Auzentech X-FI Prelude 7.1 Sound Card

Installation, Drivers and Included Software

Installation, Drivers.

To be honest, one of the things that really irks me most with Creative software is that it has a tendency to be either very buggy, and/or it is bloated to the max. Considering that the Auzen X-Fi Prelude uses Creative's X-Fi drivers, it will be very interesting to see what Auzentech has decided to run with in the way of included software.

Installation was a typical affair; simply pop the card in and wait for Windows to recognise it, and then install the drivers. The drivers that I was supplied with for the review are currently in closed Beta, and are therefore not available for official release. I'm extremely happy to report that the software installation was the most painless process I have ever encountered...Especially under Windows Vista. In under 2 minutes and 1 reboot later I was up and running with the new Auzen X-Fi Prelude 7.1.

For those with alternative Operating Systems, particularly Linux, the news is not as good unfortunately. According to the Auzentech website a Linux driver will be made available around the 1st Quarter of 2008, but it will be limited. The first version of the X-Fi Prelude Linux-compatible driver will be very preliminary, and you can expect high-quality output without the full X-Fi Prelude feature set. Although I can understand the logic behind the decision, I still feel that it is high-time that all manufacturers acknowledged Linux as a viable enough Operating System to code a fully fledged driver and feature set for.

One thing that you will notice with the Auzen X-Fi Prelude card (if you have a windowed case) is that the card has a green LED on the side that glows static when booting up. But as soon as you get into Windows it starts to flash, and continues to do so. Some may not have a problem with it, but initially I found it a little distracting. I have included a short video illustrating the effect below:

Auzen X-Fi Prelude LED

Included Software

Quite honestly, this is the best inclusion of software that I have seen in a long time. No longer do you have to wade through the myriad of 'Start Menu' options that traditional Creative installations force upon you; instead there are just 4 - the Auzentech Audio Console, the Console Launcher, the Volume panel and Creative's ALchemy (X-Fi Edition).

Creative Alchemy

Creative ALchemy is included to provide support for an ever expanding number of games under Windows Vista. With the advent of Windows Vista, Creative ALchemy is needed to play advanced audio effects. I'll let Auzentech explain it better:

It is necessary because prior to Windows Vista, the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) enabled DirectSound and DirectSound3D technologies to play advanced audio effects. Many games have used these technologies for dynamic audio, but those same games sound flat when played in Vista. For newer releases, OpenAL has become the favorite technology. But what about the old games? That's where ALchemy comes in: ALchemy translates the legacy DirectSound calls into OpenAL, and then passes control over to your soundcard driver. The result is full hardware accelerated 3D Audio and EAX support, just as the developers intended.

Auzentech Audio Console

The Audio Console allows for initial setup options and setting whatever mode that you want the Console to run in.

Auzentech Mode Switcher

The Mode Switcher screen also allows for changing audio modes depending on whether you're going to game, listen to some tunes or create something special yourself.

By now many of you will already be familiar with the different modes, particularly for those of you already with X-Fi cards, so I'm going to be very brief and just include screenshots.

Game Mode EQ Game Mode CMSS-3D
Game Mode Mixer Game Mode EQ

Under the Gaming mode, performance is enhanced with 3D soundscape, allowing you to hear bullets whiz past your head while explosions shake your room. EAX Advanced HD sound is also included to add 'voices' to your game. X-Fi CMSS-3D essentially emulates realistic surround sound with only a pair of headphones. You can boost game performance even further with games that take advantage of X-RAM, freeing up system memory and improving audio quality. The X-Fi Crystalizer automatically upgrades existing games with more dynamic and realistic sound.

Entertainment Mode Speaker setup

X-Fi CMSS-3D expands your MP3s and digital movies into surround sound over multichannel speakers, stereo speakers, or even headphones. The X-Fi Crystalizer is supposed to restore the detail and vibrance to your compressed music and movies. Apparently all the highs and lows are enhanced so you'll hear everything in crystal clarity.

CMSS-3D Crystalizer

The X-Fi Crystalizer certainly should make a noticeable difference when listening to your choice of music. There's nothing quite like ability to play 'liquid gold' that is DTS 96KHz/24-bit, especially if you're decked out with a decent 5.1/7.1 setup. It'll wreck both home and hearing with equal impunity.

SVM Mixer

The Smart Volume Management function is an interesting one, I still prefered to have it turned off.

Equalizer EAX

Dolby Digital Live

The X-Fi Prelude supports up to eight different 24-bit hardware effects, hardware synthesis capabilities, 24-bit SoundFont sampling and 3D MIDI recording. The X-Fi Prelude provides the lowest latency ASIO recording, allowing for the most precise audio recording capabilities in any class with latency as low as one millisecond with no CPU load.

Audio Creation Mode Effects Editor

Now that we're a little more familiar with the software side of Auzentech's X-Fi Prelude sound card, let's get down to the nitty gritty and see how we're going to test it...
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Most Recent Comments

28-10-2007, 07:25:26

Wow, Nice review PV!

Looks to be a solid card.Quote

28-10-2007, 07:51:15

Looks like a decent card, if only they didn't have to use Creative drivers tbhQuote

28-10-2007, 07:57:49

i can certainly vouch for it i have one and i love it everything about it just 'feels' better than the other x-fi i had

would love a THX console for calibrating my speakers though but that aside i absolutely love it Quote

28-10-2007, 08:52:17

Originally Posted by name='SuB'
i can certainly vouch for it i have one and i love it everything about it just 'feels' better than the other x-fi i had

would love a THX console for calibrating my speakers though but that aside i absolutely love it
Seeing as it`s software is creative hybrid, I wonder if u can use the THX console that creative have on their cds ?

For me, these cards are equivilant to how an nVidia reference card gets adopted by other manufs.

Talking about the population of a creative card in comparison to this one, it`s also fair to bare in mind that out of the 5 or 6 creative x-fi cards that have been/are available, ranging from the cheapest to the professional studio ones, the density of the surface mounting goes from sparce to crazy-mad-caps-per-inch.

I would have liked to have seen a "crackle-test" on this card too, creative cards get easily bogged down fighting for internal bus usage (so it would appear but not confirmed) which makes them crackle. It`s a mad test to emulate, and it`s conditions are not 100% duplicate-able. But if u have a pc thrash at something like fah on all cores, do some rar`ing, do some massive file transfers..... and play some music - u get crackle on a creative x-fi. Maybe this is more a blame of the mobo design, or windows design, but it would be interesting.

Also - I want pci-e in this crazy lacking pci slot world !Quote

28-10-2007, 08:55:55

Creative just dont support THX in Vista, they suck

Crackle test - would have been interesting you're right

And yep, lets hope some PCI-e versions get out real soonQuote

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