|AuzenTech X-Fi™ Prelude[Top] vs ASUS Xonar D2X[Bottom] Review|
I know its been almost a year since i promised to update this specific article on the blog. But i really apologize for the extreme delay that it caused for me to update the same. I know its already 2013 and the Auzen X-Fi™ Prelude sound card or any other Sound cards from them is no longer available on sale officially, means all are discontinued product as of now from the reputed makers so called AuzenTech. R.I.P AuzenTech. But you can still get these sound cards on sale as a second hand product. So all the best for it.
But still i would like to share my thoughts on this topic, as i was finding an hard time to choose between the two reputed SC's from Auzen and Asus. During those days both the cards were highly rated among the enthusiasts as both the cards were of Audiophile range stuffs. From the above pictorial representation itself, its very clear that both the companies were competing face-to-face as the PCB layout and the rear I/O connections were the same [Below Pic's]. I was more attracted towards the Auzen just because it uses an X-Fi Audio Processor which blows any Audio Chip out of the water due to its high processing capability. But Just an APU wont make the sound card better sounding unless the manufacturer are too picky when selecting other components like DAC, ADC, Filtering Stages, Op-Amps, PCB layouts, Right-Component Positioning on PCB etc. I am not going to vomit here again the spec's of these two cards as the Specs/Reviews are easily available on the internet anytime.
BUT-BUT-BUT, i wanted the best of the two. So the only option is to buy both and let my ear hear them and decide which is the best and i shall keep the best and sell the other. So i bought both the cards. Both arrived at my door. Auzen was an refurbished and Xonar D2X was the fresh one of the box.
|Asus Xonar D2X [Box-Front]|
|Asus Xonar D2X [Box ]|
|Xonar D2X Box [Exposed]|
That's all about the showcase snaps of Asus Xonar D2X. Sorry i didn't bother to take any shots on the box in which the X-Fi Prelude came as it was just a plain box which had the prelude rapped in woolen sponge with all the necessary cables. But still for the satisfaction i will include the bare card here.
|X-Fi Prelude Top View|
|X-Fi Prelude Rear View|
Now lets be practical get in to the real testing world.
As i have my hands on 3 audio sources here including my Mobo integrated RealTek sound , i am including that too in the game as a candidate.
I will be testing these SC's with my Logitech-Z5500 Digital speakers. As you know these speakers are not Audiophile range, i was still not thinking of buying another set of speakers just to carry out the tests. So bear with me with these speakers even these speakers are not that bad. :D
As my logitech Z5500 Digital has 3 inputs , its perfect that i can insert each stereo outputs from these three Sound Sources [i.e from Prelude, Xonar D2X & On-Board Realtek].
Testing Configuration :-
|X-Fi Prelude[Bottom] & Xonar D2X [Top] inside PC|
|Xonar D2X - illuminated|
|Xonar D2X [UP]; X-Fi-Prelude [Bottom]|
|Xonar D2X ; X-Fi-Prelude inside [Rear View]|
|Xonar D2X & X-Fi Prelude Analogue Connected View|
|Xoanr D2X & X-Fi Prelude Digial Connection|
Xonar D2X :-
High Quality Build PCB and Selection of Components such DAC, ADC etc
Awesome Analog Audio Quality [Good Dynamic Range]
+20db EQ [X-Fi only +12 EQ]
2ms ASIO Latency Support
Non-EAX(3,4,5) Games Sounded Good
Good 'Mid', Nice 'High' Reproduction
GUI loads Much faster and easy than X-Fi
Full DTS Support in XP Unlike Prelude [Not DTS support at all on Windows XP]
DTS/DD Features are very handy
Plenty of Connectivity
illuminated color coded jacks (Gimmick for some, But was useful for me and may be others too)
Bundled Midi I/O Daughter Card & All necessary cables
Bundled Audio Creating Applications
10,268 K of Idle Memory usage [Win 7]
No Front Panel Audio Connectivity at all (its weird).
Relay Clicking Sound from the Card.
Additional Floppy Power Connector required.
ASIO playback do not support up-mixing 2,4 channels to 5.1 or higher (tested in Win XP & Win 7)
ASIO playback do not support any Dolby/DTS visualization Technologies [Dolby HF, Dolby Virtual Speaker etc]
Master Sampling Rate is not automatically shifted with the ASIO playback like X-Fi Does smartly.
No Bit-Matched Playback Support at all.
No 10h to 40hz LFE Crossover frequency [in Flexibass or bass redirection].
Cant output both Analogue and Digital at the same time if DDL/DTS enabled. [X-Fi can do both]
In GUI Panel, the "effect" panel looks cheap.
No Separate Bass , Treble controlling knob's like X-Fi has
Bass reproduction not up to the mark [compared to X-Fi only]
Overall volume is bit lower compared to X-Fi
Up-mixing (Non DD/DTS Tech) is not as best as X-Fi's "CMSS-3D Stereo Surround"
Consumes a little CPU Resource while gaming.
'Direct-Sound' Playback issue right out of the box in f2k V1.0 (Win 7)
Even No Multichannel Up-mixing & No DTS Neo PC on WMP playback R.O.B (Win 7)
X-Fi Prelude :-
High quality build and Component Selection.
Impressive Analogue Audio Quality [Very Well Detailed Sound]
Front Panel Audio Connectivity. [Highly Amplified Output]
X-Fi CMSS-3D Stereo Surround Sounded great.
X-Fi CMSS-3D Headphone (Right Amount) sounds much better than Dolby HF on Xonar D2X
Audio Creation Mode does a very good job [Good For minor recording and sound mixing at home itself w/o compromising SQ]
Bit-Matched Playback Support.
ASIO Supports all sound processing tech [EQ, CMSS-3D, X-Fi Crystalizer, SVM etc] in XP
HeadPhone Bass-boost Feature is Excellent.
Separate Bass/Treble controlling knobs.
Native DDL/DTS Support [Compared to earlier X-Fi Card's]
DDL/DTS Encoding is Powerful than Xonar D2X [According to my ears]
Can output DDL/DTS + Analogue at the same time.
Front Channels Swappable Op-Amps
Full EAX-5.0 HD Hardware Support
64MB of X-RAM
Plenty of Connectivity.
Bundled with quality TOS-Link Adapters and long Optical Cable.
GUI loads slower than 'Xonar D2X Audio Center' [Much Slower in Win 7]
No DTS Support in XP at all (This is completely weird)
DDL/DTS Features are not very handy compared to 'Xonar D2X'
DDL/DTS Encoding produces delayed sound reproduction after an ASIO Playback of 44100 Hz Resolution File. [An ASIO playback of 48000 Hz file before activating DDL/DTS can fix this issue]
Only Front L,R channel ASIO support in 'Entertainment Mode'
20-ms ASIO latency. Anything below not stable
No EMI Shield at all
No midi I/O Daughter card included
EQ and X-Fi Crystalizer do not take effect on 'ASIO' & 'WASAPI' Playback (Win 7)
DTS Neo PC do not take effect on 'ASIO' & 'WASAPI' Playback (Win 7)
44100Hz Resolution files cant be played on ASIO playback with DTS or DDL activated (Win 7) [Coz the sampling rate will not match]
DDL/DTS Consumes a very little CPU Usage
16,220 K of idle Memory Usage
No Left-Right Channel Balancing Knob in 'Entertainment Mode'
Broken Promises from Auzen [No HDMI Daughter Card was Released]
I was completely immersed in Stereo Playback mode while testing coz i never tried it before as i had a 5.1 Setup.
But why many audiophiles go for stereo playback rather than surround mode is because this is the way how the stereo was designed to sound.
Up-mixing is a tech. But some prefer surround mode as they want all of their speakers to pump up and to show-off in-front of colleagues or friends.
I also would like to add that, for serious Trance/Techno listening users, its definitely X-Fi Prelude over the
Xonar D2X with out a doubt, because it took me in to air with rumbling bass reproduction and high percussion instruments tearing thru my body.
Mic input :-
X-Fi Prelude :- No issues in functionality as some had probs when the card was released. Volume was sufficient even w/o the +20 db boost
Xonar D2X :- No issues at all. Volume was not at all sufficient w/o the boost feature. But once its enabled, it was whelming.
X-Fi Prelude :-
-Supports Only 2ch direct input as PCM 44.1Khz / 48Khz / 88.2 khz / 96 Khz / 192 Khz. -Simultaneous Spidif output (48 khz or 96 khz) in XP-No other multi-channel digital formats supported.
-Can be converted the SPIDIF-in 2ch signal to real time 5.1 DTS(in Win 7) or DDL when the X-Fi CMSS-3D is enabled. (PS3 Games sounded life like & Amazing with this feature)
-Input signals can be processed or modified before its outputted.-No Direct by-passing supported. (means no 'SPDIF-in loopback' like feature as Xonar)
Xonar D2X :-
-Supports Only 2ch direct input as PCM 44.1Khz / 48Khz / 88.2 khz / 96 Khz / 192 Khz.
-No other multi-channel digital formats supported.
-Supports up-mixing to multichannel(5.1,7.1) , only in Analogue mode. Real time DDL/DTS encoding via Digital out Not supported. (XP, 7)
with 'SPIDIF-in loopback' you can by pass any incoming digital signal(DDL/DTS/PCM 44.1Khz/PCM 48Khz/ PCM 88.2khz/ PCM 192khz) to the digital 'SPIDIF/out' of the card un-touched. (USeful when u have Optical-out device and Coax-in receiver or Vice versa)
-input data cant be processed or modified at all like X-Fi's could.
-The Analogue-to-Digital Clarity was well defined and superior when compared to that of Xonar D2X. The ADC have done its job well. Impressive Overall Quality.
Xonar D2X :-
-Well it was totally disappointing here as i even couldn't hear the sound properly instead it produced crackling and popping just after 3 minutes of listening.
-And those 3-minutes of listening i found the over all quality was low as compared to that of Prelude.
-2nd Test ~ Found left channel feeding to be very low.
Assassins Creed 2 :- (Win 7)
Xonar D2X :- Sounded Nice W/O an issue. All background tones where Crisp and Clear. Nice 3D Audio Positioning.
X-Fi Prelude :- Sounded Nice too. Couldn't notice much difference between the competitor. Nice 3D Audio Positioning.
Bioshock 2 :- (win 7)
Xonar did go well w/o any technical issues with this new game title. Both Analogue and DDL capability where great.
X-Fi Prelude :- Sounded best on both of the cards. Both DDL/Analoge Sounded great
Bioshock-I (EAX 4/5 HD) :-
Xonar D2x :- Sounded distorted and UN-balalnced with EAX enabled. But did a good job with EAX engine Disabled in the game. 3D positioning of sound was good even tho some voices were clipped out.
X-Fi Prelude :-Sounded best with EAX engine enabled in the game. Accurate 3D positioning over voices and well defined sound.
Assassins Creed-I :-
Both the cards did an outstanding performance. Felt life like in the game with all those environmental occlusion and voices. But tbh, i found Xonar to be the winner for this game.
Xonar :- The talk of Al-Tair with Desmond had a reverb like effect with this card. but couldn't hear such effect on X-Fi.
Crysis (Evergreen Hit Game) :- (Win 7)
Xonar D2X :- Well. Crackling and Poping at the very beginning of the game. Game breezed more than once for some moments during the game play
X-Fi Prelude :- Sounded Excellent. Gun Shots where crisp and sharp. Explosions where heart breaking. Very well defined sound.
I really thank Creative for Such a powerful audio processor and Logitech For Muscle Speakers coz it shakes the WALL man. And a Special thanks to Auzentech
for such an innovative circuit design for this Prelude.
Miscellaneous Info :-
Stereo Playback [2/2.1 Speaker Setup] :-
X-Fi Prelude vs Xonar D2X & Realtek ALC850(on-board 8Ch Sound):-
X-Fi Prelude :- Tbh, i was impressed. Very Detailed Sound. Breath taking bass Reproduction.
ASIO:- X-Fi Virtual Speaker Did a good job by bringing the background instruments detailed.
Xonar D2X :- Nice High. Fantastic and wider Sounded. Not Detailed as X-Fi. Dolby Virtual Speaker cant be utilized in ASIO Playback. So had to use KS to test the Dolby-VS. And the feature sounded nice too. It bought out the background instruments sounds much more clearer.
Realtek ALC850 :- Nice Sounded Considering its On-Board integrated Audio. Very Low Over Volume Compared to X-Fi & Xonar D2X.
KS:- Not very well detailed. Upgrading to one of above is definitely worth it.
Both are great cards from the respective brands i.e Auzen and Asus. The choice between the two cards seems to be just a personal choice and subjective as per the results posted above. But for me the Asus was a deal breaker as it lacked FrontPanel Connector which was very important and must for me and hope for some others too. And in terms of SQ i was more than satisfied with the Prelude. So in the end, i kept my hands on the Prelude and the Asus D2X went on e-bay the very next day as new card for sale. And it was sold with in a week of time.
P.S :- As to justify my choice once again, i thought of upgrading the replaceable Op-amp of my prelude to a better metal can version. So did i with an LME49710HA op-amp as seen below to refine the sound quality outputted from the 2 front channels.
|LME49710HA Op-Amp on X-Fi Prelude [Close View]|
|LME49710HA Op-Amp on X-Fi Prelude|
To add, it sounded bit more redefined with the addition of Metal Can version of the Op-Amps. Not to mention these op-amps were arranged by a famous Guru3D Forum Member known as ROBSCIX.
Thanks for watching and reading my little work and thanks for your time. :)