Monday, June 23, 2008

ASUS/Auzentech HDMI 1.3 Audio Card Review

My current project is building a home theatre PC system. I have most of the pieces in place with one exception. I currently do not have any way to output Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio encoded in Blu Ray movies directly from my PC via HDMI to my receiver. However it seems that companies are looking to address this area - two companies Asus and Auzentech have products aimed squarely at this market. Keep in mind that these are first generation products and are not yet available for purchase and may be very expensive when they are eventually available and may have bugs that need to be ironed out. Nevertheless, the fact that these products are making an entry means that over time these products will get cheaper and more reliable and who knows even be integrated directly into motherboards. For now we have to be content with drooling over these bleeding edge audio products; let's take a quick tour of the two offerings at hand:

  • Asus Xonar HDAV1.3: The Asus product is an integrated HDMI 1.3a compliant audio/video card. This card is basically an onboard graphics processor and has the capability to output lossless high definition audio and video from Blu Ray discs via a single HDMI cable. This card can decode and output Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master audio from your Blu Ray discs. The main advantage of this card is that it is Protected Audio Playback Systems (PAPS) and Advanced Access Content System (AACS) certified which allows it to pipe the high definition audio directly to your receiver via HDMI. Your receiver needs to be HDMI 1.3a compliant and must have the ability to decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master in order for this to work. The simplification that this card allows by having a single HDMI cable transfer both your high definition audio and video makes it a must have for serious home theatre PC enthusiasts. However as we mentioned, this is a first generation card and will be bound to be super expensive. It might be worth waiting and watching for more of these products to hit the market.

  • Auzen X-Fi HomeTheater 7.1: This product is from a relatively unknown company, however this card uses the rock solid Creative PCI Express X-Fi audio processor at its core. The Auzen X-Fi HomeTheater 7.1 accepts video from either an internal or external connection, mixes it with digital audio, and outputs the combined video and lossless multichannel audio via a single HDMI™ 1.3 port. Similar to the ASUS card above, this card allows you to get access to lossless digital audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio from your Blu Ray disc. The main difference between this card and the Asus card is that the Asus card is also a graphics processor, whereas this card will mix video provided from an external or internal connection with audio and combine both into a single signal transmitted via HDMI.

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