Intel C2D E5550 Dual Core 2.33GHz
Gigabyte S-Series GA-73PVM-S2H
Corsair XMS2 PC6400 (2x 1GB)
Hitachi HDT7250 (250GB)
Altec Lansing 2.1
Hard Drive OS
Windows XP Pro 32bit
Installation is very easy, simply slot in the card alongside your graphics card in the PCI-e slot. The only thing you might need to do is change the bracket as it comes with the standard one on so for all of you with full-ATX cases you need to pop on the larger one. As I explained earlier, it’s very easy just a matter of a couple of screws.
Then, boot your PC and stick in the installation CD. It ’ll take a few minutes, nothing very long to install fully after you’ve chosen a few basic settings (e.g. language).
It’s very hard to test audio cards for the simple fact that personal opinion basically determines everything when it comes to music. For what one person may absolutely adore, another person hates. The same principal applies to sound cards because effectively they alter and enrich the sound through all the settings and features.
However, using the same card you can please a range of tastes as there are so many settings that put you in control and after all you still choose the music, it’s just how you adjust it.
Therefore, to test the card I am going to use it for a sustained period and comment on its functionality, sound and other aspects.
Of course most of this will be subjective as it’s to do with the software so as always we recommend you use a product first before buying.
To start with I’m going to talk about the physical features. The card itself is quite long although it is rather short in height. Inside my case it fitted in nice but did stick out behind my graphics card and I would expect could be quite a squeeze in smaller cases.The cables and ports are all very easy to use, just connect up the correct inputs/outputs and you’re all set.
Ok onto the sound produced. From my usual speakers and onboard sound, the difference was pretty big and I immediately noticed increases in quality and depth to the music I was playing.
I played a range of tracks which were all completely different; from heavy rock to pop and a little jazz. The card seemed to play it all very well. My only problem was that many of the settings I had picked for a particular music genre – say rock – needed to be changed when I switched music genre again as they sounded poor in comparison. But, then this is to be expected as all music is different and so when enhanced needs to be done in different ways.
For the most part, I used entertainment mode as this seemed most suited to my needs. I did try the other two skins but I found that the audio creation one was very complex with lots of extras to alter specific parts of tracks and such like. I quickly reverted back to the entertainment mode, however for users wishing to adjust their sound in this way it did seem pretty well geared up.
Using entertainment mode, my favourite adjustable setting was undoubtedly the crystallizing feature as it makes the percussion so much sharper – the drums just sound much better with it on high to my mind. Many of the other settings are similar to other software, for example EQ and EAX but they all worked well and seemed pretty realistic. Although, this can only go so far and never really does justice to the real thing.
In terms of media testing, I chose to stick in I Am Legend and put it on the scene where he decides to go out in his car and basically try and butcher everything in sight.
I was pretty amazed at the sound quality, the impact of the zombies on the car sounded distinctly real and very effective – most impressive indeed. Moreover, there was absolutely no distortion or problems with any of the sound.
It really ticks me off when you get a decent film and then the sound is all crackly. However, in this instance there was none of that at all and the audio was crystal clear especially with a little help from the crystallizer!
Unfortunately, like most high end sound cards, the price tag will put many people off – £130 is a lot of money. Despite prices coming down following Creative’s decision to release their chips for other manufacturers to use, it’s still a big chunk of cash.