The last time you bought a stereo system or an audio component you probably listened to a variety of brands and models before making your decision. Too bad you can't conduct the same tests with PC sound cards. If you could, your choices would be limited. In a battery of tests to measure the quality of sound cards, few delivered on their advertised specifications. The exceptions:
Sound Blaster AWE32 with 4MB
Review: The flagship in the Sound Blasterline, this board offers good wave - table synthesis for game use as well as high-quality MIDI playback. With the exception of its power amplifier, this AWE32 turned in one of the best performances in the group.
Review: A universal player, this board works well whether you intend to use it for business presentations, serious music editing and recording or white-knuckle game play. It accepts outputs from professional audio equipment and average hi-fi components without overloading.
Review: Of all the boards tested, Ensoniq's has unquestionably the best-sounding wave-table synthesizer for games. The Elite is MIDI- compliant and easy to set up and use. The best sound for those on a budget.
Review: Here's a quick way to upgrade your sound card to wave- table. This ISA add-on for sound boards that lack a wave-table synthesizer is a reviewer's dream. Pull it out of the box, plug it into your board and you're ready to play.
Turtle Beach Systems
Review Unlike most cards in the group the Monterey is not Sound Blaster - compatible. It also has no internal CD-ROM audio inputs or IDE connectors. For those reasons it's not a good game board. But it's the only board that approached CD audio quality. If you're serious about music and digital audio creation, it has no peer.
MIDI: Musical instrument digital interface, a standard that lets instruments, synthesizers and computers exchange information.
Wave-table MIDI: Uses digitized sound samples of actual instruments, a vast improvement over traditional synthesized MIDI.
ISA: Industry standard architecture, a standard for the expansion bus slots found in PCs.
IDE: Integrated drive electronics, the most prevalent and affordable class of PC hard disk.
Reviews courtesy of Multimedia World, a monthly publication based in San Francisco that provides product reviews and testing for multimedia experts.