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Hercules or Creative?

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February 23, 2003 9:58:07 PM

I am torn between getting <A HREF="http://www.dabs.com/products/prod-info3-info.asp?&m=y&q..." target="_new">Hercules Gamesurround Fortissimo III 7.1 PCI</A> (£44.00) and <A HREF="http://www.dabs.com/products/prod-info3-info.asp?&m=y&q..." target="_new">SoundBlaster Audigy 2 PCI</A> (£85.50).

Hercules specs <A HREF="http://europe.hercules.com/showpage.php?p=56&b=0&f=1" target="_new">here</A> and Creative specs <A HREF="http://www.soundblaster.com/products/audigy2/" target="_new">here</A>.

I would go for the Hercules because of the 8 speaker support, few problems I see on the forums about them (if anything, praise), and the price.

I would go for the Creative because of the name purely, and perhaps support. However, I have seen people with issues regarding EAX.

Would the Hercules be fine with EAX? If not, why?

Would the Creative consume less CPU % than the Hercules, or the other way round? This isn't such a big issue with an overclocked Celeron 1.4GHz, but I hate CPU time being consumed!

I want to play movies often, as well as frequently play games. Therefore I feel the Hercules is good value, as well as giving me what I want in terms of quality.

I'm looking to place an order for these sometime this week, so any contributions MUCH appreciated!

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basmic

More about : hercules creative

February 23, 2003 10:41:12 PM

hmm, hey, I've got the hercules fortissimo III and it's a nice card. I haven't had a creative card since thier SB 128, so I can't comment on audigy series. But to listen to music and dvds (surround sound) fortissimo 3 is very good. It's quite cheap as well. I didn't get any stickers with the card mind u as some reviews say, but just the card and drivers cd. D/L the latest from their website and everything is good.

:cool: Since we cannot get what we like, let us like what we can get
February 24, 2003 1:13:58 AM

My personal reccomendation is the Turtle, but if I chose between your two choices, it would not be Creative.



Details, Details, Its all in the Details, If you need help, Don't leave out the Details.
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February 24, 2003 3:39:20 AM

The reason Creative is the most popular now is because it was the most popular before. It's called the bandwagon approach to marketing, everyone want's it because everyone else has it. I believe them to be a very poor company to do business with, and have very solid reasons to back that up.

<font color=blue>Watts mean squat if you don't have quality!</font color=blue>
February 24, 2003 4:38:26 AM

If you want to be able to listen or record music at 24-bit/96KHz quality (and your lower-quality sources will probably sound better too), Audigy2 fits the bill (along with M-Audio Revolution 7.1 at ~$100). If not, it's no contest: Go for the Hercules (the price difference is huge don't you think?!). But keep two things in mind: first, start thinking about speaker placement and if your room can actually accomodate 8 speakers all around and then see if you really need 8 speaker output (which is BTW only available on Windows XP). Second, the newest version of EAX is only available on Creative cards which might or might not be interesting or important to you.

www.tech-report.com has 2 articles comparing different sound cards and they give the Fortissimo3 thumbs up in their second one.
February 24, 2003 10:24:41 AM

I'm not insuating that you're making what say up Crashman, but can you provide some evidence that they (Creative) are a <i>"very poor company to do business with"</i>? Just that I am more than likely going to be purchasing the Hercules card.

I am placing my order in the next hour or so, and will probably be getting the Hercules. It's appears to be a decent, non-overpriced card with praise from users who have replied so far.

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Basmic
February 24, 2003 10:27:12 AM

Well my 5.1 stereo system isn't quite being fully utilised as I'd like. All five speakers are positioned how I'd like them, however the only one I can use with my Aureal Vortex 2 card is the center.

My main reason for the upgrade is because I intend to build/buy a sub-woofer in the future. Also, the driver support for my Aureal is a little on the thin side! To top it all off, I intend to give Windows XP Professional a test-drive with some sound I can rely on without crashing!

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Basmic
February 24, 2003 6:21:36 PM

I didn't really care to take the time to do so, I would be writing you a report for at least 15 minutes. Basically it boils down to poor customer support and the use of frivoulous lawsuites and other dirty tricks to kill competing technology.

<font color=blue>Watts mean squat if you don't have quality!</font color=blue>
February 26, 2003 6:48:08 AM

Are you going to sell that Aureal Vortex card? If so, I may be interested. :) 

I'm still kicking myself for selling my Vortex 1 card, which sounds better than this Hercules and the SB's that I have heard.

Water cooling is for the weak. Get liquid nitrogen.
February 26, 2003 7:12:15 AM

As it happens, I like this card very much myself, even though the lack of driver support is obvious!

The Aureal Vortex 2 card will be slapped in my slave computer. This way I know it is treasured and in use still. :smile:

Now, if only I could be bothered to get a slave machine with AGP slots for my Voodoo 3 2000. :frown:

====
Basmic
February 27, 2003 4:59:25 PM

Do as everyone else is saying. Guillemot all the way.

BTW, has anyone actually read THG's review of the Audigy2?
February 27, 2003 6:36:11 PM

I read it about a month ago. Why?
February 27, 2003 8:38:44 PM

Well I got the <A HREF="http://www.dabs.com/products/prod-info3-info.asp?&m=y&q..." target="_new">Hercules Gamesurround Fortissimo III 7.1</A>, and am rather happy with it. A few problems with Winamp and the equalizer at first, but I think that's sorted!

Just need to get my centre speaker hooked-up, and been looking at sub-woofers at the £110 price region (80w). Think the sub-woofer can wait for many months until I find the urge for it too strong to resist! :smile:

Thanks for your advice guys!

====
Basmic
February 28, 2003 5:28:53 AM

Thats too bad, I miss my Vortex card....

Water cooling is for the weak. Get liquid nitrogen.
February 28, 2003 9:07:47 AM

I'll think of you when it plays the odd Windows sound theme every 30 minutes or so. I might even let the old Pentium 200 MMX play some Winamp radio-stations through it! :smile:

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Basmic
March 1, 2003 3:54:38 AM

If you read the review on the Audigy2, you would note that when playing back music, the Audigy2 resamples 44.1Khz samples into 48, while leaving anything above 48 alone. So, music (and basically any sound effects) which is at 44.1Khz gets resampled resulting in added noise to the configuration, and loss of dynamic range and overall poorer sound quality. This would be a good card if all you did was watch movies (it has a real nice flat response curve), but if you do gaming and listen to music, you may notice the quality difference between the Fortissimo and the audigy2. You don't need the high SNR or DR of the audigy, as the amp in your speakers may not be able to keep up with high quality output anyway. And the cost factor blows the audigy2 out of the water, no question.
March 1, 2003 6:07:44 AM

Thanks :) 

I had my Vortex in my K6-2 550 computer, which I sold (boohoo).

The weird thing is, I went to the freight office at Anchorage International Airport, and the Compaq computer they had (k6-2-300) had an Aureal Vortex card in it. I found it out because the guy behind the counter liked the A3D sound, and used it as an alarm sound. I instantly recognized it, and took a look. Drool drool, slobber slobber. lol

Water cooling is for the weak. Get liquid nitrogen.
March 2, 2003 4:57:41 AM

Oh thanks I didn't know this/hadn't noticed it! Now some questions have come up:

1. Do other sound cards show this behaviour too? I mean do other sound cards have some such 'internal' sampling frequency that everything else gets upsampled or downsampled to? And is this a property of the main processor on the sound card e.g. all cards using the Envy24HT, CS4630, EMU10K1, etc. do this?

2. Why does upsampling like this degrade the sound? Is this because of the non-linear proportion between the sampling numbers (48/44.1=1.0884...) or anything else? Would e.g. upsampling to 88.2 KHz have better results? (also see my next question)

3. Related to the 2nd question, the Audigy has 24-bit/96KHz DAC and ADC but the chip itself is only capable of 16-bit/48KHz. Is this (forgetting the false marketing)
technically good or bad or shall we apply the garbage-in garbage-out principle to this sort of thing? Is doing something like this in any way related to what Wadia or Purcell or other stand-alone DACs (and many of today's CD players) do? ('upasmple' the CD signal to 24-bit/96KHz (or higher) and use digital filters to -supposedly- get much better quality) (i.e. if you want to believe what Stereophile or other audiophile mags tell you about their
multi-thousand dollar equipment) Also the Audigy can send 24-bit/96KHz signals out of its SPDIF digital output. Does this mean that the chip (while being a 16/48 solution) itself somehow dithers its output to achieve this? (because you don't pass the DAC if you're sending out digital signals, right?) Am I completely off the mark here?
March 2, 2003 8:29:05 AM

The reason resampleing degrades the sound is that anything to change the sound media (ie. Tape reel to cassette tape, CD to MP3, MP3 to MP3 ect.) or the way it is transmitted (Tape to AM, CD to FM, CD to Satellite ect.) sound WILL degrade. However, some changes are so minute that it takes a tuned ear to hear the difference. But anything to change the sound, degrades it, because it can't be recreated perfectly.

Law of thermodynamics, all things degrade, nothing is created (not exact, but the meaning).

Now if you think of it that way, as soon as a car is built, it trys to return to it's original state. Which means all cars are trying to turn into dirt. If you don't believe me, look at all the rust and corrosion.... but that is a whole other topic.

Water cooling is for the weak. Get liquid nitrogen.
March 2, 2003 9:09:29 AM

Okay, r2k, I will do my best to help you out with your queries.

1. It isn't downsampling, but rather upsampling. The signals above 48Khz are not resampled, but those below (ie: 44.1) are resampled up to 48 so that they can be sent at 24bit/96khz, otherwise there is no integer relationship (96/44.1=2.177, whereas 96/48=2), and the processor must use an internal algorithm to fill in the gaps, rather than just "double-up" the signal. Either case, however, will add in extra noise, though perhaps an integer relationship would be easier to resample than non-integer ones. I'm not a sound engineer, yet ;-)

2. It degrades the sound because no process that involves electrical current is 100% efficient. There is always some loss (either loss of heat, EMI, or noise because of poor conductor quality), no matter how perfect. That's why you need a heatsink on your amp, because the process to convert an electric signal to a kinetic motion is not 100% efficient. Resampling in any case would degrade sound quality, though in some cases not as significantly as others. Upsampling to 88.2 would not matter, because there would still be the process of having to change the format of the medium, and many receivers don't like non-standard frequencies either.

3. I had to look at the review of the Audigy2 again, to see if the chip itself only was 16/48. It would appear the chip itself is capable of full 24/96, though I would like someone else to verify that. As you say, yes it is garbage-in garbage-out. The processor is not capable of filling in gaps erased in the medium in a previous step. Like in MP3 encoding, when you decode it back to WAV, at best it will sound as good as the MP3 file did. It can't sound as good as the original WAV because that missing data is gone for good. The missing gaps are effectively filled in with empty data. If you are playing a 64kbps MP3, no matter how good your soundcard is, it can't fix the fact that it is only a 64kbps recording. Most of what this fancy equipment is doing is using a sort of encryption algorithm to fill in the empty spaces. When sound X is played, it normally is accompanied by sound Y. So, if sound X occurs without Y, it is reasonable to assume Y was supposed to be there, and the filter fills in the gap. This usually works well, but it takes a lot of sound analysis to have an accurate representation of most sound signals. They can also remove any line noise to give a clearer sound, because most noise sounds "alike", and once it is isolated, the filter can remove it. That's all these processors do. In general, they can't add what isn't there to begin with.

You seem like a real knowledgeable fellow, so I hope I didn't simplify it too much. It is more for everyone's benefit than yours alone. Please, I would like to verify if the processor is truly 24/96, or as r2k says, 16/48, as I am unsure on this matter.
March 2, 2003 4:24:14 PM

First things first, thanks for the answers. And, I'm NOT knowledgable in audio although I like to know more and I try to devour info about the relevant matters ;)  (I'm an architect and I luv music!) So don't think that you're oversimplifying it for me. I'm like all the others in this...

Second, I was talking about the first version of Audigy (without 2, Audigy one if you like). Creative had some shitty marketing on the Audigy claiming it's a 24-bit/96KHz solution. But if you check the spec sheets you can see that while the DAC and ADC are 24-bit/96KHz chips and the card can put out a 24-bit/96KHz signal out of its SPDIF output (actually the SPDIF output is controlled by the user. You can set it to 44.1, 48 and 96KHz) it CANNOT play back real 24/96 sounds or record at this frequency. I wasn't talking about Audigy2 because it is in a sense, the thing Audigy should have been from day one (i.e. a real 24-bit solution with front DACs outputting at 192KHz rate and all other DACs at 96KHz, that's why it can play e.g. 24/192 stereo or 24/96 5.1 DVD-Audio material). ASIO multi-track recording is still done at 16/48 in both cards and seemingly with good results too (<3ms latency).

1. So, the sound processor IS using an algorithm to resample here and that may or may not degrade the listening experience. I mean for the original CD quality signal to be converted into 48KHz, the DSP does some tricks. It then sends this upsampled signal (the quality of which is directly related to the used algorithm) to the 24-bit/96KHz
DAC (or probably first dithers the signal and then sends it to the DAC, that may explain the fact that the SPDIF output can be set at 96KHz; i.e. While the Audigy cannot internally do calculations with 24-bit precision it may at the very end add zeros to get to 24-bit resolution and upsample from 48kHz to 96KHz). Did I get it all right?

2. But sometimes the degradation is worth it, no? I mean a separate DAC box -supposedly- (I haven't auditioned any of these 'upsampler' separate DAC systems yet myself) gets its
best results with a 24/96 or 24/192 signal that it's got from the 16/44.1 of audio CD. Its digital filters and the final conversion to analog have of course degraded the signal but the final result is worth the cost of this conversion. But of course there's controversy in this
'upsampling' business. You can't add something that isn't there so to speak and a chip's best estimates for the lost samples or bits may not always hold true. E.g. while Wadia and Purcell seem to embrace the idea so much, another producer of digital equipment (SimAudio Moon) calls it a marketing ploy at best. They even have an article on their website explaining their idea.

A word for those of you that don't have an idea of which brands I'm talking about, a single Wadia CD player (861x) goes for ~$8000 if not more, the SimAudio Moon Eclipse (again a CD player) ~$6000. Wadia has a standalone digital processor/DAC that if coupled with their CD transport (that can only read the CD and output digitally to another DAC like Wadia's own) cost you more than $15'000. Insane?! Well you haven't even factored in the costs of the amplifier and speakers to match: Welcome to the crazy world of the so called audiophiles ;) 
March 2, 2003 4:54:10 PM

Okay, sorry about that r2k, I thought you meant the Audigy2. Yes, you are right, Audigy2 is what the Audigy should have been. All your comments hold true. You got the gist of it.

Again, if your ears are tuned enough to pick up the difference, then go for something by Audiotrak, M-Audio, or RME, as they are all true 24/96 solutions, and they sound great.
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