Terratec Aureon Vs. AudioTrak Prodigy

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Terratec Aureon Vs. AudioTrak Prodigy
Two 7.1 24-Bit/192kHz Cards Under $150

by Jeff Bouton
September 18, 2003

Benchmark Performance Continued
Efficiency is the name of this game

Comanche 4 Demo:

Novalogic's Comanche 4 Benchmark is heavily dependent on CPU and Memory bandwidth which is why it is the perfect tool for audio testing.  For this test we first ran the benchmark with the "No Audio" option selected followed by a run with no audio processing and then with Sensaura enabled in the drivers.

Like the 3DMark03 test, the results were quite similar, although the drop off in frames were less dramatic with each pass.  With "No Audio" both cards hovered in the 48FPS range whereas with Sensaura enabled the two dropped to the 44FPS range.  All-in-all, these two cards were virtually identical in performance with the two tests so far.  Lastly, we saved Audio Winbench 99 to do a detailed assessment of performance that can be broken down into several different areas.

Audio WinBench 99:

Audio WinBench 99 is a tool that measures the performance of a PC's audio subsystem.  The benchmark tests all aspects of audio output including the driver, the audio processor, DirectSound and DirectSound 3D, and the speakers.  We focused on the results pertaining to DirectSound and DirectSound3D performance.

This test helps make it a little more clearer why the Aureon 7.1 Space was slightly faster in most of the prior tests.  Terratec did an exceptional job programming their drivers to let the Aureon 7.1 run as efficiently as possible.  Whether testing DirectSound or DirectSound3D, the Aureon was very efficient, most particularly as the voices increased.  That isn't to say the Prodigy was all that bad either, running less than 5% at the worst is a good task and with all of the advanced programming that went into the Prodigy's driver set, we think the results are very good as well.  The bottom line is when you look at the gaming tests and see the differences between the two cards, a few percentage points don't add up to a whole lot of difference.

Terratec Aureon 7.1 Space:

If one thing is certain, it's that Creative has serious competition on its hands with several affordable alternatives from Terratec and AudioTrak.  Each card brings its own flavor of features and functionality to the table, while both offer a solid bang for the money.  The Aureon 7.1 Space provides solid features and excellent complimentary software as well as optical inputs and outputs.  The Prodigy 7.1 on the other hand provides its own feature set geared around exploring the features of the Native Sound Processor functionality as well as great complimentary software.  Clearly each has its strengths and weaknesses, but both are a good buy depending on your needs.

When it comes down to which card is better than the other, it's not a cut and dry answer.  Each card performed almost identically, with minor fluctuations from test to test.  To say there is a clear winner from a performance standpoint is simply not possible.  From a features perspective, however, there are a few things to consider.  We like the drivers screens of the Aureon 7.1 Space, finding the screens clean and intuitive.  We were impressed with the overall layout, but there were some problems.  We were not thrilled that enabling Sensaura required a reboot and 7.1 surround was only available with Windows XP.  We also noted some minor bugs with the headphone controls that could possibly cause damage to components.  The changing of sampling rates between applications could be audibly heard as we noted when loading MusicMatch 8, which was another bug in the driver set.  While the Aureon 7.1 Space performed well overall, it was not without its issues.  In the end, however, the Aureon's drivers helped make this card the most efficient performer we've seen to date.

Taking these factors into consideration, we give the Terratec Aureon 7.1 Space a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of an 8.


AudioTrak Prodigy 7.1:

When we take a look at the Prodigy 7.1, the experience was completely different.  We did not encounter any problems with audio playback in any way and the driver menus were layed out out in a more concise manner.  It seemed that the drivers worked as they should and the Native Sound Processing functions were far more robust than the Aureon 7.1.  The main difference will be whether you demand the optical input/outputs of the Aureon 7.1 Space or you can get by with the coaxial connections of the Prodigy 7.1.  We suspect that most casual users will not get hung up on these two differences. 

While the Prodigy and Aureon are basically the same in construction, we have to give credit to AudioTrak for putting together drivers that explore all of the hardware's capabilities.  We were pleased to see that Sensaura could be enabled without a reboot and there did not appear to be any Operating System limitations associated with using surround 7.1.  While there was no graphic equalizer integrated into the drivers, we were pleased that we could have standard audio output forced to 4 channels rather than the default 2 for expanded listening.  In the end, the Prodigy 7.1 from AudioTrak seemed to have a better all around package with solid drivers, a good collection of complimentary software, and excellent advanced features for the user interested in audio editing.  While its CPU utilization was not as efficient as the Aureon's, the Prodigy still used few CPU cycles and it competed on the same level as the Aureon in the other benchmarks.  For this reviewer, the Prodigy 7.1 was the clear choice for replacing an out-dated Hercules Game Theater XP.

For offering an excellent all around product that should satisfy a broad spectrum of users for a reasonable price, we give the AudioTrak Prodigy 7.1 a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of a 9.



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