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Turtle Beach Santa Cruz PCI Sound Card Review

/ May 25th, 2002 No Comments

If you’re anything like this reviewer, you are one to enjoy healthy competition within the industry of consumer electronics. For PC people (and MAC for that matter), there’s been pretty much one major vendor when it comes to Sound Card technology – Creative Labs. One other thing you might have in common with this reviewer is you remember the days when “SoundBlaster” wasn’t the only thing on the market – with great products like the Roland and Adlib cards competing.

However, if there is a company that’s lasted for sometime against the Creative Labs monster, it’s been Turtle Beach. Want widespread compatibility? Drivers that utilize today’s operating systems’ to their fullest? How about features most of the other sound cards don’t have? And finally, just plain damn good sound? If these are things you are interested in, then it turns out the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz is the sound card you are looking for.

The Santa Cruz is the first consumer PCI audio card to offer a reconfigerable DSP core, audiophile sound, and six discrete outputs for under $100 – more specifically you’ll find this bad boy running for around $79 at your local electronics store. Now the Santa Cruz’s DSP provides versatility in multiple settings, including computer gaming, digital music playback, home theater entertainment, and music composition.

A quick rundown of the Santa Cruz’s main selling points include:

Six discrete output channels; either six-channel analog or Dolby Digital/AC-3 5.1 channel passthrough

MP3 decoding in hardware, which reduces the hit on your CPU

Support for all major 3D audio APIs: EAX, A3D, I3DL2, DirectSound3D, MacroFX, and MultiDrive

1,204 MIDI voices

To recap all that, you can setup 2, 4, or 6 speakers. The card decodes MP3s, which makes for less lag time while multitasking. The card is supported across the board, so all your applications and games will sound just fine. An impressive resume for the Santa Cruz indeed! The fact that the 5.1 decoding is done onboard (although the Santa Cruz uses a Virtual 5.1 mode for games; it doesn’t have true 5.1 support), and not through an addition piece of hardware, this saves consumers a ton of money. For example, Videologic’s DigiTheatre LC system, which costs $149 without a Dolby 5.1 decoder and $279 with one. It’s definitely a price saving move anyone can appreciate.

There’s not much need to discuss the ease of installation. Windows XP users will have zero problems (famous last words, I know) popping the sucker into their motherboards and starting the computer up, although it comes highly recommended that you run the installation CD first.

But let’s get down the main thing – performance. From the standpoint of playing MP3 files, this is where you really get your money’s worth from the fine people at Voyetra/Turtle Beach. From a perspective of saving CPU usage, minimizing multitasking strain, and most importantly the quality of the output (as compared to both the SoundBlaster 128PCI and Live! cards), the Santa Cruz just blows the competition out of the water. You’ll find your MP3s playing like never before! The performance during gameplay with a 4 speaker set is impressive, but not outstanding from the competition.

The Santa Cruz PCI sound card is a perfect sound card for the consumer who wants a great value – a card that really offers it all. With great audio quality , especially while playing MP3s, and at a retail street price of $79, this is one audio card you’ll find yourself hanging onto for a very, very long time.

The Santa Cruz PCI Sound Card has received an incredibly great score of 9.2 / 10 for an overall score of 92.0%. This just might be the Sound Card of choice in the “Under $100” market!

Sean W. Gibson

Sean W. Gibson

Founder, Featured Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Sean Gibson has been the owner and Executive Editor of Gaming Illustrated for over eleven years. His roles include acting as CEO and President of Gaming Illustrated, LLC and also includes being a reviewer, previewer and interviewer. Sean's opinions on this site do not reflect those of his full-time employer.
Sean W. Gibson
Sean W. Gibson


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