Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 sound card
At last, a real rival for Creative's X-Fi?
Auzentech has used C-Media drivers and while the software doesn’t look as slick as either the Creative or Intel packages it is simple to use and very effective. For some reason C-Media hasn’t tied the volume control into the drivers so you use the Windows slider to operate the C-Media rotary control. Other than that it’s very good indeed.
The drivers also ship with a handful of superfluous C-Media utilities called Helicopter, Media Rack and Play 3D.
When it comes to games it seems that the X-Meridian is an honorary SoundBlaster as we were able to use the advanced EAX controls even though Auzentech states that the X-Meridian supports EAX 2.0, and we were unable to tell the Auzentech and Creative cards apart.
We were staggered to find that the X-Meridian drove our Creative Inspire T7900 speakers to significantly higher volumes than either the on-board HD audio or the Audigy 2 ZS, and both MP3 and movie playback had a new level of clarity and precision. This was a real surprise as we have always found that 192Kbps MP3s sound much the same on any sound card as the compressed music file and speakers ought to be the weakest links in the chain. The X-Meridian proves that assumption is wrong.
With its superb X-Meridian 7.1 sound card Auzentech has taken the fight to Creative, and I truly feel that this is the best sound card that money can buy. That’s a huge claim to make for a relatively obscure piece of hardware and at the very least I hope that the X-Meridian will push Creative to make greater strides when it revises X-Fi. ®