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HDA X-Mystique 7.1 Gold Distributed by BlueGears.com

SPECIFICATIONS

Specs first; it's boring, but something just may jump out at you that makes the scroll down worthwhile.

    Sound Processor
  • C-Media CMI8768/PCI-8ch+ PCI chipset (8CH audio single chip with Dolby Digital Live Real-Time Contents Encoder, The World First Dolby Digital Live support PCI audio chipset)
  • 8CH codec embedded PCI audio single chip
  • Full-duplex 8CH 24bit/96kHz DAC / 2CH 16bit/48kHz ADC
  • Integrated S/PDIF Input/Output supports 44.1kHz/48kHz/96kHz samplerate and 16/24bits resolution
    Product Features
  • Supports Dolby Digital Live Real-Time Contents Encoder / The World First Dolby Digital Live Certificated PCI Audio Board
  • Supports the latest DTS-ES, DD-EX sound (6.1/7.1) playback (also including Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 playback) with Software Decoding Application like as PowerDVD, WinDVD
  • Supports 44.1 kHz / 48kHz / 96kHz S/PDIF Output through both Coaxial RCA and Optical Toslink
  • Onboard COAXIAL RCA output connector, OPTICAL Toslink trasmitter for high quality Digital Output
  • Supports 44.1kHz / 48kHz / 96kHz S/PDIF Input with HDA X-10 Digital Input extension board (Optional)[Digital I/O (SPDIF-IN #2)]
    System Interface
  • PCI Rev. 2.2 compliant with 32bit PCI bus mastering modes
  • Two S/PDIF Input for CD_SPDIF Input (S/PDIF-IN #1), Digital I/O(SPDIF_EXT) Input (S/PDIF-IN #2)
  • Built-in earphone buffer at Front Output (32Ohm Loading)
  • External EEPROM Interface for Sub-Vendor/Sub-Device ID using custom driver
  • 16Pin MIDI_IO Header for supporting MPU-401 MIDI UART Port
  • Four high perfomance OPAMP for Output control, Two high perfomance OPAMP for MIC Input - increase gain level and improve SNR
  • Onboard TOSLINK transmitter for up to 24bit/96kHz Optical Digital Output, Gold Plated RCA connetor for Coaxial Digital Output
  • 12Pin SPDIF_EXT Header for using HDA Digital I/O extension board (Optional) - COAXIAL, OPTICAL Digital Input function enables
  • C-Media Xear 3D 7.1 Virtual Speaker SHIFTER technology
  • Sensaura CRL3D HRTF 3D positional sound enhancement with multi-drive 7.1, EnvironmentFX, ZoomFX, MacroFX, etc.
  • DirectSound 3D HW acceleration
  • A3D™ 1.0 , EAX™ 1.0, 2.0 (powered by Sensaura), HRTF-based 3D Positional Audio (C3DX™), Direct Sound™ 3D SW
  • Unique Karaoke functionality : Mic Echo, Key-shifting, Vocal Cancellation
  • Special feature for Winamp broadcasting , VOIP, Onling-games, Online messenger application:Magic Voice, Support Stereo-MIX recording mode for Winamp Broadcasting
  • 10-band Equalizer with 12 preset modes; 27 global environment effects
  • Support 7.1Ch playback for Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003, Windows ME, Windows 98 SE (Microsoft DirectX 8.1 or higher is required)
    Minimum requirements
  • Intel Pentium III 800MHz CPU or equivalent CPU
  • Motherboard with above level CPU support
  • At least 256MB of RAM
  • One available PCI 2.1 or higher spec compliant PCI slot
  • 16Pin MIDI_IO Header for supporting MPU-401 MIDI UART Port
  • Microsoft Windows 98SE/ME/2000/Server2003/XP operating system with DirectX 9.0a
  • Hardisc Drive supporting UDMA 66/100 and 5400rpm
  • Active 2ch speakers / Headphone or 5.1ch/7.1ch Speakers with powered amplifier

That is a lot of S/PDIF in and out capacity. The HTPC crowd should be pleased with its audio management capabilities.

PACKAGING AND BUNDLE

The shelf-presence oriented packaging is standard fair for Asian market hardware. Product shot, flames and a cloaked stranger adorn the front which includes the obligatory feature icons. The Dolby Digital Live logo is prominent feature, visible on front, top and back panels. The phrase "Dolby Digital Live" is visible on all but the blank bottom of the box. I get the feeling they are trying to tell us something.

Box and Contents

My review unit still had the original Korean packaging and text on the back though BlueGears should have new box text ready for US consumption when you read this review.

Original Packaging

The card comes neatly wrapped in a static bag with a driver disk, manual, DVD/CD digital cable and optical S/PDIF cable all tucked neatly underneath. I started perusing the manual with low expectations only to be pleasantly surprised by the usefulness of the content. The installation process even displayed the points at which you cancel out of the Windows auto install process and run the set up utility.

I can't take it anymore; I've got to see the card. There is something about the smell of new hardware I absolutely love, fresh like a silicon Spring day. The PCB is black with gold text, PCI bracket and connections. There are small capacitors surrounding the channel conversion chips with green caps that give the card a busy, yet purposeful look. The back end of the card includes connections for the digital CD/DVD drive input, two standard audio drive cable inputs, and the MIDI and S/PDIF expansion board ports, both available as optional components. Outward, you have the six 1/8" stereo mini-jacks for the multi-channel output and microphone and line inputs. Most important, you have the coax and optical S/PDIF outputs, the latter with a protective dust cap installed as shipped.

X-Mystique 7.1 Gold

INSTALLATION AND SOFTWARE

Following the instructions from the manual, something rarely done in this household, I shut down the PC, installed the card and disabled the on-board audio in the BIOS. The first mark against the Mystique pops up here; the card leaves my front microphone and headphone ports stranded. There is no analog front I/O connector. Press the power button after a moment of disappointment and upon restart, I was greeted by the manual predicted "Add New Hardware Wizard" which I promptly cancelled out in favor of running the set up from the driver disk. A quick restart and we are back Dolby Digital Encoded in business.

I started by familiarizing myself with the audio rack. The Xear3D control panel icon shows up in the system tray with six selectable options; Open, Volume Control, Windows Media Player, Sound Recorder, Multimedia Properties, and Exit. Most tray buttons do not include quick access to Windows system features; this is a welcome change for an Audio driver task tray applet.

Selecting Open brings up the Xear3D Control Panel. It is an intuitive interface that allows you to adjust the outputs, listening position, and speaker position and levels.

Speaker Configuration Options

A quick note here - when in Dolby Digital Live mode, the analog ouputs are disabled. This may give insight into how the system work, as it would seem reasonable that the analog signals are rerouted from the discrete channel outputs into the hardware encoder. This is the basis for one of the complaints audio purists have with DDL. You have to add another analog to digital conversion, there by inducing some compression loss. The only time this compression loss has an opportunity to be noticed is in situations where each of the six channels is running at higher output levels. Is it an actual complaint for most users, no, and moreover the instances where the encoding "loss" could happen when gaming will be moments too frenzied for the gamer to perceive the inaccuracy.

More Control Panel Options

Four additional tabs include and audio mixer, effects, karaoke settings and driver information panels. The mixer is an extension of the Windows sound mixer with a snazzy interface. The effects tab includes the ten channel equalizer which utilizes, roughly, the same ten frequencies as the Windows Media Player. The Equalizer sports twelve presets. There are four Environment buttons; Bathroom, Concert Hall, Underwater and Music Pub. They lend unique echo and distortions to the audio information sent to the sound card. Available in a drop down menu are twenty-two more environmental options. Try Doom3 on Psychotic. Funny stuff. It is like a permanent case of the zombie ripping rage.

I continue the stroll through driver applet bliss with the little used Karaoke tab. My brother-in-law lived for many years in Tokyo and the fascination with Karaoke in other countries is not appreciated in the United States. There is echo reduction, key shifting and voice cancellation sliders for tweaking your Karaoke rig to full "Love Me Tender" bliss. Sorry, I did not actually test this portion of the sound card's capabilities as my neighbors are nice people, but I do not want to test their patience just for the sake of testing their patience.

Finally, you have the information tab where you can view driver revision number, DirectX version and more. You can also select to disable the Xear 3D audio properties icon.

Utilities and Demos

Also included on the disc is a Media Rack, an audio file and CD player and a few 3D positional audio demos. Play3D has an assortment of motion, sound types and environment to give your friends a quick demo of the surround capabilities. Rockwar is a rudimentary game with simple 3D audio effect and Helicopter is an advanced version of the chopper demo used in Play3D and in the audio tuning controls.

Next Page: Usage and Performance

Last Updated on 5/8/2005


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