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Hercules Fortissimo 2 soundcard review

The Gamesurround Fortissimo 2 ($59.99) is Hercules latest foray into the Mid/Budget-range Soundcard market with the Game Theater XP ($149.99) serving the Higher (Non-professional) -end market & the Gamesurround Muse XL ($29.99) being the Soundcard for those on a tight budget. Using the Cirrus Logic CS4624 DSP & Sensaura 3D Environmental technology it boasts some good features for a relatively low price. In this review I’ll examine whether or not to on-paper specs can hold up to much in reality.

Installation of the Gamesurround Fortissimo 2 was a fairly standard affair compared with, well, basically every other Soundcards you can think of. Simply insert it into a free PCI slot & connect the 9-pin Analog Out cable, which splits into 4 further Jacks, to the respective peripheral – Front & Rear speakers, Microphone & Headphones. The Soundcard itself features 2 Analog Inputs available - CD-Audio & Auxiliary In, with the Optical Digital In/Output being located on the Bracket of the Soundcard. There’s a Game Port as well of course.

The Manual for the Fortissimo 2 was basic enough, containing how to install the Soundcard correctly in Windows Operating Systems, to enable DMA for DVD playback & … well that’s pretty much it. As a nice addition the Users Manual for Power DVD 3 did come with the Fortissimo 2, something that was lacking with the Game Theater XP.

Drivers

The Gamesurround Fortissimo 2 supports all Microsoft Operating Systems from Windows 95 (Except NT4 though it seems) & we can also assume Windows XP support will be available in the future also. Moving onto the Gamesurround Fortissimo 2 applet in the Control Panel you’ll find a nice amount of options to configure the Soundcard with. First up being the initial Main tab.

From left to right, first have the semi-usual Record Source & Recording volume level controls followed by the Master Volume level control & an option to select the Audio Output mode – Headphones, 2 or 4 Speakers. Best of all is the ability to independently adjust the volume level for each Channel available. Finally you also have the ability to check the Output mode has been configured correctly using the Test & Sound Rotation buttons, which will play Audio through each Channel so you can verify it’s coming from the correct one.

The Mixer tab lets you adjust the volume level for different Audio sources & the ability to enable a 20dB boost to Microphone input, nothing out of the ordinary. The EQ tab contains a nice 10-Band Equaliser with 8 preset settings available for it, although you can adjust this as you see fit yourself. Next up there’s the Midi tab;

Here you can adjust a variety of MIDI settings for the Soundcard. The Fortissimo 2 supports playback of up to 64 notes in Hardware, with any further notes being generated by the CPU (Up to a maximum of what’s set for the Maximum Software Notes).

Voice Allocation specifies the scheme used to silence a previous note & play a new one when the limits for hardware & software synthesized voices have been reached. For best system performance this should be set to Dynamic (default) rather than DLS.

Overall Midi support if quite sufficient (The high quality Yamaha XG Player is also bundled too), although it won’t really be too important to most of you at all, although as detailed in the API Support section the Fortissimo 2 does also offer Hardware DirectMusic Support for Games that use it.

 



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