The best sound card for HTPC HD - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 116 Old 02-13-2007, 06:18 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello,

I'm reading the topic about X-Meridian vs X-Fi Elite and I agree with some people when they tried suggested other cards.

But the topic is about X-Meridian and X-Fi Elite and they can't give their opinion. So I create this thread to choose and ear your opinion about the BEST SOUND CARD for HTPC HD.

The price isn't important. If necessary make changes.....we make.

I'm looking for a sound card that can compete with HiFi devices HD. Like Rotel - RSP-1068.
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post #2 of 116 Old 02-13-2007, 04:11 PM - Thread Starter
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What you think about the following cards to put on a HTPC:

Audiotrak [UK] - Home Theatre (audiotrak_co_uk )


RME Intelligent Audio Solutions - HDSP AES-32 ( rme-audio_com )

Requirements:
7.1 with good analog output.
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post #3 of 116 Old 02-13-2007, 07:00 PM
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I've heard and/or tried most of the soundcards out there..RME, M-Audio, E-MU etc..Currently I have the Creative X-Fi Elite Pro and the Lynx TwoB.
Best sounding is the Lynx TwoB, without a doubt.. "Only" 5.1 although I think you can use two cards for 10.2..

Any time now, Jim White's gonna post and say CREATIVE X-FI PRO beats them all.. I'm actually surprised I got this post in before him..just kiddin, Jim..

The Creative has a lot going for it..decoding of external sources etc..but if you want the best sound, go for a Lynx..or both..

On top of that, the Lynx-developers are very helpful on their forum and really listens to their users..Vista drivers with Sys-Fx support is supposedly coming as well..
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post #4 of 116 Old 02-13-2007, 11:17 PM
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X-Fi's are a waste of money on a HTPC, you're most likely going to have an external receiver handle the decoding and most mid-range receivers DACs are going to outperform any PC soundcard. The key is getting an unmolested, bitperfect signal to your receiver.

I'd go with the Bluegears card that uses the same C-Media chip as the Meridian. It costs less and you don't have to deal with Auzentech's poor support.
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post #5 of 116 Old 02-14-2007, 03:42 AM
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Quote:


X-Fi's are a waste of money on a HTPC, you're most likely going to have an external receiver handle the decoding and most mid-range receivers DACs are going to outperform any PC soundcard.

Did you read the OP's original post..?
Quote:


good analog output

So this thread is NOT about feeding a digital out to a receiver.
And no, a receiver is NOT outperforming ANY soundcard.

The X-Fi's are excellent choices for the money, while my Lynx TwoB sound better than my previous pre/pro, the Krell HTS 7.1.
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post #6 of 116 Old 02-14-2007, 05:19 AM
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cornbuds, once you mentioned the catch-phrase "bit-perfect" you labeled yourself as to be in the "other-camp" .... why you've purchased anythng more expensive than a Chaintech 710 to get your SPDIF output is the question!! BUT, a question for another thread


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post #7 of 116 Old 02-14-2007, 05:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CHA View Post

I've heard and/or tried most of the soundcards out there..RME, M-Audio, E-MU etc..Currently I have the Creative X-Fi Elite Pro and the Lynx TwoB.
Best sounding is the Lynx TwoB, without a doubt.. "Only" 5.1 although I think you can use two cards for 10.2..

Any time now, Jim White's gonna post and say CREATIVE X-FI PRO beats them all.. I'm actually surprised I got this post in before him..just kiddin, Jim..

The Creative has a lot going for it..decoding of external sources etc..but if you want the best sound, go for a Lynx..or both..

On top of that, the Lynx-developers are very helpful on their forum and really listens to their users..Vista drivers with Sys-Fx support is supposedly coming as well..


So, you have tried this? http://www.audiotrak.co.uk/home_thea...gy71hifi.shtml

If so, please give your impressions because I am very close to buy it (great price at 100 euros).

A Never Ending Quest Τowards Visual Nirvana..
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post #8 of 116 Old 02-14-2007, 08:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CHA View Post

Did you read the OP's original post..?

I did, but I didn't notice he replied directly to his post about the analog. I'd still go for the Bluegears card over an X-Fi.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimwhite View Post

cornbuds, once you mentioned the catch-phrase "bit-perfect" you labeled yourself as to be in the "other-camp" .... why you've purchased anythng more expensive than a Chaintech 710 to get your SPDIF output is the question!! BUT, a question for another thread

You've got a point. I had an X-Plosion and it broke, so I dropped the Chaintech card I had lying around back in the box until I came up with something better.
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post #9 of 116 Old 02-15-2007, 05:54 AM
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Quote:


I'd still go for the Bluegears card over an X-Fi.

not sure why, BUT for those looking for maximum utility, the X-FI is the only HiQ sound solution which decodes DD/DTS external sources via SPDIF....


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post #10 of 116 Old 02-15-2007, 12:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cornbuds View Post

X-Fi's are a waste of money on a HTPC, you're most likely going to have an external receiver handle the decoding and most mid-range receivers DACs are going to outperform any PC soundcard.

The X-Fi will handle any decoding, even from external sources.

The X-Fi has better DACs than all mid-range receivers and most high-end receivers.
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post #11 of 116 Old 02-15-2007, 01:30 PM
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I would suggest a 8788 based card as was mentioned they have DD and DTS encoders so your amteriall will be encoded in realtime and transfered to DD or DTS. What would be the best I would think is having both features A card that can decode on the optical inputs and encode on the optical ouputs. DRM under Vista has blocked the DD/DTS decoding features of the X-fi. I am unsure of the state of the 8788 based cards encoder ouputs under Vista. If talking about the DAC's on the X-fi it should be noted that people say for sound quality between the X-fi and the X-Meridian is the XM rules for HT sound quality. Something else to consider.
The X-fi is more for gaming I would say and the XM is at home in a HT PC.
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post #12 of 116 Old 02-15-2007, 05:39 PM
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When I look at the X-Fi's spec sheet, I'm not impressed. I admit I've never heard it, but based upon it's specs, I see better in the 8788 or Envy24HT. I realize potential capabilities of any particular chip can vary greatly when you consider the rest of the components on the PCB, but to say an X-Fi is going to give better audio performance over a good receiver with quality components like burr-brown/TI or AD or even Wolfson DACs is simply Creative Labs fanboyism.

I don't want this to turn into another X-Fi vs. The World thread, God knows there's plenty of them. To the OP, look around, there's lots of options out there, many that actually work with Vista. Creative is no longer the only company producing excellent soundcards for PCs. Someone posted yesterday about a new card from Audiotrak that looks very tasty.
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post #13 of 116 Old 02-15-2007, 06:10 PM
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Quote:


When I look at the X-Fi's spec sheet, I'm not impressed.

well, jeeeze, Cornbuds, that's an easy one !!! There are about 20 different models of X-Fi, but there is only one Elite Pro.... it's a different PCB from all the 19 or so others, and has truly different components and specs.... if you're not impressed more than an Envy24, you're not looking in the right place.....

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post #14 of 116 Old 02-15-2007, 08:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by takisot View Post

So, you have tried this? http://www.audiotrak.co.uk/home_thea...gy71hifi.shtml

If so, please give your impressions because I am very close to buy it (great price at 100 euros).

Specs would appear to be similar to the regular prodigy 7.1 which as I recall is not that different to say a Revo 7.1, which is not as nice sounding as a Revo 5.1 which is in a lower class to say the X-Fi's and X-Meridien's, Delta 1010's, RME's and Lynx's.

Cheers...
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post #15 of 116 Old 02-15-2007, 09:03 PM
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@cornbuds

No offense but you are way outta your league here buddy, your info is rather dated and your hatred of Creative as a company comes off very loud and clear.

You mention Creative spin, well I could say you are a victim of the Burr Brown/TI or Wolfson spin. Brand names and all that are good, but it's the package as a whole that is what we are interested in. General consensus goes that prior to the X-Fi series of cards, Creative cards were not the ones to get, things change. Since you are so enthralled by specs and brands, the Lynx2 cards are considered by many to be the finest of soundcards out there when it comes to Analog output... the X-Fi Elite Pro shares some componentry, so you should be impressed if that is all you consider when choosing soundcards.

Cheers...
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post #16 of 116 Old 02-15-2007, 11:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimwhite View Post

There are about 20 different models of X-Fi, but there is only one Elite Pro.... it's a different PCB from all the 19 or so others, and has truly different components and specs

I looked at the Elite Pro, which is their top model and no, I don't see anything there that grabs me, unless you have a need for the breakout box.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hdkhang View Post

@cornbuds
No offense but you are way outta your league here buddy, your info is rather dated

Last I checked the C-Media chip is newer than the X-Fi.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hdkhang View Post

and your hatred of Creative as a company comes off very loud and clear.

I have nothing against CL, I even had one of their Audigy2's. FUD from the fanboys is another thing...and let's be honest, the CL cult is even more passionate than the nVidia/ATi or AMD/intel trenches. I suppose people like their music much more than their video...

Quote:
Originally Posted by hdkhang View Post

You mention Creative spin, well I could say you are a victim of the Burr Brown/TI or Wolfson spin. Brand names and all that are good, but it's the package as a whole that is what we are interested in.

Maybe you missed this above
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Originally Posted by cornbuds View Post

I realize potential capabilities of any particular chip can vary greatly when you consider the rest of the components on the PCB

My point was to address someone elses claim that an X-Fi is going to produce a higher fidelity output than a quality A/V receiver.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hdkhang View Post

General consensus goes that prior to the X-Fi series of cards, Creative cards were not the ones to get, things change. Since you are so enthralled by specs and brands, the Lynx2 cards are considered by many to be the finest of soundcards out there when it comes to Analog output... the X-Fi Elite Pro shares some componentry, so you should be impressed if that is all you consider when choosing soundcards.

I never said the X-Fi's don't produce a good sound, from what I've read they do. But are they the best as the OP asked for and worth their premium? I've heard the M-Audio 40768 and it sounded great. I'll excuse myself from this discussion now.
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post #17 of 116 Old 02-16-2007, 05:48 AM
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My point was to address someone elses claim that an X-Fi is going to produce a higher fidelity output than a quality A/V receiver.

well it does! Look at the distortion and s-n ratio numbers in the reviews and then see how many recievers can match up.... and please, use verified review data, not spec sheets....

and as for "creative fanboys", don't even go there.... my last Creative card was an original Live! and I hated it! But after several Turtle Beach cards, all sorts of mAudio cards and external boxes, amd even a brief tour with an RME, I bought the X-Fi Elite Pro on an impulse because I saw that it could replace all the functionality of my reciever that I used, so I bought it.... and now I'll never look back....

BUT, I did just recieve my op-amps

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post #18 of 116 Old 02-16-2007, 06:05 AM
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I would suggest X-Meridian with upgraded OPAMPs, hard to beat the card at that price but you said that price isn't important right.
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post #19 of 116 Old 02-16-2007, 08:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimwhite View Post

cornbuds, once you mentioned the catch-phrase "bit-perfect" you labeled yourself as to be in the "other-camp" .... why you've purchased anythng more expensive than a Chaintech 710 to get your SPDIF output is the question!! BUT, a question for another thread


I am in the process of researching the pieces needed for my HTPC and will be using my audio/video receiver to handle the sound. I just want to know what I will need just for passing optical audio out from the HTPC to my audio/video receiver? Just any sound card that has optical out or do I need something better to get the best sound. I really really apologize for how "newbie" level this question is, but if anyone has the answer it would be much appreciated.
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post #20 of 116 Old 02-16-2007, 08:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimwhite View Post

well it does! Look at the distortion and s-n ratio numbers in the reviews and then see how many recievers can match up.... and please, use verified review data, not spec sheets....

BUT, I did just recieve my op-amps

At some point in the chain, the signal from the sound card needs to be amplified. Even the most expensive amplifiers don't have th S-N ratio close to 105dB, let alone 115dB that the X-Fi boasts. For example the NAD C372 (mid-range) has S-N ratio of 100dB (A-Weighted) and the kW 500 Integrated Amplifier (high-end) has it as 102dB (A-Weighted). Most receivers are even worse than these integrated amps.

So even if you have really good ears there is no way that you can hear the distortion levels or the full dynamic range that the X-Fi (or any soundcard for that matter) can put out. Which why somebody said in a previous thread: the good specs of X-Fi and X-Meridian and other cards indicate good quality parts but it's only one part of the story. After a certain price point, all cards have very similar specs yet they all sound different.

I guess most of us on this forum are 'computer' people and we chose all the computer parts mostly based on the specs. But I think that the quality of sound doesn't fit into this model at all, there's just so much more to it than we know and it is also so personal. Listening to the cards themselves is the only way to decide what sounds good.

I wish one day we can walk into an audio/computer store and audition computer sound cards just like we audition CD/DVD Players or any other piece of hi-fi equipment. Until then we just have to rely on anecdotal evidence on this forums and other places on the internet.
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post #21 of 116 Old 02-16-2007, 09:48 AM
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I wish one day we can walk into an audio/computer store and audition computer sound cards just like we audition CD/DVD Players or any other piece of hi-fi equipment. Until then we just have to rely on anecdotal evidence on this forums and other places on the internet.[quote]
... or you can do as I did and become a maniac.... buying and selling cards like a e-bayniac...

yup, the X-Fi has great numbers.... but it also sounds great.... some care not to believe it without hearing it...

there ARE slightly better sounding soundcards.... but would you buy a better sounding receiver if it had 80% LESS usability features?


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post #22 of 116 Old 02-16-2007, 10:01 AM
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Jim,
the Lynx is not slightly better, it's A LOT better..
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post #23 of 116 Old 02-16-2007, 10:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimwhite View Post

... or you can do as I did and become a maniac.... buying and selling cards like a e-bayniac...

yup, the X-Fi has great numbers.... but it also sounds great.... some care not to believe it without hearing it...

there ARE slightly better sounding soundcards.... but would you buy a better sounding receiver if it had 80% LESS usability features?


This is why things are so subjective, we all have different needs. For example, I would take better sound quality over features (as long as the existing features meet a certain minimum such as good drivers, etc) since I spend so much time listening to music (in stereo). I don't mind if my DVDs play in stereo instead of 7.1. However some people watch more movies and they need to have all features needed for 7.1 (bass management, DTS, etc) even if the quality drops a bit (let's not even talk about games and other things that you may do with the HTPC which will bring even more compromises).

So let's listen to what all people have to say about their sound cards instead of putting a sound card down, especially without listening to it.

Also I think we need to realize that even if a piece of consumer hi-fi equipment has lower specs that some of the new sound cards, it still packs a lot of know-how and a lot of experience that the sound card manufacturers don't have yet. I'm still looking for the day when the 2 industries finally meet.
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post #24 of 116 Old 02-16-2007, 10:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:


I would suggest X-Meridian with upgraded OPAMPs, hard to beat the card at that price but you said that price isn't important right.

It's correct, the price isn't important.


I never saw a Lynx card. They have any card for 7.1?

If we compare Lynx vs X-Meridian vs X-Fi Elite Pro.... who wins??


Remember that wins WHO HAVE the better ANALOG SIGNAL OUTPUT.
Changes, like OpAmps are possible.


That the stronger wins ...lol
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post #25 of 116 Old 02-16-2007, 10:44 AM
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I never saw a Lynx card. They have any card for 7.1?

The LynxTwoB is a 5.1 card. You can however use two..or add a Lynx Aurora..

Quote:


If we compare Lynx vs X-Meridian vs X-Fi Elite Pro

Like I wrote earlier, I have both the Lynx and the X-Fi. I bought the Elite Pro out of curiosity because of the ravings on this site. And it is a good card with lots of features. But it cant compete sonically to the Lynx which sounds WAY better. But I'm keeping the Elite Pro cause it's really handy to be able to decode external sources like external satboxes etc. But if you have no need for that and only use the pc as a source AND if the money doesn't matter..go for a Lynx. You won't regret it.

Haven't heard the Meridian though.
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post #26 of 116 Old 02-16-2007, 11:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CHA View Post

Jim,
the Lynx is not slightly better, it's A LOT better..

I can believe it. My Gina 3G sounds much better than my X-Meridian with new opamps and since the X-Fi and X-Meridian are similar (based on what I've read on these forums only) and the Lynx is quite a bit better than the Gina 3G (based on what I've heard)... it only follows that the Lynx should be a lot better. It's not a surprise though considering the huge price difference (at least in Canada).
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post #27 of 116 Old 02-16-2007, 11:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taranu View Post

I can believe it. My Gina 3G sounds much better than my X-Meridian with new opamps and since the X-Fi and X-Meridian are similar (based on what I've read on these forums only) and the Lynx is quite a bit better than the Gina 3G (based on what I've heard)... it only follows that the Lynx should be a lot better. It's not a surprise though considering the huge price difference (at least in Canada).

IMO .. the XMerdian is much better than the X-Fi ELite pro. I had both and ended up selling the Elite Pro. Also, the DC Coupled XMeridian with the LM4562 sound worlds better than stock. I personally don't feel it's possible to get any more detail out of analog. Your preference to the Gina was most likely due to the relatively analytical character of the XMerdian setup. It has miles more detail than my Outlaw 990, but isnt quite as warm. It doesnt have an abundance of bass which is a character I noticed from several BurrBrown OpAmps I replaced. The X-Meridian performs better than ANY consumer sound card I have had in my system , including the best from Creative Labs.

I can't say how it compares to the Gina because I haven't tried it. You post does intrigue me, however. I think I might get one to audition vs my setup. I would no longer categorize my X-Meridian as consumer grade, however. I am constantly listenting to new Audiophile grade hardware and this one compares to the very upper end of them. The only area I would improve is high level dynamics and a bit more boost in the deeper bass region. Low level detail, soundstage, imaging, and overall frequency response are the best I have heard from my system. If the Gina performs better out of the box I will be extrememly impressed. I do like that it has balanced outputs. I find that removes some minor ground loop hum I experience from any unbalanced input to my amp.
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post #28 of 116 Old 02-16-2007, 02:09 PM
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I am interested in a sound card offering the best multichannel analog output available for music and home cinema purposes (not recording).

My initial prefference was for the X-meridian but I am also considering other more "professional" cards such as E-MU multichannel range (1616m and 1820m), the mentioned Gina 3G and even Lynx.

For those with experencience in "professional" cards, do the card's driver offer home cinema related features such as bass management (crossovers, speaker size), channel delays and calibration, independent heaphone/speaker settings, etc?
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post #29 of 116 Old 02-16-2007, 02:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taranu View Post

At some point in the chain, the signal from the sound card needs to be amplified. Even the most expensive amplifiers don't have th S-N ratio close to 105dB, let alone 115dB that the X-Fi boasts.

My Outlaw Audio 7100 7-channel amplifier has a S/N ratio of 119dB!

Quote:


Power Output (FTC): 7 x 100 watts @ 8 ohms, 20 - 20kHz, 0.05% THD, All Channels Driven

7 x 165 watts @ 4 ohms, 20 - 20kHz, 0.05% THD, All Channels Driven

Signal to Noise: 119dB "A" weighted

Frequency Response: 20Hz. -20kHz. +/- 0.1 dB at rated output

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post #30 of 116 Old 02-16-2007, 03:05 PM
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I think it is amazing with computers changing so fast that the Lynx TwoB has been around for so long. I couldn't believe that four years have already passed since this comparison thread:

High-End Analogue Soundcard Shootout: LynxTWO, RME DIGI96/8 PAD and Delta 1010

Here is CHA's own thread about it from two years ago:

LynxTWO-B..the best soundcard has gotten even better..
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