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

MSRP: $69.99

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Sound Agent 2 HD

Sound Agent 2 is the driver and software package Philips uses for many of their PC sound products. In addition to basic audio controls, it gives access to the many features of the Ultimate Edge.

First, a look at the basic controls:

This is where you can set the various output levels, balance, etc. Under the 'recording' sub-tab, you can select the one input to record (such as Line In, or Microphone). Under Advanced, you can set the digital modes, etc.

The Setup tab is where you select your output destination, and master fade and balance levels. Clicking the "Test" button brings up another window where you can send a signal to each speaker individually, to make sure everything is set up properly.

Now we're getting a bit beyond a fancy version of the controls you could do in Windows... Sound Agent 2 includes a digital EQ that will work on all sources. There are no EQ presets, but later you'll see why...

The "Effects" window brings you to the most exciting features of the Ultimate Edge. All of these features are licensed to Philips from the Canadian company, QSound Labs.

  • QSizzle and QRumble are intended to 'return the sparkle' to music compressed by MP3. As you can guess by the names, one is for mids, and one is for bass. You might think, "Can't I just turn up the treble and bass and get the same effect?". Unlike basic treble and bass controls, QSizzle and QRumble are adaptive filters. They don't simply crank the bass or treble across the entire soundstage, but rather attempt to do it 'smartly'. We'll discuss these more later on in our subjective quality tests.

The "3D Effects" when enabled, select one technology at a time, depending on the output selected.

  • QMSS will take a stereo source, and creates a multi-channel output. My advice: if the source is music, and was intended to be stereo, leave it stereo. But to each his own! ;)
  • QSurround works the other way; it is enabled when anything below 6 channel output is selected. It will take a 5.1 source, and replicate it on a 4.1, 2.1/2, or headphone output.
  • QXPander uses timing tricks to give the effect of a wider soundstage. This can be adjusted with the slider.

Overall, I think the QSound effects give the Ultimate Edge an advantage over other home-theatre PC oriented soundcards for users looking to add effects to their audio sources.

Finally, there is the Presets tab, which will bring up various EQ, QSound, and Reverb settings. You can save your current setting, or use any of the preinstalled settings.

When changing the settings in Sound Agent 2, you get a nice graphical representation of what is going on. You can even click and drag some of the settings in this window (as is being done in the above screenshot with QRumble).

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