Sound is an essential part of any computer. It is used for movies, games and just navigating around your system. Every computer has sound capabilities, but not every computer has good sound. Diamond Multimedia is offering a new card, the Diamond XtremeSound 7.1, that supports Dolby Digital Live and up to a 7.1 speaker system.
- 24bit/96KHz Playback
- 8 Channel Audio Output
- Karaoke Support
- 10 Band Equalizer with Presets
- Dolby® Digital Live 5.1 (AC-3) real-time interactive content encoder
Most computer systems have sound capabilities built directly onto the motherboard. So it begs the question, why you would need to get an add-on card for sound? There are actually several answers. A separate sound card can take the load of processing sound from the CPU, so the CPU can focus on other things. An add on card could also offer support for speaker configurations and newer technology that your built-in sound does not.
The Diamond XtremeSound 7.1 card supports up to a 7.1 speaker system. This means that you can choose between headphone, 2, 4, 6 and 8 speaker operation modes. The 6, and 8 modes include a subwoofer. The sound card can also emulate Dolby Digital Live. This feature will take any sound and convert it to Dolby Digital Live format. This is especially nice if you have a Dolby Digital Live receiver and you want that nice sound. All of this and it costs less then $60. For those on a budget then you can get the same card without Dolby Digital Live for $29.
The Diamond XtremeSound 7.1 card software gives you many configuration options. The software not only lets you choose the configuration of speakers, you can also fine tune the sound that is produced by the card. Here you can choose the Mixer tab where you can adjust the individual frequencies. You can also choose the Effects tab which lets you adjust the sound based on the environment you are in and the effect you are looking.
The back of the card is where all the action is. This is where you connect your sound system. From left to right you have the FRONT OUT, SUR OUT(surround out), CEN/LFE(center out), REAR OUT, MIC IN, LINE IN, S/PDIF OUT, and S/PDIF IN. The first 4 outputs will change depending on how the have the software setup. For a system that only has 2 speakers or you are using headphones you only need the front out. If you are hooking up a full 7.1 system with 8 speakers then you need to use all 4 of the output jacks.
There is not much you can say about the design of the Diamond XtremeSound 7.1. For that matter there is not much you can say about any card that goes in your computer. For the most part it sits in darkness quietly doing its job with out any fuss. If you have a windows on the side of your computer you may care about what the sound card looks like. In case you do I included a picture of the card below. Like most cards you will notice that all the parts are on the bottom, this protects the parts from dust that eventually settles on everything.
The reasons you buy a sound card are for performance and features. So I am going to test both. The computer that I am testing on is older so it could definitely benefit from a good sound card. This computer has a AMD 1400+ processor and whenever I play games it always maxes out the CPU. I am also not currently using a sound card. Instead, I am using the sound processor that is built into my Asus A7N-266E motherboard.
To test the performance I am going to use the game Half Life 2. I am using some pre-made demo clips so that I can run through them to get a good average framerate. If the framerate goes up we know the sound card is doing its job. I first played the game with the motherboard sound and got an average of 37 frames per second. For this computer that is actually really good. I played through this several times to make sure that it was accurate. The results were 37 every time.
Next, I put in the Diamond XtremeSound 7.1 and ran through the game clip. I was expecting the framerate to go up, instead I was disappointed to see that the framerate went down. I got an average framerate of 30 frames per second. This seemed a little odd because one of the purposes of a sound card is to boost performance not reduce it. So I went through and checked the settings and I even went to the diamond site to look for new drivers. There were no drivers and all the settings seemed correct. I even went into the BIOS and disabled the built-in sound. Nothing helped to improve the sound cards performance. Ok, so maybe my computer is messed up. I found an old Sound Blaster Audigy Gamer that I had taken out of this computer a while ago, because of stability issues, and I put it back in. I ran the game tests again. This time I was happy to see that the framerate of the game actually improved. I was able to get an average framerate of 41 frames per second. So now I know that it is the Diamond XtremeSound 7.1 itself that is causing the decrease in performance. The only explanation that I could come up with is that this card must not have a hardware sound processor, or at least one that is not very good. That explains the low price tag on the card also.
The next test is to turn on the Dolby Digital Live support. This is going to tax the system even more since it is converting the sound from whatever it gets to Dobly Digital Live. This is a fairly intensive task so it won’t be a surprise when I run the test and the framerate drops. During the test I got an average framerate of 21 frames per second. That was more then I expected but that also points to the fact that this card uses software to process its sound.
Warranty and Support
Diamond includes a fairly weak 1 year limited warranty. With a card like this, that has no moving parts, there should be nothing less then a lifetime warranty. Obviously a company should not cover damage caused by user abuse and acts of nature, but they should cover defects forever.
If you are looking for extra sound capabilities and you have some extra CPU cycles that you can spare then this could work for you. It is a really inexpensive card so you should not expect it to perform like a more expensive card. I am cutting the Diamond XtremeSound 7.1 card some slack because it is so inexpensive. With a price tag of $59.99 you are getting a fairly decent card with a lot of good features. The Sound Blaster Audigy Gamer cost me closer to $100 when I first bought it. If you don’t need the Dolby Digital Live you can get the same card without Dolby Digital live for $29.99. If you are not looking for the features but want to increase the performance of your computer then you will probably want to look at a more expensive card.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|