Page 8 - Benchmarks Half-Life: Episode One
Half-Life 2: Episode One
"Hey, don't scare me like that, dude."
The Source engine does not use EAX enhancements at all, in favor of a homegrown Soundscape system. Technical aspects aside, this levels the playing field so no card can play any tricks, and basically shows how efficient a sound card is. This allows us to test each of the encoding methods for efficiency as well.
A second place finish for the X-Meridian 7.1, and about 7% slower than the X-Fi, which is pretty good for this type of card. The DTS is a bit of a surprise, by being just shy of the analog mode. Otherwise, the various encoding methods incur about a 13% performance penalty, sometimes less, than the X-Fi.
What we see is that the X-Meridian is capable of keeping the same company with the X-Fi, with a trade off in terms of performance. The sounds were also refreshingly similar between sound cards, that is to say, more consistent without EAX enabled.
Subjectively, since all the cards and modes were similar, the one stand out feature was Dolby Headphone. It was really very good. Creative's CMSS3D technology is similar, creating a surround sound field out of a pair of headphones, but to my ears it shifts tonal quality too much to be useful. The Dolby Headphone on the other hand is very accurate and maintains a more true sense of tonal balance. Well, that's a lot of words to say Dolby Headphone sounds great.