Aureal – Vortex2 SuperQuad Digital PCI Sound Card review

3D sound card
Photo of Aureal – Vortex2 SuperQuad Digital PCI Sound Card
£depends - the card is branded by several major OEMs. See if you can spot them..

While the quest for the perfect 3D graphics card goes on, there’s just as much activity in the 3D sound card market, driven by gamers who want the ultimate in immersive gaming experiences. This latest card from Aureal is based on the company’s own Vortex2 3D positioning chip and comes with support for the A3D API as well as Microsoft’s DirectSound, DirectSound 3D, DirectInput and DirectMusic protocols. Although primarily intended for Windows 95 and Windows 98 users, the card also comes with drivers for Windows NT and Dos (within a Windows box).

A half-length PCI card, the Vortex2 SuperQuad Digital PCI is fairly heavily populated with capacitors, although virtually the only chip on the board is the Vortex 2 processor itself, which isn’t exactly a large piece of silicon. There are plenty of connectors on the backplate, including a microphone socket, line in port, two line outs ports (doubling as front/rear speaker connectors for four-way audio), joystick/midi and S/PDIF digital, with additional CD, TAD (i.e. modem answerphone) and AUX connectors on the board itself.

Depending on the software API used, it is possible to obtain almost 100 simultaneous digital audio streams, with various special effects and a 320-voice software-based wavetable synthesizer available too. In addition to its PC audio capabilities, which include 48kHz full-duplex stereo recording and playback, the Aureal card can also record digital audio through its S/PDIF optical digital port, allowing users to record from, for example, a Minidisc player directly to their hard drive. A hardware wavetable daughterboard is an optional extra.

Company: Aureal

Contact: 01604 859333

Using the A3D demo sound files supplied on the driver CD, the results from this card are impressive. Sounds really do appear to be coming from all sorts of directions around the user, and the actual quality of the audio is excellent. This isn't really a suitable card for business users - you're unlikely to ever use all its features - but the gaming community will probably embrace it with open arms, and will be willing to pay for its high-quality 3D positional capabilities.