It's just not fair.
A little over 6 months ago, I set out on a perilous and virtually thankless
mission ("the names have been changed to protect the innocent"). My mission,
as I chose to accept it, was to obtain the most sophisticated and technologically
advanced computer components my money could buy - said money totalling $1500.
I thought I was fairly successful, too. With these new components of technological
wizardry, I built Imhotep, my God Box, a killer 700MHz AMD Athlon based 28Gig
HD monster! She's a beauty. Aside from not being able to use my USB ports, I
have been pretty happy with Imhotep.
That is, until now.
The soundboard I used for Imhotep was the Aureal Vortex 2 chip-based
board known by very few as the Xitel Platinum Storm. The Platinum
Storm is a really good board. It has 4 channels so you can hook up 2 front
and 2 back speakers, digital audio input, and is compatible with EAX 1.0, Microsoft's
DirectSound 3D and A3D 1.0.
Again, a good board. But after checking out Guillemot's new Maxi Sound Muse
soundcard, I started to question my initial decision.
Once again, we have a simple and painless installation. The Muse fits
snuggly into any available PCI slot on the motherboard. When prompted to install
the drivers, just pop in the supplied CD, point the installation process to
the D drive (or whatever letter corresponds with your CD Rom) and you're set.
This is a great deal more than I can say for my Xitel Platinum Storm.
The drivers that came with this $100 card were incompatible with my system,
resulting in crashes and many foiled gaming experiences. Confound that sinister
blue screen! Thwarted again! Finally, I ditched those dumpy drivers and installed
the Aureal drivers which work much better with Vortex 2 chipsets. But
The software bundle for the Muse is robust, to say the least. It
comes with Media Station, a multi-functional graphic interface with mixing panel,
.WAV file player/recorder, MIDI player and audio CD player. Gamers and music
enthusiasts alike will also be able to create, play and listen to MP3s and WAV
files with Sonic Foundry's loop-based multitrack music creation tool. This tool
allows you to easily create and edit your own music files and comes with 25
free music loops. If you are at all into music editing or creating, for any
reason from email sounds to full-length musical performances, then you may want
to check this one out.
Yamaha's Xgstudio, a digital interface for playing MIDI files, Kool Karaoke
Lite, a fun, full-featured karaoke player, and Earjam IMP 1.0 round out this
already nicely contoured software bundle. The Earjam IMP (Internet Music Player)
is supposedly the world's first universal player/burner. This handy little program
plays all music formats and boasts compatibility with all popular hardware devices.
The Muse supports Central Laboratories HRTF 3D positional audio functions.
This makes a monumental difference in gaming - and music in general, for that
matter. The support also allows for compatibility with several gaming standards
like Microsoft DirectSound 3D, EAX 1.0 and A3D 1.0. Nothing new here, though.
I would have been more surprised had it not supported these standards.
The Muse runs off of the new generation CMI-8738 audio processor
that, regrettably, completely kicks the crap out of my highly-esteemed Vortex
2 processing chipset. Techno jargon and boasted features aside, the Muse
sounds incredible. The sound is clear and the bass is sharp and deep.
The only problem I can find is that there is no digital-in for your digital
stereo or other digital music device. People looking for a high-end card probably
won't view the Muse as the perfect buy.
But they will find it the most affordable. I paid over $100 for that damn Xitel
thingy. It came with stereo headphones that were inoperable after a week. Furthermore,
I had to go through a month of blue screen hell before I realized I needed to
jettisoned the faulty drivers. With the Muse, you get so much more bang
for your buck.
Frankly, when it comes to value for quality, most other sound cards pale in
comparison to the smile manufacturing $29 Guilletmot Maxi Sound Muse.
Yes, that's right, $29. That's less than most console games. So sell
a game, check under those couch cushions, or just shake a small child upside-down
because thirty bucks for this board is an absolute steal.