie over at Bacata for helping me with this review as well!