Price (as reviewed): $140 USD (around £120 inc VAT in the UK)
The discrete soundcard market is largely dominated by Creative with its line of X-Fi sound solutions, and the company has said many times over that it's biggest competitor in the market is arguably on-board audio. However, a few months ago, we had a look at one of the first viable alternatives to an X-Fi, Sondigo's Inferno 7.1, which is based on CMedia's Oxygen HD audio chip.
Today, we have had a look at another soundcard based on the same CMedia Oxygen HD chip, but this time the card comes from HT Omega and is packed with more features, gold plated audio connectors and solid state capacitors. Since we reviewed the Sondigo Inferno, the card has had a price drop down to under just $100 USD, while the HT Omega Claro retails at $140 USD.
HT Omega is a small Californian company that specialises in PC enthusiast sound cards, and despite the fact it is yet to break into the UK market, the company's products are available on the continent for our Danish compatriots.
The question is though, will the better feature set make the HT Omega Claro a more attractive alternative to Creative's X-Fi than the Inferno 7.1?
The bundle comes complete with an installation CD, a detailed manual, a three metre digital optical cable and coaxial S/PDIF to two-pin cable for the sound card. While sound card bundles aren’t at the same level as what you'd get from a motherboard or even a graphics card, we would have liked to see a coaxial S/PDIF cable that matched the high quality optical cable that HT Omega has included. We say this because the card has support for both types of S/PDIF connection. In terms of quality, the Sondigo came what can only be compared to as something quite inferior to what we have here.
Click for large images
In addition there’s a coaxial S/PDIF to two-pin adapter cable that had to be included as an extra, because of the lack of space on the PCI bracket. However, this cable looks far cheaper and the coaxial contact on the cable is a generic yellow plastic type with a steel end. This doesn't mirror the gold connectors used on the PCI bracket, disappointingly.