Usual Sound Card...
soon as we opened the Game Theaters box, we new we were in for
something different. The innovative "Rack"
design of the XP brings all
of the audio cards ports and accessories to a more
accessible area. As an added bonus, the additional
room gained by this design allowed the good people
at Hercules to take advantage of this space,
adding some extras not found on other Audio
front of the unit has the features most likely
accessed by the average user. The Game
Theater XP has a headphone and microphone jack
with individual volume and gain controls
respectively. There is a set of RCA inputs that can be used for external devices like
CD players or other components. On the
right, two USB ports are provided as well as a
standard Joystick port. One of the things
that really attracted me to the Game theater XP
was the easy access to the Joystick port.
When I game, I use a Microsoft Sidewinder Force
Feedback Pro Joystick. Now anyone who owns
one will tell you, this thing is kind of big.
With the rack design of the XP, it is easy unplug
my joystick and store it away, saving valuable
desk space. There is one problem that
I did encounter that I thought worth mentioning
While we were sampling several games using Digital
Out as our main output, we experienced serious
popping sounds from our speakers with our
Sidewinder Force Feedback connected. During game play, we
found that the system would slow down severely as well,
and the popping would be at its worst. If we
connected our speakers using the analog outputs,
everything worked perfectly and the sound quality
was excellent. At this stage of the game we are
unsure whether there is an incompatibility with
older Force Feedback products or if the problem
resides with our test system. We are
currently investigating this with Hercules and
will update you with our findings. In the
meantime, If any of
our readers have this unit and experienced this
problem, please let
The rear of the Game
theater XP resembles the back of a stereo receiver
rather than a sound card. Hercules has
provided front and rear channel connections in
both RCA and 1/8th inch options. Separate
connections are available for a center channel and
sub-woofer for you Surround Sound fanatics.
Two additional USB ports are mounted in the rear
as well as Coaxial/Optical digital input/outputs
I/O Midi Ports.
The Game Theater XP
boasts an impressive amount of options and
features rivaled only by the features of the Sound
Blaster Live Platinum.
Let's step into the work shop and see how the
installation and set up went....
Installation and Setup
Wrestling a Large Snake...
installation of the Game Theater XP was about as
simple as it could be.
Once we had the audio card installed into a free PCI slot, we attached one end of the PCI
cable to the card and the other to the Rack
system. Trying to route this cable was an
experience though. With all of the wires required
to route the Game Theater XP's features to an
external rack, the resulting cable is both thick
That aside, I think it is an acceptable trade for
a rack system with so many features.
installation of the Game Theater XPs drivers went
very well. The documentation provided in the
Users Manual was both thorough and accurate when
it comes to the installation process.
We do want to mention that once we installed the
drivers on our Windows ME system, we immediately
went to the Hercules website and checked for
updates. Low-and-behold, Hercules had a
newer set of drivers that included a snazzier
interface that can be accessed from the taskbar.
As you can see, the
driver control panel offers a wide range of
control over the Game Theater XP's features.
In the Main window, there is a simple utility that
helps you easily balance your system by
playing a drum rhythm through each speaker.
Individual volume controls are provided for easy
adjustment of each speaker level. The
drivers also include a 10 band equalizer as well
as such tweaks as Stereo Expansion and Echo
Elimination. Unfortunately, the
documentation in the owners manual falls a bit
short when it comes to what settings are available
with the XP's drivers. We feel that some
novice users may find some of these options
unfamiliar and there is little resources available
to clarify them. There is a distinct lack of
any "Help" file and we were unsuccessful in
getting any information on their website either.
Fortunately, the majority of the features are
easily accessed and self explanatory so this
shouldn't hamper the novice from getting true
enjoyment from this system.