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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [07.15.04]
Manufactured by: Philips

MSRP: $69.99

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The Good Ol' Days

Think back to about 3 or 4 years ago. In those wonderful days, we were just starting to see 3D sound in games. Back then, there were two major sound chipset makers going their own way with high end surround sound gaming: Creative Labs, with their "Live!" chipset supporting EAX, and Aureal Labs, with their "Vortex" chipsets supporting A3D extensions. Game developers used these extensions to create games with more immersion than ever.

The general consensus was that A3D sounded better to most, but Creative would have none of it. The details seem sketchy, but the short of it is this: Creative sued Aureal into the ground, and when Aureal finally went bankrupt, they bought all their assets. This ended what many saw as the golden days of PC Gaming Sound, as there was really nobody around to compete with Creative. And you know what happens when there's no competition!

Over the years, less attention was being spent on 3d sound; developers usually threw in software-based 3d sound, and tacked on EAX. Many people were soured by Creative's ethics, and shoddy, bloated drivers. Often, they were left with no other option than to use their onboard AC'97 soundcards. NVIDIA had excited many of us by announcing a high quality sound chipset for their NFORCE chipset, but that seemed to go nowhere.

Times are Changing

In 2004, the focus is changing. Instead of in-your-face (and back-of-head) gaming, manufacturers are focusing on "High Definition", with 3d gaming as an afterthrough (supported by software emulation). Creative had failed miserably at their first shot at HD with the Audigy (which took a half-assed approach to 24 bit, and was plagued by miserable drivers once again). However, with the introduction of the Envy24 chipset, and Intel's new specification for high end audio, HD is finally becoming a reality. And with the Audigy 2, Creative is once again winning over the fans of gaming AND hi-fi audio. Things are starting to look better!

With the renewed interest in PC Audio, we are going to start covering what will sure to be many unique soundcards coming out. Even with VIA's extremely versatile Envy24 chipset family, we haven't seen much in the way of brand name consumer soundcards. Most Envy24-based soundcards we've heard about have been from audio companies you probably hadn't heard of before.

Until Now

Philips has awaken from a slumber since their last soundcard (the Acoustic Edge) to release their new, high-definition 24 bit soundcard, the PSC716: ULTIMATE EDGE.

The Ultimate Edge is Philips solution for those looking for something 'in between' an Audigy 2 and a Revo 7.1.

The card itself doesn't exactly look exciting. It comes in the same dark-brown that I think started with the SBLive... Included are analog connections for CD and external 4 pin AUX (either of which will almost never get used). At the back of the card, you can see the pinouts for front panel headers (headphone and microphone).

And here is the standard backplate you'd see on any 5.1 soundcard. Philips used a Coaxial connector for their digital output. I don't care of they use Coax or TOSLINK, as long as it is not that 'mini' digital connection that is hard to find cables for.

Now that we're familiarized with the card itself, let's get a bit more intimate with it...

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