Mission MV8 Floorstanding Speaker Review

15 11 2010

I’ve been in the market for a new pair of Hi-Fi speakers for a while. My neighbours have a tendency to slam doors late at night, and I’ve decided the best way to cope – is to drown them out with loud TV, games, movies and music. I needed something affordable, yet monstrous on volume.

While researching my next purchase, I decided I quite liked the look of the Mission MV8. Not many people realise, that Mission, Wharfedale, Audiolab, Castle, Luxman and Quad are all owned by the International Audio Group (IAG). You can usually expect good products from most of these manufacturers.

My first impressions of the Mission MV8 was that they looked the part. I googled a bit more and I found a couple of reasonable reviews on shopping comparison sites. The frequency responses seemed good for a speaker of it’s £200-£300 price range. This was looking like an interesting pair of speakers.

Frustratingly, I couldn’t find much information available anywhere on the internet. I visited a local retailer, and sampled the delights on offer. The first thing I noticed about the Mission MV8 was the size. They weren’t huge ugly boxes, like the cheaper but powerful Wharfedale XARUS 5000. They didn’t cost £600 like some weaker “posh audio” products. Yet, the Mission MV8 didn’t look cheap at all. In fact, I’d go as far as to say the build quality was better than some speakers that cost twice its price. I was quite impressed with this quality pair of entry-level Hi-Fi speakers. I reached in to the wallet, and arranged delivery.

Quite a few online retailers are selling this product, but a few list the specifications incorrectly. I’m here to correct these oversights, take a few photos – and reveal my opinion on the MV8. Don’t expect any graphs -I’m going to try and keep the audiophile jargon to a minimum.

First, let’s have a look at the true specifications taken from the Mission MV series data sheet.

MISSION MV8
Recommended amp power: 25 – 200w
Sensitivity: 91dB
Nominal impedance: 8Ω (4.6Ω minimum)
Magnetically shielded Yes
W x H x D: 188mm x 915mm (940mm with spikes) x 290mm
Frequency response: 35 – 20,000 Hz
Biwireable No
Connections: Binding posts (Pop-off caps reveal banana plug sockets)
Bass port Rear bass port
Drivers: LF/MF: 2 x 150mm Mission ‘Pyramid’ aramid polymer fibre/paper pulp woofer
HF: 25mm Viscous laminated dome tweeter
Inverted driver geometry for time alignment and Neodymium magnets
Supplied accessories: Removable front grilles, spike feet
Finish Available: Black or silver
Extras: Ferro-fluid cooled voice coils.

Here’s some photos of the speakers and packaging.



Testing

Everything else here in the test setup is relatively cheap. I’ve done this for two reasons; If the setup sounds good – the speakers are managing well with minimum requirements. The second reason? I’m not made of money – I’m a cheapskate.

I’m sure QE2 speaker cables, a more powerful amplifier and a £500 CD player would sound better. …but not everyone here is going to be using those types of components. I’m aiming for average, if not minimum capability test. Let’s face it, the speakers only cost £250. The speakers aren’t broken-in yet either, which I believe takes two hundred hours to achieve. Think of this review as a worst case scenario, with plenty of room for improvements.

All tests will be conducted in a 22’² room with wooden flooring. I’ll be sitting 4m away from the units, and testing with the amplifier set to -10dB. I’ll test PC audio formats, DAB and CD audio on the following components.

  • Receiver: Yamaha RX-V461DAB (6Ω optimal, 100w per channel)
  • CD Player: Cheap non descriptive model, via optical TosLink from eBay China.
  • Speaker Wires: Cheap bell wire, from Wilkinsons.
  • PC Audio: Creative X-Fi

First Test: CD Audio

Mr Ti2bs – My Love Hurts

I’ve heard this tune thousands of times. It’s one of my favourite Ti2bs tracks. Some fair bass, record pops and both male and female vocals. FDS, Mr. Ti2bs!

With the MV8 attached, I have a serious bass thumps. The vocals sound way more natural than before. Serena’s chorus sounds heavenly. The MV8 like this track too. OMG I love this tune.

Baby J feat. Rukus, Ty, Klashnekoff & Yogi – Let It Go

Another laid-back track here. Lots of varied vocals to be sampled on this track. There’s a bit of bass, hands clapping but not a great deal of instruments going on.

Wow. The bass is really intense now. Every time I’ve previously listened to this tune, it sounded quite heavy. Now the bass is punching out the windows. The vocals aren’t obscured and sound crisper than ever. The finger clicking sounds do sound a little raspy though. In general, very nice bass and vocal tone.

Janet Jackson – Got Til It’s Gone (Mellow Mix)

I’m not a fan of Janet Jackson, but this track is mellow. A very musical piece of music. There’s super high “fairy dust” sounds, bells and a wide range of percussion.

Now the MV8 really deliver here too. The bass is quite fantastic for starters. It’s quite a complex bass line, but it doesn’t distort or vibrate. My last set of speakers sounded too flimsy when confronted by bass this rich. Janet’s vocals are very clear too. The “fairy dust” sounds are a lot more high-pitched now. The speakers do a nice job of reproduction here – especially with the bell sounds. Again the fingers clicking and hands clapping sound a little too sharp.

Guild Wars Factions Soundtrack

Factions soundtrack is a classical symphony by top UK composer Jeremy Soule. It’s got a huge variety of instruments. Lots of strings, bells and some mighty deep bass.

Now playing this album through the Mission MV8 is quite a pleasant experience. The music sounds so rich, you could almost imagine the orchestra are in the same room as yourself. This has to be one of the best CD to show off the MV8’s soundstage potential. I’ve heard the Luxon Theme thousands of times, but never have I heard it with such a wide spectrum of sounds. It’s truly enthralling to listen to. Even the softer, calmer instruments delivered a stunning audio sensation. There was no blending of instruments – everything sounded clear and separate.

Second Test: DAB

Classic FM – I’m not a huge fan of most classical music, but the MV8 sound more like a live performance. The pure digital music was crystal clear both at low and high volume levels. The violins sounded perfect, don’t get me started on how good the woodwind sounded. I might have to listen to classical more often.

BBC 1Xtra – This broadcast provided loud bass, crystal clear vocals. Sadly Chipmunk was on at the time of testing. I promptly turned the radio off.

Third Test: PC

PC audio was quite lovely. Lossless and FLAC really did sound high quality. MP3 sounded fairly clean, with a bit of loss around the high-end of the sound spectrum. All this was to be expected from compressed music, but was still worth a play.

I couldn’t notice any difference between lossless and CD audio. Though I do have to say, “Crooked” sounded especially louder and more musical. The cowbells really stood out, compared to before. Midas Touch’s “Hold Back The Monster” provided more punch than the last time I heard it. I don’t remember half the instruments being so clear. Around 19 minutes in to the mix, the African drums really sounded authentic.

Fourth Test:

After 24 hours of loud music, I can conclude that the Mission MV8 were a terrific buy. They drown out everything, from the doorbell to the telephone. They’d be a good choice for social venues too if it weren’t for the flimsy grills. They could easily drown out a crowd of people in a bar or pub.

Some mid-range  audio really odd though. I played “Hell Yea” by Dead Prez. The “clapping” sounds were way too sharp at high volume. If you don’t mind tweaking  your graphic equalizer – these speakers are for you. I’ve found these speakers too sharp for the Hip-Hop I listen too, and I suspect that’s the problem. Perhaps it’s the recordings.

Classical music sounds fantastic though. The extreme sharpness really pays off with acoustic instrument reproduction. Drum & Bass generally sounds great too, due to serious bass driver power. The bass really shines from these units. Mine are situated too close to the wall, and near furniture. The deep sounds don’t suffer from distortion. I haven’t witnessed anything vibrate unnecessarily.

After 48 hours, the speakers are really portraying different versions of all my audio. The treble has calmed down. If I’m not mistaken, the audio seems to be getting better? I’m convinced it’s not placebo effect.

Even with G550 centre & surrounds, the MV8 boost my 5.1 audio. Oxygene sounds like a different album altogether. I can’t believe all the different sounds that I’ve never heard before. It’s stunning quality. HD video is a much nicer experience. I’ve been hearing so much that wasn’t there before. From just a two speaker upgrade is good work.

Oh shit. I want the centre & surround units now.

Conclusion

The MV8 are as good as I imagined them to be. I haven’t got the world’s best home cinema/Hi-Fi setup. Though, these speakers have improved the system by far. These tests demonstrated to me how much my amplifier was being bottlenecked by the previous 135W PMPO Gigaworks 500 speakers. They’re about twenty times larger, so this was to be expected. What I didn’t expect however, was the ability to surpass the 140w subwoofer too. If I had to sum up these speakers in one word, it would be bass.

The Mission MV8 haven’t got the mammoth capacity of the Wharfedale XARUS 5000. Yet the Mission MV8 still manage to punch out some good low-frequency sound. I imagine these speakers could easily be used without a subwoofer in a home theater environment. The bass drivers really deliver far more than I expected. Stick wet hands near the rear bass duct, and they will soon dry.

The midrange is crisp, perhaps a little on the light side. Nevertheless, the vocals are very pleasing in general. A little adjustment on the amplifier soon corrected the tone to my personal taste. Once the speakers have broken themselves in, I’m hoping this won’t be so much of an issue.

The tweeters are incredibly rich and are capable of reproducing some very high notes indeed. The classical music that I sampled revealed superb clarity of instruments. Bells and pipes especially sound fantastic.

If I had to find fault with the speakers, it would be the front plate design. The Mission MV8 used too much plastic for my personal liking. I’m not expecting them have the build quality of Bang & Olufsen for £250 – but less plastic would have been nice. It’s a very well made box, but I do prefer a solid wood cabinet. Vinyl coating isn’t usually very durable either. They might not be aesthetically appealing to everyone. You don’t need your eyes open to listen, though – do you?

Looks aside, the Mission MV8 really provided a higher quality soundstage than I expected for £250. They’re not the prettiest set of cans in the shop, but they’re possibly one of the best value. At the £200-£300 mark – they’re a winner. I can think of lots of reasons why.

I like the 150mm drivers, the speakers are able to fill most living rooms with ease. I also really enjoy hearing sounds on “old favourites” that were never there before. The clarity is simply spectacular and leaves me quite delighted with my purchase.

They’re growing on me more every day too.

Power:

Audio Reproduction:

Features:

Value for money:

Build Quality:

Pros

  • Stunning audio experience
  • Small footprint for a 200w unit
  • Sleek & modern design, that’s not ugly. IT’S NOT!
  • Good value for the £200-£300 price range.
  • Louder than a bomb
  • High-quality sound reproduction across all genres

Cons

  • Perhaps a little expensive for a floorstanding speaker of its size
  • Not aesthetically appealing to everyone.
  • Not biwirable
  • Grilles are flimsy

Goatie3Goatie1

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Meet the X-Fi SB0770

16 02 2010

I finally bit the bullet and grabbed an X-Fi to play with. I wanted to see how the sofware and CPU usage compared on my home rig. For those who don’t know, Audigy series and X-Fi drivers are built around a similar driver architecture and share common driver parts. So in theory, X-Fi should suffer with the same issues as Audigy.

That’s the theory, but with the Creative Labs soundcards I’ve owned previously they develop problems over time. Vista killed my Audigy 2. It was never the same after the loss of DirectSound. It developed all sorts of nasty issues that never surfaced under Windows XP.

Creative were slow to react. Audigy owners had to wait nearly 2 years after Vista’s launch before they could use basic features such as microphone, multi speaker, EAX etc. I never expected to buy another Creative soundcard. I wanted something half good to hook up to our Yamaha RX-V461DAB though. I really would have liked an Auzentech soundcard. They’re super expensive and quite difficult to get here in the UK. Baby goat food costs money, so I opted for yet another budget mid-range Creative solution.

I ordered a OEM Creative Labs Xtreme Music from an online store. They sent a rather odd-looking Xtreme Gamer instead. This isn’t any normal Xtreme Gamer though, it’s quite different from all the one’s I’ve seen before. I even had to make an entry on the Sound Blaster Product Index.

The card which I received was the SB0770, but I believe there’s a twin SB0772 model also. The card has no internal connections to connect to expansion devices such as the X-Fi front panel. Instead, this X-Fi resembles the budget-bin Xtreme Audio  PCB layout. I was quite worried when I saw the board shape. Xtreme Audio cards are total crap software solutions, and doesn’t even contain the genuine EMU20K1 chip. Thankfully, the SB0770 has a EMU20K1 and also has a companion CA0112 “Golden Gate” chip that allows switching from UAA to X-FI mode.

UAA audio hardware core

  • Supports 3 independent DMA playback stream:

– 4x stereo analog output hardware output channels.
– 1x stereo headphone hardware output channel.
– 1x stereo digital hardware output channel.
– I2C EERPOM support to

1) Re-configure the number of analog output exposed to OS.
2) Disable headphone and digital output channels.

  • Supports 5 independent DMA record stream:

– 1x stereo Line In
– 2x stereo MIC In (Front/read)
– 1x auxiliary IN
– 1x stereo SPDIF input.
– I2C EERPOM support to disable line in, MIC in or auxiliary in or SPDIF input.

  • Supports Microsoft ‘out-of-the-box’ HDA driver
  • Audio outputs

– All playback channels support 16 and 24 bit stereo format.
– I2S Output supports sampling rate of 44.1 KHz, 48 KHz, 96 KHz and 192 KHz.
– SPDIF digital output supports sample rate of 44.1 KHz, 48 KHz and 96 KHz.
– Each playback DMA stream’s sample rate and bit format are independent.
– SPDIF Output will play Non-PCM data when digital stream is enabled.

  • Audio inputs

– All recording channels support 16 and 24 bit stereoformat.
– Line In and MIC In support sampling rate of 48 KHz, 96 KHz and 192 KHz.
– SPDIF input supports sampling rate of 44.1 KHz, 48 KHz and 96 KHz.
– Each record DMA stream’s sample rate and bit format are independent.

  • 1x I2C interface with configurable via I2C EEPROM to control on-board DAC/ADC.
  • 2 GPOs to control on-board anti-pop circuit and muting of headphone and speaker output.
  • 11 GPI input for audio jack detection.

20k1 mode

  • 1x SPDIF input to I2S output format converter of 24-bit with sample rate 48KHz, 96 KHz and 192KHz.
  • 3x I2S input to SPDIF output format converter of 24-bit with sample rate of 44.1KHz, 48KHz, 96KHz and 192KHz.

Another official Creative confidential data sheet (lol?) reveals this card has been in production since before July 2007. It seems HP and Alienware all sold this card at some point. It looks quite budget, but it’s how it compares to the ear that counts.

aaaw aint it a little cutie?

Looking at the picture, you can see a couple of missing pins for internal SPDIF. You might also notice something quite nice on the bracket though. Such a pleasant surprise to see both optical-in and optical-out connections. I’m unsure of what use optical in will be for me, but the output is a huge bonus. No front panels, onboard sound or plug in converters needed here.

Instead of the internal pin connections for the X-Fi expansion bay, you’ll also notice a standard Front Panel HDAudio connector. I think it’s fair to say, this card offers a wider compatibility with PC multimedia flaps everywhere. It’s got everything for my Antec P180 case, at least.

So far the music has been pretty much the same high quality as on my old Audigy 2 Platinum soundcard. That’s not much of a surprise, as I use our receiver for digital-to-analogue conversions. I’d probably notice greater differences if I used the analogue leads – but I’m not interested in them (or the CMSS, SVM or Crystalizer features). I always hear more distortion than improvement with those features turned on. Besides, our Yamaha has a quality music enhancer for compressed music like MP3. The Yamaha does all of the work for music, so it wouldn’t be fair to compare music.

Games however really sound much more enthralling. The first game I tested the SB0770 on was Borderlands. The sound was 100% better. I especially liked the extra bass when shotguns were fired or grenades exploded. EAX enabled pinpoint accuracy too! It was  much clearer which direction the gunshot sounds were coming from. I tested Guild Wars (EAX 2/3) and Team Fortress 2 (ASIO) but there was no real noticable change from the Audigy. I would say they both sounded slightly better though. Perhaps someone can suggest a good EAX 5 title to evaluate? 🙂

EAX 5.0 offers several new [software] features:

  • 128 simultaneous voices processable in hardware and up to 4 effects on each
  • EAX Voice (processing of microphone input signal)
  • EAX PurePath (EAX Sound effects can originate from one speaker only)
  • Environment FlexiFX (four available effects slots per channel)
  • EAX MacroFX (realistic positional effects at close range)
  • Environment Occlusion (sound from adjacent environments can pass through walls)

Overall, I’m glad I upgraded to the SB0770 purely for the more stable software. I’m using the daniel_k X-Fi series Support Pack, needless to say. The DDL and DTS are working properly, without huge CPU usage. This makes it worthwhile alone for me on my aging E6550. My CPU usage used to skyrocket whenever I enabled DDL on the Audigy.

I can now play 5.1 in games, watch movies and listen to music through the same TOSLINK optical cable. Before I used to need two inputs on the receiver and the following leads coming from the PC.

  • Front Left/Right Cable Analogue
  • Rear Left/Right Cable Analogue
  • Center / Sub Analogue
  • Coaxial Digital (with frequent sound distortions and cut-outs)

Goodbye spaghetti wires!

Pretty much all the official software is working better on the X-Fi than the Audigy 2. My old Audigy Dolby Digital Live licence are valid on the X-Fi too which is another bonus. I did wonder if I would have to buy another pack for the X-Fi. Speaking of which, it hasn’t created any of the distortion sounds that can be heard on Audigy DDL either. My sound hasn’t cut-out once.

Performance:
Goatie1Goatie1Goatie1Goatie1Goatie2

Price Rating:
Goatie1Goatie1Goatie1Goatie1Goatie1

Features:
Goatie1Goatie1Goatie1Goatie1Goatie2

Pros:

  • One TOSLINK cable does it all, without issues
  • Under £30 delivered – Cheapest EMU20K1
  • EAX 5 really does sound better than EAX 4
  • Better and almost fully working software, which is a nice change.
  • Onboard optical-in and optical-out sockets
  • Better connectivity to third-party front panels and cases, but no X-Fi front bay connection

Cons:

  • It’s made by Creative Labs. The software & drivers will accidently develop bugs after a couple more X-Fi driver releases
  • It’s quite hard to find in stores or online
  • No connectivity to X-Fi front bay, but standard fittings instead.

Goatie3Goatie1

Did I forget to mention you can buy for £29.99 delivered on ebay UK? People pay more than that for used XtremeAudio on there…





No More Goat Soup Visitor Statistics

1 12 2009

I thought it would be fun to share some advanced visitor statistics. I know It’s not exactly fun, but it amuses me for a while. All statistics are correct from December 1st. Behold the power of the interweb!

https://nomoregoatsoup.wordpress.com blog stats

Locations of visitors to this page

  • Total views: 1,090,246
  • Busiest day: 4,719 — Sunday, March 30, 2008
  • Views today: 1,231

Totals

  • Posts: 78
  • Comments: 1,291
  • Categories: 48
  • Tags: 10

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Current Country Totals (From 24 Aug 2009 to 24 Nov 2009) Read the rest of this entry »





WTF is CMSS?

19 03 2009

It’s becoming apparent that people really don’t know that much about the infamous CMSS and CMSS2  settings featured in the Audigy’s Creative Audio Console or X-Fi. I thought I’d post a few bits that might clear things up for people. I’m not 100% sure of a few things, so feel free to post what a noob I am.

Oh, I better add: Please keep in mind that I hate CMSS with a passion. I’ll try and explain why as we go along. Firstly, let’s see how Creative sell CMSS shall we? Here’s what Creative say.

What is CMSS? and how to use it?

The following information are abstracted from our Knowledgebase on CMSS. Please check the case relevant to your sound card below. You can also access the article on directly from the URL below.
Knowledgebase article SID4883

Creative MultiSpeaker Surround (CMSS) is part of the EAX technology supported by the Sound Blaster audio cards such as Sound Blaster Live!, Sound Blaster Live! 5.1 series, Sound Blaster Audigy series, and Sound Blaster Audigy 2 or later series. It can also be found as a CMSS button on some multichannel speaker systems such as the Creative Inspire T7700, T6600/T6700, Creative Inspire 5.1 or Digital 5700, and on the external Digital I/O modules shipped with Sound Blaster Audigy 2 or Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS.

It can upmix stereo sources such as MP3, WMA, or Wav, to 4.1/5.1/6.1/7.1 channels depending on your speaker setup and sound card model.

What is Upmix and how does it work?

The 5.1 to 6.1 Upmix works by deriving a rear center channel from the rear left and right channel. Illustrated below is the speaker output scheme for the various input sources:

Input Source

5.1 / 6.1 Output Mode

5.1 to 6.1 Upmix Output Mode

6.1-channel

6.1-channel pass-through

6.1-channel with rear center channel derived from rear left & right

5.1-channel

5.1-channel pass-through (without rear center channel)

6.1-channel with rear center channel derived from rear left & right

4-channel

4.1-channel with subwoofer channel derived from front left & right

4.1-channel with subwoofer channel derived from front left & right

2-channel

2.1-channel with subwoofer channel derived from front left & right

2.1-channel with subwoofer channel derived from front left & right

So we’re clear at this point, hopefully. The center speaker will be playing both the same sounds from both left and right speakers. Now that’s plausible for filling large rooms, but on your average room you’re effectively damaging your sound field. You can’t expect to get fully directional sounds, nor can you expect a sound interpretation close to the original. I personally enjoy hearing music “as it was intended”. Now if you’re splitting a 2.0 channel MP3 to 6 channels, that’s 4 channels of stuff that’s already being played somewhere else. You’re just adding volume and digressing from the artistic source.

I understand Dolby ProLogic uses an (almost) identical technique for television, but with one difference. The movie/tv show producers code the content with Dolby in mind, and it’s intended. Somehow I don’t think Iron Maiden had CMSS2 in mind when they wrote “Can I Play with Madness”.

Dolby ProLogic II is a little different. The newer version can create discrete sound channels. To put it simply, ProLogic’s surround speakers play the same sounds -ProLogic II however has different sounds at different times from the rear speakers. This is where we can compare ProLogic II to CMSS2. I’m aware Dolby ProLogic II has a music mode for music -but it still sounds crap compared to a quality pair of stereo speakers or headphones. It’s ok for Movies though, as they were encoded that way.

X-Fi users get that bloatware entertainment thingie where they have to switch modes for music, games and movies etc. Why? Let’s ask Creative again shall we?

If you are listening to stereo content like MP3’s or CD’s and you would like the sound to be played over your surround sound speaker system, you can enable CMSS 3D on your X-Fi card.

It is important to remember that if you do wish to play a 5.1 encoded file like Dolby or DTS soundtracks, you will need to turn CMSS off. Otherwise you might not receive each discreet channel.

There we have it. Even Creative have enough common sense to suggest we turn CMSS off for movies. Why? Because CMSS channel matrix ruins the directional sounds -and you’ll really notice lack of dialogue volume. That’s why I turn it off and use AC3 Filter if any upmixing needs to be done. My son watches a lot of  cartoons recorded in stereo avi format. It’s about the only useful reason to ever use upmix – to get the sound above your display.

CMSS, CMSS2 really don’t sound as good as a home made matrix, tuned to suit it’s need. Room size, room shape, furniture placement, speaker placement, speaker type – there are just too many variations in environments. I’m sure that if people took the time to tune AC3 Filter properly they’d never go back to Creative’s basic “one-size-fits-all upmix effect”.

So I better tie up some sort of conclusion. It’s been about 5 years since I came to it -but here it is anyway. If you want to play MP3/CD/Stereo sources -play them in two speaker. All you’re getting with upmix is a few more watts in volume, but you’re losing quite a few things. If you want to listen to music in 5.1 or above – then buy dts or Dolby Digital Audio DVD. Dolby Digital and DTS simply cannot be compared to inferior upmixes from ProLogic or CMSS.

I did have a URL in my favourites that demonstrated (with some geeky graphs) of what happens to SNR when you enable CMSS or that god-awful Crystalizer thing. I can’t find the link right now, but I’ll post it if it turns up. Anyway,  the sound quality test is enough to make it obvious. If your system sounds better with CMSS on, perhaps your satellite speakers or whatever aren’t suitable for loud music in only 2 channels. Sure they’ll be great for movies and games -but only because they are coded to perform that way. Music is coded in to two channels usually (for your two channel ears).

You can find further information from the links below, check out the Dolby Wiki reference especially.

Dolby Pro Logic

CMSS

AC3Filter

Dolby Digital AC3

Peace!





Audigy Series and Dolby Digital Live. What Happened?

26 10 2008

It’s been a while, I know.

It’s also been a while since Creative announced something, then go back on their word. Of course what I’m referring to is Dolby Digital Live. First they promise drivers and never deliver.. now it’s the software.

Hi everyone, 

Dolby Digital Live For Existing X-Fi and Audigy Owners

Further to our previous announcement, we anticipate making the Dolby Digital Live feature available in early August. The Dolby Digital Live feature will only be compatible with Sound Blaster X-Fi products with the EMU20k1 processor and Sound Blaster Audigy products that include a SPDIF outputstandard on the card or include a SPDIF output via a separate card or I/O drive.

The Dolby Digital Live component will be made available for US$4.72.
Thank you,
The Sound Blaster Team

Message Edited by KokChoy-CL on 06-24-2008 10:22 AM

Yet, I see no mention of my Audigy receiving support, again. Sure. I’ll buy the software package… but wait.. the installer is only detecting X-Fi again…

Hi everyone,

We are pleased to announce that the Dolby Digital Live! feature is now made available for Sound Blaster X-Fi productswith the EMU20K1 processor at http://buy.soundblaster.com for a nominal fee at only US$4.72. Please check out the website for more information on how to make the upgrade for your card.

Thank you,
The Sound Blaster Team.
Message Edited by KokChoy-CL on 08-15-2008 11:29 AM

I see a discrepancy with your announcement, Creative.

Hello everyone,

We understand SB Audigy users are eagerly anticipating the Dolby Digital Live upgrade availability. We are still working on the development. Unfortunately, the work requires more time than anticipated earlier due to the difference in the Audigy product architecture vs the X-Fi product architecture as well as testing required to ensure stable and correct functionality. We estimate Dolby Digital upgrade for Audigy to be available in late Dec 2008. We apologize for the delay and are trying our best to release earlier if possible.

Thank you,
The Sound Blaster Team

I’ll STILL never buy an X-Fi, but please keep trying the foul play.





Xpert Vision ATi HD 3850 PCI-E Graphics Card Review

3 04 2008

Official Product Website:  http://www.xpertvision.com/

My old graphics card just wasn’t coming up with the frame rates it used to. I’m becoming increasingly more addicted to games such as Team Fortress 2. My battle-hardened Geforce 6800 was pretty good in most games surprisingly – but there were signs of trouble. In some certain games (my son’s Marvell Ultimate Alliance particularly) the GPU just couldn’t handle the extra shadows, geometry and particles.

So I browsed my local e-tailers for something to put a smile back on my gaming family’s face. I was torn between ATi HD 2900Pro or the mighty new ATi HD 3850. I found a nice cheap 3850 (with 256mb) on Overclockers.co.uk for less than £100 with tax and delivery!

Click the pictures to see higher resolution images.

The Xpert Vision HD3850 box. It’s kind of Terminator-like to say the least.

The contents of the box include PCI-E Graphics card, multi-language quick-start guide, 2 molex –> PCI-E power lead, Tomb Raider Anniversary game disc and driver disc.

The actual PCB looks quite dated, in fairness. This image reveals a standard heat-sink and fan, 6 pin power input. Nothing unusual there. I have to admit I was quite gutted when I didn’t see a lovely red plastic flame exhaust thing. Oh well it was really cheap and it might be quite good. Though if you look closely you’ll see a VGA output, a Dual-Link DVI output and what’s this? A HDMI socket, not a DVI to HDMI adapter – a real proper HDMI socket!

Ok fancy some technical guff? Here’s the specifications while I plug it in and test it.

  • Bus interface: PCI Express® 2.0
  • Memory Support: 256MB GDDR3
  • Memory Interface: 256 bit
  • Memory Clock: 1656 MHz (828 MHz x 2)
  • Core Clock: 668 MHz
  • RAMDACs: 400 MHz
  • Full Microsoft® DirectX® 10.1 Shader Model 4.1 support
  • Dual-link DVI output supports 2560×1600 resolution display
  • Superscalar unified shader architecture
  • 320 stream processing units
  • 128-bit floating point precision for all operations
  • Dynamic Geometry Acceleration
  • ATI CrossFireX™ Multi-GPU Technology
  • ATI Avivo™ HD video and display technology
  • HD audio controller with multi-channel (5.1) AC3 support
  • Native HDMI
  • Built for Microsoft® Windows Vista™

After playing a couple of games I can comfortably say that this card is probably more than enough power for most gamers. I’ve not had a single gaming, driver, hardware issue with it. It may not have enough video memory to play Crysis at 2560×1600 with full details and Anti-aliasing, but for under £100 it is an amazing buy.

I suspect you could probably run Team Fortress 2 in high definition though -with 4x Anti-aliasing and full 16x Anisotropic filtering. I can’t remember the last time I bought a graphics card for under £100 that was any good. It does actually run Crysis fine with medium and high settings mixed. You can forget Anti-aliasing sadly though. Still looks great though and plays smooth so no real problem in reality.

We also tried NFS: Pro-Street, Unreal Tournament 3, Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 4, Guild Wars, Counter Strike:Source, Disney Pixar’s Cars, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe, Assassin’s Creed, Sonic Riders, Half Life 2 series and they all worked flawlessly. Fast frame rates and Superior image quality. Some game engines really allowed me apply insane amounts of detail with no performance loss at all.

The video power was far superior to my previous Purevideo offering. ATi offer motion picture acceleration on most video files unlike my old nVidia’s Purevideo’s WMV and DVD support. AVI formats like DivX and Xvid through hardware acceleration is noticeably better. No scaling bugs either (nVidia please note this).

The fan is not loud, even under stress. The card only fills one expansion slot, yet the bracket is a double. A little strange – but I suppose it prevents overheating. Just think of it as bit of surplus metal for free!

It drains very little power too. There’s not much heat coming from it either. I guess you can figure it has good overclocking possibilities, right?

I just cannot stress how happy we are with our purchase. We love it here, and it’s getting plenty of use! I just had to share the gossip, otherwise I wouldn’t sleep tonight. Welcome to the goat herd, ATi and Xpert Vision!

Performance:
Goatie1Goatie1Goatie1Goatie1Goatie2

Price Rating:
Goatie1Goatie1Goatie1Goatie1Goatie1

Features:
Goatie1Goatie1Goatie1Goatie1Goatie2

Pros
Xpert Vision HD3850 is a really Über-great value and well built graphic’s card.
You get a top title game (Yes, even if it’s Tomb Raider and not Orange Box).
You get native HDMI support which is quite nice to see.
It’s great for home theater. Quiet cooling.
 

Cons
It’s not really very pretty. Maybe think twice if you have a chassis with a window.
People might think you own a Radeon 9800Pro.
256mb of GDDR3 is fast, but may not be enough for future games. 512mb versions are available though.

Goatie3Goatie1

“It’s cheap & very cheerful.”

GG Xpert Vision for a good budget product.
GG Overclockers.co.uk for the excellent service, as always.





It’s Been A While…

3 03 2008

Ok. I admit it. I haven’t posted in a while. I really should have lots to share – but I don’t.

I’ve been quite busy setting up a new project and it’s taking way too much of my time. Any free time I’ve had has been spent with family or playing the amazing Team Fortress 2.

I did get to watch a good movie the other night, though (and NO, I don’t mean Run Fatboy Run). We rented 30 Days of Night, starring Josh Hartnett, Melissa George and a Vampire who looks like one of the Pet Shop Boys. I’m quite a sucker for Vampire movies -but this one is one of the best yet. The movie is based on a three-issue miniseries of horror comics. The comics written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Ben Templesmith. I must confess I’ve never seen the comics before -but I’m quite tempted to track them down.

The movie’s plot is quite simple. It’s Alaska. Three-quarters of the town are leaving because it’s the time of year when the sun disappears for thirty days. 30 days of night? Sounds like a perfect Vampire holiday…..

Great movie. If you haven’t seen it then why not give it a go?

.

Goatie3Goatie1