by Matthew Harris on October 2, 2007 in Audio & Media
Finally! We are beginning to see Creative’s chipset offerings being used in other manufacturers sound cards. The first such product is Auzentech’s X-Fi Prelude, which we have on the test bench today. Though it excels in some regards, we find out that it has a lot of room for improvement.
Creative has been around since the dim days of the beginning of "Multi-Media" PC’s. I remember software requiring a Sound Blaster card or one that was 100% compatible, which meant that Creative was the standard to which all sound hardware was compared. Until earlier this year Creative was the only company you’d see using a Creative chip.
I guess the competition created by other card makers using third party chipsets and the quality of those chipsets was finally enough to make Creative dip their toes into the waters of being a chipset vendor along with being a card vendor. Today we look at the first ever 3rd party card to use a Creative chipset, the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude.
Earlier this year, the PC enthusiast world was rocked by the news that Creative was finally licensing their highest end offering to a 3rd party sound card vendor, Auzentech. This is surprising in that Auzentech was one of the few card makers to rattle the saber in any meaningful way when they released their X-Meridian late last year. They took the Oxygen HD chipset from C-Media and built a card that blew away all comers with their replaceable OP AMPs and uber high 5VRMS analog outputs built on shortest route from OP AMP to connector topography.
As a result they have super high signal to noise ratio of >115db (s/n) and a very strong dynamic range of ~120db. It’s surprising that Creative has released a chipset to a vendor that has the ability to design a superior card to their own based on the same chipset. But I guess that if you’re going to dabble in being chipset vendor you’ll want to first foray into the venture to be with a hardware vendor that can make your product shine.
This is something I never believed I’d see… a third party Creative based card!
The back lists all the features and benefits of the card.
Auzentech X-Fi Prelude
Better Circuit Board. Better Audio.
The Auzen X-Fi Prelude is a one-of-a-kind circuit board designed by Auzentech’s engineers, leaders in the fields of analog and digital audio. Assembled with superior components, the board includes Auzentech-only innovations such as user-upgradable Operational Amplifiers, combo-ports that support both coaxial and optical connectors, and more.
National LM4562NA High Performance Audio OPAMP
The LM4562 from the NATIONAL combines extremely low voltage noise density (2.7nV/ √ ^Hz) with vanishingly low THD+N (0.00003%) to satisfy demanding audiophiles.
TI OPA2134 SoundPlus High Performance Audio OPAMP
The OPA134 series are ultra-low distortion, low noise operational amplifiers fully specified for audio applications. A true FET input stage was incorporated to provide superior sound quality and speed for exceptional audio performance.
Swappable OPAMP Socket (Front L/R only)
OPAMP IC can be easily replaced with another one. The swappable dual DIP type Operational Amplifier(OPAMP) provides convenient do-it-yourself upgrade for ultimate analog sound quality and color.
Optical / Coaxial COMBO Port
The SPDIF Output port has 25mbps bandwidth and supports DTS-
HD/DolbyTrue HD. It is possible to shift between Optical and Coaxial in this port.
KM AK4396VF DAC
The AK4396 is a high performance stereo DAC for 24bit 120dB stereo, 96kHz sampling rate, DSD Input, ultra-low out-of-band noise, 180mW, digital attenuator manufactured by Asahi Kasei Micro systems.
KM AK5394AVS ADC
The AK5394A is a 24bit, 96kHz sampling 2ch A/D Converter for professional digital audio systems. The modulator uses the new advanced multi-bit architecture and achieves 123dB dynamic range and wide bandwidth with superior distortion characteristics.
Solid Condenser for maximum durability & stability
The solid capacitor has been adopted to provide higher durability and stability than usual condensers, and to stabilize the electric power source.
- Creative X-Fi CA20K audio processor
- One AKM AK-5394 super high performance 96kHz 24-bit ADC for analog input
- Four AKM AK-4396 96kHz 24-bit advanced multi-bit DAC for analog output
- 64Mbytes of memory for audio processing
- High fidelity audio OPAMPs for analog input and output (TI OPA2134)
- Front L/R output OPAMP is replaceable by end-user (National LM4562NA)
- Dual mode S/PDIF receiver and transmitter
Audio Performance (Rated Output @ 5Vrms, Typical Value)
- Signal-to-Noise Ratio (20kHz Low-pass filter, A-Weighted)
- Stereo Output : 120dB (part spec)
- Front and Rear Channels : 120dB (part spec)
- Center : 120dB (part spec)
- Subwoofer and Side Channels : 120dB (part spec)
- Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise at 1kHz (-3dBFS, A-weighted) : 0.001% – part spec
- Frequency Response (+/-0.01dB, 24-bit/44.1kHz input ) : 20khz (part spec)
- Frequency Response (+/-0.01dB, 24-bit/96kHz input ) : 43.5 khz (part spec)
- 16-bit to 24-bit recording sampling rates: 32, 44.1, 48 and 96kHz
- One 3.5mm MIC input connector in rear panel
- One 3.5mm line input connector in rear panel
- One 4-pin AUX connector on board
- Four 3.5mm 8 channel line output connectors in rear panel (FL/FR/C/SW/RL/RR/RSL/RSR)
- One S/PDIF combo input connector in rear panel for receiving either coaxial or optical digital
- One S/PDIF combo output connector in rear panel for transmitting either coaxial or optical digital
- One 10-1pin front panel connector on board for MIC input and headphone support
- One 40-pin digital extension header on board to support AD-Link and other digital functionality