Product: HDA X-Plosion 7.1 DTS Connect
Company: Auzentech
Authour: Brian "HalcYoN" Gray
Date: March 11th, 2006
Background

With Dolby Digital, about the only complaint audiophiles could muster was that while AC3 signaling over a single fiber optic or coaxial interface was convenient, it did leave a little to be desired in the way of bandwidth, forcing a bit more compression than a purist would like.  DTS cured the ailments of digital audio enthusiasts with a larger bit-stream and better dynamic headroom.  If you doubt the advantages of DTS, find a solid high quality DVD player and receiver and playback U2’s ‘Vertigo Live’ or The Eagles ‘Hell Freezes Over’ flipping back and forth between DTS and Dolby Digital.  Dolby Digital’s 384-448Kbps peak compared to DTS’s 1.536Mbps is a significant bottleneck in per channel bit-stream width.   You never truly notice the compression, per se, but DTS always sounds more dynamic, creating more depth of sound.  With DTS, the soft moments are quiet without mumbling, the peaks crash with out flailing.  Perhaps that description is a bit too artistic, but it is hard to quantify.  If you think in terms of MP3 encoding, that is the difference between a 64Kbps and 192Kbps.  I know most of you can appreciate that statistical advantage even though your ear may not tell you indefinitely that one is far superior though one is more pleasing.  Will the statistical advantage lead to real world results?

Before we get further into the review, let’s take a step back to HDA’s new presence in the US.  AuzenTech has remodeled and reloaded.  I had originally contacted Stephen Bae in March of 2005 when the X-Mystique started its world-wide distribution through several partners.  BlueGears handled the US market, and many were curious why a web-development company had interest in distributing hardware.  The launch was successful enough; the X-Mystique quickly found fans in HTPC message boards and in gamers ready to retire their problematic Creative based cards.

Interview

So why the change from BlueGears to AuzenTech, Inc?  I shot a few questions over to Stephen to find out.

Please introduce yourself and give us a little background.

SB: My name is Stephane Bae, President of AuzenTech, Inc. I founded BlueGears, Inc. together with some other partner to bring in the HDA X-Mystique 7.1 Gold into the US market and globally. BlueGears was going to some other directions; therefore, I took over the HDA sound card business and founded my own company for the distribution of HDA sound cards.

Regarding AuzenTech vs. HDA with distributors, what was the trigger to bring distribution in house and to retool with a new company name?

SB: AuzenTech, Inc. has the Global distribution right for selling & marketing of HDA Sound card.  HDA changed their company name accordingly to AuzenTech Co. Ltd. As they also joined with a bigger company to support better the growing demand of their card.

We all decided to come up with the same CI on this product: Auzen (Au stands for Audio, Zen for its many peaceful meanings)

Possibly a question more oriented for C-Media, but how did DTS Connect support come about?  Was it just a logical progression?

SB: DTS Connect is a feature that is additionally supported by C-Media 8770 chipset, and it is not a simple logical progression, but an encoding process algorism certified by DTS.

Using DirectSound, the game developers should support more the DDL and DTS Interactive and not only rely on the EAX. The OpenAl support is a big issue in the Gaming sound world. It is the same as the OpenGL was important to Quake or Doom game. Our goal is to have a consortium with AuzenTech, C-Media, Dolby & DTS to discuss further on this market and talk to the gaming industry on the support for these features.

Driver support is a major concern in the audio add-in card market.  What can we expect from AuzenTech in the way of driver release schedules? 

SB: For driver support, we will release our next driver update on March. We understand that driver support is an important issue and we will continue to update with drivers. Any feedbacks from our customers are all taken care and forwarded to the appropriate parties and implemented on the driver update if possible.

AuzenTech is one of the few to support Dolby Digital Live and the only to support DTS Connect in an add-in card.  What is next for AuzenTech?

SB: We are coming up with a sound card targeting High end for true audiophiles using CMI8788 chipset. The name of the product is AuzenTech HDA Oxygen. We are internally discussing the release date.

Stephen also shared with me some exciting product developments on the horizon.  Unfortunately, I can not share them with you, but one is a logical “me-too” version sound card and the other may just cause a mild revolution, especially for the HTPC crowd.

Enough talk, on with the review…

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