More Than A SoundBlaster

Hercules - Gamesurround Fortissimo II, Continued

The sound quality of the Gamesurround Fortissimo II sound card was exceptional. I found the card's 3D audio support to work well. I had no compatibility issues with the 3D audio in Quake III and Unreal, which are two games that I think make some of the best use of the 3D positional audio. Also, the separation of the audio between channels was good.

The software bundled with the card seemed to be to be more "shovel ware" than anything else. Most of the programs that were included with the card I had already purchased, or had little or no use for.

As part of our testing I played more than a few MP3s using Music Match Jukebox with the Gamesurround Fortissimo II, and the card seems to decode well and provide a rich and full sound. I also tested the card's ability to pass through Dolby Digital information from DVD, and found no problems with this. This sound card seemed to work well with a variety of test DVDs. Of course, this card doesn't replace all of the functions of the Sound Blaster with Live Drive sound card, but Guillemot includes a good level of features for the cost of its card.

In the four tests I ran using both Quake III and Unreal Tournament/UTBENCH the Gamesurround Fortissimo II was able to best the other cards tests in three out of the four tests. This was simply amazing considering the cost of the card, but one must not loose sight of the fact that this card does offer a little less audio processing power and audio resolution that some of the cards we are comparing it with. It is important to note that this card only has 32 hardware voices and 64 voice wavetable.

Guillemot does offer a more complete answer to the Live Drive with the external rack design in the Hercules Game Theater XP, which we look at later in this review. One thing to remember about this card is that if you take your computer to a LAN party and want to play it through headphones, you must take the din cable with you. I don't think that this is a big deal, but, if you lose the din cable, you will be forced to get another one, since the card is basically worthless without it. Guillemot told us that you can purchase a replacement din cable by calling the Customer Service number in the manual. Still, I think that they could have added a second headphone jack to the bracket of the card to allow you to leave your DIN cable at home. The Gamesurround Fortissimo II card has excellent performance, great sound, rock solid drivers, and a wide range of compatibility. If you are looking for a full featured card at an attractive price, it doesn't get much better than this.