Saturday, August 10, 2013

[Article] Moving from Creative X-Fi Titanium to onboard SupremeFX audio

Before the X-Fi Titanium card, I had a X-Fi XtremeGamer card. It was a second hand card that I bought from Ebay. The hardware was fine, but the drivers gave me so much trouble. So I sold it used onboard Realtek ALC892 audio on my old board for a while.

But then I bought a Roccat Kave 5.1 headset and I wanted to get a decent audio card to suit it. Of course I could continue to use the onboard audio. But I thought it was underperforming because of the Realtek chip. But I made the mistake of going with another X-Fi card. Again, second hand, but this time it was the Titanium edition. But there were PAX drivers available, so I thought things would turn out better than last time. It actually did, but there were still some minor hiccups. Few times the audio completely stopped working, and reinstalling the drivers fixed it. And one day this happened as well.

Then there was another issue. I bought a SilverArrow SB-E Extreme air cooler. I had my audio card set up in the top most PCI-E x1 slot so that the video card would have all the breathing room. But with this cooler, the top most PCI-E slot became unusable. For the time being, I moved it to the bottom most slots. It's a PCI-E x16 slot but running at x4 speeds. By moving it to the left of the video card (remember, the cards are installed vertically in the Raven RV-03, so on other cases it would be below the video card. The intake fan would be on the bottom where as in the Raven RV-03, it is on the back.) It's the summer these days, and I need to give all the cool air I can to do video card. The audio card was in the way of the airflow.

So when I decided that I was going to upgrade to Haswell, I knew that had to look for a board that either allowed me to install a audio card in the top most PCI-E x1 slot or came with pretty good integrated audio. But I soon found out that it would be impossible to find a motherboard that doesn’t get the top most PCI-E x1 slot blocked by the cooler. Thus I decided that I had to buy a motherboard with great audio. Not just what the manufacturers advertise as great (ASRock and MSI audio seems bad, although advertise them as being great.) The board that was within my range with the best audio was the Asus ROG Maximus VI Hero. And I went with it.

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So how is the audio quality? I really cannot tell a difference between that and the X-Fi Titanium card. I knew that would be the case even before I tested it. I'm sure there are people who might still feel the X-Fi sounds better, but me being a non-audiophile, I don't feel a difference in quality. But I did notice that I needed to increase the volume of the speakers to match the loudness that I got with the X-Fi. But that is no big deal, as the speakers have a big amp. I still don't have to increase it beyond 50%.

On the positive side, the drivers are stable and doesn't come with a lot of junk. Sure it comes with Asus Sonic Radar feature that might be useful to some people in some games. For me, it doesn't improve anything. I use a 5.1 headset when gaming anyways. I can feel where the sound is coming from.

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One thing I would like to see is a way to switch between stereo and 5.1 modes from command line, which then I can be assigned to shortcut keys without opening the control panel. Well, at least the Realtek control panel is way easy to navigate and quick to launch as well. But there was a 3rd party tool for X-Fi card to do this without launching control panel.

I’m not throwing the X-Fi card out of the windows. I will keep it with me, just in case. Besides, it has hardly any resale value because I only have the card itself and none of the accessories or the box.

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