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1.28.2009

Medusa 5.1 Headphone Testing w/ Various Sound Cards

Since I got my Medusa 5.1 headset, I've tested them with a few different sound cards.

Realtek HD
Motherboard integrated audio on my Gigabyte P35 motherboard.  Sounded ok, but very low bass response, not enough power to drive the vibrate feature in the subwoofers.  Rear channels sounded very tinny.  Speed-Link's response when I reported the problem.  "this is a Problem of your Onboard Soundcard, this is not the best for the Medusa Headset. Please try it on a PCI Soundcard like Creative the the Sound should be better."

Sound Blaster Live! 24-bit
Next I pulled my old Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live! 24-bit out of the parts bin in the garage.  This was the card I was using before I built the P35 system, as my previous motherboard only had AC97 audio.  Speaking subjectively, I think this card sounds a little better.  Signal from the card was stronger, I didn't have to crank the volume as high to get the same level out of the earphones.  I think the sound was slightly better on the whole, and bass was a little stronger, but still not really punchy.  Rear channels sounded a tad better, but were still a little hallow, but not as tinny as on the Realktek HD.  The Vista drivers for the SB Live didn't seem to have many features, and didn't let me set up a crossover point or do bass redirection.  I think this driver was a courtesy effort from Creative to support legacy users, but they really provide the minimum features.

Creative Labs X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Edition
These were on sale for $99 at Best Buy, which is the same price as the Xtreme Gamer version.  So I went ahead and bit the bullet.  (My gaming PC is also my Vista Media Center HTPC, so I wasn't really too disappointed to upgrade the audio on it anyway)  One warning, this card is a little chunky because of the RFI shield box over it.  I could not get it to fit in the PCIe slot above my video card.  I had to put it in my middle slots, and I got a little nervous that it would restrict the hot air leaving my 9800GT.  It doesn't seem to be causing issues so far.  Out of the box, this sounded better than the previous two cards, but once I applied the driver settings that Speed-Link recommends, it sounds phenomenal.  The trick with the Medusa 5.1 is to set all the drivers to the smaller size in the THX speaker setup, enable bass redirection, and set the crossover point to 200Hz.  Turn off CMSS-3D.  Once you get the settings on the remote tuned the way you like them, this combo sounds awesome, and the bass has enough punch to rattle your teeth. 

I guess the lesson learned here is that if you're going to buy high end speakers or headphones, you probably need to support them with a decent sound card.  You can probably get by with a lesser card than the X-Fi titanium, but I have to say that the Creative drivers have a lot of support for tweaking the sound exactly the way you need it.

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