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3D Spotlight : Hardware : Aureal Vortex2 SuperQuad Digital review

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Aureal Vortex2 SuperQuad Digital review
Posted by Adam Klein on July 27, 1999

With all the success of Aureal Vortex 1/2 based sound cards from 3rd party manufacturers such as Diamond, Turtle Beach and Xitel, it wasnít too strange to see Aureal making available a Vortex 2 card manufactured by them. The Vortex SuperQuad is based on the standard Vortex 2 chipset and as expected it produces exceptional 3D sound.

As I said, other companies also make a fine Vortex 2 based sound card, but being able to use a sound card provided directly from the manufacturers of the chip is without doubt something special. You can expect direct support from Aureal; if you choose this card over other cards, pretty much like Creative Labs has done with their Sound Blaster Live! Card. However there is one catch. The Aureal SuperQuad will be made available in pre-built computer systems.

Aureal has done something special to make their SuperQuad sound board to stand out from the rest of the pack though. The SuperQuad has a digital sound output rather than the traditional Analog sound output. Analog and Digital sound may not make that much of a difference, but with todayís ever advancing standards; it is worth looking into.

The sampling rate of the digital output can reach an amazing 48,800 kHz sampling rate. Also, with digital output, you donít have to worry too much about line noise or other such things that can inhibit an analog speaker and sound card setup from producing the ultimate in sound.

Digital sound is not the only thing that will set the SuperQuad apart from the rest. Like the name suggests, it can support a quad speaker setup. With quad speakers, you can position two speakers behind and two speakers in front.

With the 3D positional sound being used, you will be able to discern the sounds coming from the back, left, right, front, or just about any direction in 3D games. Talking about 3D gaming. Aureal has been working a lot in the past few months optimizing their sound drivers in order to utilize less CPU cycles. When the CPU is utilized less for the sound production, it leaves the CPU free to render more frames for the video to produce, hence, making the playing experience more enjoyable.

Talking about playing in a more enjoyable environment, I found this sound card to produce better 3D positional output than my Sound Blaster Live! Could ever do, but the Aureal card still exhibited more CPU utilization than the Live!. However, the CPU utilization has gone down considerably since the introduction of the Vortex 2 chipset. The performance hit when enabling A3D enhancements in Half-Life was not worth the performance hit when the sound card was first introduced, but now the performance hit is negligible.

Installation

The Aureal Vortex 2 SuperQuad installed without any troubles. As with almost any PnP OS, installing a piece of hardware is a snap if the drivers have been well written. In this case, the drivers are indeed well written and continue to be improved upon by Aureal.

All I had to do was place the card into an empty PCI slot after removing my Sound Blaster Live! Value. Windows 98 SE did an excellent job of detecting the presence of the new card and removing the drivers for the Sound Blaster Live!. After installing the drivers and rebooting, I was greeted with a robust sound when playing my windows startup sound. The card seemed to have much stronger sound reproduction than I have seen in previous soundboards.


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