Package, Accessories and Specifications
There is a lot of free space in the small black-and-gray box because the kit includes only the bare minimum of things. Besides the card with a replaceable mounting bracket, there is a short braid of cables with analog connectors, an installation disc with brief user guide, an RCA-TOSLINK adapter and optical cable that resembles the one from the Auzen X-Fi Prelude 7.1 kit but is made from translucent plastic.
The card’s main features and capabilities and the system requirements are indicated on the box but nearly all the text is in very small print. The contents of the box are listed on the smaller side panel. Auzen is no good at providing visual information to the user.
Moreover, as you can see, the six connectors of the analog cable only differ with the color of the cambric tape on the wire. They are hard to differentiate in dim lighting. It is far more convenient when the connectors themselves are made from plastic of different colors as it was done with the Audiotrak Prodigy 7.1 LT, for example.
The included installation guide does not describe the card’s connectors, so you have to find the correct way of attaching your system case cable to the card’s 20-pin header.
Although the system case’s audio connector should be HDA-compliant, you can also use a system case with an old-type AC’97 connector if you disable automatic headphone detection in the sound card settings.
There is some confusion about the specs at the manufacturer’s website, but they are accurate in the user manual.
You can learn more about the specs of the employed components and expansion opportunities by reading the summary tables at the Auzentech website. They allow comparing different sound cards easily. The full list of compared cards can be seen in the first table.
After the ASUS Xonar Essence STX, the specifications of the Auzen X-Fi Forte 7.1 inspire no awe in me. The Forte equals the Auzen X-Fi Prelude in the formal quality of the front output because it comes with the same digital-to-analog converter. The Forte is identical to most Creative X-Fi series products and inferior to all ASUS Xonar series ones in the quality of the other outputs and line input. However, a number of technical solutions bring the Auzen X-Fi Forte 7.1 closer to the ASUS Xonar Essence STX as I will explain in the next section.
As opposed to the Auzen X-Fi Prelude 7.1, the software installer allows to select components and offers programs and add-ons that have been previously available to owners of Creative sound cards only. Particularly, these are AutoMode Switcher, Sound Blaster Plugin for Microsoft Media Center, Sound Blaster Vista Control Panel, 3DMIDI Player, WaveStudio and MediaSource. To my utter disappointment, MediaSource does not include DVD Audio Player, so you will have to try and find yourself a DVD player program that will be able to output high-resolution sound through the X-Fi Forte 7.1 without converting it into a lower-quality format. A disappointing thing too is that THX Setup Console, for setting up sound processing depending on the placement of the speaker system, is still unavailable.
The driver takes a lot of time to install and is incompatible with other X-Fi based sound cards. I could not make my X-Fi Forte work along with an X-Fi Prelude, X-Fi Elite Pro or a professional audio interface E-MU 1820. The controls provided by the software do not differ from those of other X-Fi based sound cards, so I can just link you to the Auzen X-Fi Prelude 7.1 review where you can find a detailed description of them. When it comes to setup options, the Auzen X-Fi Forte 7.1 only differs from the previously reviewed card with the selection of recording sources. It does not offer Analog Mix and S/PDIF-in but has an additional microphone input.
Yes, this sound card is capable of recording two microphones (or a microphone and the line input) simultaneously. Some people may find this feature highly useful. Besides, the X-Fi Forte 7.1 is equipped with an additional headphone output with integrated amplifier developed by Auzentech. In the next section I will tell you more about the technical solutions implemented in this sound card.