(Ed Note: This is only a preview due to the fact that we have yet to receive final drivers for the Acoustic Edge. All other software and the actual hardware is the same as the shipping product.)
Philips takes audio to the PC
Just when it seemed like the sound card market had settled down, we see another competitor enter the fray. Building off years of experience in consumer audio markets, Philips is just as likely as any other company to succeed in today's competitive sound card market. Of Philips' new three-board sound card line-up, the Acoustic Edge is the flagship card, offering all the features that one could ask for, including 5.1 speaker support.
Despite the numerous sound card manufactures, big and small, there are now only three companies with developed core 3D sound technology. Creative Labs and Sensaura (used on almost all non-Creative boards) are the two well-known brands. QSound Labs is the third player in this industry. While QSound is a historic powerhouse in the 3D sound arena, it doesn't have as much namesake in the gaming industry as it did in the past. QSound Labs still develops respectable algorithms, and in light of their performance with the Acoustic Edge, I would hardly rule them out as a 3D sound competitor.
Like most top 3D sound cards today, the Acoustic Edge supports numerous simultaneous 3D sound streams (96), and also supports every current 3D sound API: DirectSound3D, A3D 1.0, EAX 1.0 and 2.0, and I3DS2. Using QSound's 3D algorithms, the Acoustic Edge is one of the few sound cards to offer gaming 3D sound output to a six channel or 5.1 speaker system (four speakers, a subwoofer, and a center channel). While the 5.1 output isn't considerably better than a traditional four speaker output, it is still a step in the right direction.
The Acoustic Edge ships with a standard fare of audio applications, including Sonic Foundry's Siren Xpress for MP3 encoding, Sonic Foundry's ACID for digital music creation, Yahama's S-YXG50 Soft-synth for excellent MIDI playback, QSound's AudioPix for combining audio and image files to make video presentations/slideshows, and PowerDVD 3.0. Of note, PowerDVD 3.0 is an excellent bundle item (a standalone $49 product), which offers top DVD decoding and 5.1 channel software Dolby Digital decoding out of the box.