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Hardware Review of:
Santa Cruz PCI Sound Card
An Audio Experience

 

Santa Cruz Sound Card

Larry Grosskopf is a Clinical Psychologist at the San Antonio State Hospital, with an avid interest in computers. He and Marta, his wife, are raising two precious children, Zoë, age 9, and Jackson, age 7.

From the September, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

Voyetra/Turtle Beach has been in the business of making sounds more acoustically acceptable for 27 years. Their latest version of a popular line of sound cards is the Santa Cruz sound card. I will give you a brief description of the technology involved, how it installed and operated. This article will then attempt to give you a feel for how it worked, the quality of the sound using this device and what other features make it stand out. Finally, I will try to impart strengths and weaknesses and what I didn’t like about it.

Installation into an open PCI slot was very simple. All that you need to do is open the computer, pop out your metal slot at the back of your computer, slide the card into the open PCI slot and close it back up. You will want to connect your CD-ROM audio cable to the sound card and there are places for you to connect digital audio, a line in device and a DVD or second CD device. You can also connect a telephone-answering device to this sound card. Once you reconnect your computer, you can reboot and then install the drivers and software according to the type of operating system you have. The package includes a handy book that includes easy-to-follow directions for installation.

My computer’s motherboard has built-in AC97 sound, which works well but is not nearly as powerful as the Santa Cruz sound card. The documentation indicated that the card is built on the Cirrus Logic SoundFusion DSP (Digital Signal Processor) with 420 MIPS (Millions of Instructions Per Second) of processing power. The computer needs to be an IBM compatible with a 2.1 PCI expansion slot for it to work properly. The processor should be a Celeron 400 MHz or greater with 128 MB of system RAM, and 800X600 High Color (16 Bit) graphics display and 25 MB of hard drive space free. However, let me warn readers before you buy this product, check your system first to make sure that it is compatible, since there may be issues related to specific operating systems and hardware. If there are compatibility problems, then you may have headaches dealing with them. More on this will be revealed later in this review. 

Let me run down some of the features included. First, it is great for listening to music or for hard-nosed game players who want excellent sound quality with their games. There are even ways to create music on your computer using an external MIDI device, although since I have no MIDI capability, I did not attempt this. If you like speakers and options, then this card allows you to set it up using 2, 4 or even 6 powered speakers and/or headphones. The card itself has plug-ins for a microphone, a line in, front and rear output jacks and a game/MIDI port. The card also has a “versajack” port, which gives you the option to accurately output a six-channel signal, via three analog (front, rear and configured “versajack” ) outputs, to a 5.1 speaker system. The “versajack” can be configured to be used as a digital output or input port. 

Although I did not have the equipment to try out some of the features, this is a feature-rich card. There are connections on the card to plug in your CD-ROM drive and there is a second connection that allows you to connect your second CD or DVD drive to the card. In addition, the card has a place for those CD drives that have two-pin digital output. What else can I add, let’s see, there is the wavetable synthesizer that allows you to use the Santa Cruz with a second MIDI synthesizer.

Now for some downside, the easy installation was offset by the trouble I had getting it to properly install in my Windows XP machine. Despite the fact that it has the “tested for XP logo” on the box, XP acted like it was a major intruder on my machine . Going to the Turtle Beach site to download the latest XP drivers did not solve the problem, either. Eventually, I had to uninstall it, take it out of that system and install it in another system. There did seem to be a “driver-compatibility” problem with XP that I was unable to resolve. To be fair, I was rushed and did not exhaust my resources for a solution to the problem because I was trying to finish this review and I needed some experience using the card. 

This is a hardware review, so I will only mention the fact that the box included several software programs, which I still have to learn how to use. These included the neat-looking Santa Cruz Control Panel, Audio Station 4.0, Voyetra's Digital Orchestrator, MIDI Orchestrator 32, Sound Check For Santa Cruz, Audio View 32, Sensaura Player Demo, and a Product Demo disk of several other Voyetra products. Honestly, I do not feel competent to give you an opinion on the software that Turtle Beach includes due to the fact that I have utilized so little of it, up to this point. 

In closing, let me suggest that you talk to a knowledgeable person and/or you do some homework to avoid problems with this card if you choose to purchase it. On the plus side, the audio quality output from this card was measurably better than what I have been used to. It’s price is around $70-$80 dollars retail. That is a bit expensive for a sound card, but it’s dynamic features and high quality audio make it an exceptional bargain. With the aforementioned reservations, I would recommend this card. Check out the Website for more detailed information and current pricing.


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