More Than A SoundBlaster

Hercules - Gamesurround Fortissimo II, Continued

I think everyone would agree that the most important feature of the Sound Blaster Live was the introduction of the Live Drive. Guillemot attempted to address the shortcoming of many sound cards with the introduction of its unique single cable solution that plugs into a din connector on the back of the card, and then splits out into four 1/8" input jacks. This provides a place to plug in a microphone, headphones, and front and rear speakers. The card's bracket includes a line in connector and S/PDIF TOSLINK input and S/PDIF TOSLINK output connectors.

Adding the S/PDIF TOSLINK connectors also allows output to a 5.1 channel receiver or speaker device accepting S/PDIF TOSLINK connections. The TOSLINK connections can also be used to connect to digital devices, such as a Mini Disc player. This allows digital output of MP3s directly to Mini Disc. I am told this is a very popular option in Japan and the UK. The TOSLINK output can be used to connect directly to your home theater receiver to output DVDs to your home theater digital surround sound system.

The manual included with the Gamesurround Fortissimo II is translated into four languages: English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. The manual contains about fourteen pages in each language and covers the General Specifications of the sound card itself, physical hardware installation, driver installation for 95/98/98SE/ME/2000, Software Installation, and Sound Board Configuration. I found the manual to be very basic, at best. The pictures and screen shots in the manual are small and hard to read. In fact, some of the screen shots are so small that if you are looking at them for guidance to help you, you will literally need a magnifying glass. The Software Installation section of the manual does not really provide much information about the installation of the applications, instead it suggests that you refer to the online HTML documentation included with the CD.

I would have preferred that Guillemot included a more complete description of the included applications, so the user could more intelligently choose which applications to install. In the Soundboard Configuration section, Guillemot only devotes one short page on the configuration of the sound card and doesn't review all of the settings included with the Gamesurround Fortissimo II control panel. If you are having a configuration issue with the Gamesurround Fortissimo II, don't look for the manual to offer for much support in resolving your configuration problem.

The installation of the sound card and software under both Windows 98SE and Windows 2000 occurred without problems. It is important to note that the Gamesurround Fortissimo II does not include drivers for Windows NT Workstation 4.0. The Gamesurround Fortissimo II offers an impressive control panel that allows user control over all aspects of the card. It was also easy to use the control panel to disable the real mode DOS compatibility mode support under Windows 98. Once completed, the card only uses one IRQ, and with the DOS compatibility mode enabled, it reserves a second IRQ for this mode, which in most cases will set itself to share on a Serial COM port. This is a very nice feature. The Gamesurround Fortissimo II card was flexible in IRQ assignment and even ran well on IRQ 12. Since I was using a USB mouse, this IRQ 12 was free.