Back in the days of Socket A, I had an Abit NF7-S Ver2 motherboard. The sound system on that board was called "SoundStorm", and had sound quality that rivaled the best audio cards on the market. For whatever reason, Abit, and everyone else manufacturing nF4 boards, has opted for the Realtek AC'97audio chipset. If you haven't listened to anything else, the Realtek sounds ok. But, if you get the chance to listen to most any decent sound card, you'll realize that the Realtek is a pretty lame sounding system. I'm assuming that they use this "just enough to get by" sound system to generate sound card sales, but I'm just saying.
I use an M-Audio Audiophile 2496 for listening to music and gaming if I'm not using VOIP. It is really intended for digital multitrack recording, but it makes an excellent listening card. It doesn't have a normal "mic in" port, so I end up not using VOIP as much as I normally would. Swapping back and forth between the onboard and the Audiophile isn't that much trouble, but I really have never had that much luck using multiple sound cards. After a few times, I usually end up having to uninstall and reinstall the Audiophile drivers. Also, it has RCA jacks, and so when I swap, I have to disconnect my cord to the amp I use for my speakers and connect a cord using 1/8" connectors.
Anyway, back to the review. The guys at Razer, who are gamers themselves, decided that the current audio alternatives just didn't suit them, so they came up with their own, the Razer Barracuda Gaming Audio System.
The AC-1 Audio Card comes packaged in a box with the typical attractive Razer black and gunmetal theme. This box is about 10 times the size of a box that you would expect a sound card to come in.
The card rests in a fiberboard crushable cradle. I would imagine that the box could be dropped from several feet without damaging the contents. This excellent packaging really doesn't add much weight, so shipping probably would cost the same as with a smaller box.
This is the AC-1. The glare is not from my flash, it is part of the graphics.
Most of the card is covered with an aluminum cover that serves as an EMI shield. I opted not to remove it.
The box is fairly covered with specifications. I usually don't put all of this information in a review, but there is a lot of information here that you might be interested in, so I will lay it out here. I will probably touch on some of the info later, some I may not.
RAZER ESP *TM* - Enhanced Sonic Perception
117dB SNR Playback - Powered by RAZER FIDELITY*TM* Engine
RAZER 3D (720 degrees)
RAZER HD-DAI *TM* - High Definition-Dedicated Audio Interface
dts NEO : PC *TM*
dts INTERACTIVE *TM*
Dolby Digital Live *TM*
Dolby Pro Logic II *TM*
Powered by Razer Fidelity Gaming Audio Engine:
-Prioritized Gaming Audio Signals (Wafer Level Optimization)
-Removal of redundant firmware/software processes to improve onboard audio performance.
-Removal of redundant hardware components (such as ASIO support) for optimized algorithm and onboard processes.
-Streamlined software drivers to provide for enhanced audio processes.
Razer Gaming Audio technical specifications:
-24-bit digital to analog conversion of digital sources at 96kHz sample rate
-Signal to noise ratio (output) 117dB
-Frequency response at 24/96kHz - 20Hz to 20,000Hz
-Dynamic range 116dB
-Total harmonic distortion + noise (THD+N) -97dB
-Supports up to 128 simultaneous voices
-Integrated 192kHz/24-bit S/PDIF connectivity
Key Gaming Features:
Powered by Razer Fidelity: The Razer Barracuda IAS features an unprecedented 117dB signal to noise ratio with a 7.1 channel 24-bit audio output powered by Razer Fidelity, and incorporates some of the most advanced gaming audio algorithms and sequences to day to prioritize gaming audio signals so that key audio cues are processed without lag or delay.
Razer ESP (Enhanced Sonic Perception): Razer ESP gives gamers the sonic advantage to expand the range of hearing in-game for critical game sounds from footsteps and weapon fire to allow gamers to pinpoint the exact location of enemies and monsters more accurately than before! Kill zones are now widened and you'll hear your opponents before you see them.
Passive EMI Shield(electromagnetic interference shield): The card is geared to prevent electromagnetic interference from other PC components, especially high-powered video cards common in gaming systems. This gives audio quality a significant boost by eliminating static, which can be distracting at best and at worst, may mask soft gaming specific sounds-disastrous when competing against other professional competitors.
Razer 3D (720 degree) Positional Gaming Audio Engine: Gamers will be able to pinpoint specific audio sound cues in-game with at 38% greater accuracy than other conventional sound cards in the market. Gamers are not only able to hear those sounds around them, but also above and below for the most accurate and cinematic surround sound ever experienced.
Razer HD-DAI: The Razer Barracuda IAS also incorporates a dedicated audio interface specifically engineered for the Razer Barracuda AC-1 to interface with the Razer Barracuda HP-1 headphones. The HD-DAI connector effectively eliminates the 4 audio mini-jack and USB ports and integrates them all into a single port for the HP-1 Headphones.
-Razer Barracuda Gaming Audio Card
-Quick Start Guide
-Audio Splitter Cable
-Installation and Driver CD
Basic System Requirements:
P2 350mHz or AMD K6 450mHz or higher
Available PCI Slot
128MB RAM or higher
55MB free hard disk space
Graphic display 800x600 or higher
Headphones or amplified speakers
Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP/Windows Media Center
Let's take a closer look.