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Does Hercules' Fortissimo 4 Deliver at 24 Bits?

The Software Bundle

The software bundle that comes with the Fortissimo 4 includes Mediastation II, Hercules' multimedia applications and PowerDVD 5 for DVD play. This version of PowerDVD lets you decode Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital EX, operate in Dolby Pro Logic II and also expand stereo to CyberLink-specific multichannel, called CLMEI (CyberLink Multi-channel Environment Impression). Some functions - like DTS decoding - aren't here, but if you want them you can download them from Hercules' Web site. For everyday use, the version that ships with the card will satisfy most users. The results it produces are very good -image and sound - when the Fortissimo is connected to a good speaker system.

The Hercules multimedia software is fairly practical, but naturally you can stick with the one you're used to...

The bundled version of the PowerDVD 5 software is recent and provides good enough possibilities, but you can extend them via an upgrade.

PowerDVD 5 gives you several choices for converting stereo to multichannel. There's CyberLink's own solution in addition to the classic Dolby Pro Logic II.

Note that Hercules hasn't attempted to give its Fortissimo 4 ASIO drivers or provide music-oriented applications. This card is clearly oriented towards games and multimedia. And we can only approve, since we've never been convinced by a card in this category that claims to be able to do everything.

Test Configuration And Audio Measurements

Our test and measurement configuration remains identical, though we've made the indispensable updates to the operating system and DirectX. So you can continue to make comparisons with preceding tests.

Test Setup
ProcessorPentium 4 at 2.4 GHz
Memory1 GB of DDR
Graphics cardNVIDIA GeForce Ti4200
Hard disk80 GB 7200 rpm
Optical disk playerDVD LG16/48X
OSWindows XP Home SP2
Direct X Version9.0c
SpeakersCreative Gigaworks S750, Logitech Z2200
Video playerPower DVD, Win DVD
Measurements
Right Mark Audio Analyzer 5.4
Right Mark 3Dsound 1.24
DAAS audio measurement system
Neutrik 3337 audio measurement system

The earlier Fortissimo 3 delivered very good performance for its category, though obviously it was hampered by being a 16 bit card. We didn't expect very significant measurable improvements with the Fortissimo 4, except for signal-to-noise ratio - the typical value for the Fortissimo 3 was around 85 dB, which is a respectable level but quite a bit short of what can be achieved today, even by consumer-level products.