Philips Ultimate Edge 5.1 soundcard review


Philips has once again invaded the PC Audio scene with a new soundcard offering. Earlier this year we took a close look to their Aurilium external soundcard which left us quite impressed by its solid output quality and great work on its drivers, giving for once some real competition to the Creative Extigy.

This time around they are bringing us a new internal soundcard based on the VIA Envy24GT chipset which combined with the SoundAgent 2 drivers we tested on the Aurilium, should make for a very solid entrance in the enthusiast market.

The Philips Ultimate Edge has been based around the now very popular Envy 24-GT chipset. Internally this can operate at up to 24-Bit/192kHz, analog output however is limited to 24-Bit/96kHz for up to 6 channels (5.1). The DAC/ADC is provided by Wolfson’s WM8776, a 24-Bit, 192 kHz 6 channel DAC with 24-Bit, 96kHz ADC.

Unlike other soundcards based on the Envy24 chipset, such as the Revolution 7.1, the Ultimate Edge resamples to either 48 kHz or 96 kHz. This resampling is determined by the HI-SR (96 KHz) setting, which I will cover on more detail later. Similarly to the Audigy 2 and most other soundcards in the market, you will still find your CDs and MP3s being resampled from 44.1 kHz to 48 kHz/96 kHz. Resampling is undesirable as it can introduce artefacts and distortion into the audio source being played.

Support for DVD-Audio is not available, although that can also be said for any soundcard that isn’t as an Audigy 2.
M-Audio previously stated they were actively working with developers of DVD-A player applications to try to accelerate the development process”. It is not yet clear whether it is possible to support all of the required CPPM copy protection in software-only, but early information does look promising.


Installation & Connectivity

The Ultimate Edge features 3 Stereo Line Outputs, a Coaxial S/PDIF Output, Line In and Mic In.

Unlike the M-Audio Revolution 7.1 soundcard which is also based on the Envy chipset, several internal inputs were available in the Ultimate Edge although these are nowadays considered legacy and not of much use for the most part. For the review I connected the Ultimate Edge to a set of Creative Inspire 6700 speakers.

Unlike the Philips’ own Aurilium external soundcard which came in a more unique packaging shape, the Ultimate Edge came in a standard retail box. Beyond the essential contents, inside the box were a Quick Start manual, a Warranty leaflet and the Drivers/Application CD. Installation itself went just fine.

Third party applications included Musicmatch Jukebox 8 and QSound Audio Pix.


Drivers & Sound Agent 2

As seen previously with the Philips Aurilium, drivers support for the Ultimate Edge only include Windows 2000 and XP. Philips uses Sound Agent 2 HD which provides an excellent setup interface.

So what is Sound Agent 2?
Sound Agent 2 uses sophisticated algorithms to analyse sound along 2 dimensions: the source of the sound, which can be any source type, & the room or headphones where the sound is going to be played.

Combining input & output with the sound card itself results in high-quality total holistic sound optimisation. Importantly, the end-user also has a means of easily identifying & manipulating variables that affect sound quality in context of their particular listening experience. More info can be found at the official site.

The Sound Agent 2 interface has not changed much from what I saw with the Aurilium. This is by no means a bad thing.



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