Best audio card for music listen ??

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by ead, Jul 7, 2008.

  1. ead

    ead Limp Gawd

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    So
    What's the best Audio card when it come to quality ?
    I am getting the Asus Xonar D2X (the new one with PCIX and so on)
    How is it? and is there something even better when it come to quality of the sound ?
     
  2. Uncle Jim

    Uncle Jim Limp Gawd

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    X-Fi. Precisely speaking: Auzentech X-Fi Prelude.
    Depending on your other gear (primarily: speakers) and type of audio you are interested in
    you might be in position to notice the difference with Prelude or Xonar
    Are you looking for PCI Express card? Auzentech have X-Fi HomeTheater 7.1 card out, too, but I have not seen any opinions yet. But this is PCI Express I believe.
    X-Fi sometimes gets spanking for Vista hiccups but the new (Titanium) version that is PCI express is said to run free of these. Using regular X-Fi under XP and can only recommend.
    Omega Claro gets good opinions here as well.
     
  3. ead

    ead Limp Gawd

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    and the ASUS XONAR ?
     
  4. Auric

    Auric Limp Gawd

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    Strictly speaking, neither the Prelude nor any consumer-level card is going to give you the best sound quality, but they will give you very good quality along with hardware acceleration. For the 'best', you will probably have to go with a prosumer card designed for recording, such as those produced by M-Audio, E-MU, TerraTec, etc.

    If you plan on gaming, you should probably go with the Prelude, or perhaps wait on one of the newer cards coming out this year. Asus' new Xonar HDAV features swappable opamps, so that would give you some room for improvement.
     
  5. ead

    ead Limp Gawd

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    So what are the better options for audio card ?
     
  6. Auric

    Auric Limp Gawd

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    This info may be a bit outdated, as I haven't kept up with new chipsets released in the last couple of years. At that time, most of the entry-level prosumer sound cards were based on the Envy24 chipset, which was widely popular among audiophiles for music listening.

    Here's a few of the more popular cards based on the Envy24:

    M-Audio Audiophile 2496
    Audiotrak Prodigy 7.1
    ESI Juli@

    Of course, if you plan to use digital output, most of this is moot, as it's generally the DACs that set these cards apart from the mainstream.
     
  7. spaceman

    spaceman [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I just use a usb to digital coax converter. Trends Audio UD-10 and a Sherwood 6500 receiver that does tone direct aka no resampling by the receiver. Sound is acceptable entry level audiophile.

    Simpler to just buy a Prelude though lol.
     
  8. Justin42

    Justin42 n00b

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    The Xonar D2X is great for audio. I love mine with my 2.1 speaker setup. The XFi is considered by many to be inferior for straight music/movie use. I don't have any experience with the XFi (although I did try an Elite Pro a couple years back but it never worked right in my system and CL tech support was worthless) but I will say it's a step up from an Audigy 2 for sure.

    If you must get an XFi, the Auzentechs are the only way to go, although if you're not gaming at all and EAX isn't an issue, I don't see why you'd want to go with a Creative Labs card and have the issues related to them (reports of popping/clicking/bloated drivers/etc).

    That said, the suggestions for an even higher end card that Auric mentioned are good.

    That said, for the price, I can't imagine anyone being unhappy with the Xonar D2X as long as their motherboard supports it (since some older NVidia-based boards have issues until the BIOS is flashed..).
     
  9. phide

    phide [H]ard as it Gets

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    For all intents and purposes, it's a great card. At this point, I don't see any reason to recommend against it.
     
  10. Auric

    Auric Limp Gawd

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    I haven't personally used the Prelude or the Xonar D2X, but the general consensus seems to be that the two are roughly on the same level, with some people preferring the Prelude over the D2X. It is quite an improvement over a stock X-Fi.
     
  11. Valaire

    Valaire Gawd

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    I'm using the DX1 over an X-Fi and I find it better in every way -- music, movies, games.

    I personally didn't consider the Prelude because I wanted to get away from CL drivers and CL technologies.

    After trying games with both Asus's EAX emulation (for eax games) and Dolby Headphone + Dolby Prologic II (for all games) -- I find this far superior quality audio in 3D games to CMSS3d (upmixing and headphones) + hardware EAX acceleration. But hey, your mileage may vary.
     
  12. rice rocket

    rice rocket [H]Lite

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    Unless you're getting SACDs or other stuff recorded in high def, most music is stereo. I'd look hard into your speaker system before I'd spend time upgrading sound cards.
     
  13. Auric

    Auric Limp Gawd

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    DSP effects are even more subjective than overall sound quality, so my comments were assuming stereo output. Personally, I've never liked CMSS, Pro-Logic or any of the upmixing technologies, as they always sound good on some sources but not on others, and I don't feel like switching back and forth.
     
  14. Valaire

    Valaire Gawd

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    For music, I wholeheartedly agree with you. When listening to music via my monitor speakers, I use Xonar's hi-fi mode (no DSPs). As a sidenote, for headphone music listening, I -do- use Dolby Headphone as it severely reduces headphone listening fatigue and I like it more than a crosstalk foobar plugin for that purpose (it simply externalizes the sound from inside your head to outside your head as if you were listening to it from stereo speakers).

    What I was referring to in my other post, however, was games. For maximum performance, a seamless 3d environment is what you want in a competitive online FPS. For that, I find Dolby technologies to be better than CL technologies. That's all.
     
  15. c10

    c10 Limp Gawd

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    FYI, the D2X card is 169$ @ zipzoomfly.
     
  16. Uncle Jim

    Uncle Jim Limp Gawd

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    $170? For a generic Realtec codec-based card using a bridge instead of a real PCI express chip? Which forces you to suppy extra power via a floppy cable (which goes hand in hand with the 80's-look-like software from Asus)?
    This is quite a lot. Look what you can get:
    Audiophile 2496 can be ordered for $99
    and Xtreme Gamer even for $89
    Or even the latest X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Professional
    (they went bonkers on naming big time!) - which is PCI Express too, costs $135
    Or HT Omega Claro is $159 - still less then the Xonar!
    (all prices from newegg)

    Sure you can believe what you want but I have serious doubts Xonar would be $80 better than my X-Fi Gamer. Actually I doubt it would be any better considering amount of complaints Xonar gets on ASUS forums every day (mostly unanswered), e.g. today's:
    No music in Mass effect after the driver update
    No good 5.1 playback
    Low microphone volume

    But if you feel like paying extra for the the lights in jacks, than go ahead. Just keep in mind they wont glow if you dont have a floppy power cable. Actually the card wont work without this cable at all because it is a bridge design and not a real PCI Expres card and it cannot draw power from the bus.

    Dodgy - at best.
     
  17. Valaire

    Valaire Gawd

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    I don't believe citing complaints lodged against a manufacturer in their own forums is substantive evidence that a product has a high failure rate in of itself.
     
  18. spaceman

    spaceman [H]ardForum Junkie

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    LOL <LO<L O<L O L O L L

    Did you JUST really say that Asus has more complaints about drivers than CREATIVE????????????????

    Omg THANKS!! laughed my balls off at that one.

    Sound cards suck. That is why I have none.
     
  19. Uncle Jim

    Uncle Jim Limp Gawd

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    Dunno about failure rates with Xonar just saying that because of its bridge design this card seems dodgy to me and this might have serious implications when used.

    I am happy for all happy users out there, and I am just saying opinions on this card differ and as such it is not worth its current price, to me, anyway. Not ready to upgrade from my X-Fi gamer yet - for now this is the best all-rounder card I could have.

    Honestly what kind of speakers would you have to buy to match a $170 sound card meant just for playing music?
     
  20. phide

    phide [H]ard as it Gets

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    "Realtek codec-based"? You mean AC'97, do you? Nope. The card uses C-Media's Oxygen HD chip, the CMI8788 (which ASUS calls AV200). Not an AC'97 chip.

    So?

    Uses the same "Realtek codec-based" (what does that even mean?) CMI8788 as the Xonar.
     
  21. Uncle Jim

    Uncle Jim Limp Gawd

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    This is exactly the meaning of a word "generic" in this context isn't it? :D
    Other CMI8788-based cards are: X-Meridian , Sondigo, b-Enspirer, Razer...
    Asus took an old chip, added a bridge and is trying to sell it as a holy grail.
     
  22. phide

    phide [H]ard as it Gets

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    Every sound card manufacturer tries to sell every sound card as the Holy Grail. ASUS is no different from any other manufacturer. It seems you equate marketing and hype to bad products, when in fact they're entirely unrelated.
     
  23. ead

    ead Limp Gawd

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    Every one I have talked to, who had the Asus and the Auzentech, prefer the Asus by miles apart!
    Take a look at some reviews - like Guru 3D (with out the space), Every one agree Asus is a great sound card, why not to love it?
     
  24. Uncle Jim

    Uncle Jim Limp Gawd

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    1. not necessarily ENTIRELY unrelated.
    2. more importantly it is not a reason to repeat stupid marketing claims on forums (not saying you do this, but others do)
    3. I stay corrected on Realtec/C-Media thing (thanks!)

    In general, Ead, we all believe what we want to believe. For some reason I tend not to believe a word that you are saying. And as for love I prefer women to sound cards.
    And finally as for guru3d review - read carefully:

    "The GS3D GX feature seemed a bit peewee to me, while it does enable higher sound settings with some EAX games, it doesn't actually do any higher EAX processing. It's true that modelling of audio environments is still in its early stages, but the DS3D GX seems a bit regressive to me."

    This card fakes EAX and it does it in software. This card fakes PCI express and does it clumsily and needs legacy power connector (a floppy drive mini molex)

    It is not a bad card I am sure , but you see, Ead it is worth neither my $170 nor my love when a plain X-Fi that does what it says and costs between $60 and $90 - it really is that easy,

    now, where are my pills?

    ;)
     
  25. Valaire

    Valaire Gawd

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    Uncle Jim, you have to do more than say something is 'dodgy' as a conclusive fact--especially when most of us probably don't reach that conclusion ourselves.

    You seem to have a significant problem with the PCI express bridge chip and the floppy power cable as self-evident that the product is bad. Why?

    Furthermore, you seem to suggest the Xonar has nothing unique about it. I'll let others go into more detail than me regarding it's other features, but there is no other card on the market that even ATTEMPTS to try to emulate EAX the way the Xonar does.

    Where you see conspiracy, I see convenience. Where you see no market for the product, I see a large one. I've used just about every CL card since the AWE and I'm definitely happy with my choice and don't feel like there has been anything quite like the package the Asus offers since Aureal went under.

    My two cents.
     
  26. ead

    ead Limp Gawd

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    Let's put things into perspective,
    I don't care about EAX and so on, I am using windows Vista and Linux
    Both of them really support it very bad if at all (Linux don't)
    So
    When it come to pure sound quality, what is better ?
    All I am saying that anyone who had both of the Xi-FI soundcards (Auzentech or not) and the Asus, say that the Xonar had a much better analog output quality

    What do you say about it ?
    (Yeah I am sure that having EAX5 and PCI-X and so on could be much better, but lets leave that aside for now )
     
  27. Uncle Jim

    Uncle Jim Limp Gawd

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    Bridge design is a dodgy thing. It suggests they recycle old tech and try to sell it as new. Xonar is a PCI card disguised as PCIe so to say. It has only PCI bandwidth.

    And - I'll add this now - if you are really stuck for PCI-E card
    then Titanium card comes with a REAL eax support and it is slightly cheaper.

    As we were typing simultaneously I'll just repeat my conclusion:

    Xonar is definitely not a bad card I am sure , but (...) it is worth neither my $170 nor my love when a plain X-Fi that does what it says and costs between $60 and $90.

    Now, honestly, who took my pills?

    :eek:
     
  28. phide

    phide [H]ard as it Gets

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    An audio analyzer can determine that fairly easily. Most reviews use RightMark's Audio Analyzer in loopback mode, which isn't a preferable way to analyze analog output performance, but it's at least sufficient.

    If "sound quality" is your metric, then RMAA tests can discern one card from another. If you want what "sounds best", that's a very personal thing that one can't simply test. What's ideal is if you know what kind of sound you're looking for (using descriptive terms like "linear", "bright" or "boomy") and try and find sound cards that use components that generally exhibit the characteristics you're looking for. Generally, look at OPAMPs, as they have the potential to color the sound quite a bit. DACs tend to follow a much more linear "sound quality" scale, with high-end DACs achieving high a high signal-to-noise ratio and strong linearity that low-end DACs can't physically match. DACs won't add really distortion products that most find pleasing like OPAMPs may.

    So long as the card is reasonably well designed, with good power-related components, it's a small handful of surface mount components like DACs and OPAMPs that makes one sound card "sound better" than another. In that respect, I like the D2X, though the Prelude has some interesting edges (I'm a Prelude owner, and a former X-Fi Elite Pro user, for what it's worth).
     
  29. Valaire

    Valaire Gawd

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    Again, what is the real world consequence of the bridge chip for music listening and gaming?

    Not arguing that X-Fi has hardware EAX, but:

    1) Hardware acceleration's future seems uncertain.
    2) People might want an alternative to CL anyway because:
    a. Driver problems
    b. Feature set

    I'm a hardcore gamer and I've decided that hardware EAX is NOT worth some of the other problems that CL products come with. Other users on these boards seem to have reached similar conclusions, as have some reviewers. Doesn't that say something about the nature of the product?

    For someone that is so concerned with shady business practices, you're gonna end up exposing your arguments to a bunch of pissed off CL haters, of which 50-70% of them probably have legitimate, rational reasons based on particular company actions to consider CL "dodgy."

    Now, I don't subscribe to any kind of brand loyalty. I consider myself a rational actor in the sound card market and that led me to the Xonar.
     
  30. bacon

    bacon [H]ard|Gawd

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    I bought an asus d2 a couple of months ago and am very pleased with it.
     
  31. darkpark

    darkpark Gawd

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    I have had good luck with the m-audio revolution 7.1 and the sound quality is very good in my opinion. Plus it is supported in Linux (i think most of the popular distros (suse, fedora/redhat,ubuntu, etc...) out of the box. I also like the revolution's no-nonsense drivers/control panel (windows). I think both the m-audio revolution 7.1 or the 5.1 (newer) can be had for well under $100 on newegg.
     
  32. RavenZero

    RavenZero Limp Gawd

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    The Oxygen HD based cards have drivers that work both in Vista and in Linux. Since you don't even care about EAX at all and you're most interested in audio quality for music, I would strongly suggest the Xonar or the HT Omega Claro cards. Asus may be a better bet for the future as they are fully committed to their cards now and have brought much of their extensive resources to bear on making them the best sound cards available for all purposes. I admire their recent efforts in this arena and they are going just as far, if not even further, than Auzentech ever did in this arena. We can thank Auzentech for moving the quality standards for multi-channel audio cards up several nothces, but I think Asus is doing them one better with more flexibility and more timely releases.

    An upcoming version of the Xonar, the HDAV1 Deluxe will include daughter card with real RCA audio connections for analog audio (a fairly big deal for connecting directly to high-end audio components IMO!), like most real "pro-sumer" audio cards have. It will also have fully swapable OpAmps on all 7 analog output channels (a feature that many had begged Auzentech to do with the Prelude but it didn't materialize)--and will start out with the vaunted LM4562 on all channels (the ones that most people used swap out the Auzentech X-Meridian OpAmps to) right from the get go,, so you may not even want to swap them out... Not even to mention that this new card is a fully HDMI 1.3a compatible device that will allow full bit-streaming and LPCM support for the new 5.1 and 7.1 HD audio codecs:

    http://www.asus.com/news_show.aspx?id=11638

    Now a card like that is going to rock the industry--even if it doesn't end up being the best one, you really have to applaud them for pushing the envelope.

    Here is a link to a Linux driver for the existing Oxygen HD cards that is fairly well updated on a regular basis. Not promoting this guy or his driver, just giving an FYI:

    http://alsa-project.org/main/index.php/User:ClemensLadisch

    It may not sound like it, but I really am brand agnostic. I just want to get the best hardware fand software for my money whether it be sound, video, processors, chipset, etc... I've used both the X-Fi and these cards, as well as countless others from Creative and others before them, and I have to say that I'm more impressed with the CMedia offerings and the innovations that they and their card manufacturing partners have brought to the table lately than I ever was with the X-Fi or any of its derivative models. I'm very excited about where the sound card industry for PCs is finally going.
     
  33. Uncle Jim

    Uncle Jim Limp Gawd

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    Now show us a few slides in power point and comment on Asustek market presence, will you? You are all as credible as Pentagon talking about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. :D

    Pro-sumers do not exist by the way. Never met one. Or do you mean someone who
    spends enough money to buy pro gear on things that are consumer-grade?
    (I call them morons, and they do exist, agreed)

    Honestly who cares about HHDDAVXY7 Deluxxxe if the lux-less D2X costs already $170?:eek:
    When a good and thoroughly tested X-Fi or M-Audio Revolution or Audiophile2496 can be had for half of this price or less? I hear you all your elaborate arguments - still Xonar does not have a right price to appeal to anyone going by the rationale. And as I noted earlier its 80's software goes hand in hand with the requirement for that floppy connector or your smashing new asus card won't output even a single sad fart and forget that cheerful blinking on its rear.

    Now please someone register another n00b account just to chime in and say how xonar changed their aural and love life, and I am sure everyone will be sold.
    :rolleyes:
     
  34. Auric

    Auric Limp Gawd

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    A prosumer would be a consumer who buys entry-level professional gear but does not use it for professional purposes.
     
  35. spaceman

    spaceman [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Ah, lol, some good arguments sure.

    I am anti-sound card for music. At least for Vista. I have been pleased with the output quality of my laptop via the Trends Audio UD-10 usb to coax converter into my Sherwood 6500. Both the converter and the receiver cost me about $270 total. Yes that is at least $100 more than just a sound card BUT hey it sounds really friggin good. I have clean sound with tons of detail and tone quality that I just did not get without a SERIOUS external dac.

    I am looking forward to getting an X-Empower from av123 when it gets done. If you want serious sound for a stupid price try av123. I will plug them shamelessly b/c if I ran an audio company, it would be how MLS runs his.
     
  36. Uncle Jim

    Uncle Jim Limp Gawd

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    I think this is the way to go, too. If you require mic input and/or line input and/or you are gaming than a sound card will still render benefits, thou, because sound cards are typically more versatile devices. But for pure music playback and nothing else the receiver route seems a good idea. I remember reading a lot on how bad usb could be for audio (jitter) but guess these issues are long gone now (?)

    OK, thanks for this - so prosumers actually buy professional equipment and just do not use it as it is meant to be used... I stand by my previous definition then ;)

    Anyway, that means there is no prosumer gear a such. It is either pro gear or consumer gear. As for audio the question is - does it have balanced inputs and outputs at +4dBU level. If the answer is no - it is not a piece of pro gear.
     
  37. spaceman

    spaceman [H]ardForum Junkie

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    2008 and 09 will see huge leaps in the usb based streaming audio device market. My little UD-10 is a first generation product that does more to reduce jitter and emi than I have previously had.

    USB is the deal with vista. Truly remarkable sound. As a PC transport, it is tops.
     
  38. Auric

    Auric Limp Gawd

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    Yes, but that certainly doesn't make them morons. You have to remember that it wasn't too long ago that the only 'decent' mainstream sound cards -- and I use the term very loosely -- were made by Creative. If you wanted higher quality, you had to look at the entry-level pro cards.

    A few years ago, I would have agreed with you, because while there were prosumers, there was no prosumer gear marketed towards them. Now that is no longer the case. Many newer cards are designed with both the budding professional and the discerning consumer in mind, and I would label those as prosumer.

    Even the Prelude has balanced outputs, and I would still classify it as mainstream.
     
  39. kiensduree

    kiensduree n00b

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    So what are the better options for audio card ?
     
  40. kiensduree

    kiensduree n00b

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    2008 and 09 will see huge leaps in the usb based streaming audio device market. My little UD-10 is a first generation product that does more to reduce jitter and emi than I have previously had.

    USB is the deal with vista. Truly remarkable sound. As a PC transport, it is tops.