Which sound card should I upgrade to??

I've been using my onboard realtek alc888 with my z-5500. Onboard audio has been receiving much praised over the last few years in terms of its quality. A lot of people say they can't really distinguish between onboard sound from that of a more expensive sound card. Overall, I'll say that I'm content with my sound from my onboard, but I think that's mainly because I haven't experience with any other sound card with my current speaker system (my brother has the one of the creative x-fi audio sound cards but that's connected to his 5300 and it sounds horrendous).

Anyway, I'm looking at some of the higher-end sound cards (between $150-$200). My purpose is for gaming, movies and music, and I'm running on windows xp. The cards that I'm looking at right now are:

Auzen X-Fi Prelude 7.1
Asus Xonar D2X (or ASUS Xonar DX...is there a real difference)?
HT OMEGA CLARO Plus+ (or HT OMEGA CLARO...any real difference)?

All 3 has had great reviews supporting them, but I'm just a little surprised at the amount of 5 eggs users are giving the HT OMEGA CLARO (and Plus+) on newegg. I'd like some thoughts about which one you guys would recommend.
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  1. Again, I simply can not recommend any X-fi card until Creative gets it working for all motherboards that are out there...

    The Xonar is probably the best card out for movies and home theatre systems; of all the cards, it has the most dolby playback options.

    For gaming, you can't beat the Razer Barracuda, although it does suffer on the movie front a bit compared to other cards...

    I need to research the HT OMEGA CLARO, so I can't comment on that one...
  2. My mobo is a GA-P35-DS3L. I think I've read something about the x-fi having problems with nvidia chipsets, or something like that.

    I haven't researched a lot about the Barracuda, but it sounds like I might consider that one as well...
  3. Hi there, all cards have their pros and cons, and a lot depends on your preference and what you use the sound card for.

    Myself I have mostly good experience with Sound Blaster card including X-Fi. The lastest drivers are rock solid and from what I read the latest card - the PCI - express Titanium is the stablest working sound card from Sound Blaster ever:

    http://www.trustedreviews.com/multimedia/review/2008/12/08/Creative-Sound-Blaster-X-Fi-Titanium-Fatal1ty-Pro-Sound-Card/p3

    The reason being - there is no bus sharing hence no latencies issues resulting from bus starvation problem when one devices tries to keep the bandwidth to itself.

    Going for the PCI express card has its merits in terms of stability and longevity so to say. Later or sooner PCI will be abandoned same as ISA was (for mainstream uses anyway)

    I would not recommend Asus cards in this respect because they are not real PCI express cards. They use a bridge to fit into PCI-e slot but the chip is old PCI. It is pci-e fake card.
    Also if you are a gamer Xonar cards have EAX emulation but do not support it properly - or at least I have several comments mentioning crappy sound in games, swapped channels or no sound at all. If you do not play games and dont have or dont care about PCI express then Xonar is still an option but then go for the D2 and not the D1 card.

    Oh and keep in mind X-Fi Prelude is not the only thing Auzentech has in offer. Only recently they came up with X-Fi Forte and that one looks really like a killer.
  4. Both the barracuda and Xonar support EAX 1 and 2, its the higher order effects they can't do (and even then, in Vista, you need Alchamy in order to run them on a X-fi...), although they both have thier own way of delivering the same effects.

    And FYI, only the Creative cards have ever had a major issue running out of bandwith on the PCI slots. No one else ever seems to have a problem, and all my comparisions (subjective) show that a PCI based Barracuda sounds better even than the PCI-E based Titanium; its not the bus thats important.
  5. Get any soundcard that uses the c-media oxygen chip like the auzentech x meridian and razer baracuda ac-1. it doesnt have the eax that creative does but its an AWESOME chip.
  6. I know all cards have their pros and cons. Again, I'll be doing all the general stuff, like gaming, listening to music and watching dvds and videos, so I'd prefer to find a card that would meet all those needs. Plus, my os is XP.

    Gaming wise, I've read about the comparison between the Xonar D2X (or cards that uses the c-media oxygen chip in general) and the x-fi prelude. The general consensus is that the x-fi is the better card to go for when gaming. However, the Xonar closes the gap when used in vista. Again, I don't run vista and I don't have any plans to in the near future.

    I'd rather stay away from creative, if possible. That being said, the prelude uses a creative chip, but the card itself is not by creative. Thanks for pointing out the X-fi Forte. It seems like the card has yet to be release.

    As of now, I have to say I'm sorta leaning towards the x-fi prelude. The X-fi forte sounds very interesting. Does anybody know the differences between the two? Is the x-fi Forte suppose to replace the x-fi prelude?
  7. gamerk316 said:
    Both the barracuda and Xonar support EAX 1 and 2, its the higher order effects they can't do (and even then, in Vista, you need Alchamy in order to run them on a X-fi...), although they both have thier own way of delivering the same effects.


    It is called reverse-engineering. E.g. Assus tried to reverse engineer EAX HD to avoid paying licence to Creative to keep all Screw-Creative!-Assus-Fanboys happy:) First they claimed it was EAX 5.0 and it was done in hardware but then they had to admit it is software emulation only.

    gamerk316 said:
    And FYI, only the Creative cards have ever had a major issue running out of bandwith on the PCI slots. No one else ever seems to have a problem, and all my comparisions (subjective) show that a PCI based Barracuda sounds better even than the PCI-E based Titanium; its not the bus thats important.


    You might be too young to know :sarcastic:
    PCI bus and its various (cheap) implementations were notoriously blamed for audio issues with any audio hardware - consumer and professional alike. Your judgement might be based on the fact that up till recently Sound Blaster was the only brand that mattered in consumer sound card business so you would not hear the same complaint from other companies. But every company had an issue with that at some stage - don't trust me, trust google, trust SOS...
    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/dec04/articles/pcnotes.htm
    http://logic-users.org/forums/LUG/thread/67011
    http://www.audioforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=121
    http://www.audioforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1958
    http://www.audioforums.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-2115.html

    I stand by what I said. PCI express is better for audio. In consumer market X-Fi Titanium is the only real PCI express card. Surely other companies will catch up but for now some (Asus) prefered to cram old tech into a new shiny box, add a bridge to the old PCI chip and hope nobody would notice. Somehow professional gear companies were able to come up with real PCI express cards too - check out the protools website.
  8. Uncle_ben, with the new Auzentech X-fi Forte hitting selves before the end of this month, would you consider that a real PCI-e card? I don't know a lot about sound cards, but how would you, or anyone else, compare the X-Fi forte to other high-end cards, like the x-Fi Prelude, titanium, D2X, etc.? Is it suppose to replace their Prelude? Suppose to be better?
  9. Easy as this the Asus DX which is 90% the same as the D2X which is one of the greatest sound cards on the market, period. Also the X-Fi Titanium and the Asus DX/D2X use the same technology and use PCIe exactly the same, god damn fanboys. If you want extreme Music performance the M-Audio Delta 1010 sounds the best, noticably, but does not do as well in gaming as the Asus DX/D2X. It all depends on what you want in the end. Can I add that Creative ALSO does not provide true EAX 5.0, and that Asus' technology performs better than Creative's. That said natural EAX 5.0 still performs better, a bonus for the Auzentech.
  10. vwj said:
    Uncle_ben, with the new Auzentech X-fi Forte hitting selves before the end of this month, would you consider that a real PCI-e card? I don't know a lot about sound cards, but how would you, or anyone else, compare the X-Fi forte to other high-end cards, like the x-Fi Prelude, titanium, D2X, etc.? Is it suppose to replace their Prelude? Suppose to be better?


    The new Auzentech X-fi Forte is supposed to be a pretty complete revision, so it is hard to guess what it will be good at and what it will be bad at right now. Looks promising though!
  11. Guess I'll just have to wait another month or so for official reviews to pop out (hopefully not longer). I was almost certain that I was getting the X-Fi Prelude, until the X-fi Forte got mentioned...damn you (and thank you) :). I guess I'm not too bummed out since it's gonna be priced a few bucks cheaper than the cheapest Prelude I can find right now. Until then, onboard will have to do...
  12. If you are using Pc speakers you wont notice the difference anyway.
  13. You mean from onboard to the prelude/forte or the prelude to the forte? I'm going to assume you mean from the Prelude to the Forte.
  14. Well the difference between on board to dedicated is barely noticeable on any set of PC speakers. The only reason for a dedicated sound card in my mind is for a receiver - real speaker setup.
  15. Of course all sound cards run into SOME issues; taht goes without saying. The diffrence is, is that unlike Creative, everyone else seems to get their drivers in order for all motherboards within three years...and now it appers even the PCI-e Titanium is still plagued with the dreaded crackling sound issue...
  16. X-Fi Prelude 10/10 on gaming 8/10 on dolby play back or w/e 9/10 on music software is still new but its good no bloated drivers.( I have one ) This card has the highest quality dacs and components out of those other cards.

    Asus Xonar dx pci exp 8/10 on gaming 10/10 dolby digital 10/10 on music also uses high quality dacs like the prelude but not sure about drivers and such.

    HT omega uses the same chip as xonar c-media 8878 but the dacs on the card arent as good as the xonars or prelude.
  17. The_Blood_Raven said:
    If you are using Pc speakers you wont notice the difference anyway.



    I'd have to disagree with you here. I have the Auzen x-fi prelude installed on my system, and I can definitely hear the difference between it and the onboard I had before. This is on a set of Logitech X-540's I paid $60 for (I ran out of money sadly right in the middle of my upgrading, so i ended up with a great soundcard and my old cheapo speakers :)).

    It's hard to describe the difference, other than you hear things that you didn't hear before (really faint drums in orchestral music, Bono's lips smacking in some of his songs, that sort of thing). I was quite skeptical that I would hear any difference, but it's definitely there. I'm certainly a believer now! Things just sound better.

    If you do end up getting the X-fi prelude, I think you'll be quite happy with it. It is really a very nice soundcard, and for Windows XP (which I still use as well) I wouldn't bother with anything else (XP is EAX territory after all). Auzentech doesn't toy around with it's products, that's for sure.
  18. Well, I have yet to buy a new sound card--mainly because I'm still awaiting for detail reviews for the x-fi Forte. I'm still using Windows XP and one thing that's bothering me a little is that some of the features on this card is only available on Vista (ie DTS Neo : PC & DTS Interactive). If I do end up getting this card down the road, I'm wondering if these little perks are more excuses for me to move onto Vista (I've always been curious about Vista, but some of the negative issues it has prevents me).

    Quote:
    It's hard to describe the difference, other than you hear things that you didn't hear before (really faint drums in orchestral music, Bono's lips smacking in some of his songs, that sort of thing). I was quite skeptical that I would hear any difference, but it's definitely there. I'm certainly a believer now! Things just sound better.


    I'd be lying to myself if I said I'm not a bit skeptical about taking the plunge on buying a dedicated sound card, especially one that is $100-$150. It's certainly nice to hear that you're happy with your results.
  19. I've been following the Auzentech X-Fi- Forte 7.1, it uses a newer Creative labs chip that is true PCI-Express, so does not need the extra PCI/PCI-Exp bridge chip.
    Hopefully you will get the Forte 7.1 and post a review of it.
  20. Quote:
    I've been following the Auzentech X-Fi- Forte 7.1, it uses a newer Creative labs chip that is true PCI-Express, so does not need the extra PCI/PCI-Exp bridge chip.
    Hopefully you will get the Forte 7.1 and post a review of it.


    I thought I was the one waiting for other people to get it and waiting to read their reviews :). But apparently somebody posted a review on ncixus and s/he seems pretty satisfy with it so I guess that's a pretty good start...
  21. Again, I will not recommend a Creative based card. I recently tested a Titanium on my 790i, and within 30 minutes of Crysis: Snap, Crackel, Pop. So much for it being a PCI bandwtih problem...

    No issues with my Razer Barracuda so far, although the drivers could use some tuning up...I'd go with the Xonar line at this point.
  22. I've said this countless times before - don't get an expensive soundcard if you're using cheapo speakers such as the Z5500s. Only reason to get a proper soundcard is if you're using a proper AV receiver or stereo amplifier. Or, if you simply MUST have EAX and then i'd recommend the cheapest card you can get.
  23. Quote:
    Again, I will not recommend a Creative based card. I recently tested a Titanium on my 790i, and within 30 minutes of Crysis: Snap, Crackel, Pop. So much for it being a PCI bandwtih problem...

    No issues with my Razer Barracuda so far, although the drivers could use some tuning up...I'd go with the Xonar line at this point.


    Although the Prelude and Forte may use the x-fi chip, it's not the same card. From what I hear, their Auzentech's customer support is much better than creative's.

    Quote:
    I've said this countless times before - don't get an expensive soundcard if you're using cheapo speakers such as the Z5500s. Only reason to get a proper soundcard is if you're using a proper AV receiver or stereo amplifier. Or, if you simply MUST have EAX and then i'd recommend the cheapest card you can get.


    I know that any pc speakers aren't very good, but I do plan on upgrading to real speakers down the road.
  24. Keep it in mind that when upgrading to a proper stereo you'll need to budget for amplifier and speakers. good starting point would be Cambridge Audio 540A amplifier (£250ish) with Monitor Audio BR2 (£200ish) speakers.
  25. The X-fi Forte looks quite promising. It even has a headphone amplifier (the prelude doesn't). The price isn't too bad, either (under $150). I originally got my Prelude for $160 with rebate and shipping (which came in yesterday actually :)), and for that price I think it's definitely worth it.

    I was like you, actually, and had used only onboard for sound. Curiosity is what partly motivated me to get a soundcard in the first place, just to see what the difference is. At the worst, if you don't like what you hear after you pop in a soundcard, you can just sell the damn thing on for close to what you bought it for, and your experiment won't have cost you much. It's worth it, if only to satisfy ones curiosity ;)
  26. vwj said:
    Quote:
    Again, I will not recommend a Creative based card. I recently tested a Titanium on my 790i, and within 30 minutes of Crysis: Snap, Crackel, Pop. So much for it being a PCI bandwtih problem...

    No issues with my Razer Barracuda so far, although the drivers could use some tuning up...I'd go with the Xonar line at this point.


    Although the Prelude and Forte may use the x-fi chip, it's not the same card. From what I hear, their Auzentech's customer support is much better than creative's.

    Quote:
    I've said this countless times before - don't get an expensive soundcard if you're using cheapo speakers such as the Z5500s. Only reason to get a proper soundcard is if you're using a proper AV receiver or stereo amplifier. Or, if you simply MUST have EAX and then i'd recommend the cheapest card you can get.


    I know that any pc speakers aren't very good, but I do plan on upgrading to real speakers down the road.


    Yeah, I've been meaning to give one of those cards for testing, but never got around to it. Creatives offerings have scared me off x-fi completly, although I do admit I never tested one of Auzentechs products. I've heard nothing of good things though, but I still recommend the Xonar line as the do everything sound card, and the Barracuda for exlusive gaming.
  27. Well, I went on and ordered the Auzentech X-Fi Forte; it should be arriving shortly. I chose this card because I'm basically looking for an all-round card that's strong in gaming, music and movies. I'm pretty excited and anxious about testing it out once it arrives.
  28. Nice! Make sure to try it with the analog outputs, as the Fortes DAC's and OPAMPs are probably a lot better quality than the Z5500's.

    Be sure to come back here and tell us what you think :)
  29. My forte arrived a few days ago and so far, I'm pretty satisfy with it. Installation was smooth and painless. There is definitely a difference in sound. Music sounded a lot more crisp and clear. I haven't extensively tested DVDs, but from what I have listened, gun shots sounded punchier and just better overall. Games sounds excellent. Again, I haven't got the chance to play a lot of games lately, but I could definitely tell the difference between this and my onboard sound from before.

    The only thing I can think of that's giving me some inconvenience is the headphone jack. I have my headphones, coaxial and analog all plugged-in at the same time. Whenever I want to listen to music via my speakers, the music is being played through both the speakers and headphones. I usually have the master volume to max and control the volume through the z5500's control pod. It's just annoying to hear little high pitch echoes coming from the headphones at the same time. My headphones are pretty cheap and it does not have its own volume knob on its cord. I"m sure if I had that, then this little annoyance wouldn't be so bad. Other than this, I'm quite :) about my purchase.
  30. Great to hear! It's good to know your happy with your purchase. At the minimum, you have an idea of what "sounds better" means now ;) I never really realised how hard it can be to describe what something sounds like.....

    For your headphone thing, you might consider getting an extension cable, and plugging it in to the back of the card, and leading the end to the top of your desk. You'd be able to plug in the headphones when you need it then. Also, I know there's an option for shutting off the speakers when you plug headphones, is there one to turn off the headphones I wonder?

    For myself, I usually have the master volume set to 55%, which I find to give me more than adequate volume to adjust my speakers through the speaker control unit. Having it at 55% also saves me from blowing away my ears when I plug in my headphones :)
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