HDA X-Mystique 7.1 Gold Distributed by BlueGears.com
By Brian Gray - May 8, 2005
DOLBY DIGITAL LIVE IS BACK
I am extremely happy to have one great feature, that NVIDIA should have kept alive, back in my system. Dolby Digital Live will give HTPC owners and gamers that just hate having the cable rat's nest to their speaker speakers and opportunity to simplify the connection between their speaker system and sound card. I know in the future, one of these 6600GTs and this sound card will find their way into my home theater, perhaps an article in the not-so-distant future.
CPU usage differences when the system is under moderate load shows no significant or measurable increase in CPU demands when DDL is enabled. This lends to justify to all of you naysayers that DDL Encoding is indeed an in-hardware feature. Now, this is not to say that this card is the Panacea of all your sound card woes. Most interest in this card has been from users wanting to ditch their under supported Sound Blaster products. The card does have a couple of driver related issues, but they are being examined by C-Media and YMMV. Also, DDL is not free. If you have a truly amazing home theater, you may be able to detect that the process of digital to analog back to digital may have a slight weakness. Now, the instances where the encoding limits are reached are going to be few and far between and I never noticed it on any occasion.
I need to mention here that the X-Mystique does have a few few optional features. The most significant of those is the S/PDIF Input/Output board. I do not have information on availability and pricing at present. I will post updates in the review feedback thread as I get them as I get them.
S/PDIF I/O Board
In addition, there is a game controller/MIDI expansion port and cable.
So, will I be recommending the HDA X-Mystique 7.1 Gold distributed by BlueGears to my friends? (One last use of the impressive title, heh.) I would have to. The current projected MSRP of $99 may be considered a bit steep. However, the X-Mystique will be between the lower-end and higher-end Soundblaster products, none of which can encode to a Dolby Digital Stream. It sounds phenomenal and is feature rich. The included Driver Applet is actually useful and did not leave me longing for the NVSound control panel. BlueGears and HDA are commited to getting driver updates from C-Media. What's not to love?
BlueGears has a potential big seller on their hands. Let's hope it gets to market in quantity ASAP, if for no other reason than to push a nearly dormant Creative Labs into finally recognizing there are users that demand Dolby Digital Encoding and I for one am all in favor of hitting them where it hurts - their bottom line.
Thanks again go out to BlueGears for the review unit and quick responses during the review process.
Dolby Digital Live Encoding
Fantastic sound quality
Low CPU usage
Dolby Digital Live Encoding
Great driver control panel interface
Not a Creative Labs Product
Did I mention Dolby Digital Live Encoding?
Two driver bugs
No front I/O connection
There are two threads in the forum I would like to link for you. The first is the original interview with Stephen of BlueGears.com which can be found here.
The second is a thread in our Feedback Forum where you can let me know how I did on my first sound card review which can be found here.