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Help me decide sound card for Klipsch Pro Media 2.1

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March 27, 2009 7:15:14 PM

I currently have a Sound Blaster Live! card that came with my Dell back in 2003, but want to upgrade for better sound with the Klipsch 2.1. 90% music/movies, 10% gaming(if that). I just want to simply plug the speaker in just like now and that's it, no other uses like stereo out or anything. Just computer and speakers. Cards I've researched: Syba Sound Card, SB X-fi xtremegamer, Auzentech X-fi Prelude, Asus Xonar, Omega Striker. Any suggestions?

EDIT: I forgot to mention I am running Windows XP with just PCI.
March 27, 2009 8:41:16 PM

I use the X-fi Xtreme Gamer Fatality pro or whatever it's called :p  Had it for years with my Klipsch 2.1 speakers. If you are running Vista, be sure to download Creative Alchemy.
March 27, 2009 10:06:02 PM

smithinator said:
I currently have a Sound Blaster Live! card that came with my Dell back in 2003, but want to upgrade for better sound with the Klipsch 2.1. 90% music/movies, 10% gaming(if that). I just want to simply plug the speaker in just like now and that's it, no other uses like stereo out or anything. Just computer and speakers. Cards I've researched: Syba Sound Card, SB X-fi xtremegamer, Auzentech X-fi Prelude, Asus Xonar, Omega Striker. Any suggestions?


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March 28, 2009 3:32:49 PM

For serious music listening I would recommend from most to less preference: ONKYO PCI Digital Audio Board SE-200PCI, ASUS Xonar D2, Omega Claro, the Xonar D1, Auzen Xfi-prelude, Omega Striker. Creative cards all can be trashed, they sound worse than the Realtek HD 888 IMO, I didn't mean number on papers I meant how I perceive its output.

Among them the Onkyo uses Via Envy chip which you can use the generic driver from VIA. The Xonar D2, D1 and Omega Claro use C-media Oxygen HD chip, Omega Striker uses C-media 8770. And the X-fi uses Xfi chip of course.

About drivers the Onkyo, Omega and Xfi card has good drivers. The Asus card has too many troubles with drivers due to the fact they modded the Cmedia original drivers to provide more functionality but fail to make them work well http://vip.asus.com/forum/topic.aspx?board_id=21&SLangu....

About output: the Claro, Striker, D2, and Xfi has the most output (digital) but I don't think from your use cases you will need them.

Lastly the newly released X-fi Forte by Auzen seems to be really good, it even has headamp included and also good for games. Bad thing is it uses PCI-Express though http://www.guru3d.com/article/auzentech-xfi-forte-71-so...
March 29, 2009 6:13:55 PM

Thanks thuan and Proximon, anyone else?

Also, am I going to hear a sound quality difference going from a 2003 sound card to a 2009 sound card? Surely technology has advanced in those 6 years.
March 30, 2009 5:05:31 PM

smithinator said:
Also, am I going to hear a sound quality difference going from a 2003 sound card to a 2009 sound card? Surely technology has advanced in those 6 years.
Of course, you will see the difference.
April 6, 2009 3:46:06 AM

I use an HT Claro with an AMB Mini3 headphone amp I built. The sound is leaps and bounds better than any creative card I have ever used. I don't do much gaming either so this is perfect with my Sennheiser headphones. If you are not going to use for gaming, stay away from the X-fi chips from what I have been reading. Hope this helps :) 
April 6, 2009 7:51:34 PM

Any non-Creative. I'd recommend the ASUS Xonar DX, although the newer D2 might be worthwhile (The D2X model is PCI-E, but exactly the same as the D2, FYI).
April 7, 2009 9:41:02 AM

FYI, the D1 and DX line was released after the D2/D2X. Beside their less beefy components but still produce nearly as good audio quality as their older brothers, they also have front panel audio connector but without jack sensing tech.
April 7, 2009 10:56:01 AM

smithinator said:
I currently have a Sound Blaster Live! card that came with my Dell back in 2003, but want to upgrade for better sound with the Klipsch 2.1. 90% music/movies, 10% gaming(if that). I just want to simply plug the speaker in just like now and that's it, no other uses like stereo out or anything. Just computer and speakers. Cards I've researched: Syba Sound Card, SB X-fi xtremegamer, Auzentech X-fi Prelude, Asus Xonar, Omega Striker. Any suggestions?

EDIT: I forgot to mention I am running Windows XP with just PCI.


Smithinator, I have been using X-Fi for 3 years now and can only recommend this card, especially for gaming. I am using one with the front bay, but there is a cheaper version, that was mentioned here - called X-Fi Xtreme Gamer. It sounds as good and can be connected to the front jacks on the PC case.

I am kind of careful when people say product A "sucks" while B is a must-have for everyone (and their mother). Especially if we talk about well-established companies. Use your all judgement... Let me fill you in with some essential information.

Almost all non-Creative cards use C-media chips with more or less customized C-Media driver while Creative cards use E-mu chips with Creative own driver.

So, what's the deal?

1. C-media chips were developed primarily for onboard audio and Xonar or Omega sound cards are based on the same chips that can be found on any of the current motherboards (ALC889 and similar). Arguably the more expensive sound cards use higher quality components (DAC, opamps) and if you have very good speakers or very good cans you will be able to hear the difference.

2. E-mu chips used for X-Fi were developed exclusively for Creative sound cards. These cards are capable of processing audio in hardware for higher accuracy and lower CPU usage. CPU usage is less of a factor now, although, if you are still on XP it might still benefit you. Either way - the audio, and primarily the gaming audio, is rendered in hardware with Creative cards, unlike with onboard audio and some other sound cards.

3. EAX. X-Fi sound cards support all revisions of EAX, i.e. I think up to version 5... Other sound cards support lower revisions and non-Creative non-X-Fi cards only support versions 1 and 2 (a standard from mid 90's) EAX was developed by Creative and they made version 1 and 2 public but kept rights for upper versions to themselves only. This decision has been looked down by many users and, obviously, the competitors. After 10 years Asus released the Xonar card with a driver that tricks games into recognizing it as EAX 3 or 4 capable hardware. EAX calls (from the game) are accepted by Xonar and interpreted according to Asus algorithm which mimicks Creative patented EAX 3 and 4. It is more or less an attempt to reverse-engineer EAX, quite impressive - but not 100% accurate. There were several reports of sounds being messed up on Xonar cards. Fortunately new games use OpenAL instead which is less of an issue for any hardware that supports it.

4. Vista and nForce. Microsoft redesigned audio processing in Vista. Creative were slow to come up with drivers that would work for all users on all motherboards in all configurations. I had no issues on my non high-end rig but people with new motherboards (notably nForce4 and then 5 ), plenty of RAM and Windows Vista - run into issues. After way too long these issues have been sorted out and X-Fi sound cards are a safe buy for Vista. Meanwhile Creative learned their lesson and was among first to release a beta driver for Windows 7. Past difficulties with Vista and/or nForce chipsets were widely known and helped companies like Asus to establish their new brand for sound cards - Xonar.

5. Most reviews that I read conclude that X-Fi (E-Mu chip, remember?) sound cards are better suited for gaming while Xonar or Omega cards (C-Media) chip have an edge for music listening. Either product will probably deliver more than satisfactory results in both areas though. As for issues - currently there are compatibility issues with 7 series nVidia boards - i read about them in connection with Xonar D2X cards - but somehow I am sure that is not the only sound card affected ;) 

Anyway - if you really have an original Live sound card from the 90's give it a good burial (or ebay it - there are weirdos who'll buy!). Whatever card you decide to buy I am sure you will note the improvement over your old Sound Blaster Live.

Hope this helps,

Ben
April 7, 2009 12:07:59 PM

Don't even start with EAX; its a depreciated tech that almost no games use to begin with. And the Xonar line has the exact same features, and can even force EAX in EAX enabled games (I can't name 5 games that use EAX greater then EAX 2.0)

I recommend the Xonar line, beacause as he said "90% movies", and having all those dolby playback options would give him the best possible playback quality.
April 7, 2009 12:45:23 PM

gamerk316 said:
Don't even start with EAX; its a depreciated tech that almost no games use to begin with.


Anything to back it up? Smithinator uses XP and XP is fine with all hardware accelerated audio. That means X-Fi will render all EAX effects as per game design and no as per Asus dev team's assumption. Now, even if EAX will be abandoned for OpenAL which I assume will happen - there is several thousands of EAX games out there and a good few hundreds of games that use higher revisions of EAX (3, 4 or 5) These are games I like and will continue to play and I am sure there are thousands of people like me. Not everyone ditches last month games as soon as there is something new...

gamerk316 said:

And the Xonar line has the exact same features, and can even force EAX in EAX enabled games (I can't name 5 games that use EAX greater then EAX 2.0)


As for "forcing EAX".... well, there is nothing to be forced. It is zeros and ones. Your hardware either knows the algorithm or it does not. Obviously X-Fi knows it and Xonar can only guess it, hence the issues.

As for games with "EAX greater then EAX 2.0", well, there are more than 5...
Right now I can think of:

CoD, CoD2
Far Cry
F.E.A.R
Cryostasis
Bioshock
Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2: Special Forces, Battlefield 2142, Battlefield Vietnam
Gears of War
Collin McRae Rally: Dirty
GTA III, (also GTA Vice City and GTA San Adreas)
GRID
Guild Wars
Assassin's Creed
Brother in Arms
Tomb Rider: The Angel of Darkness

That's about 20 titles I know and have played, but I am sure this is just a fraction of games with EAX above 2.0

Know your FACTS before you start again, Gamerk :) 

gamerk316 said:

I recommend the Xonar line, beacause as he said "90% movies", and having all those dolby playback options would give him the best possible playback quality.


As you said above yourself - Xonar line has the exact same features as the X-Fi, and in regard to Dolby and DTS - You Are Correct! So it is really a matter of preference because feature-wise there is nothing that makes Xonar anyhow miles better for movies compared to my X-Fi and vice versa. Both cards will give good results compared to that old Sound Blaster card or onboard audio and I do not understand why you keep saying bad things about anything not branded ASUS. I mean Xonar is a great card, but so is Omega or X-Fi ... we all have opinions and preferences but if this is all you can share here, well ... it is not much, you know...

Take it easy :sol: 
April 7, 2009 10:54:30 PM

I don't know if I need to start a new thread, but I have a set of promedia 2.1 speakers and an alc888 board. I get a little bit of distortion in complex music and intense moments in games. I spend about 80% games vs music. I use Vista. If I only have pci-e slots, would it be worth it to add a sound card and if so, what? *looks at auzentechs little minimalist card again... wantingly*

**Wait, I lied, I have two pci slots as well.
April 8, 2009 1:37:53 AM

The best sound card I have heard by far is the M-Audio Audiophile 2496 (http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/Audiophile2496.ht...). It is really intended for music recording and production and is every bit as good as units costing several thousand dollars (it just has less inputs/outputs, but that doesn't matter for your purposes). The 2496 costs less than $100.

This is truly a different creature from any normal consumer level sound card. One nice thing it does it that it offloads a lot of audio-related processing (decoding, etc.) and handles it with its own DSP chip instead of having your CPU do it. If you have an older computer, this can make a big difference when listening to FLAC files as your computer won't be bogged down.

For another computer of mine (a laptop), I built a true audiophile quality external DAC (digital audio interface) that lots of people on audiophile forums are nuts over, but I honestly think that the M-Audio 2496 sounds better.

The only thing though, is it won't work with games (I don't think so at least). But, if you wanted to play games still, you could keep your old sound card in (have two sound cards in your system), and set the M-Audio as your primary sound card, and use the other one only for games.

You will also find significant sound quality improvement if you use an ASIO output plugin from your music player. This basically bypasses windows' music mixer system to prevent sound degredation. The M-Audio card has ASIO drivers.

Lastly, if you want good sound quality, it is important not to be using Vista. MS made major changes to the audio processing system in Vista and the result is worse sound quality, even when using ASIO.
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