Boost the audio performance of your laptop with Creative's new USB DAC

Subject: General Tech | September 27, 2011 - 02:31 PM |
Tagged: Creative, X-FI HD USB, usb audio, audio, digital audio converter

It has become commonplace to see USB headsets that can be plugged into any system and will work without drivers needing to be installed.  That has not been widely spread to actual soundcards yet but Creative is changing that with the release of the X-FI HD USB, which does need drivers but should happily function on any machine.  For under $100 you get a small box which acts as a headphone amplifier and mic receiver but can also take audio from almost any source to be recorded to your PC.  It is a really good deal for a Digital Audio Converter, especially for notebook users which is why [H]ard|OCP heartily recommends the device for those looking to easily boost their audio performance.

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"Creative's latest sound card is an external model that sports a USB interface and boasts high quality digital, analog, and dedicated headphone connectivity options. We tell you if this may be the audio upgrade that laptop users and those of you with no free expansion slots in your desktop PC have been looking for."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

A quick peripheral roundup, Corsair's Vengeance series

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2011 - 12:20 PM |
Tagged: corsair, Corsair Vengeance, audio, keyboard, gaming mouse

Over at Overclockers Club is a look at Corsair's Vengeance series of keyboards, mice and headsets.  They captured several slides from a recent presentation that show a brief history of Corsair's products as well as having hands on time with the newest members of the Vengeance lineup.  From the M60 mouse with a dedicated sniper button to the K60 mechanical keyboard, they've focused on the needs of gamers, not casual users.  The Vengeance 1100 headset and it's noise cancelling microphone also gets a look.

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"The M60 is Corsair's new enthusiast grade-gaming mouse that looks to improve user experience in first-person shooters. Like the M90, the M60 utilizes an Avago 5670 DPI sensor with lift-detection for real-time adjustments. However, the M60 utilizes an aluminum unibody design with an adjustable center of gravity and PTFE glide pads. Making the Vengeance M60 potentially even more powerful as a FPS tool, there is also a red "sniper" button that lowers the DPI on-the-fly. When activated, the mouse toggles between a high-speed DPI mode and a precision mode. This serves to improve accuracy when using in-game sniper rifles, and could come in handy whenever a lower DPI is required for kills."

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Turtle Beach is still alive and kicking bass

Subject: General Tech | August 29, 2011 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: audio, headset, turtle beach, DPX21, 7.1

Old time techies will remember Turtle Beach fondly, as there was once a time when they were the only choice in sound cards other than Creative.  ASUS blew that market wide open and now we see many other manufacturers releasing sound cards, even if the majority of users now depend on onboard codecs.  Turtle Beach does still make sound cards, the Riviera being their current model, but they've also expanded into headsets.  The newest Turtle Beach headset is the DPX21 which is a package containing the PX 21 headset and the Ear Force DSS controller which allows you different connection choices as well as a host of controls.  The Ear Force has separate volume controls for the game and chat, and bass tuning, there are also two controls that tbreak suggests you avoid, one which is a sound ‘expander’ and an option to force Dolby-esque surround sound.  If you leave those two controls alone though, tbreak loudly proclaims their love of the virtual 7.1 surround sound and feel it is worth the $150 investment .

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"While the name may evoke imagery of cute turtles and soft sunny beaches, for the techie among us, the name Turtle Beach only evokes one picture: kick-ass surround sound gaming headsets. And what a lovely picture that is. Turtle Beach have been at the game for a long time, making a name for themselves by churning out impressive, high quality headsets for the current gen consoles."

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Source: tbreak

Dr. Dre is shilling for Monster Cable

Subject: General Tech | August 12, 2011 - 03:45 PM |
Tagged: audio, monster cable

The Beats by Dr. Dre Studio Headphones are made by everyone's favourite overpriced cable vendor, Monster Cable, helping to explain the $300 price tag ($350 direct from Monster Cable).  [H]ard|OCP nevertheless forged ahead with reviewing them, hoping that perhaps this time Monster Cable produced something worth the price of admission.  They compared them to similarly priced headsets from Beyer-Dynamic, which outclassed the Beats Headphones in every metric, as did the studio quality Audio-Technica M50 they tried.  Their final verdict is not kind.

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"Few brands of headphones have achieved popularity and consumer adoption as quickly as Monster's Beats by Dre series. We recently purchased our own pair of the Beats' Studio Edition headphones to tell you if these are merely marketing fluff or the "real deal.""

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

The ASUS Vulcan ANC Pro Gaming Headset has gaming in its name for a reason

Subject: General Tech | August 2, 2011 - 03:43 PM |
Tagged: asus, ROG, Vulcan ANC Pro, headset, audio

If you find yourself gaming in a noisy environment and are trying to keep your contribution to the noise down by using headsets it can be frustrating if you cannot hear the game you are playing.  ASUS has a way to solve that, thanks to the active noise cancellation in their Republic of Gamers Vulcan ANC Pro Gaming Headset.  Red & Blackness Mods tried out a pair for review and were impressed by the light weight of the headset as well as detachable mic for when you don't need to communicate with team mates.  They were not overly impressed with the sound quality but as these are specifically designed for gaming that is not a major concern and not attempting for high end audio helped keep the price down.

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"Asus mostly known for their high end laptops and motherboards have recently started pumping out various accessories and even touchpads. Today we are taking a look at the Asus Vulcan ANC Pro Gaming headphones that you can pick up for around 50$. What type of quality and sound quality can we expect from these?"

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Source: R&B Mods

A little something for the audiophile; M-Audio Studiophile Reference Monitor

Subject: General Tech | July 26, 2011 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: audio, studio quality, audiophile

There are speakers and then there are studio monitors, with the difference being quality.  For most gamers and movie watchers there is no point in picking up a pair of studio quality monitors, not only because of the lack of a discerning ear but also because the audio source is unable to provide the quality these monitors need to perform.  Much as Scotches or wines taste similar to the untrained palate, studio quality speakers are for professionals with professional level needs.  If you are one, or simply want the best possible sound reproduction and are willing to spend $300+ for a pair of monitors then you should check out the M-Audio Studiophile CX5 Active Studio Reference Monitor review at ModSynergy.  With a proper audio card and file as a source these monitors will equal a $1000 pair of monitors and are a great deal for those with the ears to enjoy them.

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"Today I will be providing a long-term review on a different beast. Today you will be reading the review of one of M-Audio’s latest offerings on the market within their Studiophile lineup, the CX5 High-Resolution Active Studio Reference Monitor. Read on to see how this 90-watt near-field studio monitor performs and holds up. Will this be your next investment?"

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Source: ModSynergy

CoolerMaster's new Storm headphones have nothing to do with JK Rowling

Subject: General Tech | July 19, 2011 - 02:05 PM |
Tagged: CoolerMaster Storm Sirus, audio, 5.1 headset

Naming a product Sirus right now might attract an odd crowd, then again maybe it is best that they are using headphones to watch or listen to their favourite series.  CoolerMaster's newest member of the Storm lineup is not a case, mouse or fan, it is a 5.1 surround headset.  One of the more interesting features is that there is only one wire coming from the headset, connecting to a small round controller.  From there you connect to the PC using USB, or preferably, 4 of the analog jacks on the back of your PC.  The controller allows you to adjust the levels of each channel separately, which is a very nice touch.  Unfortunately however Neoseeker adjusted it they couldn't bring it up to audiophile standards, but they have no reservations recommending it for gamers.

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"Not one to be left out, Cooler Master enters the PC audio market with a 5.1 surround sound headset of its own that can connect to your audio source via analog jacks or USB port. See how well the Sirius stacks against more specialized headsets in our latest audio review."

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Source: Neoseeker

Need some help decoding your audio codec?

Subject: General Tech | July 12, 2011 - 05:58 PM |
Tagged: audio, onboard audio, codecs

With the rise of onboard audio, the technical details that used to come with your sound card are often missing from your motherboard manual.  Hardware Secrets has compiled a set of tables that will help you sort out the mysterious chip found on your motherboard.  Covering Analog Devices, C-Media, Realtek, VIA and other manufacturers they list the major chips available and an overview of their capabilities.  Bookmark this one if you find yourself tracking down audio chip specifications frequently.

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"Audio codec is a small chip measuring 0.25 sq. in. (7 mm2) located on the motherboard in charge of the analog audio functions. Knowing the specs of a codec will permit you to compare the audio quality of different motherboards, allowing you to choose the right product for your needs."

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Tritton managed to stick 8 speakers in their PC 510 HDA 5.1 headset

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2011 - 05:27 PM |
Tagged: tritton, audio, 5.1 headset

Some 5.1 surround sound headsets emulate extra speakers through software but you find the occasional set that actually have a hardware solution in the form of multiple speakers.  Tritton's PC 510 HDA's speakers range from 23mm in the centre to 30mm for front and back and a sub of 40mm.  It connects to your 5.1 sound card via the numerous RCA jacks present and a USB connector to handle power and the controller.  MektuMods had a great time gaming with these but felt that the audio quality was not up to snuff when it came to enjoying music.  Read the full review here.

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"This time we will take a closer look at a gaming headset from Tritton - an American manufacturer established in 2000. The new model they sent us for a review is PC 510 HDA, and it's a gaming headset of the 5.1-variety. Now lets see how it compares to the audio gear we've reviewed earlier."

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Source: MektuMods

If you are going to get a discreet sound card then go all out with the ASUS Xonar Xense kit

Subject: General Tech | June 27, 2011 - 03:55 PM |
Tagged: xonar, xense, audio, asus

The ASUS Xonar Xense Premium Gaming Audio Set is more than just a soundcard you pick up to take a bit of load off of your CPU, it is an audiophile class sound card with replacable op-amps.  The list of supported technology reads like a sound techs dream, Dolby Headphone, Dolby Prologic IIx, Dolby Digital Live, Xonar GX2.5 and ASIO 2.0. and it can process up to 192kHz/24bit bit stream.  There is nothing minimalist about the software controls that come with the card, you have significantly more control over your audio than with just about any other sound card and the screenshots that Think Computers posted show a fairly intuitive interface.  The only potential drawback is the Sennheiser PC350 Xense headset that the card ships with, which Think Computers was not overly impressed with. 

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"When you first see the ASUS Xonar Xense’s EMI shield, you get a sense that this isn’t anordinary soundcard. The non-ironic conclusion is, you’re right. ASUS has put together another great soundcard and bundled it with a great pair of headphones, the Sennheiser PC350 Xense Edition. The Xonar Xense offers a myriad of inputs and outputs, and can chug out high definition audio up to 192kHz/24bit without breaking a sweat. It easily is one of the coolest pieces of hardware you can add to your rig. Need more convincing? Continue reading to check out all of the details of the ASUS Xonar Xense."

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