Entry-level Multi-channel Sound Card: Hercules Gamesurround Muse 5.1 DVD

Introduction, Continued

As for connections, the Muse 5.1 DVD is simplicity itself. The three stereo analog outputs in mini-jack format for 5.1 sound are attached to the back of the card. The third output is dedicated to the central channel and LFE (Low Frequency Effects), i.e. the bass. The inputs are those typically found on this type of card with a "line-in" and a micro mini-jack input. There are two "CD-in" internal inputs on the card itself, one with an MPC3 format, and the other an auxiliary input. Since the CMI8738 chip is also capable of managing S/PDIF output, it is labeled as such on the board, but there is no connector for it. The reason is simple, namely, the location in question is occupied by the third output.

As far as the player is concerned, the Muse 5.1 DVD is relatively well-supplied with features, although much less so than the "Rolls Royces" of the range, Creative Labs' Audigy Sound Blaster and the Hercules Fortissimo II Digital Edition. It manages the features that have now become pretty much standard, such as DirectSound, DirectSound 3D, A3D 1.x, EAX 1.0, and 2.0. But its capabilities are limited to 16 DirectSound hard-wired voices, as in DirectSound 3D. This isn't particularly serious in and of itself, because the card can rely on the central processor for adding additional voices. But it means that the central processor will have a much heavier load, especially because recent games that take full advantage of sound, such as Soldier Of Fortune II or GTA 3, often use as many as 16 channels simultaneously. Performance would thus be adversely affected in this type of game, in comparison to a card such as the Fortissimo II DE.

In any case, music is not the strong point of the Muse 5.1 DVD. Yet quite honestly, at that price, you can't expect much more. The card supports the General Midi and restricts itself to FM synthesis with a maximum of 64 voices handled through the software. Therefore, the features of the Muse 5.1 DVD don't seem wildly attractive at first glance. But, at the risk of repeating myself, don't forget the price, which is one of the lowest on the market, when taking its numerous features into account.