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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [12.16.08]
Manufactured by: Creative


Audio Quality

Creative uses some pretty good components on their X-Fi Titanium Professional Series cards, giving it an impressive 109 dB signal to noise ratio. It supports stereo output up to 24-bit 192 KHz, but all other channels (and inputs) are limited to 24-bit 96 kHz. Back when the X-Fi first came out, 24-bit 192 kHz uncompressed sound was limited to stereo DVD-Audio and such. Since then though, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD have introduced support for up to 6 channels encoded at 24/192 by way of DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. This might seem like a severe limitation, but even though the ability is there, even the best sounding Blu-Ray movies use sampling rates no higher than 48 kHz usually.

That was impressive in 2006, but it's 2008 now, and onboard audio is beginning to catch up. For instance, the Realtek ALC889a codec boasts 108 dB and 104 dB SNR's on their DAC and ADC respectively. It supports up to 24/192 on all 10 of channels, input and output. It even has the same DTS passthrough support the X-Fi hs. Historically, onboard audio solutions have lagged behind high quality soundcards like the Sound Blaster X-Fi series. Let's see if Realtek's latest (found on many higher-end motherboards) makes up for this. For these tests, we used loopback mode in RMAA to test overall (recording and playback at once) quality. 16-bit 44 kHz and 24-bit 96 kHz were both tested:

As you can see, the ALC889a not only catches up to the X-Fi, but beats it in some tests. It is particularly better with 24-bit audio, so those building home theatre systems should keep that in consideration.

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