I have done a lot of testing on sound cards. Not too much, around 12 cards actually which result was saved on my hard drive. I will post the RMAA result here just for collections. For your information, all the result here was done by myself. Feel free to contact me if you have any question. We will start in a bit random list. So don’t complain if your card is on the bottom list 😉

Here’s the list:
1. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS
2. Terratec Aureon FireWire 7.1
3. Terratec Aureon Space 7.1
4. Hercules DJ Console
5. ESI Juli@
6. Lynx L22
7. Audiotrak Maya 5.1 MKII
8. Audiotrak Maya EX5
9. SoundStorm (ALC on Gigabyte 7NNXP)
10. Audiotrak Prodigy 7.1
11. M-Audio Revolution 7.1
12. Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Elite Pro

We will discuss one by one. I will discuss in a brief only. Any further question can be address to me.

1. Creative Sound Blaster Audigy2 ZS (physical):

Audigy2 ZS
Looks classic. Standard 1/8″ jack and extra FireWire port.

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy2 ZS (frequency response):


The frequency response is not too flat for an audiophile. But since this card is dedicated for gamers, I don’t think you will have to much chance to complain.

2. Terratec Aureon 7.1 FireWire (physical):
Aureon FireWire

Very fancy design. The case was made by aluminium or something so it will transfer heat from inside to outside (the case is simply closed with no hole, so it’s quite hot while operating at long run). You can see three lights on those three button. It can operate as D/A Converter without using PC. For PC, off course you will need a FireWire port.

Terratec Aureon 7.1 FireWire (frequency response):

The frequency response is quite flat for me. A little bit different between channel but not by much. Above average in terms of quality (some ripples shown on the mid to high frequency). I wonder the result will be much better if I use better power supply (better transformer, bigger caps, high speed diode, etc). You can’t expect too much from the standard one.

3. Terratec Aureon Space 7.1 (physical):
Aureon Space 7.1

This card is one of the best Envy24 consumer card. Equipped with WM8770IFT 8 channel, she is amazing in terms of sound quality. You will have one optical input and one ouput. No coaxial.

Terratec Aureon Space 7.1 (frequency response):

The WM8770IFT shows an excellent result. Very good quality for a consumer class card.

4. Hercules DJ Console (physical):
Hercules DJ Console

This is not a device for everybody. As the name shows us, this is for DJ but also has USB sound card inside. She has two platters on the top side which you can use to scratch your vinyl (loaded on software). Dozens of DJ’s effect are also included in the software package.

Hercules DJ Console (frequency response):

Quite flat for a USB sound card. Some ripples found on the high extensions but this should be ok. You won’t need extra high extension when DJ-ing your audience 😉

5. ESI Juli@ (physical):
ESI Juli@

This is one of the most affordable professional card. Price less than US$ 200 (now less than $150), this card offers unbalanced I/O (RCA) or balanced I/O (TRS). You can’t use unbalanced and balanced at the same time because you need to reverse the card. The card has two face, and you should choose which side that you want to use (and face it in to your back casing). Juli@ also offers MIDI I/O and Coax I/O. Optical only provided for output only. Quite impressive design from ESI.

ESI Juli@ (frequency response):

Very flat and extend. Both channel has a same level. Excellent entry professional card.

6. Lynx L22 (physical):
Lynx L22

Lynx has a outstanding image for a it’s sound quality. This L22 only offers 2 I/O and dedicated for professional users. For you who needs more I/O, you can check for Lynx A, B, C or Aurora series. She uses XLR connector which you can assign to have balanced or unbalanced signal.

Lynx L22 (frequency response):

I have no more word. She is beautiful. Same level for both channel and very flat (almost no ripple). Its high and low are very extend beyond most people’s requirements. This is how
a professional card should be designed.

7. Audiotrak Maya 5.1 MKII (physical):
Maya 5.1 MKII

Entry level card, dedicated for a Home Theatre PC or barebone. It can be configured as full PCI or half size PCI (both bracket included). It has anti-pop/click circuit so you will not hear any crack during system power up/down.

Audiotrak Maya 5.1 MKII (frequency response):

Not the best graphic that we’ve seen so far. But I guess it’s adequate for most people. It sounds better than you on board solution for sure.

8. Audiotrak Maya EX5 (physical):
Maya EX5

Another unique approach from Audiotrak. They offer USB solution with 5.1 channel capability. You will have Coaxial I/O too.
Audiotrak Maya EX5 (frequency response):

Quite flat at low, but little bit fast roll-off at high end. But again, it’s just an upgrade for your onboard card (especially for your notebook). And for such purpose, this card is more than enough. Digital I/O connectivity via Coaxial is a nice thing for most user.

9. SoundStorm with ALC D/A on Gigabyte 7NNXP (physical):
NForce 7NNXP

I forget what D/A used on this board. IIRC, it uses ALC 650 or 655. The main audio processor is MCP-T from NVIDIA (with SoundStorm technology).

SoundStorm with ALC D/A on Gigabyte 7NNXP (frequency response):

The analog ouput is far from flat (though it’s just 0.5 dB deviation). I guess the implementation of this onboard solution is not perfect or maybe the limitation of the D/A itself. Anyway, you got it for free inside your motherboard. I recommend to use digital output (so you will not use the ALC). NVIDIA and SoundStorm is well know for it’s digital output.

10. Audiotrak Prodigy 7.1 (physical):
Audiotrak Prodigy

This card is very similiar with Terratec Aureon Space 7.1 in terms of its chipset (Envy24HT), D/A (WM8770IFT), and design. The diffrent is on the digital output side. Audiotrak Prodigy 7.1 prefers coaxial, not optical like on the Aureon. Audiotrak also bundles more useable software than Terratec. And of course, Prodigy use red PCB compared black/brown on Terratec 😉

Audiotrak Prodigy 7.1 (frequency response):

Though the Prodigy shares same design with Aureon Space, the result is little bit different. Prodigy tends to have an increase in high extension. Maybe you can expect a little bit brighter sound. Overall sound quality is excellent.

11. M-Audio Revolution 7.1 (physical):
M-Audio Revolution

Another excellent Envy24 HT card. But this card used AKM D/A instead of WM (like on the Prodigy or Aureon). M-Audio is quite famous for its professional card. This is one of their first consumer card. Still, this card has good quality because it’s from M-Audio. You have one digital coaxial output only. No digital input and no optical I/O. The software almost not offers any extra features.
M-Audio Revolution 7.1 (frequency response):

The graphic is somehow similiar with Audiotrak Prodigy. The high is increased a little bit, but the left/right channel are more level matched than Prodigy. Overall, this is excellent for a consumer grade sound card.

12. Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Elite Pro (physical):

Creative offers complete option in X-Fi Elite Pro. She uses one of the latest D/A from AKM (even higher than the one at Lynx card). This card is quite pricey but offers no professional grade connector (balanced or XLR).
Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Elite Pro (frequency response):

Creative has big problem on their cards before X-Fi. The problem is on the poor resampling algorithm. Now, the have fixed it. The graph looks perfect (compared to the old Audigy2 ZS), as perfect as it can be from a professional grade card. It’s a pity becase Creative doesn’t offer any kind of professional grade connector.

In my years testing sound card, I prefer Juli@ to have good and warm sound. X-Fi (the Elite Pro) which costs your 3 times than Juli@, may sounds to bright for me. Some people say it is details, but my ears just don’t suit with it. So I choose my Juli@ over the others (though beside Juli@, I use EMU 1820M to, but I haven’t done the RMAA test yet, little bit busy later these days)

Envy24 based like Prodigy, Aureon, and Revolution are good card. The AKM (Revolution) tends to have warmer sound than WM based (the Prodigy and Aureon). But it’s a matter of taste anyway. If you don’t do game too intensive, these cards offer good musicality at reasonable price. For your information, all non-Creative cards only support up to EAX 2.0. For Creative cards like Audigy or X-Fi may support up to EAX 4.0 or 5.0.

For a gamer, I see no reason to choose anything others than Creative brand. Creative has done a good job on X-Fi. They have fixed the resampling algorithm (you can see the different between Audigy2 ZS and X-Fi on the graphs, right?). So, now Creative has a card that good for music and for movie.

On the other side, for professional, your option is a professional card. Professional here isn’t only about quality, but also connectivity. ESI Juli@, Lynx, and EMU 1820M offer this. They both will do best on professional environment due to balanced connectivity and offer some extra features needed by professional.

That’s all folks. Enjoy reading it!