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Sharky Extreme : March 25, 2010





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Here's the exact black and white on the PCI 128 for our "enquiring" minds:

Wave-Table Synthesis
Creative synthesis engine
Digital effects engine for reverb and chorus
128-voice polyphony and multi-timbral capability
16 MIDI channels, 128 GM & GS compatible instruments and 10 drum kits
MT-32 compatible instrument set
2MB, 4MB and 8MB sample sets included

3D Audio Technology
Support for Microsoft® DirectSound® and DirectSound 3D™ and derivatives audio technology.
User selectable algorithms for two or four speaker modes
Multi-algorithm reverb and chorus

Memory Subsystem
Utilizes system RAM for wave-table synthesis
User configurable for 2MB, 4MB or 8MB

CD-Quality, 16-Bit Stereo Digital Audio
8- and 16-bit, mono and stereo recording and playback
User-selectable sample rates from 5kHz to 48kHz
Powerful amplifier for driving headphones or passive speakers
Full-duplex support enables simultaneous record and playback for Internet communications software

MIDI Interface / Joystick Port
8- and 16-bit, mono and stereo recording and playback
User-selectable sample rates from 5kHz to 48kHz
Powerful amplifier for driving headphones or passive speakers
Full-duplex support enables simultaneous record and playback for Internet communications software

MIDI Interface / Joystick Port
Built-in 15-pin MIDI interface (requireds MIDI adapter, available separately)
Works with Sound Blaster® and MPU-401 UART modes
IBM®-compatible 15-pin joystick port with analog and digital support

On-Board Connectors
Microphone in
MPC-3 CD Audio in
Line Level out
Amplified out
Auxiliary In / Rear Out
MIDI / Joystick port

The PCI 128 is your run of the mill PCI audio product, offering a good balance of basic features. Let's move on to what every gamer reading this review really wants to know about: the PCI128's 3D sound ability.

The SoundBlaster PCI supports the now famous Microsoft DirectSound 3D API, hell it even has full 4 speaker support. The 3D routines on the PCI 128 aren't the most convincing I've heard, especially when compared to an Aureal based board. The 3D routines are somewhat pale and unconvincing, even though the separation of channels is present to some extent.

As there's no current way to actually benchmark 3D audio performance I really can't comment on that bit. But a few things worth mentioning that I experienced during my tests were that the PCI 128 wouldn't complete Minerva (Aureal's audio benchmarking / test program) nor would A3D powered Forsaken run when the PCI 128 was in use even though the PCI 128 can use A3D commands.

Unreal did manage to run on the PCI 128 with A3D audio acceleration enabled, but it was far from the same experience that a native A3D based board delivers. In defense of the PCI 128 though, even an A3D board is kinda pale in Unreal as it's native software audio engine is very nice.

The PCI 128 also supports Creative's own Enviromental Audio (EAX) which has to be seen as a good thing even though it's not quite as powerful as the SB Live! in this area.

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