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Gamer Semi-Audiophile on a moderate budget

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June 4, 2003 2:56:31 AM

Hi Audio Guru's,

Not too long ago I posted <A HREF="http://forumz.tomshardware.com/hardware/modules.php?nam..." target="_new">this thread</A> asking whether it was worth upgrading from my SBLive! with 4.1 Cambridge speakers to an Audigy 2, and also asked for recommendations for speakers.

Based on the feedback I received, here's where I'm at in my research. I'd appreciate some more input if possible :) 

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Sounds cards in order of preference:

1. Terratec Aureon 7.1 Space (AUS$399)
2. Creative Audigy 2 (AUS$212)


Terratec:

My only concerns about the Terratec is the EAX/D3D support (excepting the price). I know they are "supported", but I've heard people indicate some issues with game audio being fuzzy etc..? Maybe I'm thinking of the M-Audio Revolution's problems..? <b>Does anyone have any experience with using the Terratec Space in a gaming rig?</b>


Audigy 2:

My only real concerns about the Audigy 2 is that THG showed a considerable degradation in audio quality of 44.1Khz sound tracks due to upsampling to 48Khz. Any DVD's that I watch/listen to will not suffer from this, but I'm uncertain what sampling rate typical games these days use. Any ideas?


<b>Does anyone know if the Terratec also suffers from the same upsampling as does the Audigy 2?</b>
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Speakers in order of preference:

1. Klipsch Promedia 5.1 (AUS$699) + Klipsch Promedia 5.1 Digital Decoder Preamp (AUS$200)
2. Creative Megaworks 550 5.1 (~AUS$690)
3. Logitech Z-680 (AUS$650)


Klipsch:

My only concern with the Promedia speakers is..hmm.. Well, I've got no problem with the speakers alone. My concern is with the Decoder - Klipsch claim "we use the same Crystal 20 Bit converters as in our own high-end Aragon $8000".

Does that mean if I want to use the decoder for Dolby Digital decoding, that I'll be going through a 20 bit DAC? Is a "Crystal 20 bit DAC" better than the 24 bit DAC used on the Audigy 2?

If I connect the decoder via my sound cards analog ports (thus allowing the DAC to be performed on the Sound card), should the decoder still be able to perform it's Dolby Digital decoding?


Megaworks:

No real concerns with these, although I've read that Klipsch are better, and the Logitech's come with a decoder.


Logitech:

Center speaker hiss is a BIG turn off. If this was something that was corrected in newer models, I might consider these, but I've seen nothing indicating that it has been addressed.

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What do you guys think? Go with my top two preferences?

What about the Klipsch decoder - should I look for something else which also supports Dolby Pro-logic 2 and or has a 24 bit DAC?

Looking forward to your responses.

-Auldar
June 4, 2003 9:16:47 AM

The upsampling does NOT cause a 'significant' degradation in audio quality. Audigy2 still beats every other consumer card out there in terms of playback quality (it has very good DACs all around) and comes very close to the likes of Revolution and Aureon. And BTW neither Revolution nor Aureon upsample 44.1KHz data.

This is not to say that upsampling like this (which is part of the AC97 standard) is good and all that but unless you're doing proffessional work (especially recording) it won't bother you much. You may be interested to know that outboard separate high-end DACs (e.g. the ~$1000 Musical Fidelity A3-24 or Wadia Digital's ~$9000 processor/upsampler) do exactly the same thing to (it's said) improve the sound quality of the CD. They all upsample the 16/44 CD data to 24-bit and multipliers of 48KHz (48/96/192KHz). The digital filters in these supposedly do a better job in processing and improving the incoming signal by this upsampling. SimAudio Moon (another multi-thousand dollar CD player producer) refute these claims however. It's controversial issue altogether.<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by r2k on 06/04/03 01:52 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
June 4, 2003 11:34:45 PM

Thanks r2k.

So in your opinion I shouldn't notice any difference in the playback quality between an Audigy 2 and a Terratec Aureon.. In that case I guess I'll go with the Audigy 2 for it's gaming compatibility.

That just leaves me with a choice of speakers..

I'd probably go with the Logitech Z-680's if there wasn't that centre speaker hiss.. My supplier also dropped their price from AUS$650 to AUS$546. Does anyone know if it's been addressed by Logitech?

-Auldar

<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by auldar on 06/04/03 07:54 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
Related resources
June 4, 2003 11:59:26 PM

A quote from Logitech from <A HREF="http://gear.ign.com/articles/383/383537p1.html" target="_new">here</A>. Sorry if the first page is an ad - I hate this new method review sites use "click here to go to the article you were interested in".

Quote:

The "hiss" issue is a known problem that can affect the Digital SoundTouch Control Center of the Z-680, specific to the 1.03 version of the Control Center's ROM.

We are actively working on a fix that should be available to customers by the end of January. Our customer support staff has been given a series of troubleshooting steps to determine if the Control Center is affected by the hiss issue. If customers are experiencing a higher than normal level of hiss, they should contact our customer support staff, so it can be determined if it is indeed the Control Center.

For affected customers, Logitech will replace the Control Center with an updated unit at Logitech's expense. (This is for both EU and US customers). Logitech is dedicated to providing the best possible product experience for all of our customers.

No idea how I'd know if I had 1.03 ROM version or not, and they don't mention replacements in Australia, but sounds like it's fixed.

I think I'll go with the Z-680's given the built in decoder.

Kewl :) 

-Auldar

<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by auldar on 06/04/03 08:06 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
June 5, 2003 9:54:30 AM

You will notice a difference in quality with good speakers. From what I've read around the web, Aureon and Revolution 'generally' beat the Audigy2 in terms of sound quality but it's not a day and night difference like if you wanted to compare the Revolution to an Audigy (the first one).

BTW (if you finally decided on the Aureon) why pay more for the Space 7.1? Do you really need 7.1 capabilities? I'd go for the more reasonable 5.1 Sky instead and save bucks.
June 6, 2003 2:35:36 AM

It was only about a AUS$50 difference (about US$30) between the 5.1 and 7.1. Plus you get an optical cable with the 7.1, and the extra speakers might be useful sometime in the future.

I think I'll stick with the Audigy 2 + Z-680's, since it'll cost me about AUS$200 more for the Terratec, and about AUS$350 more for the Klipsch + decoder to get the same functionality (minus DPLII), for a slightly better quality output which I probably wouldn't really notice unless I used them back-to-back.

Thanks for the help :) 

-Auldar
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