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Auzentech X-Fi Prelude vs ASUS Xonar Essence STX vs HT OMEGA Claro Plus

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hello all, I'm pretty new to this forum and I'm not sure if this is the right place to post this question. If it isn't, I apologize for wasting your time.

My situation is as follows:

I am trying to decide on a sound card to buy, and I require assistance on which one to pick. I've seen many threads and read many reviews on each of these sound cards, however, I am still indecisive.

In playing music, it seems that the ASUS Xonar Essence STX is the best card. However, I have heard that the sound crackles on boot up of Windows 7, and the same crackle occurs when swapping between outputs. Also, the sound crackles on Battlefield 2, System Shock 2, and Bioshock, and perhaps other games.

On the other hand, the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude seems to be the absolute BEST card for gaming, but it falls short of the ASUS Xonar Essence STX in musical quality.

I am hoping that perhaps, the HT OMEGA Claro Plus is able to find a good balance between the perks of the Xonar Essence STX and the X-Fi Prelude.

I do a fair amount of gaming, playing music, movie watching, and audio creation. I am using a set of Klipsch Promedia 2.1 speakers on Windows 7 64-bit, and I play music through Foobar with the Noise Sharpening DSP and WASAPI output, and I compose music using Cakewalk SONAR.

Would anyone be able to assist me in choosing a sound card? I’m looking for the best sound card in the <$200 range. Is there anyone who has owned all three sound cards and is able to compare them for me? Or is there a fourth option that I've overlooked?

Thanks in advance to all who reply!
post #2 of 13
bravura maybe?
post #3 of 13
I would say it depends on what your looking for from a soundcard.
Make a list of what you want and then find the card that gives you the most features your looking for.
post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tracedragon View Post
On the other hand, the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude seems to be the absolute BEST card for gaming,
RIGHT
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tracedragon View Post
but it falls short of the ASUS Xonar Essence STX in musical quality.
!
who said that?
post #5 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by sonci View Post
who said that?
Asus shills on public boards, who try to make ppl believe that THD is all that matters for music playback?
we should let ppl who love discrete designs and tube amps know about this breakthrough discovery

PS: I forgot about SNR, we all need >120dB SNR...because it's just cool to listen to music *REALLY* loud!
post #6 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by leeperry View Post
PS: I forgot about SNR, we all need >120dB SNR...because it's just cool to listen to music *REALLY* loud!
LOL, you really have no idea what SNR actually is do you? Go and do some reading.
post #7 of 13
Rob,

You seem to be a fan of the Essence ST/STX, and one of the few who has listened this and the Claro + and Halo. I'm about to purchase either the Essence ST or Claro Halo for stereo music listening. I would really appreciate any thoughts you have about differences in sound quality, usability, or preference.

Also, on the topic of SNR, I don't believe that there is an SNR threshold beyond which you don't care. Noise is cumulative, and can never be completely filtered without impacting the signal. Also, maintaining the signal integrity of the input signal is paramount in ensuring quality audio reproductions. So IMHO, there's no SNR too high. That said, I acknowledge that specs alone don't directly translate in to "good sound". That's where personal taste, and the complexities of acoustic perception (which cannot be modeled by simple high level specs such as SNR) comes in to play.
post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by New2TheScene View Post
on the topic of SNR, I don't believe that there is an SNR threshold beyond which you don't care. Noise is cumulative, and can never be completely filtered without impacting the signal. Also, maintaining the signal integrity of the input signal is paramount in ensuring quality audio reproductions. So IMHO, there's no SNR too high.
another POV: iXBT Labs - ASUS Xonar D2 Sound Card
Quote:
ASUS apparently fights Creative with the same marketing weapon - high SNR. Measured in the standard de factor, Audio Precision, the ASUS D2 demonstrates 118 dBA, while the Creative Elite Pro offers 116 dBA. In fact, SNR values above -100 dBA do not make practical sense. Such values are lower than quantization noise power of a 16 bit signal with TPDF (Triangular Probability Density Function). As no one has complained about noises in AudioCDs yet, high SNR for audio playback is overkill.
96dB and you'd be just fine(especially for headphones listening, as usually reasonable ppl don't listen loud at all)...that's what an audio CD does, and it's a known fact that THD/SNR/IMD/THD+N don't mean jack as for the final SQ...that's only what Asus and Creative want you to believe

http://www.gearslutz.com/board/4432704-post5.html
Quote:
there were many scientific researches that proved that all variations of IMD, THD, THD+N tests, and all other specific tests can't be used to say how well the sound is reproduced in terms of subconscious human perceptions. And there still are some stubborn engineers and scientists who won't see any evidences.
click on "tech notes": http://www.auzentech.com/site/products/x-fi_forte.php
Quote:
in the Hi-Fi market, a card with a lower THD would produce a sound that can become too "flat."
I've owned the STX, the ST and the Claro Halo btw

post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by New2TheScene View Post
Rob,

You seem to be a fan of the Essence ST/STX, and one of the few who has listened this and the Claro + and Halo. I'm about to purchase either the Essence ST or Claro Halo for stereo music listening. I would really appreciate any thoughts you have about differences in sound quality, usability, or preference.
I am a fan of any card that produces great sound. A few guys that have put the Halo head to head with the STX suggest they are quite similar for the headphone output..Although I think it would depend on what your using for gear. I prefer the ST over the STX though. The fact that you can modify the opamps make a great deal of difference also as you can change the signature of the card. If it is not quite what you want, change it... I have heard all three cards but never put them head to head like your asking about. I think either would be good cards so just go with the one that has the features you want. The can amp is similar on these cards but everything else is different the DAC, caps, ADC..etc

Quote:
Originally Posted by New2TheScene View Post
Also, on the topic of SNR, I don't believe that there is an SNR threshold beyond which you don't care. Noise is cumulative, and can never be completely filtered without impacting the signal. Also, maintaining the signal integrity of the input signal is paramount in ensuring quality audio reproductions. So IMHO, there's no SNR too high. That said, I acknowledge that specs alone don't directly translate in to "good sound". That's where personal taste, and the complexities of acoustic perception (which cannot be modeled by simple high level specs such as SNR) comes in to play.
SNR is a very misunderstood topic by many, just read some of the posting in here. Some people have no idea what they are talking about. I am with you as far as noise is concerned the lower the better and that is where SNR comes into play, that ratio of noise to the signal output...it has nothing to do with playing your music loud..LOL!!
Specs do not translate directly, no. The more audio gear you work with and measure the more you will understand that. That being said, you cannot just forget about the specifications either. Especially for ratings like noise and distortion mearuments. To illustrate the point, there are tube amplifier that sound good but would measure very bad as this is subjective sound quality. The reverse can also hold true...
For SNR the higher the better...as the audio is cleaner. Some may argue that point for various reasons. These specifications are the industry standard for measuring the quality of that component. You cannot just throw them out the window.
post #10 of 13
Rob,

Sounds as though you and I are pretty much on the same page in regards to interpreting specs.

As for the sound card choice, I've struggled with this decision for over a month. My choice is between the Essence ST and the Claro Halo (I only have PCI). I don't have the luxury of trying both first. As far as features, I'm not looking for much. I just want the most detailed accurate smooth stereo sound possible. I plan to use the built headphone amp to start, and will use the RCA's to drive a nearfield speaker setup. Eventually, I may add an external headphone amp.

I was waiting for the ST to be released, and was leaning that way. Then I way Leeperry's posts about build quality concerns of the Essence, and Stereophiles comments that the ST didn't measure as well as the STX. That said, I like the better spec's, emi shield, and direct power connection of the Essence ST.

Does either card offer more resolution, detail, separation?
post #11 of 13
get both from newegg, send back the one you like the least...problem solved
post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by New2TheScene View Post
Rob,

Sounds as though you and I are pretty much on the same page in regards to interpreting specs.

As for the sound card choice, I've struggled with this decision for over a month. My choice is between the Essence ST and the Claro Halo (I only have PCI). I don't have the luxury of trying both first. As far as features, I'm not looking for much. I just want the most detailed accurate smooth stereo sound possible. I plan to use the built headphone amp to start, and will use the RCA's to drive a nearfield speaker setup. Eventually, I may add an external headphone amp.

I was waiting for the ST to be released, and was leaning that way. Then I way Leeperry's posts about build quality concerns of the Essence, and Stereophiles comments that the ST didn't measure as well as the STX. That said, I like the better spec's, emi shield, and direct power connection of the Essence ST.

Does either card offer more resolution, detail, separation?
It is up to you. Do more research and make up your mind.
post #13 of 13
For what it's worth, I have an STX, and here are my impressions wrt your questions:

- I am running Windows 7, and I notice no crackle at boot up. I do notice a short "pop" if i change between hp and speaker outputs, but I wouldn't call it a crackle. It seems to run great with every game I've played, which unfortunately are not on your list (TF2, Left 4 Dead, Rise of Nations, Call of Duty MW1 and 2 etc.) However, I have read from multiple sources that some of the issues with the STX and games comes from its emulation of that EAX feature that many game sound cards tote. I think (and I could be wrong) that if you leave this feature alone, it should function fine - I never bother activating it.

- One thing I find nice is that Asus keeps its drivers pretty well updated. When I was running the Win7 beta, there were some issues, but once I made the jump to the full version (ultimate) and got the latest package from Asus, *every* thing worked flawlessly.

- The sound is great. I can't really compare it to the Prelude or Claro because I've never owned either, but I can say that the definition has really stepped up (was using some Creative 5.1 card previously). I've run it through a pair of Harmon and Kardon speakers, an A900 and my ES7, and it presents a nice, full sound through all of them no matter what I am doing.

All in all, I'm very happy with the card. I don't run a 5.1 speaker set, and was really just looking for a good stereo alternative. This card seems to cut a lot of bells and whistles in that department for just better 2 channel sound, and I like that a lot.
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