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Since the announcement of Auzentech’s very first sound card based on the Creative X-Fi audio processor, I could not find an answer to one question: why had Creative given birth to its own market competitor? I was really at a loss trying to find an explanation during the review of the Auzen X-Fi Prelude 7.1 because Creative itself did not offer a similar combination of price and sound quality, not even the very option of encoding into Dolby Digital format. The fact that this feature subsequently appeared in the Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium series (and became available for Creative’s earlier products as a paid add-on) makes me suspect the Auzen Prelude to have been a kind of a testing ground for polishing the technology off prior to implementing it in mass products under Creative’s own brand. But it is only new products from Auzentech that might clear up the issue.

Announced in mid-June 2008 and scheduled for September, the X-Fi HomeTheater 7.1 model was jointly developed by Auzentech, Creative, Nvidia, Silicon Image and CyberLink as the first Auzen sound card for the PCI Express bus. The development has taken rather too long, however. ASUS has long introduced its Xonar HDAV1.3 with similar functionality. Creative has launched a whole series of PCI Express products, but Auzentech could not offer anything new to its customers.

Since the release of the new sound card was only delayed due to the polishing off of its HDMI functionality, in early December 2008 Auzentech announced one more product that looked like an X-Fi HomeTheater without HDMI-related chips. The analog section of the original card had high component density in order to accommodate those HDMI chips, and without HDMI it proved to be a low-profile device. I dare suppose that it is the reduced height that ensured the release for the Auzen X-Fi Forte 7.1. So far, no product from Auzentech based on the X-Fi processor has ever directly competed with a product from Creative. They are always different in functionality and price category. For example, the X-Fi Prelude 7.1 does not spoil the sales of the X-Fi Elite Pro because the latter comes with an external I/O unit with a headphones amplifier and guitar input. The new X-Fi Forte 7.1 differs from the Creative X-Fi Titanium series with its form-factor and functionality and from the Creative X-Fi XtremeGamer with higher price and PCI Express. So, I guess I’ve come up with a good explanation of the licensing of X-Fi technologies to a third party and now we can proceed to taste more fruits of the collaboration between Creative and Auzentech.

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