System Setup and RMAA Testing
AMD Phenom II 810 AM3
Sapphire PC-AM2RS790G AM2+ 790GX
4GB OCZ Reaper DDR8500 DDR2
HIS Radeon 4870 X2 2GB
Logitech Z-5500 5.1 Speakers
Sennheiser HD280 Pro Headphones
Auzentech X-Fi Forte 7.1
Creative X-Fi Professional
For our testing, we compared the Auzentech Forte with the Creative X-Fi Professional sound card, as well the on-board Realtek ALC888 featured on our Sapphire motherboard. RightMark Audio Analyzer is benchmarking utility that runs a line-out/line-in test, playing test tones to analyze an audio cards ability to reproduce sound.
We tested the Forte subjectively by watching a few movies using both our 5.1 speakers and headphones. Audio reproduction was what you would expect from a Creative-based product, namely excellent. Whether we were listening via DDL to our speakers or analog, we really enjoyed what we heard. We did hear some crackling over the optical connection, but the latest driver release from Auzentech seems to have fixed that issue. The X-Fi Crystalizer, which can supposedly play audio at 24-bit depth instead of its native recorded rate only really seemed to make the audio sound hollow however, so we were inclined to leave it off for the most part. The audio sent over DDL was fairly clear, although we did think the max volume level was a little on the low side. Perhaps we are spoiled by not being able go past 50% volume on our Z-5500’s when connected over analog, but not being to up the volume level over DDL prevents us from getting a fair comparison.
For the most part, we were pleased with the audio quality of the Forte. Movies boomed and surround sound was wonderfully rendered. Games with EAX support sounded as good as the reference X-Fi, if not better, and it really had me lamenting for the days before Vista removed audio acceleration support. The front audio ports had a slightly ‘warmer’ sound to them that you may or may not appreciate, but for me it only made music sound more attractive. We were annoyed that auto-detection did not disable the optical connection though. It kind of defeats the purpose of muting all the jacks if the optical still functions as a pass-through for audio, forcing the user to mute their system.