Before we go on, you may have noticed the lack of benchmarks. This was intentional on our part. In the case of a sound card, they’re unnecessary, and can even be counter-productive. We’re talking faster-than-gigahertz processors nowadays; comparing CPU utilization would result in comparing 1.1% to 1.2%. The scale is so small that the actual numbers are irrelevant. Given that, it’s probably best not to even look at numbers at all, as they might compel readers to favor a certain card when they shouldn’t at all. Other aspects, like compatibility and features, are much more important.
The Philips Acoustic Edge is not a monumental leap forward in PC audio. It is, however, a very solid, high-quality, and inexpensive alternative to some of the leading products on the market right now. This is not the type of product that’s going to cause consumers to stop buying SoundBlaster Live!s altogether. It is, however, the type of product that will slowly erode Creative’s piece of the market if left unchecked.
It has been our experience with sound cards that 80 percent of the game is compatibility. Compatibility with a chipset, compatibility with a piece of software, a specific API, you name it. In that respect, the Acoustic Edge does quite well, both on an API and on a hardware level. In fact, the card was more cooperative with VIA chipsets than Creative Labs’ offerings, which may prove to be a strong selling point.
Priced at about $60 in most cases, the Acoustic Edge runs about $10 to $20 more than a SoundBlaster Live! Value. For that extra cash, you’re getting external digital inputs, as well as analog 5.1-channel output. You’re also getting a card backed by solid drivers, and a card that seems to cooperate better with VIA chipsets. In our opinion, that’s worth the extra $20.
It’s not going to knock your socks off. But it will leave you satisfied that you’ve made a wise purchase.
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