Logo   Banner   TopRight
TopUnder
Transparent
Philips PSC724 Ultimate Edge
Transparent
Date: Sep 08, 2004
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Jason Gibson
Transparent
Introduction

 

The recent trend of PC integration into the user's living space finds the once small and dingy computer room becoming a thing of the past.  With manufactures now offering PC solutions which showcase features that rival many mainstream audio components, families are now finding their "digital living room" to be the new media back-bone of their lives.

This is where Philips new soundcard, the PSC724 Ultimate Edge, steps in.  Offering discreet 24-bit, 6-Channel High Definition Audio playback/recording, users can turn their PC into a high-end audio center with a simple upgrade.  In addition to promising high end specs, Philips has integrated their newly redesigned Sound Agent 2 GUI to bring together all the features of the card into one highly configurable, easy to use interface.

Features and specifications aside, we here at HotHardware were looking forward to examining Philips' latest and greatest PC Audio product.  A good majority of us here at HotHardware are audiophiles and this is our first look at a Philips product, so it should be an interesting showcase. 

Specifications of the PSC724 Ultimate Edge
Up Close and Personal

24-Bit 6-Channel PCI Audio Accelerator

PSC724

Technical Specifications

 

Product Highlights

 Input/Output
•Full duplex
•Maximum Recording Depth: 24 bit
•Maximum Recording Rate: 96 kHz
•Maximum Playback Depth: 24 bit
•Maximum Playback Rate: 192 kHz
•Amplified 2.0 V RMS output

Audio Quality (All Channels)

•Frequency Response: 10Hz to 24kHz,
<+/- 0.15dB
•Signal to Noise Ratio: 106 dB, A-weighted (Typical)
•Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.004% (Typical)

Quality Connectivity Features
(All 24-bit/96kHz resolution)

•Front line out
•Rear line out
•Center/LFE line out
•S/PDIF coaxial digital out
•Microphone in
•Auxiliary in
•CD/video in
•Line in

Minimum System Requirements

•One available PCI 2.2-compliant slot
•Pentium III class 450 MHz or faster processor
•Intel or 100% compatible motherboard chipset
•64 MB system RAM
•CD-ROM for driver installation
•800x600 minimum screen resolution
•35 MB free hard drive space
Operating Systems Supported
•Microsoft(R) Windows 2000
•Microsoft Windows XP

Standards Compatibility
•General MIDI compatible
•Plug & Play
•PCI 2.2 compliant
•EAX(R)
1.0/2.0 game compatibility
•Microsoft DirectSound(R), DirectSound 3D and derivatives

Digital Signal Processor Algorithms
•QSound3DInteractive™ positional 3D for 2-, 4-, or 6-channel speakers
•QSound Multi Speaker System™ (QMSS5.1)
for 4- or 6-channel output of stereo music
files, multimedia and games
•QSound Environmental Modeling for EAX™
and DirectSound3D™ games
•QXpander™ for 3D enhancement of
stereo playback
•QSurround™ virtual 6-channel playback of
multi-channel DVDs using stereo speakers

 

Pro-grade 24-bit hardware converters
True 24-bit audio controller and codecs for bit-per-bit accurate High Definition audio quality providing
106 dB SNR.


High Definition DSP Audio Engine
Full 32-bit floating point digital signal processing with advanced audio effects and sonic enhancements.

Intelligent Media Processing™
Automatically optimizes every sound stream based on format, speaker configuration and user preferences.

Sound Agent 2 HD™ control center
Award-winning and ultra-modern graphical user interface.

24-bit signal processing for ALL sources
DSP effects and discrete stereo to multichannel conversion for all external media sources, e.g.,TV tuners, MP3 players—ANY input automatically upgraded to HD quality!








 

Physical Examination
Just what the doctor ordered

Click Image for Larger View

 
Front of Box Back of Box Bottom of Box Box Contents


The Philips PSC724 ships with your standard retail package.  Included with the card itself, we found one driver CD, a quick installation guide, the warranty booklet and some literature about other Philips products.  Missing from the bundle is the standard CD Audio connector and a SPDIF Coax patch cable.  Though these are not necessary components that are required to connect the soundcard to your system, users who wish to take advantage of the digital interface may be disappointed to find that they need to purchase supplementary cabling.

Click Image for Larger View

Front of Card Back of Card Philips Logo I/O Connectors


Looking at the card from a general construct point of view, we where pleased with the overall build quality.  In reference to the pictures above, one can clearly see the five 1/8" mini-jack connectors in their standard color scheme; Line-In, Mic-In, Front Out, Rear Out and Center/LFE.  The only abnormality, when compared to others, on the soundcard is the replacement of the once popular gameport with the SPDIF Out connector.  In some cases, manufacturers will include the gameport on an additional extension bracket. However, in the case of the PSC724, Philips has done away with it all together under the assumption that most user are now using USB interfaced gaming peripherals.

Transparent
Closer Examination and Philips Sound Agent 2

 

A Closer Look at the PSC724
Pulling out the Magnifying Glass

 

Click Image for Larger View

 
VIA Vinyl ENVY24GT Info Sticker Configuration Jumpers AUX / CD In

 

Located in the bottom right hand corner of the PSC724 is the audio workhorse of the card, the VIA Vinyl Envy24GT. With ability to support 24-bit multi-channel audio and 192kHz sampling rates, the Envy24GT is firmly squaring off with Intel's "High Definition Audio" solutions incorporated in their next generation i915 and I925X chipsets.  Users can have four 24-bit inbound streams passing through the card without having the streamed bit-rates altered.  In other words, what you pipe into the card will be the same fidelity what as you pipe out.

In reference to the remaining pictures above, moving left to right, we find the information sticker with the product/serial number, headers for connecting the soundcard to the front control panel on your computer and lastly the AUX/CD ports. 

Before we move on, if you are not fully comfortable in the world of bit-rates and kHz, take a few minutes and read through VIA's very comprehensive guide on 24-bit audio.  It should clear up a lot of questions, and help the rest of this article make a bit more sense, if this technology is foreign to you.

Sound Agent 2
The oil that keeps the machine running

 

(click the above image to view Philip's demo movie)

 

Click Image for Larger View

 
 Start  QSizzle  QRumble Qxpander 
Equlizer Setup - Stereo Setup - Quad Mixer - Playback
Mixer - Recoding Mixer - Advanced Presets Info


Bringing together all the features of the PSC724, is the "Sound Agent 2 HD".  Most of the note worthy images are depicted across the top row which are entitled; "QSizzle", "QRumble" and "Qxpander".  These three features are all audio enhancements which broaden the scope of any sound that passes through the card.  QSizzle increases the amount of treble, QRumble boosts the bass level and Qxpander broadens a normal stereo signal into one which simulates surround sound.

The main portion of the control panel also hosts two drop down menus, one which gives access to the environmental (reverb) settings and the other which allows quick selection of preset configurations.  The environmental list is pretty comprehensive, though some of the options are a bit strange.  We can honestly say we've never had the opportunity to listen to music in a sewerpipe, but for those who have and enjoyed it, you are good to go.  The present menu automatically adjusts the EQ, QSizzle, QRumble and Qxpander to what Philips thinks are the optimal settings for listening to whichever genre of music you choose.

Also incorporated with the Sound Agent 2 is a sampling program called Intelligent Media Processing.  "IMP" continuously analyzes each audio stream, whether it is mono, stereo or surround and optimizes the output of each configuration.  This means that the average user will spend less time adjusting the Volume/EQ and more time enjoying their choice of media.

For a more in-depth guide of Sound Agent 2: Click Here

Click Image for .GIF Animations

     
 Qxpander  Rooms  Zones

 

Above are a few Gif animations which showcase the various environmental and reverb settings.  As usual, click the thumbnail image to view the full size version.  For those who are using dial-up, no need to fret, we took you into consideration and have made the images 56k friendly.

Transparent
HotHardware Test Bed and Rightmark Audio Analyzer 5.3

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM:

We tested the Philips PSC724 Ultimate Edge on an i865G based Intel D865GBF motherboard, powered by an Intel Pentium 4 3.0CGHz CPU. The first thing we did when configuring this test system was enter the BIOS and loaded the "High Performance Defaults". Then we set the memory to operate at 400MHz (in dual-channel mode), with the CAS Latency and other memory timings set by the SPD. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows XP Professional with SP1 was installed. When the installation was complete, we installed the Intel chipset drivers and hit the Windows Update site to download and install all of the available updates. Then we installed all of the necessary drivers for the rest of our components and removed Windows Messenger from the system altogether. Auto-Updating, System Restore, and Drive Indexing were then disabled, the hard drive was de-fragmented and a 768MB permanent page file was created. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance", installed the benchmarking software and ran all of the tests.

HotHardware Test Rig
Our Testing Toy...
Hardware:

Processor -

Mainboard -
   
Video Cards -

Memory -


Audio -



Hard Drive -


Optical Drive -





 

Intel Pentium 4 3.0CGHz

Intel D865GBF

ATi Radeon 9700Pro

1024MB Kingston HyperX PC4000
CAS 3
 
Philips PSC724
Sound Blaster Audigy2 ZS
 
Western Digital "Raptor"
36GB - 10,000RPM - SATA
 
MSI XA52P 48x24x48x
Plextor 48x24x48x
Lite-On 16x DVD-ROM

Software:

Operating System -

Chipset Drivers -

DirectX -

Video Drivers -

 

 

Windows XP Professional SP1 (Fully Patched)

Intel INF v5.0.1006.0

DirectX 9.0b

ATI Catalyst v4.4


Rightmark Audio Analyzer 5.3
Replace


In the following sections you can find the test results of the Ultimate Edge versus a Sound Blasters Audigy 2 ZS.  Both of these cards feature similar specifications and should square off nicely during testing.  If duplicated, results may vary slightly due to difference in cables, cleanliness of contacts and electromagnetic interference.  In all cases we have tried to eliminate any of these possible circumstances and used brand new high quality shielded audio patch cables.

Lastly, you may note the Ultimate Edge has results for 24bit / 192kHZ, while the Audigy 2 does not.  This is because the Audigy 2 is unable to record signals beyond 24bit / 96kHz.  On the other hand, it is able to output signals at 24bit / 192 kHz.  However, do to our choice of testing each card independently using an external loopback (line-out to line-in), we where unable to record these results.

General Summary:

This section covers a general summary of the entire testing process that we preformed on both of the soundcards. The in-depth coverage of each test, with available graphs, is located in further sections.

Philips PSC724 Ultimate Edge - Summary

Test

16bit/48kHz

24bit/48kHz 24bit/96kHz 24bit/192kHz
 Frequency Response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB: +0.03, -0.10 Excellent +0.03, -0.10 Excellent +0.03, -0.11 Excellent +0.03, -0.11 Excellent
 Noise Level, dB (A): -85.9 Good -86.3 Good -88.0 Good -88.1 Good
 Dynamic Range, dB (A): 85.1 Good 85.4 Good 84.9 Good 85.0 Good
 THD, %: 0.037 Good 0.037 Good 0.037 Good 0.039 Good
 IMD, %: 0.056 Good 0.057 Good 0.056 Good 0.057 Good
 Stereo Crosstalk, dB: -63.8 Average -63.8 Average -63.9 Average -63.8 Average
 General Performance: Good Good Good Good

 

Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS - Summary

Test

16bit/48kHz

24bit/48kHz 24bit/96kHz
 Frequency Response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB: +0.03, -0.08 Excellent +0.09, -0.13 Very good +0.01, -0.08 Excellent
 Noise Level, dB (A): -95.6 Excellent -97.6 Excellent -98.5 Excellent
 Dynamic Range, dB (A): 94.8 Very good 96.4 Excellent 98.0 Excellent
 THD, %: 0.0064 Very good 0.0064 Very good 0.0034 Very Good
 IMD, %: 0.0081 Very good 0.0077 Excellent 0.0088 Very Good
 Stereo Crosstalk, dB: -86.8 Excellent -87.3 Excellent -88.6 Excellent
 General Performance: Very good Excellent Excellent


Focusing mainly on the 24bit / 96kHz results, we can see that the Sound Blaster acquired the best overall rating. The PSC724 stayed competitive in most areas, but the numbers where lacking in others.  Overall, the most evenly matched test was the Frequency Response.  Both cards turned excellent results across the board, with only a very small margin separating the two.  The second test, Noise Level, is where the Philips started to drop behind.  The Sound Blaster put forth a processed signal that was nearly void of excess noise, which in turn topped the Philips' result by about 10 dB.  Continuing the trend into the Dynamic Range portion of testing, the Audigy 2 held its lead over the Philips once again by about 13 dB.

The last half of the tests exhibited similar results.  Throughout the THD (Total Harmonic Distortion), IMD (Intermodulation Distortion) and Stereo Crosstalk analysis the Sound Blaster continually held the lead over the Philips.  Though the Audigy 2 was the leader in this round of tests, there are still a few areas to consider before we make our final verdict.

Frequency Response:

Frequency response is defined as "a measure of the effectiveness of an instrument to transmit signals applied to it in terms of their incidence."  To simplify the definition, it is the ability of the soundcard to process signals without changing the relative loudness or adding distortion. Consequently, the smaller the difference between the lowest and highest value, the better the sound quality.

Philips - 16bit/48kHz

Philips - 24bit/48kHz Philips - 24bit/96kHz Philips - 24bit/192kHz

 

SB Audigy 2 ZS - 16bit/48kHz SB Audigy 2 ZS - 24bit/48kHz SB Audigy 2 ZS - 24bit/96kHz

 

 

Philips PSC724 Ultimate Edge - Frequency Range

 

16bit/48kHz

24bit/48kHz 24bit/96kHz 24bit/192kHz
  Response Response Response Response
From 20 Hz to 20 kHz, dB: -0.39, +0.03 -0.38, +0.03 -0.39, +0.03 -0.39, +0.03
From 40 Hz to 15 kHz, dB -0.10, +0.03 -0.10, +0.03 -0.11, +0.03 -0.11, +0.03

 

Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS - Frequency Range

 

16bit/48kHz

24bit/48kHz 24bit/96kHz
  Response Response Response
From 20 Hz to 20 kHz, dB: -1.81, +0.03 -0.82, +0.09 -0.28, +0.01
From 40 Hz to 15 kHz, dB -0.08, +0.03 -0.13, +0.09 -0.08, +0.01


Noise Level:

Noise is "the amplitude level of the undesired background sound." In this instance it represents the amount of "hiss" that is produced during processing.  Keep in mind that the amount you hear over your speakers is partially related to cabling, dirty contacts, and electromagnetic inference caused by your computer, not totally derived from soundcard.  In reference to the numbers below, keep in mind that the lower the number (they are negative, so actually the bigger), the better.

Philips - 16bit/48kHz

Philips - 24bit/48kHz Philips - 24bit/96kHz Philips - 24bit/192kHz

 

SB Audigy 2 ZS - 16bit/48kHz SB Audigy 2 ZS - 24bit/48kHz SB Audigy 2 ZS - 24bit/96kHz

 

Philips PSC724 Ultimate Edge - Noise Range

 

16bit/48kHz

24bit/48kHz 24bit/96kHz 24bit/192kHz

Parameter

Left Right Left Right Left Right Left Right
RMS Power, dB: -83.7 -83.1 -83.7 -83.2 -86.6 -86.5 -86.4 -86.2
RMS power (A-weighted), dB: -85.9 -85.9 -86.2 -86.3 -88.0 -88.0 -88.0 -88.1
Peak level, dB FS: -67.0 -67.0 -67.6 -67.2 -66.5 -67.1 -67.7 -67.1
DC offset, %: -0.00 -0.00 -0.00 0.00 -0.00 -0.00 -0.00 -0.00

 

Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS - Noise Range

 

16bit/48kHz

24bit/48kHz 24bit/96kHz

Parameter

Left Right Left Right Left Right
RMS Power, dB: -94.3 -94.2 -96.4 -96.4 -89.7 -89.5
RMS power (A-weighted), dB: -95.6 -95.5 -97.6 -97.5 -98.5 -98.3
Peak level, dB FS: -80.5 -80.5 -83.1 -82.0 -74.8 -75.9
DC offset, %: 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00


Dynamic Range:

Dynamic Range is "the ratio of a specified maximum possible level of a parameter to the minimum detectable or acceptable value of that parameter." Clearing this up a little more, it is the range from the lowest to highest possible volumetric signal that the soundcard can output.  Thus, the larger the number, the better.

Philips - 16bit/48kHz

Philips - 24bit/48kHz Philips - 24bit/96kHz Philips - 24bit/192kHz

 

SB Audigy 2 ZS - 16bit/48kHz SB Audigy 2 ZS - 24bit/48kHz SB Audigy 2 ZS - 24bit/96kHz

 

Philips PSC724 Ultimate Edge - Dynamic Range

 

16bit/48kHz

24bit/48kHz 24bit/96kHz 24bit/192kHz

Parameter

Left Right Left Right Left Right Left Right
Dynamic range, dB: +83.3 +82.9 +82.2 +81.7 +83.0 +82.0 +83.7 +83.7
Dynamic range (A-weighted), dB: +85.1 +85.2 +85.4 +85.4 +84.9 +84.9 +85.0 +85.1
DC offset, %: -0.00 -0.00 0.00 0.00 -0.00 -0.00 -0.00 -0.00

 

Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS - Dynamic Range

 

16bit/48kHz

24bit/48kHz 24bit/96kHz

Parameter

Left Right Left Right Left Right
Dynamic range, dB: +93.7 +93.5 +95.3 +95.2 +89.8 +89.7
Dynamic range (A-weighted), dB: +94.9 +94.8 +96.6 +96.4 +98.3 +98.0
DC offset, %: 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00

 

Transparent
Rightmark Audio Analyzer 5.3 Continued

 

Rightmark Audio Analyzer 5.3 Continued
The Numbers Continue...


THD + Noise (at -3 dB FS):

Total Harmonic Distortion is defined as "a signal, the ratio of (a) the sum of the powers of all harmonic frequencies above the fundamental frequency to (b) the power of the fundamental frequency."  When a soundcard processes a signal, the output is an amplified version of the input signal plus any distortion that is created during the processes.  Even though some signal processors may add very little distortion to the output, there is always some present.  In the case of the numbers below, the closer the value is to zero, the less distortion and the more accurate the reproduced signal is.

Philips - 16bit/48kHz

Philips - 24bit/48kHz Philips - 24bit/96kHz Philips - 24bit/192kHz

 

SB Audigy 2 ZS - 16bit/48kHz SB Audigy 2 ZS - 24bit/48kHz SB Audigy 2 ZS - 24bit/96kHz

 

Philips PSC724 Ultimate Edge - THD + Noise (at -3 dB FS)

 

16bit/48kHz

24bit/48kHz 24bit/96kHz 24bit/192kHz

Parameter

Left Right Left Right Left Right Left Right
THD, %: 0.040 0.037 0.040 0.037 0.040 0.037 0.042 0.039
THD + Noise, %: 0.043 0.040 0.043 0.041 0.045 0.043 0.045 0.042
THD + Noise (A-weighted), %: 0.053 0.050 0.053 0.050 0.054 0.050 0.056 0.052

 

Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS - THD + Noise (at -3 dB FS)

 

16bit/48kHz

24bit/48kHz 24bit/96kHz

Parameter

Left Right Left Right Left Right
THD, %: 0.006 0.007 0.006 0.007 0.003 0.005
THD + Noise, %: 0.008 0.009 0.008 0.009 0.007 0.008
THD + Noise (A-weighted), %: 0.009 0.009 0.008 0.009 0.005 0.007


Intermodulation Distortion:

IMD is the "nonlinear distortion in a system or transducer, characterised by the appearance in the output of frequencies equal to the sums and differences of integral multiples of the two or more component frequencies present in the input waveform." Basically this means that when two signals at difference frequencies are produced simultaneously, additional signals at other frequencies and amplitudes are created.  These new signals are found at the sum, and difference, of the two original frequencies.

So, if the original signals where 2 kHz and 8 kHz, IMD would create two additional signals at 10 kHz ( 2 + 8 = 10) and 6 kHz (8 – 2 = 6).  Of course, it would be too simple of it ended there.  Each of these new signals caused by IMD is able to cascade off of each other and create more IMD of their own. Obviously, this means many other frequencies will be created, thus causing a huge mess of distortion.

Just like the other tests, a lower value signifies less amounts of IMD, thus a better overall sound quality.

 

Philips - 16bit/48kHz

Philips - 24bit/48kHz Philips - 24bit/96kHz Philips - 24bit/192kHz

 

SB Audigy 2 ZS - 16bit/48kHz SB Audigy 2 ZS - 24bit/48kHz SB Audigy 2 ZS - 24bit/96kHz

 

 

Philips PSC724 Ultimate Edge - Intermodulation Distortion

 

16bit/48kHz

24bit/48kHz 24bit/96kHz 24bit/192kHz

Parameter

Left Right Left Right Left Right Left Right
IMD + Noise, %: 0.059 0.056 0.059 0.057 0.059 0.056 0.060 0.057
IMD + Noise (A-weighted), %: 0.055 0.052 0.055 0.053 0.055 0.052 0.056 0.053

 

Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS - Intermodulation Distortion

 

16bit/48kHz

24bit/48kHz 24bit/96kHz

Parameter

Left Right Left Right Left Right
IMD + Noise, %: 0.008 0.009 0.008 0.009 0.009 0.010
IMD + Noise (A-weighted), %: 0.007 0.007 0.006 0.007 0.004 0.005


Stereo Crosstalk:

Stereo Crosstalk is when "undesired signals or sounds, as of voices, in a telephone or other communications device as a result of coupling between transmission circuits."  In the case of the soundcard, it is when a signal that is meant for the left channel, ends up being partially outputted on the right (or vice versa).  Subsequently, this disrupts the stereo imaging and overall sound field.  Obviously in this case, the less crosstalk (lower the value) the better.

Philips - 16bit/48kHz

Philips - 24bit/48kHz Philips - 24bit/96kHz Philips - 24bit/192kHz
SB Audigy 2 ZS - 16bit/48kHz SB Audigy 2 ZS - 24bit/48kHz SB Audigy 2 ZS - 24bit/96kHz

 

Philips PSC724 Ultimate Edge - Stereo Crosstalk

 

16bit/48kHz

24bit/48kHz 24bit/96kHz 24bit/192kHz

Parameter

L <- R L -> R L <- R L -> R L <- R L -> R L <- R L -> R
Crosstalk at 100 Hz, dB: -78 -83 -78 -79 -79 -77 -72 -75
Crosstalk at 1 kHz, dB: -60 -63 -60 -63 -60 -63 -59 0.-63
Crosstalk at 10 kHz, dB: -40 -44 -40 -44 -40 -44 -40 -44

 

Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS - Stereo Crosstalk

 

16bit/48kHz

24bit/48kHz 24bit/96kHz

Parameter

L <- R L -> R L <- R L -> R L <- R L -> R
Crosstalk at 100 Hz, dB: -82 -84 -82 -85 -80 -83
Crosstalk at 1 kHz, dB: -84 -86 -84 -86 -84 -88
Crosstalk at 10 kHz, dB: -75 -76 -75 -76 -75 -76

 

Transparent
Side-By-Side Result Comparison

 

Side-By-Side Comparison
The hard numbers, up close and personal...

 

Philips PSC724 Ultimate Edge - Summary

Test

SB Audigy 2 ZS 16/48

SB Audigy 2 ZS 24/48

Ultimate Edge 16/48

Ultimate Edge 24/48

 Frequency Response (40Hz to 15kHz), dB: +0.03, -0.08 +0.09, -0.13 +0.03, -0.10 +0.03, -0.10
 Noise Level, dB (A): -95.6 -97.6 -86.1 -86.4
 Dynamic Range, dB (A): 94.8 96.4 85.1 85.4
 THD, %: 0.0064 0.0064 0.036 0.037
 IMD, %: 0.0081 0.0077 0.056 0.055
 Stereo Crosstalk, dB: -86.8 -87.3 -63.7 -63.7
 General Performance: Very good Excellent Good Good

 

     

Frequency Response

Noise Level

Dynamic Range

     

THD + Noise (at -3 dB FS)

Intermodulation Distortion

Stereo Crosstalk

Due to the large amount charts in the previous pages, we have taken the two most common bit/kHz rates (16/48 & 24/48) and combined them into one set of easy to read visuals. The results from the Audigy 2 are displayed in both white and green, while the Ultimate Edge is in teal and purple.

Since the results have already been discussed on a previous page, there is no sense in us rehashing them again.  However, in reference to the graphs above, you can clearly see the difference in sound quality produced by both cards.  In most cases, the closer the plotted line is to the bottom of the graph, the better.

Transparent
Movie/Gaming Performance and Conclusion

 

Audio, Move and Gaming Performance
Real world testing...
Note: Quantifying sound quality of an audio device, is a relatively difficult task. This is a somewhat subjective area that in many cases can come down to user preference, in some of the criteria. However, especially with sound cards, there are some very specific points of reference that are easily judged and apparent to any user. We'll try to cover what we feel is important in our final testing and performance section.


DVD PLAYBACK: Dave Matthews Band: The Central Park Concert, LOTR: Two Towers

Using PowerDVD 5, we watched segments from two of our favourite DVD's; Dave Matthews Band: The Central Park Concert and LOTR: Two Towers.  At first we tossed in Two Towers and skipped forward to the battle of Helm's Deep.  The added benefit of 24bit sound really started to show as soon as we hit play.  Whether it was the thundering foot steps of the Orcs, or the sharp clang of swords hitting together, the sound replication was superb.  After watching the movie for far too long, we switched gears and fired up disc two of Dave Matthews Band's Live DVD.  Skipping forward to track 3 we listened to Dave Matthews and the rest of the band lay down a pretty stellar 15 minute version of "Jimi Thing" with special guest Butch Taylor.  Just as with LOTR the the Philips produced a very dynamic range of crystal clear sound which was impressive, to say the least.

GAMES: Doom 3 and Far Cry

Changing the pace a little, we fired up HH's new favourite, Doom 3.  The reproduction of sound in the game was realistic, crisp and clean.  We did catch the occasional pop coming out of the speakers, but that was mostly related to the entire system lagging during visually intense periods.  Next we loaded up this editor's favourite, Far Cry.  As we jaunted around in our "paradise gone wrong," the level of spatial and 3D effects was very eminent.  Stopping in the middle of some dense foliage we could clearly hear the birds, monkeys, insects and of course, trijans around us.  We were definitely pleased with the overall performance in this specific aspect of testing.

WINAMP 5 & WINDOWS MEDIA PLAYER 9: Various Media

Moving on to the last phase, we sampled a mixture of high bitrate Mp3's ( > 192kps) and audio CD's which spanned various spectrums of musical styles.  Whether it was Metal, Classical or woofer pounding Techno, the PSC724 was able to produce distortion free audio streams with brilliant clarity.  All in all we are delighted with sound output of all the audio sources we passed through the Ultimate Edge during this section of testing.

 

Overall, we are impressed with the Philips PSC724 Ultimate Edge.  Coming in at just under $70 USD, this card falls somewhere in the lower price-bracket of soundcards.  Physically, the Philips's is very well constructed and it seems as though this card is built to last.  Featurewise, the Ultimate Edge is up there with the leaders of the pack.  As the only 24-bit card (as of the date of this review) to offer 24bit/192kHz recording, it will surely catch the eye (or ear) of audiophile consumers.

The only "downside" of the card is the overall audio output performance.  Though it will be a huge step-up for anyone who is currently running an older 16bit/onboard soundcard, those who are seeking the best 24bit output quality may look towards something a little higher-end.  This is not to say that this Philips card is a slouch when it comes to playback.  However, when compared to cards like the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 we tested, which admittedly are a bit more expensive as well, it pales slightly in comparison, at least in our technical analysis.  Subjectively, the average end user may be hard pressed to detect the difference in audio fidelity but it is quantifiable, as you could see in our Audio Analyzer testing

So, based on its build quality, good performance, fantastic price point and pioneering the way for 24bit/192kHz recording, we are awarding the Philips PSC724 Ultimate Edge a rating of 8 on the Heat Meter.

 

HotHardware's PC Hardware Forum - Get In, Get Clocked and Read To Rock

 



Content Property of HotHardware.com