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What Does It Take To Turn The PC Into A Hi-Fi Audio Platform?

Results: Through The Fire And Flames / DragonForce

Track notes

If you have any experience with Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, or if you like power metal in general, you almost certainly know this song. It is widely regarded as the game's hardest track.

At 200 BPM, it is extraordinarily fast, and with Hernan Li and Sam Totman playing guitars together in the foreground, this is one track that can very quickly degenerate into a muddled mess with poor headphones or other equipment.

Of the tracks we're using to test, this is probably the one that received the least amount of attention in the studio recording and mixing rooms. It's nowhere near as polished as the others. Since the music itself is amazing, however, that shouldn't deter listeners excessively.

Test results (Listener A)

RunActual DeviceGuess deviceCorrect / Incorrect
1Benchmark DAC2 HGCJDS Labs O2+ODAC (uncertain)Not Correct
2Asus Xonar Essence STXBenchmark DAC2 HGC (uncertain)Not Correct
3JDS Labs O2+ODACJDS Labs O2+ODAC (uncertain)Correct
4Asus Xonar Essence STXAsus Xonar Essence STX (uncertain)Correct
5Benchmark DAC2 HGCAsus Xonar Essence STX (uncertain)Not Correct
6Realtek ALC889*Realtek ALC889 (very certain)Correct*
7JDS Labs O2+ODACBenchmark DAC2 HGC (uncertain)Not Correct
8Realtek ALC889*Realtek ALC889 (very certain)Correct*

Listener A's comments:

By this third test, Realtek's ALC889 codec became easy to tell apart. The others, however, are much more difficult. I have notes riddled with comments like "sounds the same as before" with, for instance, round five (DAC2) compared to round four (the Xonar).

Interestingly, I wrote "sounds familiar" in run four (Xonar), which was actually true, since I've owned Asus' sound card for a long time. Evidently, though, it wasn't familiar enough to become apparent in run two. I'm now starting to focus on whether I can tell the Xonar apart from the O2+ODAC and DAC2. I'm not yet close to telling those two latter components apart.

*: Tests of the Realtek ALC889 codec marked with an asterisk had a volume level calibration issue that was corrected later. We kept the results in for the sake of transparency, although they should not be considered representative of an actual ability to distinguish the ALC889 from the other devices being tested.