What follows is purely subjective commentary on the audio quality of the card. Objective measurements of sound can be difficult and problematic at best, so take this for what itís worth. 5.1-channel (DVD and gaming) tests were conducted using S4 MidiLandís 8200 system. 2-channel (music and quality) tests were conducted using PSB Image 5T speakers powered by a Pioneer VSX-D709S.
Signal Quality & Noise
By and large, the cardís noise floor is quite low. Not audiophile grade, mind you, but youíd be hard pressed to hear any sort of noise using the digital connection. Analog noise levels are clean for the most part, although observably noisier than the digital connection. Overall output quality is quite good as well. Again, not audiophile grade, but more than sufficient for all but the pickiest of listeners.
Gaming & DVDs
Again, quite good. During DVD playback, all sounds were where they should have been, and all at normal volumes. We did notice that in some EAX games the Acoustic Edge tended to present more of an echo or reverb than the SoundBlaster Live!. By and large, though, youíd again be hard pressed to detect a difference between the two.
The QSound algorithms are neat, and provide some interesting effects, but we really donít see them as any sort of a practical replacement for true multi-channel systems. We found that QSurround and QMSS did widen the soundstage considerably, but generally failed to produce any sort of sound from behind the listening position. Even when they did (very slightly), the listening Ďsweet spotí is so small that itís practically useless.
We donít mean to be too hard on Philips. In all honesty, the QSound algorithms are some of the best of their kind. In general, these things donít work! If they did, we wouldnít need 5.1-channel speakers. Neat toys, but thatís about it.
All things considered, the Acoustic Edge's sound reproduction is on par with most other sound cards on the market. Definitely not anything to be worried about.
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