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SoundBench: 17 PCI and ISA Sound Cards Tested

Rhett M. Hollander
 
Release date: 10th of July 2004
Last modify date: 28th of January 2007

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The best, or anything above 75 dB SNR

There are only 5 sound cards which have managed to pass this 75 dB SNR mark:
  • Digital Audio Labs (DAL) CardD Plus
  • Turtle Beach Systems (TBS) MultiSound Fiji
  • Ensoniq AudioPCI ES1370
  • Creative Audigy 2 (SB0240)
  • TerraTec Maestro 32/96

 
Digital Audio Labs CardD Plus
 
A very old ISA sound card. No joke, it has been made in 1992. Besides, it is the oldest sound card to participate in this testing. Comes with one linear output (two single-ended RCA jacks also known as "tulips"), one linear input (again, two "tulips"). Analog Devices 1864 (AD1864) and Crystal 5338 (CS5338) audio converters. Supports playback and recording at 22050Hz, 32000Hz, 44100Hz and 48000Hz. No wavetable MIDI synthesiser. No software mixing supported, volume levels are set using jumpers. Coaxial S/PDIF input and output can be installed with a daughter card (DAL Digital I/O).
 
SNR 82.7 dB THD 0.00285% THD+N 0.0073% IMD 0.0037%
screen shot (39Kb) screen shot (37Kb)

Excellent for professional use, especially with analogue equipment.
 
 
Turtle Beach Systems MultiSound Fiji
 
One of the latest ISA sound cards made (1997). One linear output, one linear input, one microphone input, one auxiliary input. Crystal 4327 (CS4327) and 5335 (CS5335) audio converters. Supports playback and recording at up to 48000Hz with up to 20-bit resolution. Uses a Motorola DSP56002 for effect-processing. No wavetable MIDI synthesiser (a version with an on-board Kurzweil MA-1 is called MultiSound Pinnacle). A WaveBlaster header for an optional MIDI synthesiser. Coaxial S/PDIF input and output can be installed with a daughter card and panel.
 
SNR 81.9 dB THD 0.00111% THD+N 0.0081% IMD 0.0024%
screen shot (35Kb) screen shot (36Kb)

The linear input is a little problematic to calibrate, but it's still an excellent professional sound card.
 
 
Ensoniq AudioPCI ES1370
 
The first PCI sound card to hit the market (1997). One linear output, one linear input, one microphone input. Asahi Kasei 4531 (AK4531) audio converters (AC'97-incompatible). Supports playback and recording at up to 48000Hz. No hardware wavetable MIDI synthesiser.
 
SNR 76.3 dB THD 0.00730% THD+N 0.0153% IMD 0.0056%
screen shot (27Kb) screen shot (26Kb)

 
A very good analogue path as for a consumer-level sound card.
 
 
Creative Audigy 2 (SB0240)
 
A mainstream PCI sound card made in 2003. Three linear outputs, one S/PDIF (coaxial) output, one linear input, one microphone input, IEEE1394 (FireWire) interface. Internally has one S/PDIF (coaxial) input, several analogue inputs, IEEE1394 interface. Joystick, S/PDIF I/O, control panels may be attached optionally. Crystal 4382 (CS4382) and SigmaTel 9721 (STAC9721) audio converters. Supports playback at up to 192KHz (up to 24 bits) and recording at up to 92KHz (up to 16 bits). No hardware wavetable MIDI synthesiser.
 
SNR 76.3 dB THD 0.00162% THD+N 0.0154% IMD 0.0020%
screen shot (38Kb) screen shot (36Kb)

A very good analogue path and a useful set of digital interfaces.
 
By the way, this sound card has delivered the best IMD result among all 17 sound cards tested.
 
 
TerraTec Maestro 32/96
 
An ISA sound card made in 1996. One linear output, two linear inputs, one microphone input. Crystal 4232 (CS4232) audio converters. Supports playback and recording at up to 48000Hz. Uses a DREAM DSP (SAM9233 and SAM8905-1) for effect-processing, MIDI synthesis (64 voices, 4Mb GS waveset installed) and IDE interface. A WaveBlaster header for an optional MIDI daughterboard. Playback amplifier TDA1517 to be enabled in software optionally.
 
SNR 76.2 dB THD 0.00630% THD+N 0.0155% IMD 0.0165%
screen shot (27Kb) screen shot (27Kb)

A good sound card with a poor driver support, and there is no documentation on the DREAM DSP available.

Copyright (c) Rhett M. Hollander, 2004-07. All rights reserved.
A full or partial reprint without a permission received from the author is prohibited.
 
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