Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 2G

Audio, Reviews

Box and Bundle

Standard high quality Auzentech packaging. Nice black box with swirly stuff and some highlighted features; quite extensive actually.

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The back of the box gives this card a 4/5 for music and movies, but only a 2/5 for gaming. Should be interesting to see how it performs in these situations.

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Also typical is the ballsy writing that Auzentech bungs on their interior packaging.

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Along with the card itself, you get a heavily pictoral quick installation guide, a driver CD and some optical cabling and headers.

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Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 2G

The card itself is printed on a black PCB and supports a good old PCI socket. Now this might be a problem for some as these ports are being phased out in favour for the now more commonly used PCIe 1x slots which other Auzentech cards have begun to support.

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Here’s the heart of the whole thing. The Oxygen chip is made by CMedia and contains an HD CMI8788 Audio Processor.

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Beneath the nice, green solid capacitors we have the user upgradable OP-AMPS. They are in left-right order, Front, Side Surround, Centre Subwoofer and Back surround. Upgrading these makes it possible for do-it-yourself customisation of your sound card, allowing for a different output strengths and qualities.

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At the bottom right of the card there’s expansion wiring for the attachment of a ribbon cable. This means you can hook up the Auzentech daughter card, the “X-Tension DIN” which gives Midi in/out, a second microphone input, digital input and output at 24-bits/192 kHz and the ability to use optical and coaxial connectors. The DIN is sold seperately however. It’s more designed for those looking to utilise their Auzentech hardware as a studio workstation.

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The card also features front panel HD audio connectors. This gives the ability for not only ease of access to 3.5mm headphone inputs, but also dual microphone inputs.

[Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 2g]

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The business end is all gold connectors which help increase durability of ports. While not as necessary on gaming mice and others, it can be more important with audio to remove any noise from the sound. Here we have (from left to right): Mic in, Line in (Mp3 player or the like), Front out, Surround out, Center/sub out, Back surround out, digital in, digital out.

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Software

On first glance, the software looks a little dated. This is mostly just a pretty bland UI as the Oxygen HD suite is relatively fully featured. It seems a bit odd that it looks so dated, but I’d reason that Auzentech isn’t targeting this card at gamers; perhaps to a more puritan professional.

The first tab is important as it is where you select the input and output you want to use, as well as whether EX Xear 3D and Virtual 7.1 are used. Output devices can also be tested in the lower right window.

Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 2g Review

The second tab has basic mixer controls.

Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 2g Review

Third panel has some environment options including that who-ever-uses-this-? ampi-theatre, bathroom etc. control. EQ is also adjustable from here, giving massive variance to the sound meaning you can fine tune it to your taste and to the specific genre.

Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 2g Review

There’s some fun Magic Voice options on the 4th tab, allowing you to shift your pitch, add echo to your microphone recording and also utilise voice cancellation should you wish to hear a piece of music without vocals. It actually works pretty well. Auzentech have suggested that should you want to disguise your voice over a VOIP service, you can do so with this.

Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 2g Review

Flexbass is an interesting tool that means you can cutout certain low frequencies. It means if your speakers arn’t quite processing a bass frequency right, you can remove them from the mix. It helps to remove the muddy bass at the bottom of some tracks also.

Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 2g Review

The fact that this card doesn’t feature an X-Fi chip is also a bit of a shame as it means no Crystallizer, which is always quite a nice way to bump up the higher frequencies.

Testing

Test Rig

Processor
Intel Core 2 Duo EQ9450 @ 3.2Ghz
Motherboard
Asus P5QL Pro
RAM
Super Talent 6400 4GB @ 800Mhz
Sound Card
Auzentech Prelude 7.1
HDD
Mach Xtreme MX-DS 100GB
OS
Windows 7 Ultimate
Case
Lian Li PC-B25F

For the actual monitor outputs, I utilised the following:

  • Razer Mako 2.1
  • Roccat Kave 5.1 headset

These are strong gaming accessories and I think represent the average audiophile/gamer’s hardware.

Methodology

While some sites might take a more synthetic approach to sound card testing (here’s the best results for those) we prefer to go for a bit more of a traditional by-ear standard. That and we usually don’t have the money for fancy testing equipment.

Still, taking into consideration that this card is designed for the music and movie lovers, most of the focus was placed there; but I played a few games too. The movies utilised were:

  • Equilibrium
  • Starship Troopers
  • The Incredibly Hul

All of which feature strong action sequences and reasonable scores; except for Starship Troopers, which has a fantastic one.

Music listening was of CD quality and was varied across many genres.

Games played were:

  • Dawn of War II Retribution beta
  • Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
  • Magicka

Results

Gaming

To keep it simple, absolutely fine. I didn’t have my mind blown by the sound that the X-Meridian 2g pumped out during gaming, but it was great all the same. It doesn’t support the latest standards of EAX, only reaching to 2.0, which some gamers may dislike, but the modern gaming world is moving to bigger and better platforms like OpenAL’s EFX interface so this isn’t really a problem.

Still, explosions were good, gunfire sounded great as did announcer voices and background music. All in-game sound effects seemed spot on with their placement, with the surround sound headphones providing a solid 3D sound experience. With the speakers there was certainly a bit more beef and the bass was a bit stronger with the deeper explosions, though I did miss the surround sound capabilities. Fortunately, Auzentech provide a virtual surround feature which when enabled gives some semblance of the full 7.1 experience.

For a card that isn’t marketed for gaming, the X-Meridian 2g does a damn good job.

Movies

Here the card did it’s job brilliantly. All explosions were multi-layered without being muddied, speech was clear and coherant with no distortion at the high end either. On top of this, the scores in each film viewed were produced alongside sound effects with little problem. Bass was deep and varied and the higher frequencies were crisp and clear.

This is where the card shines well, and with it’s digital inputs I could quite easily see this as a good choice for someone interested in home movie making.

Music

Music like movies was handled very well. I tried out several tracks from a multitude of genres including Drum and Bass, Rock, metal, Pop, RnB, Dance and more. Regardless of which one I picked, ther Meridian 2G put out high quality sound that was very pleasing to the ear; whether I was using the 5.1 headset or the 2.1 speaker setup.

Cost

The Meridian 2G at the moment can be found for around £170.

Conclusion

While hardly the cheapest sound card out there, the Meridian 2G is certainly one to look out for. It has excellent movie and music playback abilities, while delivering a solid soundstage of instruments and sound effects that are easy to find in the mix while maintaining their role as part of the meta sound. Gaming is not perhaps as strong as dedicated gaming cards – personally I prefer my Prelude 7.1 – but it does a job that will run rings around onboard systems and certainly give those designed for it a run for their money.

The fact that you can upgrade OpAmps as well as utilise an add-in card for mixing and recording purposes is excellent. The only real downsides are the ugly looking drivers and the dieing PCI form factor.

All in all, a solid card that would be perfect for an audiophile or budding editor.

ProsCons
Very strong music and movie soundBit expensive
Gaming is still impressivePCI interface is a bit outdated
Upgradability of OpAms and add-in cardSoftware looks poor
Software is fully featured
Makes Starship Troopers sound even more awesome

award

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Thanks go to Auzentech for providing us with this card.

This review was syndicated on tech seed.

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Last modified: March 7, 2011

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