We repeat the mantra in almost all of our motherboard reviews – if you have decent speakers or headphones, you owe it to yourself to not use the onboard audio controller used by your motherboard. It’s not that all onboard audio codecs suck – they can actually be very good, and the manufacturers often make high end codecs as well – it’s that most do.
You don’t even need extremely high end audio equipment to benefit from a better audio solution. Any decent set of speakers or headphones will make full use of improvements over most of the low end codecs such as lower end Via and C-Media codecs, and pretty much anything with a crab on it (Realtek).
So do you need to upgrade to an expensive soundcard like the $130 Asus Xonar Phoebus Solo we reviewed a while back? Not necessarily. The Diamond Xtreme Sound 7.1 uses a very similar audio controller and codec as the Xonar Phoebus. However, the latter adds several audio converters and amps for even higher output quality. If you are just going to use a set of decent Logitech speakers or headphones, or a digital home theatre system, something like the Diamond Xtreme Sound 7.1 may be just what you need.
DIAMOND Xtreme Sound 7.1 XS71HD
Since the Diamond Xtreme 7.1 can be installed in a low profile enclosure, Diamond Multimedia have placed the digital outputs and inputs on a separate daughter card. The daughter card allows them to include better connectivity than most soundcards in this price range. It offers access to two different types of digital input and output, and none of the 8 analog output have to share ports. The line-in port is shared as a microphone port however.
The Diamond Xtreme Sound 7.1 uses the C-Media CM8828 to handle audio processing. This processor supports a lot of the same features we saw on the Xonar Phoebus, which we’ll cover on the next page. While it’s not their top end offering, it is a native PCI-E controller, which means a PLX bus adapter is not needed – these can cause quite a bit of lag.
The controller’s output is handled up by a C-Media CM9882 codec. This is the same codec used on the Asus Xonar Phoebus Solo, and is rated at 106 dB SNR with ~95dB THD+N. We’ll put this to the test later.
Click below for the full specs, and check out the software features on the next page:
|Audio Controller||C-Media CM8828HT|
|Audio Codec||C-Media CM9882A|
|Maximum recording / playback quality||24 bit/192 KHz|
|Output signal-to-noise ratio||100 dB|
|Input signal-to-noise ratio||100 dB|
|Multi-channel digital encoding||None|
|Sound Imaging / Speaker virtualization Software||Xear Virtual Speaker Shifter|
Xear Audio Brilliant
Xear Surround Max
|Price (November 29, 2013)||$53.00|