The Montego, Part II
In light of new information made available to me about the Montego II, we've revised our review and urge you to take a second look, as we did, at Turtle Beach's newest offering in the PCI sound card market!
Turtle Beach Returns
Turtle Beach has a long and storied history in the world of PC audio. For a long time, the very concept of high end PC audio was synonymous with Turtle Beach. The company is responsible for many audio "firsts" on the PC-- for example, 16-bit audio and wavetable MIDI. Of course, these cards were priced out of the reach of most consumers, so most people don't remember these important milestones as Turtle Beach milestones. After all, what good does a high-end card do for someone who can't afford to buy it in the first place?
Turtle Beach has tried with limited success to penetrate the realm of consumer audio, custom-designing sound cards based on other companies sound chipsets. Unfortunately, those retail experiments have historically resulted in failure. Anyone here remember the Tropez, for example? I rest my case. Creative Labs was laughing all the way to the bank.
Now, fast forward to 1998. Turtle Beach releases what many consider to be the best sound card based on Aureal's hot new Vortex chipset. Creative Labs was caught flat-footed by the rapid change of the sound card market to PCI and the surprise popularity of 3D audio. Heads rolled at Creative as gamers and savvy computer users passed up the tried and true "compatibility" of an ISA SoundBlaster for the brave new world of PCI audio under Windows 95, where hardware compatibility is not the issue that it is in DOS.
The new king
The Montego II is heir to that throne, built with the latest and greatest Aureal chipset-appropriately enough, the Vortex 2. Unfortunately, it cannot yet be found on store shelves. In fact, the review card we have is NOT the retail version, but the OEM version that can only be ordered directly from the Turtle Beach website. The only Turtle Beach 'consumer' audio card you're likely to find on store shelves today is the original Montego.
According to Turtle Beach representatives, the retail Montego II should be hitting shelves any day now, so you can consider this a "preview" of the retail version. There will be two versions of the card, retail and home studio. The home studio version, which I won't cover, will include the following additional features: optical digital output, a hardware MIDI daughtercard with a Dream chipset, and additional audio editing software.
Note: This review will be intentionally brief, as I have already covered many of the features of the Aureal Vortex 2 chipset in my Diamond Monster Sound MX300 review. I won't be going into great detail, so if you are unclear on any of the points I am making, feel free to refer to the earlier review for more information.