You might want to distill this to one question.
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so i figured out the whole bit-matched playback shmorgeshborg, and got my rotel the decode the audio instead of the xfi; pretty similar sound, but the rotel is a bit more open and natural. a bit annoying however to make direct comparisons thought as theres about a 5 dB difference between the two.
anyway, are there any really weak links in my system?
and also, does anyone heavily recommend the x-meridian?
Where do you see bit matched playback? The bitmatch as far as I can tell is only for recording.
While we are at it just to make sure... are you using the kernel streamer plugin with foobar2000? Just need to make sure you are bypassing the windows kmixer. (I prefer the kernel streamer as opposed to asio).
You also might want to try using the coax digital output on the x-fi just to see how it sounds too (instead of the optical). You may prefer one to the other. Just something to look into for the heck of it.
If you are thinking of going to the x-meridian I would suggest just getting the x-fi elite pro. It has much better dacs and is leagues better than the other x-fi's. A very very large upgrade from the rest of the line. My elite pro comes very close to the Benchmark DAC1 ($1000 giant killer of a DAC). I still use it to connect to my DAC1.
Make sure you turn off all the extra stuff in the x-fi audio control panel (go through each tab and uncheck all the options to turn things on). But leave on the 24 bit crystalizer. It's a great upsampler.
thanks kacz for having the balls to handle more than one question at a time. bit matched playback is in audio creation mode>>settings and under the playback square (it disables the equalizer, svm, and crystalizer automatically). i dont like the crystalizer anyway (although back at e3 creative demoed it to me and it sounded a bit of alright, but now ive grown tired of it), brings me a bit too close to the disco smile, sans the extented bass.
as for the kernel streaming via foobar2000, no i dont have that plugin. ive read about it but just havent taken the time to get it, but i want it. i dont even know what asio is.
ill try the coax output too, why not. dont know why thered be a difference, but ill get a cable and do it for fun.
and the dac1 has always looked sexy, but i havent the $1k :(
by connecting the xfi to the dac1, arent you bypassing the xfi's dacs anyway? or does it resample twice and just add to the goodness?