More Than A SoundBlaster

Philips - Acoustic Edge

I really didn't know what to expect when I opened the box containing the Philips Acoustic Edge. From the look of the specifications on the box, it might be one of the best secrets in sound card technology. (Of course, what manufacturers don't make these kind of claims on the box?) As explained earlier in the review, only Philips is currently producing cards based on the Philips SAA7785 ThunderBird Avenger DSP. Philips does offer two additional cards based on the ThunderBird Avenger DSP, which are the Seismic Edge and the Rhythmic Edge. We did not look at the Seismic Edge and the Rhythmic Edge in this article. Both of these cards offer different feature sets from the Acoustic Edge, which is the top sound card in this product line.

After opening the Philips Acoustic Edge box, I found a very nice package containing a quick start guide, user's manual, driver CD, Power DVD, two din connector cables, and of course, the sound card itself. Philips deserves a lot of credit for providing an easy to use Quick Start Guide that was placed right on top of the card itself, designed to get you up and running quickly, while at the same time acknowledging that most users don't read the manual. Good packing design often tends to be overlooked in reviews, but I feel it is worth mentioning here. I really like the way that the Philips organized and packaged the Acoustic Edge.

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Data Transfer SpecificationPCI 2.1 Bus Mastering
Audio Processor (DSP)Thunderbird AvengerTM DSP - SAA7785
Audio Standards CompatibilityQMSS: Surround processing, Qsurround: virtual 5.1 playback, Qsound 3Dinteractive, EAX 1.0, EAX 2.0, A3D 1.0, DirectSound 3D, DirectSound
Legacy DOS SupportYes, Legacy DOS/Sound Blaster Support
Wavetable Synthesizer576 Voice Software WaveTable Synthesizer Support (5.9 MB sample set)
External Connector ConfigurationUses dual din cables providing analog outputs on the first cable in a mini jack format for center/sub, front, and rear. Second din cable provides S/PDIF digital in and out on coax RCA connectors. Mic In, Line In, and Midi/Game Port are located on the card bracket.
Operating Systems SupportedWindows 95/98/ME/NT 4/2000, DOS
Status Of Windows XP DriversXP Driver In Development
Special FeaturesQsound Support
Software Included With The CardPhilips Acoustic Edge Control Panel, Siren Xpress, AudioPix, Acid Xpress, PowerDVD 3.0, Yamaha XG50
Suggested Retail Price - US$100

Philips also went "outside the box" with its design of the Acoustic Edge, in that they use a dual din cable design on this sound card to provide all of the connectors needed. Although it is similar in some respects to the din cable that Guillemot uses on the Hercules Gamesurround Fortissimo II, it is quite different in its dual cable design. Basically, Philips elected to use one din cable for the analog line outs and the other din cable for S/PDIF RCA style in and out. On the card bracket itself there are 3.5mm jacks for the line in and mic. The bracket also includes a standard game/midi port, which can be configured for an analog or digital joystick/game pad. It is important to note that the Acoustic Edge does not have any TOSLINK connectors, so if you want to connect a TOSLINK only device to the Acoustic Edge, you will have to do it via the S/PDIF RCA connectors using a converter of some sort.

Previously, I mentioned the superior packaging that Philips uses on the Acoustic Edge. This great organization design carries over to the user's manual as well. The manual that is included with the Acoustic Edge is, by far, the best user's manual of all of the sound cards tested. The manual is easy to read and understand, and is well laid out for both expert and novice. It answers a comprehensive list of questions, as well as provides clear diagrams and screen shots to walk you through almost any process required. Another special feature of the Acoustic Edge sound card packaging is the three-part installation video guide on the included Acoustic Edge CD. Of course, most users will not have to look at this to install the sound card, but the videos and the excellent Quick Start Guide do make this a sound card that you could give to even a novice to install. Philips earns very high marks for the excellent documentation included with the Acoustic Edge.