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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 midrange, or 60 to 75 dB SNR

There are 9 sound cards in this category:
  • Creative SB128 (ES1371)
  • Turtle Beach Systems (TBS) MultiSound Tahiti
  • Creative SB Live! 5.1 Digital (SB0220)
  • Turtle Beach Systems (TBS) MultiSound Classic
  • Genius SoundMaker 32X
  • Turtle Beach Systems (TBS) Montego II
  • Turtle Beach Systems (TBS) Montego
  • TerraTec EWS64S
  • Diamond Monster MX300

 
Creative SB128 (ES1371)
 
A revision of ES1370 to accept AC'97-compatible audio converters. One linear output, one linear input, one microphone input. Creative 1297 (CT1297) audio converters which are relabelled TriTech TR28602 ones. Supports playback and recording at up to 48000Hz. Built using an ES1373 chip. No hardware wavetable MIDI synthesiser.
 
SNR 73.2 dB THD 0.00164% THD+N 0.0220% IMD 0.0038%
screen shot (34Kb) screen shot (35Kb)

The linear input is hard to tune, it produces terrible distortions if calibrated improperly (overloaded). A very good consumer-level sound card priced accordingly.
 
 
Turtle Beach Systems (TBS) MultiSound Tahiti
 
An ISA sound card made in 1994. One linear output, one linear input, one auxiliary input. Crystal 4328 (CS4328) and 5336 (CS5336) audio converters. Supports playback and recording at 11025Hz, 22050Hz and 44100Hz. Uses a Motorola DSP560001 for effect-processing. No wavetable MIDI synthesiser. A WaveBlaster header for an optional MIDI daughterboard.
 
SNR 72.8 dB THD 0.00095% THD+N 0.0230% IMD 0.0035%
screen shot (28Kb) screen shot (27Kb)

A very good sound card.
 
By the way, this sound card has delivered the best THD result among all 17 sound cards tested.
 
 
Creative SB Live! 5.1 Digital (SB0220)
 
A PCI sound card made in 2004. Three linear outputs (the third one can be switched to a coaxial S/PDIF output), one linear input, one microphone input. SigmaTel 9758 (STAC9758) audio converters. Supports playback and recording at up to 48000Hz. Based upon a Creative EMU10K1 chip. No hardware wavetable MIDI synthesiser.
 
SNR 71.2 dB THD 0.01170% THD+N 0.0276% IMD 0.0064%
screen shot (35Kb) screen shot (36Kb)

The linear input is hard to tune, it produces terrible distortions if calibrated improperly (overloaded). A good sound card to satisfy most non-professional needs.
 
 
Turtle Beach Systems (TBS) MultiSound Classic
 
An ISA sound card made in 1993. One linear output, one linear input, one auxiliary input. Crystal 4328 (CS4328) and 5336 (CS5336) audio converters. Supports playback and recording at 11025Hz, 22050Hz and 44100Hz. Uses a Motorola DSP560001 for effect-processing. E-mu Proteus 1/XR MIDI synthesiser (32 voices, 4Mb proprietary waveset installed).
 
SNR 71.2 dB THD 0.00111% THD+N 0.0277% IMD 0.0037%
screen shot (28Kb) screen shot (27Kb)

A very good sound card with a professional MIDI synthesiser.
 
 
Genius SoundMaker 32X
 
A PCI sound card made in 2000. One linear output, one linear input, one microphone input. Crystal 4297A (CS4297A) audio converters. Supports playback and recording at up to 48000Hz. May have an on-board amplifier to be enabled using jumpers. No wavetable MIDI synthesiser.
 
SNR 70.1 dB THD 0.00690% THD+N 0.0313% IMD 0.0133%
screen shot (35Kb) screen shot (36Kb)

A good inexpensive sound card for regular use with a very good driver support.
 
 
Turtle Beach Systems (TBS) Montego II
 
A PCI sound card made in 1999. One linear output, one linear input, one microphone input. SigmaTel 9704 (STAC9704) audio converters. Supports playback and recording at up to 48000Hz. Based upon an Aureal Vortex 2 (Au8830) chip which also acts as a MIDI synthesiser (64 voices, 4Mb GS waveset in main memory). A WaveBlaster header for an optional MIDI daughterboard. May be used for optical S/PDIF playback and recording with an optional companion card.
 
SNR 69.9 dB THD 0.01500% THD+N 0.0318% IMD 0.0130%
screen shot (36Kb) screen shot (38Kb)

A good sound card for regular and gaming use.
 
 
Turtle Beach Systems (TBS) Montego
 
A PCI sound card made in 1999. One linear output, one linear input, one microphone input. SigmaTel 9701 (STAC9701) audio converters. Supports playback and recording at up to 48000Hz. Based upon an Aureal Vortex (Au8820) chip which also acts as a MIDI synthesiser (64 voices, 4Mb GS waveset in main memory). A WaveBlaster header for an optional MIDI daughterboard. May be used for optical S/PDIF playback and recording with an optional companion card.
 
SNR 69.6 dB THD 0.01590% THD+N 0.0330% IMD 0.0270%
screen shot (36Kb) screen shot (39Kb)

A good sound card for regular and gaming use.
 
 
TerraTec EWS64S
 
An ISA sound card made in 1997. Two linear outputs, one linear input, one microphone input. Analog Devices 1816 (AD1816) audio converters. Supports playback and recording at up to 48000Hz. Uses a DREAM DSP (SAM9407) for effect-processing and MIDI synthesis (64 voices, up to 64Mb of memory can be installed in one 72-pin SIMM to store samples).
 
SNR 67.7 dB THD 0.01100% THD+N 0.0410% IMD 0.0100%
screen shot (27Kb) screen shot (26Kb)

A good sound card with a poor driver support, and there is no documentation on the DREAM DSP available.
 
 
Diamond Monster MX300
 
A PCI sound card made in 1998. Two linear outputs, one linear input, one microphone input. SigmaTel 9708 (STAC9708) audio converters. Supports playback and recording at up to 48000Hz. Based upon an Aureal Vortex2 (Au8830) chip which also acts as a MIDI synthesiser (64 voices, 4Mb GS waveset in main memory). A WaveBlaster header for an optional MIDI daughterboard.
 
SNR 65.3 dB THD 0.00600% THD+N 0.0540% IMD 0.0066%
screen shot (34Kb) screen shot (32Kb)

A good sound card for regular and gaming use.

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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rhett from alasir.com, walter from alasir.com