Movie/Gaming Performance and Conclusion
|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.