The Hardware and Software
The Montego II is a very small PCI card. It's the same size as the previous generation Montego 1, barely large enough to fit into a PCI slot. The card is based on the Aureal Vortex 2 chipset, and you will find the Vortex 2 chip itself featured prominently on the lower right of the card.
On the back of the card, you'll find color-coded mini-DIN connectors for the following: line out, microphone in, and line in. There's also a standard joystick/MIDI connector. The OEM version of the Montego II does not support 4-speaker output: there is only one line out, limiting output to a single pair of speakers.
On the card itself, there are three input connectors for CD, AUX, and modem. One nice perk of all Aureal-based cards to date is the wavetable header, so you can plug in any waveblaster-compatible MIDI ROM daughterboard for a painless MIDI upgrade. Finally, there is a S/PDIF digital interface port, though I didn't test it. According to Turtle Beach representatives, the S/PDIF port can host an expansion card with S/PDIF RCA and optical I/O as well as the missing second output for four speaker support (the gaming version will have a S/PDIF RCA out and 1/8" stereo jack only).
Software? What software? Oh, wait a sec, there is a bundled audio rack type utility. Please note that the 10-band graphic equalizer is implemented in the audio hardware, but other than that, nothing to get excited about. Believe me, after packing away my tenth bundled copy of Incoming and Forsaken, I'm not a big fan of "bundled software." However, since there are so few A3D 2.0 games out there, it probably would have been nice to have at least a demo version of Half-Life, Heretic 2, or Motorhead; something to show off your new card's abilities.
OEM means few extras
If it isn't painfully obvious by now, it will be by the end of this review-this is a minimalist approach to building a sound card. However, bear in mind this version of the card was designed to ship in Dell computers as an OEM part, not for retail sales. The only reason it was made available for purchase via the Turtle Beach web site was due to pent-up demand for Diamond's Vortex 2 based MX300. The original release date was October, and Diamond didn't end up shipping the MX300 until mid-December!
However, all is not lost. The core card is identical in all three versions of the Montego II that Turtle Beach will be selling: the OEM, the Retail, and the Home Studio version. The only difference will be in the breakout board sold with the cards. In the case of the OEM, there is no breakout board!