Mmm….Six Channel Output…
Since the demise of Aureal six months ago, the sound card market has seemingly fallen into Creative Labs' hands. Even before they purchased Aureal's assets a month ago, Creative Labs' huge presence in the sound card industry was undisputed. The SoundBlaster Live! sound cards make up an excellent, well refined product line, and offer almost every feature one could ask for. Nonetheless, there are still other smaller, yet important sound card players in today's market. One of these companies is Turtle Beach, a company that arguably has one of the best reputations in the industry, rivaling that of even Creative Labs. Turtle Beach has a long history of producing high quality audio cards. Its latest offering, the Santa Cruz, attempts to bring all of the company's past experience together into an all-encompassing 5.1 speaker sound card.
Sporting a special "versajack", the Santa Cruz has the potential to accurately output a six-channel signal, via three analog outputs, to a 5.1 speaker system. This is a major benefit for those who have been looking for an easy way to hook up their home theatre speaker systems to their computer. If needed, the versajack can be configured to be used as a digital output or input port, instead of being a center/sub channel. Santa Cruz's extra output is definitely a step up. In comparison, most sound cards only offer two analog outputs, and possibly a digital output.
With 5.1 surround decoding done on the card versus an external decoder, Santa Cruz buyers are liberated of another piece of equipment to buy. An excellent example of this benefit is Videologic's DigiTheatre LC system, which costs $149 without a Dolby 5.1 decoder and $279 with one.
Powered by Sensaura's respected 3D sound algorithms, there's little doubt that the Santa Cruz will fall short in terms of 3D sound reproduction. With the exception of A3D 2.0, which is only really seen in Quake 3, the Santa Cruz supports all other major 3D sound APIs. Furthermore, the Santa Cruz offers Sensaura's innovative new Virtual Ear tweaking application in the box.
3D sound algorithms are developed using a standard ear size, which works just fine for most people. However, not all of us have typical ear designs. As a result, 3D sound isn't as accurate for everyone. Sensaura's new Virtual Ear application aims to fix this problem. By running through a few simple tests, Virtual Ear determines the appropriate 3D sound algorithm (HRTF) for each user. In other words, it designs a custom HRTF based upon an individual's ear size. Needless to say, it makes a significant difference in the quality of 3D sound. The only unfortunate aspect of Virtual Ear is that currently, it only works on the Santa Cruz with headphone output.
We mistakenly reported that the Santa Cruz is the first sub-$100 sound card that supports a 6-speaker output. ForteMedia and Canyon 3D based cards also support 5.1 output.
Virtual Ear Menu