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Hercules Fortissimo III 7.1 and Digifire 7.1

Fortissimo III 7.1 And Digifire 7.1: Input And Output Quality

Fortissimo III 7.1 and Digifire 7.1 have four separate analog outputs, so these each need to be tested to see if they do all have the same quality. Given that outputs 1 and 2 (front and surround) are on the main codec and that 3 and 4 (center channel/subwoofer and center surround) are on the secondary one, there may be some differences to notice.

Still using the Right Mark Audio Analyser and subjective tests with Sennheiser HD570 Symphony headphones, we did indeed notice substantial quality discrepancies between outputs 1-2 and 3-4. We discovered when we listened that the sound from outputs 3 and 4 was really poor, while from 1 and 2 it was very good. So you have good quality sound on the front and surround speakers while the rest are inadequate. Contrast this with cards like the Terratec DMX 6Fire LT or the Creative Labs Audigy Player where the sound quality is identical on all outputs.

In the objective RMAA tests, this quality difference of Fortissimo III 7.1 and Digifire 7.1 was blatantly obvious. It was definitely noticeable in the bandwidth and appalling when it came to stereo crosstalk. This, by the way, is a measure of the isolation between the card's left and right sound channels, in other words the highest level of sound that can be heard on a channel before it starts to be heard on the other as well. This is an important factor in multi-channel environments.

To see what we mean, here is an example of results obtained with RMAA 4.1 for Digifire 7.1, the Fortissimo III results being virtually identical and with the same symptoms. We have just used output 2 as reference to make the charts simpler.

TestDIGIFIRE 7.1line out 4DIGIFIRE 7.1Line out 3DIGIFIRE 7.1Line out 2
Bandwidth (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:+7.30, -20.09+7.30, -20.11+0.01, -0.02
Signal to noise ratio, dB (A):-82.7-83.6-82.8
Dynamic range, dB (A):79.476.380.3
THD, %:0.0100.0110.015
IMD, %:0.0760.0620.033
Stereo crosstalk, dB:-6.3-6.1-72.8

Basically, these results prove that bandwidth compliance is appalling and crosstalk more than inadequate on outputs 3 and 4 while they are excellent on 2 (and therefore 1).