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Do you know the word Auzen? I guess not unless you are tracking absolutely all the PC-related news. However, it is the name that should be memorized by every lover of high-quality audio on the PC.

Auzentech is a young company specializing in audio cards. Its first press release dated February 2006, the firm is not even two years old yet, but it has already announced a fifth self-developed product and has started selling several interesting devices from third-party developers under its own brand. The newcomer’s activity is worthy of respect considering the audio quality of the company’s latest products. All of them employ superb converters from AKM, replaceable operational amplifiers (opamps), and solid electrolytic capacitors.

Auzentech’s first three products were based on C-Media’s controllers, and the company claims to be the world’s first maker of audio cards with support of Dolby Digital Live and DTS Connect. Perhaps it is so, but this support is implemented by C-Media’s engineers and programmers and available on all cards with the appropriate chip. In April this year there was another piece of hot news: Auzen is preparing a new product based on the Creative X-Fi audio-processor! Until that, Creative Labs had never supplied its technologies to third-party developers, so that was a kind of revolution by itself. Besides, the engineers were set the task of creating a hi-fi product that would combine the newest gaming technologies from Creative with high-quality music playback and advanced audio-editing capabilities.

PCB Design

The goal was achieved by using Asahi Kasei’s AK4396 digital-to-analog converters (previously tested on the Auzentech X-Meridian), solid-state electrolytic capacitors, and combined digital inputs/outputs that allow connecting both coaxial (SPDIF) and optical (TOSLINK) cables by means of included adapters. Besides, the audio card features premium dual-channel operational amplifiers and Asahi Kasei’s best analog-to-digital converter AK5394A that provides a dynamic range of 123dB and a total harmonic distortion of -110dB. The DAC’s parameters are superb as well (120dB and -100dB, respectively) but AKM supplies the better-yet AK4397 as well as the pin-compatible AK4395 that has an improved digital filter. That’s why I don’t quite understand why the AK4396 was selected for all the four stereo outputs especially as the front output is different from the other three.

First of all, the op-amp can be easily replaced – and I caught up at the opportunity during my tests. Second, the output low-frequency filter is based on a new LM4562 opamp which has already earned a reputation for its excellent audio characteristics. The other channels employ no less popular OPA2134 chips. The card’s height proved insufficient to accommodate the DAC and filter of the front channel, so they were moved away from the output connector. This solution can hardly increase the crosstalk and noise very much, yet it is not optimal.

 
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