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.
Right now, all the surround features are "Coming soon", aside from EAX in games surround and Dolby movie surround during DVD playback. There are a few music surround effects and the X-Fi Crystalizer but I’ll get to those later.
The side continues with the features of the card which I’ve listed above.
Opening the box reveals the X-Fi Prelude in all it’s glory safely tucked away in a static proof blister.
The back of the card looks rather spartan compared to the face. I’m surprised that there aren’t many SMC’s on the back like we see with video cards. I guess (well, I know) sound hasn’t caught with video in terms of complexity.
Under the card we find the manual, multi function SPDIF adapters and optical SPDIF cable. Pretty bare compared to the goodies that Rory got with the ASUS Xonar he reviewed a few weeks ago.
In that baggy there’s a manual, coaxial to optical adapters for the SPDIF output and input along with the driver disk and optical SPDIF cable. No coaxial cable, no 3.5mm to RCA for input or output to/from the analog connections on a home receiver. Nope, nothing like that, but this is still one of the most expensive cards on the market. It comes in a mere $10 cheaper than the Creative X-Fi Elite but runs $50 more than the X-Fi Fatal1ty Gamer Platinum.
To my way of thinking, Auzentech could have thrown in the rear expansion port so that the end user could go ahead and use it for music creation right off the bat. Sure, it has all that crazy stuff in the control panel (tons of effects when you stop to consider all the variations via the user adjustments which I’ll cover a bit more in depth later) but you have all of two external inputs on the card.
No midi inputs, one auxiliary input and one mic input. Yes I know there’s the digital SPDIF input which I’m sure would go nicely with some high tech mixer (if such a thing exists, I don’t know as I gave up playing music and rebuilding gear ten years ago) that features built in A/D conversion and SPDIF output but sadly, the SPDIF input isn’t working right now thanks to a glitch in the drivers! Booo!
Speaking of the manual, here’s a look at the Prelude manual (left) compared to it’s predecessor the X-Meridian (right). Though it’s hard to tell here the Prelude manual is about 1/3 the manual that the X-Meridian manual is. I imagine that’s because, compared to the X-Meridian, the Prelude just doesn’t have enough features (yet) to fill a 60+ page manual. Auzentech promises to have these features hammered in soon so I imagine that there will be online documentation to cover these updates.