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  • CiTay
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Summary of c\'t review: 10 high-end soundcards
This summary is based on a review in c't magazine, issue 11/2002, p. 156-165. It compares 10 different upper-class soundcards. c't doesn't make a "ranking" or gives out awards, like other magazines. It just shows you all the results and lets you be the judge. Because c't is not available everywhere, and is written in german, i decided to make this summary. However, this is no substitute for reading the test, if you really want to know all the details. This should only provide a first overview. Please buy c't magazine to support them. Their homepage is http://www.heise.de/ct/ .

Valuation is as follows, from best to worst: Very good > good > okay > poor > very poor.

Here is a glossary with pictures of the connectors (Phone, RCA...), because they have different names in some countries: http://www.bus.ucf.edu/cwhite/theater/Conn...torGlossary.htm

Without further due, here are the summarized test results.


Audiotrak Maya 44:
Code: [Select]
Recording:    18 bit / 48 KHz
Playback:    20 bit / 48 KHz
Analog INs:  4 (Phone, unbalanced)
Analog OUTs:    4 (Phone, unbalanced)
Digital INs:    -
Digital OUTs:    SPDIF optical/coax
MIDI Interface:    optional

DVD output analog/digital:    Stereo / AC3
Game output analog/digital:    Stereo / Stereo

Code: [Select]
Audio quality:      good
Installation:      poor
Equipment/Extras:    poor
Documentation:  good
Operation/Usability:    good

Latency in ms (minimum/realistic): 2/6
(Measured with Cubase VST/32 5.1r1, Win XP)

Notes: Excellent frequency response. Can provide 12V Phantom-voltage for high-end Microphones.

ca. 179 Euro




Audiotrak Inca 88:
Code: [Select]
Recording:    18 bit / 48 KHz
Playback:    20 bit / 48 KHz
Analog INs:  8 Line (Phone, unbalanced)
 2 can be switched to Mic
Analog OUTs:    8 Line (Phone, unbalanced)
 2 can be switched to Headphones
Digital INs:    -
Digital OUTs:    SPDIF optical/coax
MIDI Interface:    optional

DVD output analog/digital:    5.1 / Stereo
Game output analog/digital:    5.1 / Stereo

Code: [Select]
Audio quality:      okay
Installation:      poor
Equipment/Extras:    good
Documentation:  good
Operation/Usability:    good

Latency in ms (minimum/realistic): 2/6

Notes: Comes with Breakout-Box, but the box isn't shielded good enough. Can provide 12V Phantom-voltage for high-end Microphones.

ca. 399 Euro




Creative Soundblaster Audigy Platinum EX:
Code: [Select]
Recording:    16 bit / 48 KHz
Playback:    24 bit / 48 KHz
Analog INs:  2 (Phone/RCA)
 can be switched to Mic/Line
Analog OUTs:    2 Line (RCA),
 Headphones, 5.1 (Mini-Phone)
Digital INs:    SPDIF optical/coax
Digital OUTs:    SPDIF optical/coax
MIDI Interface:    1 IN, 1 OUT

DVD output analog/digital:    5.1 / AC3
Game output analog/digital:    5.1 / 5.1
   EAX

Code: [Select]
Audio quality:      okay
Installation:      poor
Equipment/Extras:    good
Documentation:  poor
Operation/Usability:    very poor

Latency in ms (minimum/realistic): 2/10

Notes: 5.1 digital output only with Creative speakers. Comes with external box and remote control. Recording with 24 bits not possible (at least with ASIO). Mic-IN has horrible quality.

ca. 283 Euro




ESI Waveterminal 192L:
Code: [Select]
Recording:    24 bit / 96 KHz
Playback:    24 bit / 192 KHz
Analog INs:  2 (Phone, unbalanced),
 Mic (stereo), Line (Stereo)
Analog OUTs:    6 Line (Phone, unbalanced)
 Stereo, one pair can be switched to Headphones)
Digital INs:    -
Digital OUTs:    SPDIF optical
MIDI Interface:    optional

DVD output analog/digital:    5.1 / AC3
Game output analog/digital:    Stereo / Stereo

Code: [Select]
Audio quality:      okay
Installation:      poor
Equipment/Extras:    okay
Documentation:  good
Operation/Usability:    good

Latency in ms (minimum/realistic): 2/6

Notes: Bad frequency response linearity for Line-IN and Mic-IN. Can provide 12V Phantom-voltage for high-end Microphones.

ca. 229 Euro




M-Audio Delta 66:
Code: [Select]
Recording:    24 bit / 96 KHz
Playback:    24 bit / 96 KHz
Analog INs:  4 Line (Phone, unbalanced)
 balanced signals can be connected
Analog OUTs:    4 Line (Phone, unbalanced)
 balanced signals can be connected
Digital INs:    SPDIF coax
Digital OUTs:    SPDIF coax
MIDI Interface:    -

DVD output analog/digital:    Stereo / AC3
Game output analog/digital:    Stereo / Stereo

Code: [Select]
Audio quality:      good
Installation:      good
Equipment/Extras:    good
Documentation:  good
Operation/Usability:    okay

Latency in ms (minimum/realistic): 1/3

Notes: Comes with Breakout-Box that is well shielded. Omni-I/O Box optional. Low ASIO latency possible.

ca. 439 Euro




M-Audio Delta 410:
Code: [Select]
Recording:    24 bit / 96 KHz
Playback:    24 bit / 96 KHz
Analog INs:  2 Line (RCA)
Analog OUTs:    8 Line (RCA)
Digital INs:    SPDIF coax
Digital OUTs:    SPDIF coax
MIDI Interface:    -

DVD output analog/digital:    5.1 / AC3
Game output analog/digital:    Stereo / Stereo

Code: [Select]
Audio quality:      very good
Installation:      good
Equipment/Extras:    okay
Documentation:  good
Operation/Usability:    okay

Latency in ms (minimum/realistic): 1/3

Notes: Low ASIO latency possible.

ca. 359 Euro




M-Audio Delta 1010LT:
Code: [Select]
Recording:    24 bit / 96 KHz
Playback:    24 bit / 96 KHz
Analog INs:  8 Line (6 RCA,
 2 XLR balanced, can be switched to Mic)
Analog OUTs:    8 Line (RCA)
Digital INs:    SPDIF coax
Digital OUTs:    SPDIF coax
MIDI Interface:    1 IN, 1 OUT

DVD output analog/digital:    5.1 / AC3
Game output analog/digital:    Stereo / Stereo

Code: [Select]
Audio quality:      very good
Installation:      good
Equipment/Extras:    very good
Documentation:  good
Operation/Usability:    okay

Latency in ms (minimum/realistic): 1/3

Notes: Low ASIO latency possible.

ca. 499 Euro




ST Audio DSP 2000:
Code: [Select]
Recording:    24 bit / 96 KHz
Playback:    24 bit / 96 KHz
Analog INs:  8 Line (Phone, unbalanced,
 2 can be switched to XLR balanced/Mic)
Analog OUTs:    8 Line (Phone, unbalanced),
 Headphones
Digital INs:    SPDIF optical/coax, AES/EBU
Digital OUTs:    SPDIF optical/coax, AES/EBU
MIDI Interface:    1 IN, 2 OUT

DVD output analog/digital:    5.1 / AC3
Game output analog/digital:    Stereo / Stereo

Code: [Select]
Audio quality:      very good
Installation:      good
Equipment/Extras:    very good
Documentation:  poor
Operation/Usability:    okay

Latency in ms (minimum/realistic): 3/7

Notes: Comes with 19" external box. Can provide 48V Phantom-voltage for high-end Microphones. A/D-D/A chips are in external box. Excellent audio quality.

ca. 511 Euro




Terratec DMX 6Fire 24/96:
Code: [Select]
Recording:    24 bit / 96 KHz
Playback:    24 bit / 96 KHz
Analog INs:  2 Line (RCA),
 2 Phono (RCA), 2 Line (Mini-Phone)
Analog OUTs:    2 Line (RCA),
 Headphones, 5.1 (Mini-Phone)
Digital INs:    SPDIF optical/coax
Digital OUTs:    SPDIF optical/coax
MIDI Interface:    1 IN, 1 OUT

DVD output analog/digital:    5.1 / AC3
Game output analog/digital:    5.1 / Stereo
   EAX, A3D

Code: [Select]
Audio quality:      very good
Installation:      okay
Equipment/Extras:    good
Documentation:  good
Operation/Usability:    good

Latency in ms (minimum/realistic): 4/4

Notes: Comes with Breakout-Box. Excellent Mic-IN. Phono can be directly connected.

ca. 255 Euro




Terratec DMX 6FireLT 24/96:
Code: [Select]
Recording:    24 bit / 96 KHz
Playback:    24 bit / 96 KHz
Analog INs:  1 Line (Mini-Phone),
 1 Mic (Mini-Phone)
Analog OUTs:    5.1
Digital INs:    SPDIF optical
Digital OUTs:    SPDIF optical
MIDI Interface:    -

DVD output analog/digital:    5.1 / AC3
Game output analog/digital:    Stereo / Stereo
   EAX, A3D

Code: [Select]
Audio quality:      very good
Installation:      okay
Equipment/Extras:    good
Documentation:  good
Operation/Usability:    good

Latency in ms (minimum/realistic): 4/4

Notes: Lite-Version: no Breakout-Box.

ca. 149 Euro




Terratec EWS 88MT:
Code: [Select]
Recording:    24 bit / 96 KHz
Playback:    24 bit / 96 KHz
Analog INs:  8 Line (RCA)
Analog OUTs:    8 Line (RCA),
 Monitor (Mini-Phone)
Digital INs:    SPDIF coax
Digital OUTs:    SPDIF coax
MIDI Interface:    1 IN, 1 OUT

DVD output analog/digital:    5.1 / AC3
Game output analog/digital:    5.1 / Stereo

Code: [Select]
Audio quality:      very good
Installation:      poor
Equipment/Extras:    good
Documentation:  good
Operation/Usability:    good


Latency in ms (minimum/realistic): 4/4

Notes: Comes with Breakout-Box that can also be used as an external box. Excellent audio quality.

ca. 408 Euro

__________________________________________________


I hope this was valuable information. I put quite some time into writing this, so please link to this thread instead of copy&paste to other forums. If there are any questions left about the article, just reply, i'll do my best to answer them.

  • rc55
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Summary of c\'t review: 10 high-end soundcards
Reply #1
So, on a budget, the card to get is a Terratec DMX 6FireLT 24/96.

Anyone got one of these OR a EWX24/96? I'd like to know if it will be the card that replaces my Soundblaster Live... mind you, with the reputation that the SB Live has I'm sure three wires placed anywhere on my motherboard would perform better. :rant2:

I found a reseller in the UK:
http://www.digitalvillage.co.uk/



Ruairi
rc55.com - nothing going on

  • Gecko
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Summary of c\'t review: 10 high-end soundcards
Reply #2
A friend of mine has the Terratec DMX 6Fire and has some playback problems under win2k. Playback doesn't start immediately. The first half second of sound is "eaten" by the soundcard. This should only be a driver issue which may be resolved in future versions and I think there are no issues like these under win 9x. Be warned though and perhaps search the web for more info.

  • niktheblak
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Summary of c\'t review: 10 high-end soundcards
Reply #3
CiTay, thank you very much for that summary!

I'm on the verge of purchasing either a Terratec EWX 24/96 or a DMX 6fire 24/96. I intend to use the card solely for music creation, including 2-ch sampling, MIDI softsynths and sequencers. Naturally I also expect top-notch output.

However, I'm having a hard time deciding between these two because a slight lack of knowledge. It seems to be very difficult to find a musician-oriented review of the 6fire, everyone seems to be mainly concerned about EAX and other surround gimmicks. No one cares about latencies, ASIO and GSIF interface support and actual functionality of these two.

I hear these two are pretty identical circuitrywise (same DSP and such) but for example, the 6fire has minijacks for output instead of RCA connectors.

In short, disregarding all surround sound aspects, is DMX really better than EWX?

  • JonPike
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Summary of c\'t review: 10 high-end soundcards
Reply #4
Quote
Originally posted by CiTay

I hope this was valuable information. I put quite some time into writing this, so please link to this thread instead of copy&paste to other forums. If there are any questions left about the article, just reply, i'll do my best to answer them.


Thanks for the info..  I especially appriciate it,  being here in the States, and not much of a German reader..

I'm surprised though,  that they didn't have M-Audio's Audiophile 2496 model in there,  since it's so popular.

  • CiTay
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Summary of c\'t review: 10 high-end soundcards
Reply #5
I'm glad that the post is useful for you. I just found a translation mistake: Instead of "symmetric", it should say "balanced"...

If anyone wants to know some other information about the cards, i.e. possible output modes in DVD playback or games, please say so, i will add it.

P.S.: No driver issues were noted for the Terratec cards. Cards were tested under Windows 98SE and Windows XP, and, if possible, under MAC OS 9.2.2 and Mac OS X 10.1.4.

Summary of c\'t review: 10 high-end soundcards
Reply #6
could you add the information regarding performance on dvd material, please?

  • CiTay
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Summary of c\'t review: 10 high-end soundcards
Reply #7
Quote
Originally posted by ProtectYaNeck36
could you add the information regarding performance on dvd material, please?


No problem. While i was at it, i also added the game output information.

  • dev0
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Summary of c\'t review: 10 high-end soundcards
Reply #8
Nice work CiTay. I read the original article when my c'T arrived and as always it was a very interesting read.
Your summary seems to include all important things, if I find something left I'll try to add it.
dev0
"To understand me, you'll have to swallow a world." Or maybe your words.

  • JonPike
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Summary of c\'t review: 10 high-end soundcards
Reply #9
Quote
Originally posted by CiTay
No problem. While i was at it, i also added the game output information.


I was wondering if all the ASIO latency figures were on XP,  and/or if any were different under 98SE? 

And did they have latency for non ASIO drivers?

  • guruboolez
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Summary of c\'t review: 10 high-end soundcards
Reply #10
Quote
Originally posted by Gecko
A friend of mine has the Terratec DMX 6Fire and has some playback problems under win2k. Playback doesn't start immediately. The first half second of sound is "eaten" by the soundcard. This should only be a driver issue which may be resolved in future versions and I think there are no issues like these under win 9x. Be warned though and perhaps search the web for more info.


Win98SE and Terratec DMX6Fire : no problem on my PC.

  • CiTay
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Summary of c\'t review: 10 high-end soundcards
Reply #11
Quote
Originally posted by JonPike


I was wondering if all the ASIO latency figures were on XP,  and/or if any were different under 98SE? 

The latency values are from Windows XP testing. The system for the latency tests in XP was a Pentium IV 2 GHz, ASUS P4S333, 256 MB Ram. Latency can be different on less powerful systems, example with the M-Audio Delta 66: 8 milliseconds latency on a Power Mac G4/400.

Quote
And did they have latency for non ASIO drivers?

The tests were done with the WDM package of the Windows XP drivers, who include ASIO drivers. Non-ASIO drivers, that are used on many cheaper cards, often have a latency of 50 milliseconds or higher.

  • macdaddy
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Summary of c\'t review: 10 high-end soundcards
Reply #12
Thanks CiTaY...

Quote
I'm surprised though, that they didn't have M-Audio's Audiophile 2496 model in there, since it's so popular.
To the best of my knowledge, the hardware on the ap 24/96 is the same as on the two mentioned in the article CiTaY cites. The only difference being the number and type of possible inputs and outputs. Thus it would be safe to say that the ap 24/96 rates the same as the midiman cards listed above, in terms of "Audio Quality." Somebody, please correct me if I am wrong...