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Old January 23, 2009, 06:01 PM
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Default Looking for high quality sound card.

I'm looking for a sound card for an HTPC, it won't be used for games. My biggest concern is sound quality. It will be used for HiFi as well as HT. I will only be using the analog outs.

I haven't looked too hard yet as I really don't know many companies that make higher end stuff. I was looking at the Auzentech X-Plosion and it appears to be exactly what I'm after. However.... the price hardly screams quality (you don't get what you don't pay for). Also I see they make a big deal about using JRC5532 opamps. Unless JRC has changed their prioroties, the last I knew of them is that they make cheap knockoff IC's, i.e. not as good as original manufaturer. Also in a book I have on audio op-amp aplications the 5532's are higly regarded, though this book was printed 23 years ago. I realize they are upgradeable but what other corners did they cut?

Any suggestions?
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Old January 23, 2009, 06:04 PM
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Pretty much .. Either the Auzentech Prelude or Forte.

Auzentech X-Plosion is a great and gets high regards from a lot of diff people as one of its great options is the ability to swap out the opamps.. just like the prelude to fine tune the audio to your liking.
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Old January 23, 2009, 06:31 PM
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The Forte doesn't offer any real improvement over the Prelude besides PCIe and its factor form AFAIK. In the SQ department I don't believe there will be a significant change.

I always thought that the Prelude and the rest of Auzen's cards only allowed easily swapping of the front channel opamps. Which IMO is worthless if it is going to be used for an HTPC.
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Old January 23, 2009, 07:22 PM
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The X-Plosion clearly shows all opamps are swapable (six in total). I like the layout of the x-plosion much better than the forte. I like the hardwired 6 audio jacks on the back rather than having to use a breakout cable.

Really so the SQ of the xplosion is that good eh? That'd be a real nice surprize to be able to get a high end sound card for under $90.
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Old January 31, 2009, 11:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lowfat View Post
The Forte doesn't offer any real improvement over the Prelude besides PCIe and its factor form AFAIK. In the SQ department I don't believe there will be a significant change.

I always thought that the Prelude and the rest of Auzen's cards only allowed easily swapping of the front channel opamps. Which IMO is worthless if it is going to be used for an HTPC.
Well from what I can see the Forte does have a nice additional feature over the Prelude and that is the dedicated headphones amp. For me this was nice as I was looking for something to boost my headphones and this worked better for me than an external amp. If you have a high impedance set of headphones then a AMP is a must have. As far as I could tell only the Forte and the upcoming HomeTheater HD support the dedicated headphone amp.

I just ordered the Forte today and decided on it because of the headphone amp since it should make my Sennheisers sound much better. I preferred the PCIe interface because it is above my video card and I would rather not have my sound card in the middle of crossfired GPU's. I currently use a Sound Blaster Audigy X-Gamer and I'm expecting the Forte to be a major improvement.

I had also considered the Asus Xonar D2X but didn't like its lack of front audio connectors. Plus it was $50 more than the Forte. I also briefly considered the Asus Xonar DX but felt the Forte would be a much better card overall, especially considering the headphones amp. It was easy to justify spending $40-50 more on the Forte compared to the Xonar DX since a basic headphone amp would cost that much anyway.

The only other Sound cards I can think of with a dedicated headphone amp is the HT Omega Calro Halo and Calro Halo XT. They are around $220 and $280 respectively in price. Much higher than the $151 I paid for the Auzentech Forte and they are still only in PCI.

So if you want a headphone amp to power higher impedance headphone the Auzentech Forte is a great option.
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Old February 1, 2009, 12:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NightRain View Post
The only other Sound cards I can think of with a dedicated headphone amp is the HT Omega Calro Halo and Calro Halo XT. They are around $220 and $280 respectively in price. Much higher than the $151 I paid for the Auzentech Forte and they are still only in PCI.

So if you want a headphone amp to power higher impedance headphone the Auzentech Forte is a great option.
You are forgetting about the Xonar Essence. Which AFAIK is THE card to use for headphones.

But it is like $75+ more than the Forte.
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Old February 1, 2009, 07:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NightRain View Post
Well from what I can see the Forte does have a nice additional feature over the Prelude and that is the dedicated headphones amp. For me this was nice as I was looking for something to boost my headphones and this worked better for me than an external amp. If you have a high impedance set of headphones then a AMP is a must have. As far as I could tell only the Forte and the upcoming HomeTheater HD support the dedicated headphone amp.

I just ordered the Forte today and decided on it because of the headphone amp since it should make my Sennheisers sound much better. I preferred the PCIe interface because it is above my video card and I would rather not have my sound card in the middle of crossfired GPU's. I currently use a Sound Blaster Audigy X-Gamer and I'm expecting the Forte to be a major improvement.

I had also considered the Asus Xonar D2X but didn't like its lack of front audio connectors. Plus it was $50 more than the Forte. I also briefly considered the Asus Xonar DX but felt the Forte would be a much better card overall, especially considering the headphones amp. It was easy to justify spending $40-50 more on the Forte compared to the Xonar DX since a basic headphone amp would cost that much anyway.

The only other Sound cards I can think of with a dedicated headphone amp is the HT Omega Calro Halo and Calro Halo XT. They are around $220 and $280 respectively in price. Much higher than the $151 I paid for the Auzentech Forte and they are still only in PCI.

So if you want a headphone amp to power higher impedance headphone the Auzentech Forte is a great option.
Thanks for the reply but did this end up in the wrong thread? I'll have a look at the omega's though forgot all about those.

So far from the feedback:

1.) Forte is as good as the Prelude and the Forte is about $50 cheaper. If the Forte is the same SQ as the Prelude Then I'd rather buy the Prelude just to not have to use a breakout cable.

2.) the Prelude and Forte are better than the xplosion even though the explosion is muchmore upgrade friendly in the opamps.

So, so far the prelude is the best choice?
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Old February 1, 2009, 01:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by biff View Post
Thanks for the reply but did this end up in the wrong thread? I'll have a look at the omega's though forgot all about those.

So far from the feedback:

1.) Forte is as good as the Prelude and the Forte is about $50 cheaper. If the Forte is the same SQ as the Prelude Then I'd rather buy the Prelude just to not have to use a breakout cable.

2.) the Prelude and Forte are better than the xplosion even though the explosion is muchmore upgrade friendly in the opamps.

So, so far the prelude is the best choice?
SQ on both will be pretty much exactly the same, unless you're using high impedance headphones. Then the dedicated headphone amp on the Forte will provide a much better sound.

I personally would rather not have the break away cable either but I can certainly live with it. Especially since I'd rather have the card in a PCIe slot instead of below and I love the integrated headphones amp.
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Old February 1, 2009, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by lowfat View Post
You are forgetting about the Xonar Essence. Which AFAIK is THE card to use for headphones.

But it is like $75+ more than the Forte.
I did forget to mention this card, but also looked into it but at $70 more it didn't seem worth it. The Essence STX uses the AV100 audio chipset, the same one in the Xonar DX not the AV200 like the D2X or AV100. And while their isn't a huge difference some of the other componets are similar to the DX too making it not such a great deal.

It also only supports surround with a digital connection and my older but still great Logitech Z-540 4.1 speakers require 3.5mm plugs for front and rear connection and don't have a digital option. Allowing me to use my headphones fine but only able to use the front channels of my 4.1 system.

IMHO The Essence STX is not a good value/feature set card.
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