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This review is from: HT | OMEGA eClaro 7.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Express x1 Interface Sound Card
Pros: My motherboard has what's supposed to be an excellent sound chip in it- and for stock, it is. See: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128545 - the Gigabyte ga-z77x-ud5. It uses the Realtek ALC898, which is about the best stock chip available. But....it isn't even a candle against the glory of a clear dawn when compared to this card. I had an old PCI Claro- one of the first efforts by this company- and when it finally died (after almost 8 years) just before this build, I was planning to use the Realtek ALC898 and call it good enough- and it wasn't. A lot of detail, depth of field, and sonic accuracy went missing- I actually thought my ears might be going out on me- but the wife backed me up when we sat down to do some critical listening to several "reference" pieces. I just installed the eClaro and it's all baaaaack. I'm using an LFO interconnect to one of the better Denon receivers. I'm running two Velodyne S-1200's, a Velodyne ULD-18, and five Velodyne DF-661's in my home theater/audio rig (yeah, all old stuff, but hellishly accurate). The rest of the computer isn't too exotic- a Corsair Gold rated 750 watt psu, an older GTX-470 for the video card (largely overkill for everything I do, including SkyRim) 16 gb of ram @1600, an Intel Cherryville solid state drive for the OS, and two WD Caviar Black 1 tb spinners in a mirrored raid for storage. But...this system drops jaws- and the sound card has a lot to do with that.
Cons: The software interface is, well, clunky. It inspires the suspicion that this company is slowly coasting into obsolescence on the glory of one great achievement. The dongle appears to be a hack- but it allows the use of the included low-profile bracket, so if you're building a high-end home theater in sometjing like one of Silverstone's low profile cases, you'll be gratefull- or you'll use the light fiber optics output and it won't matter. Be careful of the filter capacitors used on this board- they're tall, and the exposed metal surface could short out components on another board- like your video card. if you place this card close to another one, you can top them with plastic disks and a little silicone adhesive (my fix) or use little squares of electrical tape- but it's a potential disaster if you have a tight case and you don't use caution.
The board also isn't in a faraday cage like some of the other audio boards out there- but this mother board and cpu produce less rfi than a lot of the older gear because it's more efficient- less power means smaller magnetic fields. That could pose a problem for people with an integral wifi; my wireless connection is on a USB cord and lives about 8 feet up a wall behind a curtain- so that's not an issue for me.
Other Thoughts: Cons notwithstanding- if you can afford this card and if you have aspirations of acquiring decent audio gear- buy this card or you'll never know what you're missing- because you'll never hear it. If you have no interest in good audio, if you think Blows Audeeyo is great gear, or if you believe MP3's are the be-all and end-all, stick with the onboard sound chip and save yourself two Franklins. You'll never hear the difference.READ FULL REVIEW
Pros: Windows experience index: 7.9...very fast boot indeed- and so far, so good.
Cons: Installing this unit as a boot drive was not intuitive- at least not for me. The drive had to be formatted as GTP, not NTFS- and the Windows boot manager needed to be set up correctly in the BIOS to avert "boot manager not found, hit CTRL+ALT+DELETE to reboot". It's really not that bad- but do yourself a favor and read up on the process first instead of making the stupid assumption I did: that Win 7 Pro 64 would simply recognize this piece of increasingly mainstream hardware and run with it. The included Acronis software is...marginal. Use the most recent download of the (free) Intel Toolkit and you'll fare much better.
Other Thoughts: I'm quite happy with this little drive; my boot time is now about 10 seconds. Cherryville seems to come without pits- if not without pitfalls.READ FULL REVIEW
Pros: Very nice for the price. I bought two sticks when this first came out, and two more when I finally got around to upgrading an older system I use for media streaming. Both work identically- a testimonial to a very good QA process. The only differences were a slight improvement to the heat spreader, and a substantial drop in price. Woot!
Other Thoughts: This is plenty good enough for my needs- and even though there are faster, better sticks available, ths RAM rates 7.7 on the Windows experience index.READ FULL REVIEW