You get what you pay for.
One of the subtlest yet most valuable additives to video gaming is good audio. I don't think there's a gamer alive who would argue that the wonder of 3D Positional Audio, one of the more recent features utilized in today's high-end sound cards, is nothing short of a godsend (providing "God" is a pot-bellied, Mountain Dew-guzzling video game geek). A true gamer knows the value of high quality sound.
Today, finding a good sound card is nowhere near as difficult as it had been in the past. Creative, Guillemot and the now defunct Aureal are just a few of the well-known companies that have blessed gamers with quality board after quality board. So if there is a literal plethora of sound cards to choose from, what's the real determining factor when shopping for a card? Why, money, of course!
The last soundboard to go under the Game Revolution microscope was Guillemot's Maxi Sound MUSE. The MUSE stunned us with it's budget-friendly, high-quality sound. So if you're like me, you're probably thinking that for Terratec's $69 DMX Xfire 1024 to come out on top, it's gotta cook me breakfast or give me a warm sponge-bath or something. Well, before you make your final answer, let's take a look at the card.
Like the Maxi Sound Muse, the DMX Xfire 1024 ships with full compatibility for all the industry standards. Gamers will be happy to experience DirectSound3D, A3D 1.0/2.0 and EAX 1.0/2.0. Of course, support for the industry standards is just that: pretty standard
Terratec's DMX Xfire
But wait, Terratec has gone even further than that. New technologies like Multidrive, MacroFX and EnviromentFX accelerate DirectSound3D, A3D and EAX to previously untold levels. Game sounds and voiceovers are crystal clear and easily stand out independently from one another. No more washed out voices that seem to blend in with the rest of the game's noise. This is something you'll really like!
The DMX Xfire is full of holes - the good kinds. Connectors, ports and other interfaces are all here in spades, baby. The most notable onboard connector is the Digital-in/out connector. Digital input can be synchronized to 32, 44.1 and 48kHz and automatically recognizes which is best for your setup. Anyone needing quick access to the status of their digital input can simply pull up the control panel and take a peek. Nice! Someone should give these guys a cookie.
The external connectors for this high-end soundboard are status quo all the way. You get 2 line out connectors capable of handling 2 speakers each, which equals 4-speaker madness for you surround sound nuts.
There is also a line in for stereo and a line in for mono, which provide support for the infamous microphone. Now you can record your impersonation of Prince singing Let's Go Crazy in full stereo quality sound right on your computer! This is, of course, to reaffirm why you need not quit your day job.
Polishing off the external connectors is the ever sought after Digital-Out, optical 48khz. This is the one feature that everyone looks for in a new soundboard whether or not they have any digital stereo devices. The Digital-Out allows you to connect to a DAT recorder, Minidisk recorder, or other audio equipment. You can even set a copy protection feature. Digital-Out just kicks ass.
The software package is fairly adequate, providing mostly music-related programs and tools. First off, we have Musicmatch Jukebox, which records, decodes, and encodes MP3 files. The bundle also makes professional music editing easy with Logic Fun, Emagic's Audio/MIDI Sequencer. The included Steinberg Wavelab Lite allows wave and sample editing. All of this software adds greatly to the value of the XFire.
However, with such a high performance sound card, I really would have liked a game or two bundled with this bad boy. Guess you can't win 'em all.
At any rate, Terratec has done a really good job of manufacturing a card that has something for everyone, successfully teetering the line between gamers and music enthusiasts. It may be roughly, twice as expensive as the Maxi Sound MUSE, but in the end, the Xfire achieves at least 4 times the quality. With the DMX Xfire, you just get what you pay for.