Page 1 of 5
HT Omega Claro sound card review
Having already looked at two sound cards based around C-Media's CMI8788 audio processor recently, courtesy of Bluegears' b-Enspirer and Auzentech's X-Meridian 7.1, it's fair to say that we've been impressed overall with the capabilities of this chip. Although it may not have all of the EAX-related bells and whistles and the like of Creative Labs' X-Fi parts, it has spades of unique functionality of its own, coupled with decidedly excellent sound quality to match.
The aforementioned boards that we've looked at thus far using the CMI8788 both covered very different aspects of the market - While the b-Enspirer followed the reference design to the letter to meet a very attractive price point, the X-Meridian utilised a custom PCB and better quality components to appeal to the audiophiles. So, where does the part under the spotlight today, HT Omega's Claro, fit into the equation? Personally, I'd put it somewhere in the middle of those boards, albeit leaning closer toward the Bluegears b-Enspirer. Read on to see just what it has to offer, and how it fares up against some pretty stiff competition.
As per the other sound cards we've reviewed recently, the HT Omega Claro has at its heart C-Media's latest 'Oxygen HD' CMI8788 audio processor, giving it the same basic feature set - That being a more powerful DSP than its predecessors, with support for 24-bit, 192kHz playback and ASIO for the professional musicians out there , together with real-time Dolby Digital and DTS encoding as well as other audio upmixing abilities such as DTS Neo:PC and Dolby ProLogic IIx. Eight-channel audio output and other features such as Dolby Headphones and Virtual Speaker are also the order of the day, to give the part an unrivalled feature set.
Much like Auzentech's X-Meridian, HT Omega have opted for a custom PCB layout for the Claro, although it is still closer in the component department to the b-Enspirer in some senses, as we'll see later. The board does however squeeze in more capacitors than Bluegears offering, using solid state capacitors to boot, which could potentially help to improve both audio quality and the longevity of the board. Again, we'll look into just how it fares later on.
You can find a brief summary of the Claro's capabilities below:
- - The C-Media Oxygen HD CMI8788 Audio Processor is main engine of CLARO
- 4 pcs 24-bit/192kHz AK4396VF (120dB-part spec.) DACs for 7.1channel output. (24-bit/192kHz in 7.1channel playback)
- 1 pc 24-bit/192kHz WM8785G (110dB-part spec.) ADC input (24-bit/192kHz recording)
- 1 pc CMI9780 AC'97 2.3 CODEC for AUX input, CD input, MIC input (16bit/48kHz playback/recording)
- Integrated up to 192k/24-bit S/PDIF high grade special Optical and Coaxial connectors for 44.1kHz,48kHz, 96kHz, 192kHz SPDIF output. (work simultaneously)
- Integrated up to 192k/24-bit S/PDIF high grade special Optical receiver for 44.1kHz,48kHz, 96kHz, 192kHz SPDIF input.
- Supports onboard Coaxial or CD Digital input connector for up to 192kHz SPDIF input. (Optional Cable need for Coaxial input)
- Standard 10PIN Front Panel Audio supports connectivity for stereo audio output and a microphone input from PC case
- DTS® Interactive - A real-time 5.1 channel encoder.
- DTS® Neo:PC - An upmix matrix technology.
- Dolby® Digital Live (DDL) - A real-time 5.1 channel encoding.
- Dolby® ProLogic IIx surround processor spreading stereo audio into 7.1 channel surround sound.
- Dolby® Headphone technology, conveying 5.1 surround and 3D gaming audio over stereo headphones.
- Dolby® Virtual Speaker solution, bringing amazing virtual surround sound fields via general two speakers.
- C-Media FlexBass - LFE channel crossover frequency setable from range 50 to 250Hz in Small speaker mode and Small/Large speaker selectable.
- C-Media Magic Voice, popular feature for disguising your tone in online chatting.
- C-Media Xear 3D 7.1 Virtual Speaker Shifter technology.
- C-Media's unique Karaoke functions: Microphone Echo, Key-shifting.
- Individual 10-band EQ for each channel,.27 global reverberation environments.
- Supports most industrial standards of 3D sound for PC gaming, including EAX 1.0 & 2.0, A3D 1.0, and DirectSound.
- Supported operating systems: Microsoft Windows® 2000 Service Pack 3(SP3) / XP Service Pack 1(SP1) / Server 2003 SP1/ XP Media Center Edition 2005 (MCE) / XP x64 Edition