Videologic SonicVortex2 - Part 2

Contents, Features and Specifications

To start off, Videologic intended this to be a no-frills but high quality sound card and the suggested retail price will be S$155. It doesn’t hurt to describe the bright yellow/red box as most uninspiringly designed, with most of us accustomed to ostentatiously decorated boxes from Diamond and Creative. I had been pre-conditioned to expect a no-frills card but still, opening the box surprised me a little. Sure enough, the contents were these, and just these: a PCI soundcard and a CD jewel case containing the software/drivers CD as well as an installation guide in the form of a CD sleeve. Pure and simple.

Codec

  • 18-bit D/A, A/D AC’97 stereo/quad codec

Features

  • 92 streams DirectSound acceleration
  • A3D 2.0 acceleration with 76 channels (16 3D sources, 60 3D reflections)
  • 2 independent 8 effect channels (for delay, reverb, flange, wah-wah and distortion)
  • 320 voice MIDI synthesizer (64 in hardware, 256 in software)
  • 48kHz playback/ record sample rates
  • Support for Downloadable Soundfonts and DirectMusic
  • Digital 10-Band Graphic Equalizer
  • 2/4 speakers and headphones support
  • Optical S/PDIF (TOSLINK) Output
  • Accelerated gameport
  • SoundBlaster Pro support

Inputs and Outputs

  • CD-In
  • Auxilliary-In
  • Modem-In
  • Mic-In
  • 2 Stereo Line-Outs (to support 4 speakers)
  • Optical S/PDIF-Out (TOSLINK)
  • MIDI/Joystick-Out (MIDI MPU-401 UART mode)
  • Wavetable header
  • Expansion header

API Support

  • A3D 1.0
  • A3D 2.0
  • DirectSound
  • DirectSound3D
  • DirectMusic
  • DirectInput (Gameport)
  • EAX (in future driver version)

This is an impressive list indeed.

The Card
Note that the SonicVortex2 is based on Aureal’s higher-end superquad design which comes with 4 speakers output as well as an optical S/PDIF port. The optical S/PDIF option is definitely a big plus for those with MiniDisc players, who can enjoy recording your favourite MP3 collection for listening on the move.

The Vortex 2 Chipset
The Vortex2 boasts 3.3 million transistors squeezed into its puny 2cm x 1.5cm chip, which is quite a marvel in comparison to the 2 million in the EMU10K1 chip found in the SBLive! THIS, of course, means nothing to the end user. The Vortex2 is a ‘hardwired’ chip set to perform Wave, Midi, digital input/output, graphical EQ and deliver top rate 48kHz sound quality with relative ease. All of which closely matches high-end offerings like the SBLive! (The Live!’s EMU10K1 delivers 1000MIPS capable of processing a similar intersecting set of features)

A3D 2.0 API Versus...
The trump card played by Aureal is its technically superior A3D 2.0 API for which the Vortex 2 is the only chip capable of decoding it. With exclusive support for A3D 2.0 and their promised (but long delayed) support for EAX, the Vortex2 is NOT to be trifled with.

At this point, Creative holds upper hand having attracted a larger majority of game developers. Creative is making ease of development and rich functionality the main selling point of EAX. Brute marketing force aside, they have narrowed the gap with A3D 2.0 since the recent release of EAX 2.0. Coupled with enhanced support for occlusions, obstructions, better position audio in the vertical plane and a fine-tuned reverb engine, the discernible differences should be little if any.

Theoretically speaking, Aureal’s geometry-based wavetracing model will deliver a true-er representation of sounds in a real 3D world than EAX. But how well does this stack up in real life? I’ll discuss that shortly. So before we end up in a heated debate, let’s take a look at the installation and setup.

 

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