Xitel Pro-HiFi Link Review
There are a number of choices in adding the audio functionality into your computer. You can get one of the many internal sound cards available, or you can choose some of the few external choices. The Xitel Pro-HiFi Link is one of those external choices. External choices are a good idea if you want good sound from a laptop or you want to get rid of some hiss because of your computer’s internals. It offers choice of sending a Dolby Digital 5.1 signal to your favorite receiver or just standard analog stereo signal. Today, I will be testing its installation and performance in the analog mode.
Why would one need an external sound card when you can get great internal sound cards cheaper? At $99 dollars, this package is more than just a box that offers digital and analog sound functionality; it gives you an excellent cable package. More specifically it comes with the following cables:
Wow, that’s one heck of a deal! All those cables and the sound unit for $99, when it would be worth double that because of the cables. Thirty foot cables should be long enough for most jobs too. Even though you might not use all those cables, they sure do come in handy. Or maybe you want sell them to your next door neighbor for some extra cash.
You also get a copy of CyberLink’s PowerDVD software which is always an added bonus.
Front of Unit and the rear with different types of connectors including the TOSLINK optical connector
Let’s talk about the unit itself now. It’s a pretty small unit, its length and width just over 3.5 inches and quite light. On the front it has a port for the USB cable that connects into your computer. In the back is where you have all your output options. There are the following outputs:
Installation of this unit is the highlight of it all, especially when you have Windows XP. It’s really “Plug and Play” for Windows XP. All I did was plug it in, and within a minute, it was installed! Windows 98SE/ME users might have to install USB components, but they can be easily downloaded automatically from Microsoft’s Windows Update site. Since I currently have a Sound Blaster Audigy, I had to go into the Audio Properties and select the USB Audio to select the new audio device I just installed.
That’s about it for installation. Yes, that was one of the easiest installations you’ve ever done.
I compared the Xitel Pro-HiFi Link to the Creative Sound Blaster Audigy sound card I currently have in my system. The components used in testing are as follows:
My speakers are better than almost all of the PC speakers system out at the moment, so they should provide a good platform to compare the sound quality by. I will be testing the RCA Analog feature as this is a popular way people like to connect their computers to their high end stereo system.
I tested a Flaming Lips CD and a classical music CD and listened critically switching between the two sound cards in the Audio Preferences menu. After about 30 minutes of this, I came to the conclusion that they sounded of the same quality! Since we (humans) are limited by our short term memory of hearing, it’s extremely hard to tell by ear how each of these sound cards perform more accurately to the full 20 Hz-20 KHz audio spectrum.
So now we know the DAC (Digital Analog Converter) in the Xitel Pro-HiFi Link is as good as the Sound Blaster Audigy’s. There was one thing that the Xitel Pro-HiFi Link excelled due to the nature of the external design. Since the unit was not near lots of interference from other computer parts, it allowed less hissing to occur which was a very nice thing. This can easily be tested by just not playing any audio and turning up to the volume.
If you were to test its digital functionality, it would be quite easy. All you need to do is open up your DVD playing program and set its output. The sound quality of the digital setup would be limited by your receiver because the DAC is in your receiver and not the Xitel Pro-HiFi Link in this case.
a side note, I also tried to play a midi with this unit and it did not
work. I was hoping the default system MS Wavetable SW Synth to kick
in, but apparently MIDI functionality did not work. This was the only
negative thing I could find about this unit.
With this awesome package Xitel put together for $99 dollars with all of its long high quality cables, it sure is hard to beat. With its audio performance riving the Sound Blaster Audigy, you don’t need to worry about that department. Its only pitfall is its lack of MIDI functionality while the Audigy is full featured in this area. I have come to the simple conclusion. If you are a music producer or listen to midis, look elsewhere as this is definitely not what you are looking for. If you are into movies and/or like to connect your laptop to your audio receiver, this is the way to go. Xitel, congratulations on an excellent audio product.
Pros and Cons
of Long High Quality Cables