W A R N I N G !

W A R N I N G !

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Audiotrak Prodigy 7.1 HiFi vs Creative Sound Blaster Audigy ES

Another "view" of mine. This time it's Audiotrak Prodigy 7.1 Hifi.

I mentioned before that a review without any basis for comparison is utterly useless. It's akin to masturbation. So I have two opponents against this guy - Zhaolu D3 DAC for analogue output, and Sound Blaster Audigy for digital output.

Prodigy vs Zhaolu D3

Not much of a fight here - the sound from the Prodigy is overly bright and harsh yet still lacking high-frequency detail, as though it was purposely tuned bright to make up for lack of detail. Bass is rather okay in quantity but does not hit low enough, and is boomy and anemic, quite characteristic of the JRC4580 op-amps it's using. Overall it's good for a cheap studio rig, but one deserves better. Replacing the op-amps with LM4562 might make the sound more likable at the expense of tonal accuracy, as I found to be always the case when replacing a 4580/4556/5532 with LM4562. Remember, tonal accuracy is very important in monitoring, much more so than detail, because our ears care more of tone than detail, so do most speakers.

In comparison, the combination of Realtek digital-out + Zhaolu D3 is much more pleasing, showing that the analogue stage is much more important, and it makes more sense to invest in a better analogue stage than split the money evenly between analogue and digital. Of course, the final speakers stage is still the most important.

So Prodigy 7.1 HiFi vs DAC, guess which one I would pick. Of course, my D3 isn't a bad DAC, though I can't say the same for USB DACs in the $150 region.

Prodigy vs Audigy

Prodigy vs Audigy, heh. And they're not by the same company, not even companies on the same continent.

As you can see in the picture above, the Prodigy is one heck of a bling card. With a WM8776, the Nichicon MUSE and OS-CON capacitors and some big ones for power supply, if this doesn't sound good just because it draws its power from the computer, you can be sure that all USB-powered DACs don't either. Still it doesn't beat the Zhaolu, not by a fair margin.

If you think that my judgment would favour the Audigy due to familiarity, well you're wrong, but congrats for being attentive. All this while I've been listening to the Audigy with EQ on to tone down the bass of room acoustics and the brightness of these speakers. The comparison will be made with all settings at default, so both will be newcomers here.

Vs the Prodigy, the Audigy's sound seems to be missing some things at the top end. And the Prodigy has this extra sparkle there.

A sure win? No, time for some AB test.

Out of curiosity I tried ABX 320kbps vs uncompressed again. And failed again. Seems that only with some material you can tell the subtle difference, and this isn't one of them.

Back to Prodigy, AB testing yields no conclusive difference. So only time will tell.

Meantime I say just get a decent soundcard and a DAC and be happy with it.

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