Guillemot Maxi Sound Fortissimo - HotHardware

Guillemot Maxi Sound Fortissimo

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Guillemot's Maxi Sound Fortissimo
A lot of bang for your buck


By  Marco ?BigWop? Chiappetta
March 19, 2000

Software

Most pieces of ?budget? hardware don?t come with any sort of software or bundle, but the Fortissimo is an exception.  The Fortissimo comes with two programs, Media Station and Acid DJ.  I know... nothing earth shattering, but at least Guillemot?s giving us SOMETHING!

Media Station is a pretty fun piece of software.  It?s basically your sound card?s ?control panel? with a decent CD and MIDI Player thrown in.  For me anything that let?s me control sound levels without having to look at Window?s volume control is a welcome addition.  Here?s a peek of the interface:

 

 

The second piece of software, "Acid DJ", is a standalone application, that although its something I?ll probably never use, is fairly powerful and I can understand its value.  Basically its a sequencing program that let?s you play around with sound / music samples.  DJ?s (oddly enough) or people with an ear for music might be able to put together some great stuff with this program.

 

 

 

Fortissimo's Performance
Crisp and Clean

We used a reference sound card, an Aureal SQ2500, as the benchmark for sound quality comparison.  We also used what we think are a great set of speakers, in the front,  we have Altec Lansing ACS500 Pro-Logic Towers and in the rear Altec Lansing ACS33?s.  Before I installed the Fortissimo I played Unreal Tournament, Quake 3 and Half Life for a little while, played some MP3?s, played a couple CD?s (Dr. Dre and Shania Twain?weird combo huh?)  Actually, I wanted to play CD?s with both heavy bass and crisp highs.  I also watched a few minutes of a DVD (Blade).

 

Gaming Performance

After playing  UT and Quake 3 on both cards, I have to say that the Fortissimo falls a little short of the Aureal card in 3D gaming, but not by much.  I noticed, under both games, that all the sounds tended to be more ?separate? with the SQ2500 whereas with the Fortissimo it was harder to discern where each sound was supposed to be ?placed?.  Also, in times where there was heavy action, like when multiple players are in the same room and there are many rocket explosions / gunshots, the Fortissimo would SLIGHTLY crackle.  I know it?s not my speakers as the SQ2500 doesn?t have this problem, however it?s not necessarily a hardware shortcoming and future driver upgrades may eliminate this.  There was also no noticeable difference in frame rate.  However, frame rate did drop 1-2 fps, indicating higher CPU utilization by the Fortissimo.  In Half Life, with 4 speakers turned on, the Fortissimo's 3D positioning couldn't compare.  During the opening sequence, while riding on the train, if I spun in a circle I could clearly hear the woman's voice over the PA changing positions as I moved with the SQ2500, but with the Fortissimo the channel separation just wasn't there. In general, with all 3 games, 3D positioning wasn't as good as the Aureal card.

 

General Fidelity  

With the CD and MP3 testing, I found the Fortissimo actually sounded a little bit better than the other card.  Remember, ESPECIALLY with sound quality, you really should listen to it before you can pass any judgment?everyone?s got a different ?ear?.  I tend to like my music with both heavy bass and very crisp highs.  If you were to leave me in your alone car with music playing, 90% of the time when you came back I would have turned your treble up slightly.  I could not hear any discernable difference in the quality of the bass playback, but the Fortissimo?s highs were more prominent.

 

DVD Audio Reproduction

DVD playback was another story.  Using Power DVD 2.55 which has true support for the Vortex 2, the Fortissimo couldn?t touch the SQ2500.  Playing back movies in simple stereo, it was hard to tell a difference.  However, once I switched to 4 channel, the difference was huge.  It sounded like the Fortissimo was playing the same sounds through all 4 speakers.  One thing to consider though is that the Fortissimo has a Digital Out. Power DVD 2.55 supports digital output, but digital speakers were not available at the time of this evaluation.  As a result, we were unable to test out what kind of difference that would have made.  (The SQ2500 also has a digital out, but most cards do not)

 

 

 

The Fortissimo Crescendo 

 

To summarize, the Fortissimo is like a top 10 ranked boxer.  It?s not quite the Roy Jones of the sound card market, but very respectable nonetheless.  On the other hand, at $49.99, it?s tough to beat for the ?bang for the buck? crown.  At the end of all my reviews I like to ask myself if I would have a problem recommending this product to a friend / reader / customer  In this case, with the Fortissimo, I would have no problem.  In fact, I think the Guillemot Maxi Sound Fortissimo should be the card of choice for the budget gamer.  In addition, it?s going to be the card powering a second machine that I?m in the process of building.

We give the Maxi Sound Fortissimo at Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of...

 

 

-BigWop

 
 
 

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