More Than A SoundBlaster

Turtle Beach - Santa Cruz, Continued

The Santa Cruz sound card offers three important features that I think are lacking in other sound cards reviewed in this article: the interesting Versa Jack, the wave table header, and the Santa Cruz upgrade header allowing for future expansion.

The Versa Jack is a 1/8" stereo mini-phone jack that can be use in any of the following configurations: analog line input, analog line output, headphones output, and digital output. This is controlled in the Santa Cruz Control Panel. It is easy to control: reconfigure the Versa Jack for the new mode, plug in the new device in, and it's ready to go.

While wave tables are not as popular as they once were, the Santa Cruz sound card allows you to plug in a wave table upgrade card into the wave table header. This provides the ability to add more sound sample sets to your Santa Cruz card. This used to be almost a standard feature, but many companies apparently felt that not enough people were using this option to justify continuing this option on their sound cards. Many people still have old wave table upgrades that they would like to use, and this is especially true for those people using their sound cards with their music gear. Turtle Beach offers the Cancun FX wavetable daughter board that is Roland GS compatible with 4 MB of wavetable samples. (We did not use the Cancun FX in our testing of the Santa Cruz sound card.)

The Santa Cruz Upgrade Header is a mystery at the moment. We do not have any clue what plans Turtle Beach may have to make use of this option. However, I like to have the ability to upgrade a sound card. We have seen a connector like this before, enabled to provide additional output configurations as well as to add more jacks. It isn't likely that the Upgrade Header will upgrade the card to the next generation, but it might provide a solid upgrade to additional features. The Santa Cruz is the only sound card we seen which provides any kind of an upgrade path. (If Turtle Beach reads this, it would be nice to consider offering some sort of external or internal input/output rack that could be connected using this connector.)

The manual included with the Santa Cruz, entitled "Getting Started Guide," is just what the title implies, nothing more. The twenty-five page manual provides a very brief overview of the Specifications of the Santa Cruz, Installation, Using The Santa Cruz Control Panel, and External Connections. I found the installation section to be informative for installing the card, but I didn't like the fact that there were no screen shots of the driver install process. I think users have far more problems with the driver install process than anything else. The manual does mention the Santa Cruz Sound Check Utility that is included with the card, and provides an example of its use. This utility is one of the best sound card troubleshooting utilities that I have seen. It can test with the hardware and software configuration of the sound card to ensure that all is installed correctly. Turtle Beach should focus more attention on this utility, as it can be a real time saver.

Turtle Beach does not do an adequate job in the Control Panel section of the manual explaining the specific functions in the Turtle Beach control panel, but instead refers you to the online help function in the Control Panel application. The External Connections section of the manual is well presented, using a grid format for the use and potential uses for each jack. I found this information very helpful. Overall, I would rate the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz user's manual as average. The addition of a few screen shots to help you along would improve this manual considerably.