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Auzentech Prelude 7.1 (Source: Hardware Canucks)
EAX 5.0 and Dolby Digital Live on a single PCI sound card

Auzentech is set to release the first third-party Creative Labs X-Fi based sound card – the Prelude 7.1. The Prelude 7.1, announced last month, allows users to enjoy multi-channel EAX 5.0 positional audio without connecting four sets of audio cables. Auzentech licenses Dolby Digital Live multi-channel audio encoding technology to provide users single-cable convenience over S/PDIF.

The new Prelude 7.1 mates features previously found on the Auzentech X-Meridian with the Creative Labs X-Fi sound processor. Auzentech equips the Prelude 7.1 with a removable OPAmp on the front channels output of the sound card, unlike the X-Meridian’s four removable OPAmps. A LM4562NA is the default installed OPAmp on the Prelude 7.1.  

Auzentech pairs the Creative Labs X-Fi sound processor with two memory chips for 64MB of memory. AKM digital-to-analog convertors are installed on all eight audio channels, a step up from the Cirrus Logic DACs employed by Creative Labs. Other notable features of the Prelude 7.1 include audio headers, although it is unknown if they meet Creative Labs’ specifications.

Expect the Auzentech Prelude 7.1 to trickle into retail channels in the coming weeks.

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PCI Express
By AnnihilatorX on 5/30/2007 6:27:22 PM , Rating: 2
We need a PCI Express card...

RE: PCI Express
By Xavian on 5/30/2007 8:05:08 PM , Rating: 5
actually, PCI-Express has latency problems, sure its great for high bandwidth, but latency is very important for soundcards.

Soundcards need low latency, PCI-Express is higher latency then PCI. So unless soundcard engineers work-out how to handle the latency, its gonna be PCI-only for quite some time yet.

RE: PCI Express
By AnnihilatorX on 5/30/2007 8:37:56 PM , Rating: 2
Hm I have heard about this somewhere.

I am sure there will be workarounds. PCI can't be around forever.

Caching is a well established method to reducing impact of latencies. CPUs do it, HDDs do it.
Not to mention there're on board RAM on these soundcards

RE: PCI Express
By wien on 5/30/2007 9:42:52 PM , Rating: 5
Sound cards need near real-time latency. You can't cache information that doesn't exist yet. Take for instance sound input processed by the CPU and sent back out through the output (very common in studio applications for instance). Latencies down into the milliseconds can be quite noticeable in these cases. Same goes for games which generate sounds real time. They need output as soon as possible. Caching isn't an option.

RE: PCI Express
By supasso on 5/31/2007 5:15:07 AM , Rating: 5
I don't buy that. If the PCI-Express has latency problems for sound card, why is it ok with graphic card? Our eyes are even less forgiving than our ears, in term of latency. The speed of sound is 344m/s, meaning that it takes 3ms for sound wave to travel from the speakers to your ears if you sit 1m away from the speakers, more if you sit further. On the other hand, the latency of PCI-Express is probably measured in ns.

Myth busted.

RE: PCI Express
By Vinnybcfc on 5/31/2007 7:27:01 AM , Rating: 3
Why vote him down? You people need to do some research.

Creative have released X-Fi products on PCI Express before look at this:

Yes it may be on a laptop and using Expresscard but Expresscard uses PCI Express.

There are other reasons on why Creative don't want to release a desktop PCI Express card.

RE: PCI Express
By erwos on 5/31/2007 8:28:04 AM , Rating: 3
You need to do some research, too. ExpressCard has access to a PCIe 1x lane, but it also has access to USB 2.0. This could very well be a USB 2.0 product using ExpressCard's physical interface. In fact, I'd be shocked if it wasn't, given Creative's love of USB sound devices.

That said, the "high PCIe latency" excuse is not something I've ever heard actually backed up with numbers or sourced in any way. The fact that GPGPU stuff works as well as it does puts lie to it, IMHO.

RE: PCI Express
By Flunk on 5/31/2007 9:36:23 AM , Rating: 3
Not to mention that USB is significantly higher latency than PCI-E and there are plenty of USB audio processing products. Soundblaster Audigy USB for one example.

I think the real reason that sound cards are still PCI is that there is little reason to switch to PCI-E. All new motherboards still have PCI and it's cheaper to produce cards with only one interface (If they switch they still need to product PCI cards for older systems).

I expect sound cards to switch to PCI-E around the time that motherboard manufacturers start making boards that don't have PCI slots. Then it will happen very quickly, every card will be PCI-E. This is what happened in the transition to PCI from ISA and I expect it to be repeated here.

RE: PCI Express
By psychobriggsy on 5/31/2007 9:34:21 AM , Rating: 2
How does that explain those USB attached soundcards? USB clearly has far far far far far worse latency than PCIe.

As for PCIe's latency, it's not that bad compared to PCI because it is clocked much faster, and there are other advantages because the bus is point to point rather than shared. Indeed an x1 link can have 250MB per second going in and out of it, rather than PCI's ~120MB/s, so the latency of sending (e.g.,) 128 bytes via PCIe is actually lower than sending them by PCI.

Never mind the fact that most PCI buses in chipsets are now hanging off of the southbridge, which is attached to the northbridge via a high-speed serial interconnect, which is PCIe in many cases. So you have the PCIe latency added to the PCI latency.

PCIe latency could be increased if you use a PCIe -> PCI bridge on the sound card too. Creative need to put a native PCIe interface on their sound chip.

RE: PCI Express
By clemedia on 5/31/2007 7:52:02 PM , Rating: 2
Hell no, my only available 1x PCI-Express slot is being used up by my HDTV card.

Case Connections
By AstroCreep on 5/30/2007 5:54:20 PM , Rating: 3
Why is it that very few sound card manufacturers give you the pins to use your case's audio connectors? That really pisses me off.
I can't tell from the pic if they'll 'allow it', but they didn't on previous models. :(

RE: Case Connections
By Justin Case on 5/30/2007 6:25:28 PM , Rating: 2
The internal audio cables in most cases aren't shielded at all. Running them through the EM noise storm that's the inside of a PC case probably won't do wonders for the sound quality and noise levels. Perhaps audio card manufacturers don't want people judging the sound quality of their cards under those circumstances.

Either that or they just save $2 by not including the pins.

Probably the latter.

RE: Case Connections
By PurdueRy on 5/30/2007 6:47:41 PM , Rating: 5
The front panel audio cables ARE shielded. So it is the saving money issue.

I can tell you this card does have front panel audio's on the upper left of the card.

RE: Case Connections
By deadrody on 5/31/2007 8:04:53 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know what kind of case you have, but on every one I've ever owned, all case wiring is twisted pair, NOT shielded.

RE: Case Connections
By PurdueRy on 5/31/2007 10:54:21 AM , Rating: 2
LED, power connections, reset...etc are always twisted pairs. But I have cut open my cables before to use the wires and pins for my own projects and I had to peel back a layer of shielding to get to the wires themselves.

RE: Case Connections
By PurdueRy on 5/30/2007 6:48:08 PM , Rating: 2
The X-Meridian has front panel audio connectors

RE: Case Connections
By Steve1000 on 5/30/2007 8:00:12 PM , Rating: 2
This card has front Panel audio connections, according to the specs. If you check the Picture you can see them on the top left.

RE: Case Connections
By gramboh on 5/31/2007 2:07:17 PM , Rating: 2
I built a new PC at the end of March. My Antec P182B case came with shielded front audio connectors which plugged directly into my budget Creative X-Fi XtremeGamer and it works great.

P.S. I hate Creative Labs.

By bubbacub616 on 5/30/2007 4:47:23 PM , Rating: 2
DDlive and the latest EAX - maybe its time I can finally ditch my soundstorm based a7n8x mobo!

RE: hmmmn
By Proteusza on 5/30/2007 4:53:16 PM , Rating: 2
Microsoft just killed EAX in Vista. openAL still works though.

RE: hmmmn
By Lakku on 5/30/2007 10:49:50 PM , Rating: 4
EAX is not killed in Vista. EAX, in its current form, won't work in Vista. Contrary to popular belief, Vista isn't the problem, it's the games designed before Vista's release. They were designed for DirectSound 3D with its Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) to give the software direct access to the hardware. the HAL no longer exists in Vista, so when games make calls to the HAL, it no longer exists, and thus, you have no EAX and surround sound in games. However, EAX is just a set of effects. Environmental Audio eXtensions as most of you know. EAX effects can be done in Vista if the game uses OpenAL instead of DirectSound. Why do you think the Creative ALchemy project exists? It takes those calls to the HAL and converts them to OpenAL in Vista. You now have hardware sound, with EAX and positional audio. EAX is NOT dead and Vista isn't the problem, other than the fact it radically changed the way sound and video worked, for the better I might add. Games were simply designed for a different system and don't work anymore.

Morale of the story? Vista is not the problem, so stop blaming it. Contrary to all the misinformation floating around the web, EAX STILL exists if the game uses OpenAL (Doom 3 based games do) and emulators can be made to allow older games to function under Vista, which Creative is actively working on. Therefore those of you with X-Fi's have the only card capable of hardware sound, as its the only card I know of with hardware accelerated OpenAL.

RE: hmmmn
By michal1980 on 5/31/07, Rating: -1
RE: hmmmn
By jtesoro on 5/31/2007 10:11:10 AM , Rating: 2
In some way you can "blame" Vista because it eliminated an interface which is being used by a lot of applications in the market. The expectation in this industry is to allow for improvements without breaking what already exists. If Vista doesn't meet this expectation, it will definitely get some heat (with good reason). In my mind, this is analogous to Microsoft eliminating DirectX support in Vista in favor of OpenGL. It would be very strange if people blamed the game instead of Vista if that happened. Ironically, Creative plays a major role in maintaining OpenAL, so the non-timely arrival of Alchemy is just as strange.

RE: hmmmn
By Etsp on 5/31/2007 2:42:13 PM , Rating: 3
The reason why they did that is to prevent blue-screens and hard locks. They effectively further separated Software from the hardware, so that Windows could have the opportunity to catch some unhandled exceptions.

For example, Due to crappy nVidia drivers, I sometimes have my screen just go black for about 2 seconds randomly, and then it comes back up, and Vista pops in and says something like "The video card driver had stopped responding, window's has restarted it" where as, in XP, that would have been a BSOD or a hard lock.

They should have created some emulation of HAL for the sake of compatibility, but they didn't, and Vista was late enough as it was, so I imagine that they didn't have time. The reason they don't allow HAL to still work is pretty obvious, as why allow a major cause of system instability to continue to function if it's only advantage is the proprietary EAX...

By Etsp on 5/30/2007 4:41:40 PM , Rating: 5
I wonder how decent the drivers will be compared to Creative drivers, and also, I wonder how well the drivers will support vista... I haven't done too much looking, but it seems that every sound card brand I look at, someone has complaints about their drivers. If this card has good drivers, it could mean many great things for audiophiles and gamers.

RE: Drivers
By Haltech on 5/30/2007 4:55:00 PM , Rating: 1
I've heard that Bluegears probably the best as far as drivers go for Vista. But yes Creatve is definetly on the low end for drivers and seeing this,a product bassed on Creative it wont do so well.

RE: Drivers
By Slaimus on 5/30/2007 5:27:01 PM , Rating: 2
A lot of the complaints about pops was due to defective components in the XtremeMusic and Platinum models. Looks like this card swaps out all of the cheap capacitors and op-amps for better ones, so I think this will be good.

As for stability, it will probably be the same as the X-Fi.

RE: Drivers
By Lakku on 5/30/2007 10:34:44 PM , Rating: 2
Auzentech doesn't have any better driver support than Creative. The advantage? Their drivers aren't bloated with apps and background applications. As for stability and how often they update, they are just as 'bad'. They have gotten better since launch (before the recent ones, some games would blue screen), but some games, like Splinter Cell, have sound problems with the current Auzentech boards. This could be game design though.

Modding Creative Xi-Fi
By AnnihilatorX on 5/30/2007 6:26:01 PM , Rating: 3
There's a way to mod Creative Xi-Fi to improve upon its sound quality, although still not matching the Azuntech

RE: Modding Creative Xi-Fi
By rudy on 5/30/2007 7:33:10 PM , Rating: 2
What has always bothered me about the sound industry is how hard people will work to get performance out of something they should already be getting. It has never taught these companies just to make a good product in the first place. Ever seen how hard people work to resolve drivers issues, or the corrupt EEPROM problems with audigy and X-Fi cards. Personally I returned mine with a note I did not plan to purchase from them again.

RE: Modding Creative Xi-Fi
By jeuda on 9/3/2007 11:49:41 PM , Rating: 2
I did the mod. And I am loving my modded xtreme music more :)

By yacoub on 5/30/2007 8:53:48 PM , Rating: 2
Hey that sounds pretty nice. I really enjoy my Auzentech X-Plosion DTS 7.1.

I just wish they'd put DTS on this upcoming card as well and not just DDL. (Or did DT just leave out mention of DTS?)

If this card is PCI-E I will probably upgrade to it at some point to get rid of my only PCI peripheral card (the X-Plosion).

I can see that merging in Creative's technology has cost the card some of the previous features Auzentech has offered such as all the OPAmps being removable. While it's more of a gimmick for someone like myself who wouldn't bother replacing them, having just one replacable on this card is sorta cheesy, no? Either allow all of them to be replaced or none at all. Also if it loses DTS that's something else lost just to gain higher level EAX from Creative. I dunno about that trade-off merit.

RE: Cool
By Anh Huynh on 5/30/2007 9:56:18 PM , Rating: 4
Last time I spoke with an Auzentech spokesperson they said DDL is 100% going to make it while DTS has a 50/50 chance of making it, so I tend to not mention it until its 100% certain.

By Assimilator87 on 5/30/2007 11:26:31 PM , Rating: 2
This is the first time I've ever seen another company use a Creative chip. Why don't more companies do that? If a company that has decent driver support were able to make a good card using Creative's chip, they could seriously conquer the market.

By bunnyfubbles on 5/31/2007 4:43:26 AM , Rating: 2
I think MSI has put Audigy chips directly into some of their motherboards, but I guess that's not exactly the same thing.

Perhaps Creative is easing into the idea of strictly producing chips to be supplied to 3rd parties who actually use it to make a sound card.

Maybe they're going to quit or at least cut back the number and/or variety of high-end products they're going to push. The Auzentech Prelude is certainly going to be a high end sound card, and there seems to be a pretty decent influx of high end cards from various companies (not only Auzentech, but Razer as well - their card focused on gaming even without an X-Fi chip interestingly enough...). Perhaps Creative will do that and just push the cheap budget crap that they have usually end up replacing the original version that was actually pretty decent - not that there's anything wrong with that, they're cheaper products in quality but more importantly price. There are plenty of gamers out there who don't have speakers or headphones that would justify anything more.

By sheh on 6/1/2007 1:52:44 AM , Rating: 2
Creative started just now to offer their chips to 3rd parties. This might be the first one out, and others may follow.

By Comdrpopnfresh on 5/30/2007 11:39:04 PM , Rating: 2
IS THAT A NORMAL FRONT-CASE HEADER ON THE TOP RIGHT? Could this be an end to creative/Dell's proprietary bs?

By Steve1000 on 5/31/2007 11:05:11 AM , Rating: 2
Actually the front panel Audio connector is on the top left the same as on X-Meridian cards. Auzen always puts these conenctors on their cards. All the info on the net clearly says this card will have FULL EAX 1,2,3,4,5 and OpenAL support.

By bderek on 5/31/2007 12:08:44 AM , Rating: 2
The LM4562 is a very very good opamp and does have specs equal to and sometimes better than the OPA2134 (recommended upgrade op amp for the Meridian). Some have upgraded Creative X-Fi cards usually using the LM4562 as the drop in opamp to replace the less than stellar opamps provided by Creative.

I have an X-Fi Platinum and notice the multi pin connector at the top of the Prelude looks identical to the Platinum, so if the pin connectors are the same, front panels that came with the Platinum and ExtremeMusic might be usable with the Prelude.

RE: Opamps
By Devo2007 on 5/31/2007 4:28:54 AM , Rating: 2
I sure hope that's the case -- would actually convince me to special order this. :) I currently use an X-Fi Platinum, and could definitely appreciate even better sound quality.

What speakers?
By AlexSpy on 5/31/2007 12:27:50 PM , Rating: 2
I've always wanted an Auzentech after bad experiences with Creative. But ever since i bought these Logitech Z-4000 digital speakers, i just connect with my m/b's onboard optical SPDIF link (i know Creative can't do EAX through SPDIF). Do you think it's worth the upgrade just to get EAX and DDL? Im not even sure how good DDL will be, considering the Prologic Music mode on the logitech's is quite decent - or better yet if it's worth getting a card like this when you already have digital speakers?

RE: What speakers?
By PurdueRy on 5/31/2007 1:27:16 PM , Rating: 2
In your case you are getting pseudo surround. Using DDL would get you true surround from games and some video files with surround sound not encoded in DD or DTS.

If you don't play many games and just watch movies this card won't be worth the cash.

Seeing as you are interested in EAX however, it seems you do play which case I would look into this solution so you at least get surround sound.

Still not a PCI-Express solution
By gamephile on 5/30/2007 4:53:10 PM , Rating: 3
While this announcement is interesting, I'm a bit miffed that no one but Asus has announced plans for a PCI-express sound card. Theirs being Xonar. My PCI slots are already full and I have 2 PCI-Express slots sitting empty.

Creative has cited significant problems with data overhead on the PCI-Ex bus but I expected a breakthrough by now.

By Flunk on 5/30/2007 4:50:54 PM , Rating: 2
Is there any word on how much this will cost? Perhaps somewhere around the just under $200 X-Meridian?

By wingless on 5/30/2007 5:51:42 PM , Rating: 2
I have a Fatality Gamer with the 64mb X-ram and it works amazingly well in games like Battlefield 2142 where I cannot begin to describe the awesome sound quality with either speakers or headphones. The problem is mine seems to OVERHEAT and it will lock my entire system. I think its due to low quality capacitors and/or crappy X-ram. When I use it with the ram disabled it works fine.

I hope Auzentech adds a heatsink + fan combo to cool that hot ass chip. Also I hope the X-ram is made by a better manufactuer. Either way I'll still get one because from the looks of it you cant beat the build quality on a board like that. This is a really great company and I'm glad Creative finally woke up and allow other board manufacturers to use their good gaming chipsets.

By DocWolfe on 5/30/2007 6:04:18 PM , Rating: 2
Its available to pre-order in the UK here:

£110 = $217

By jajig on 5/30/2007 8:40:24 PM , Rating: 2
Real time DDL is just what I've been waiting for. Now I can dump my big analog amp and go full digital with my computer!

EAX Licensed?
By tephra on 5/30/2007 10:47:28 PM , Rating: 2
So I guess the have licensed EAX from creative!

Is it full blown or crippled?

Not that EAX is good, but most games support it!

good old A3D :)

By Chriz on 5/31/2007 10:04:23 AM , Rating: 2
After seeing seeing various comments to this article I really think we need an article done on the following subjects:

-Does having a PCI express sound card really create issues in terms of high latency that makes it undesirable for some people?

-Are front panel audio connectors on most cases unshielded and if they are not does this make a large difference in audio quality with high end sound cards that use front panel headers?

looks ace
By R3MF on 5/31/2007 4:55:59 AM , Rating: 1
i'll buy one when i get a linux driver.

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