Auzen is building up a very solid reputation in the sound card market. Its previous offering, the X-Meridian was a very capable performer when it came to music and home cinema, but wasn't so adept when faced with the challenge of the modern game.
After all, who wants a game with lush visuals from that four hundred quid pixel-pusher if it sounds like you're stuck in a cave? Unless you're actually stuck in a cave, of course. No, the modern gamer requires that all of his or her senses should be treated with equal luxury. That's why we have such things as top-end mice, monitors, graphics cards and sound cards to name but a few.
The Prelude's price tag certainly marks it out as top-end kit. And the hardware and features list offer no contradictions: as well as the support for 7.1 channels, there's EAX 2.0 and 64MB of X-RAM to go with Creative's X-Fi audio processor. This is the first time Creative has let anyone else loose on the X-Fi, and Auzen has certainly taken advantage.
On top of the impressive features list, the build quality and engineering are excellent, as we'd expect from Auzen. Installation was just as simple in both XP and Vista. And, oh, the noises it makes.
Using one of three default mode settings (for entertainment, gaming or music production) yields quite lovely results. It's the audio equivalent of turning up all the eye-candy and still being able to lock the frames per second to 125 in any game that you choose to play.
Our biggest gripe is that while support for Dolby Digital Live and DTS Interactive is included, the software for it won't appear until late 2007. We can wait - and we will.