|Auzentech X-Fi Forte 7.1 PCI Express sound card review|
|Specification&heading=Auzentech X-Fi Forte sound card review|
|Auzentech X-Fi Forte|
|Test setup, RightMark Audio Analyser|
|3D audio performance, subjective testing|
Auzentech X-Fi Forte 7.1 PCI Express sound card review
After a long period where it seemed like the discrete sound card was dead, it was Auzentech who were largely responsible for regenerating interest in this dying breed, breathing new life into it like some kind of phoenix rising from the flames. They achieved this by leveraging the latest and greatest audio processors from C-Media, coupling it with excellent quality components, and showing a near-perfect understanding of the kind of audio functionality that users were asking for and demanding of the market. Auzentech's early sound cards saw a small flood of similar offerings hit the market, all bringing us similar C-Media based offerings complete with Dolby Digital and DTS functionality so sorely lacking from Creative Labs offerings, which began to look increasingly archaic despite their proprietary support for the latest EAX standards.
However, when ASUS snagged an exclusivity deal with C-Media, meaning that they could only produce audio processors for ASUS and nobody else, it appeared that Auzentech's days may be numbered in the discrete audio market, with the X-Meridian proving to be their last (and short lived) outing in partnership with C-Media. It became obvious that Auzentech would have to look elsewhere to provide PC audiophiles with the fix they needed, and the answer came from a rather surprising quarter - Creative Labs. After countless years of producing sound cards solely under their own brand name, Auzentech became the first (and still sole) third-party to gain the rights to use Creative's latest powerful X-Fi chip in its own products. The result of this deal was the X-Fi Prelude - A top-notch piece of hardware let down only by its driver support, which left users waiting a long, long time before they could enjoy the full set of Dolby Digital and DTS functionality that Auzentech bolted onto Creative's own feature set.
However, that was mid-2007 and this is 2009, which has seen the launch of a new product which blends the raw power of Creative's X-Fi with the savvy and additional functionality so beloved of Auzentech. The result is the X-Fi Forte, a low profile, PCI Express sound card which (as of February) also sports access to its entire feature set within its drivers... Under Windows Vista at least. We missed out on a lot of this "good stuff" in our original X-Fi Prelude review, leaving us eager to get to know the X-Fi Forte far more intimately. That's exactly what we've done here today, so read on for the result.