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 GideonTech Reviews
-- Testing and Conclusions
-- Page: 1 2 3

     Testing sound quality of a sound card is very hard to do without a room full of expensive equipment and someone who knows what they are doing.  So what I'm left with is trying to explain to you how it sounds, without you actually being able to hear it, so it is very much subjective.  I can tell the difference between bad sound and good sound, but not between good sound and great sound.

   Test Computer Specs:

  • 1.4 Ghz AMD Athlon
  • 3d Prophet II GTS 64 Meg
  • Iwill kk266plus-r
  • 512 Megs PC166 CAS 2
  • Windows 2000 Advanced Server
  • Klipsch 2.1 Pro Media Speakers

   Audio Performance:
     I looped the front speaker out to the line in on the sound card.  And set the line in as the Record Source in the Fortissimo II control panel.  And then used SpectraPLUS to generate a 1 KHz Test Frequency and  to scope the output. This is also known as a "Full loop-back" test, and doesn't really show the true output of the card.

     SpectraPLUS will generate a perfect 1 KHz test tone that is then sent through the Digital to analog converter, to the line out.  This signal is then routed to the line of the sound card where it goes through the analog to digital converter. Because the sound card has to convert the analog audio signal back to a digital signal the sound card can add dB's that weren't there in the original output.  So in fact what you are seeing is actually worse than the true output of the card.


Signal to noise ratio 16bit 44,1KHz (clickable)

     The results are pretty good, however where the 1 KHz range is, there it is suppose to look more like a spike, instead of an icicle.  An SNR (Signal to noise ratio) reading of 83 dB is decent considering the max SNR you can have with a 16bit/44,1KHz is 96 dB.  And the THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) is with in an expectable range as well considering our testing methods.

   Ziff Davis Audio WinBench 99:
   Audio winbench99 measures the amount of cpu a sound card takes to play a sound at different bit rates and frequencies.

Audio WinBench 99 Results

DirectSound CPU Util, 22 kHz, 8 bit, Static:Hardware Voices 32
22 kHz, 8 bit, Static:Voice  8 (Percent Used) 1.98%
22 kHz, 8 bit, Static:Voice 16 (Percent Used) 2.56%
22 kHz, 8 bit, Static:Voice 32 (Percent Used) 3.60%
DirectSound CPU Util, 22 kHz, 8 bit, Streaming:Hardware Voices 32
22 kHz, 8 bit, Streaming:Voice  8 (Percent Used) 2.38%
22 kHz, 8 bit, Streaming:Voice 16 (Percent Used) 2.41%
22 kHz, 8 bit, Streaming:Voice 32 (Percent Used) 3.68%
DirectSound CPU Util, 44.1 kHz, 16 bit, Static:Hardware Voices 32
44.1 kHz, 16 bit, Static:Voice  8 (Percent Used) 2.04%
44.1 kHz, 16 bit, Static:Voice 16 (Percent Used) 2.79%
44.1 kHz, 16 bit, Static:Voice 32 (Percent Used) 4.74%
DirectSound CPU Util, 44.1 kHz, 16bit, Streaming:Hardware Voices 32
44.1 kHz, 16bit, Streaming:Voice  8 (Percent Used) 2.46%
44.1 kHz, 16bit, Streaming:Voice 16 (Percent Used) 3.21%
44.1 kHz, 16bit, Streaming:Voice 32 (Percent Used) 4.55%
DirectSound3D CPU Util, 22 kHz, 8 bit, Static:Hardware Voices 32
22 kHz, 8 bit, Static:Voice  8 (Percent Used) 3.14%
22 kHz, 8 bit, Static:Voice 16 (Percent Used) 3.54%
22 kHz, 8 bit, Static:Voice 32 (Percent Used) 4.56%
DirectSound3D CPU Util, 22 kHz, 8 bit, Streaming:Hardware Voices 32
22 kHz, 8 bit, Streaming:Voice  8 (Percent Used) 2.54%
22 kHz, 8 bit, Streaming:Voice 16 (Percent Used) 2.72%
22 kHz, 8 bit, Streaming:Voice 32 (Percent Used) 3.93%
DirectSound3D CPU Util, 44.1 kHz, 16 bit, Static:Hardware Voices 32
44.1 kHz, 16 bit, Static:Voice  8 (Percent Used) 3.33%
44.1 kHz, 16 bit, Static:Voice 16 (Percent Used) 4.24%
44.1 kHz, 16 bit, Static:Voice 32 (Percent Used) 5.91%
DirectSound3D CPU Util, 44.1 kHz, 16 bit, Streaming:Hardware Voices 32
44.1 kHz, 16 bit, Streaming:Voice  8 (Percent Used) 2.83%
44.1 kHz, 16 bit, Streaming:Voice 16 (Percent Used) 3.49%
44.1 kHz, 16 bit, Streaming:Voice 32 (Percent Used) 4.95%

   Quake3:
   Quake3 has become the standard 3d benchmark of all time.  Almost ever review you will read will have some sort of Quake3 Benchmark in it even if it doesn't even relate to what is being reviewed.  I swear people just like to throw in Quake 3 just for the hell of it.  So why should I break the trend?  I used a program called Q3Bench.  The settings where: 1280x1024, MAX Detail, Map: " FOUR.dm_66".   For the first run sound was enabled and set to 22KHz, for the second run sound was disabled. Quake3 Version is 1.29f.

Quake 3 Results:

With sound

Without Sound

70.15 FPS

70.30 FPS

   As you can see having sound on or off has little or no effect over the FPS in Quake 3.

   Sound Quality:
   Now we get down to the subjective part of the review.   For sound quality I will be comparing the Fortissimo II against a Sound Blaster Live MP3.  For this test I played CD's and some Mp3's.  Throughout the test I noticed one thing, the Fortissimo II sounded better than the Sound Blaster Live MP3 in every aspect.  With my Klipsh speakers and the SBLive, the bass would distort terribly when I tried to turn the system up.  At first I thought my speakers were broken. Then when I listened to the Fortissimo II, I could turn the system up louder than I could before with the Sound Blaster live MP3 with no distortion.  At first I was thinking that this was a VIA and SBlive thing, so I tried them both in my brothers i815 board, and the results were the same.  The Fortissimo II sounded better than the SBlive, hands down.

   Conclusion:
   Hercules has produced a wonderful example of what value sound cards should be like.  The Fortissimo II really shined throughout all of our tests, and the digital connectors really put it in a league of its own.   If you are planning on building a gaming rig in the near future and you are considering a Sound Blaster Live, go with the Fortissimo II you will be presently surprised with its performance and sound quality

   Thanks to Helen from Hercules for providing us with this sample card.  If you're looking for anything in the multimedia department for your PC, check these folks out!

  Pros:

  • Great Sound Quality

  • In-expensive

  • Big software bundle

  • Digital in and out connectors

  • Small performance hit when using the 3d sound API's

  Cons:

  • Dongle

  • Sound card  sometimes gets stuck in a speaker mode

  • Have to reboot to switch from the analog outputs to the digital outputs

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