Do you need better sound on a budget?
If like me you tend to use a laptop for most of your gaming, you may have the same problem I have. Your graphics chip may be great, but you are lumbered with a sound chip that is mediocre at best. In my case I have found to have every audio setting set to low, just to not impact on the frame rate. Now when you have an awesome set of headphones like the Zowiegear Hammer or the Steelseries 7H, you don’t want to be stuck with rubbish sound, do you?
I think you will be more than happy with it
Now some headsets, like those mentioned, can be bought with a USB external soundcard. but not all and at times you may not want to spend the extra straight away. Enter the stylishly named StarTech Virtual 7.1 USB Audio Adapter External Sound Card (just trips off the tongue!).
This little USB dongle, about the size of a large USB memory stick, is a plug and play soundcard that will relieve the pressure off your poor onboard sound card, whilst adding a few neat features of its own.
The dongle its self has a headphone socket and a microphone socket. It also has controls for muting the mic, muting the audio, volume up and volume down. As it is plug and play, it will work with most Windows machines and Macs with out the need for drivers and will integrate as if it was the onboard sound card. Without extra software, straight out of the box I noticed a massive improvement in sound quality in game. I was able to crank all the settings up in CoD with no frame rate drops.
With the extra software installed (Xear 3D software), things get a little more interesting. The name mentions Virtual 7.1. That is where the software comes in. Using some clever use of delay and sound shaping, the Xear 3D software can approximate 7.1 surround sound using just 2 speakers.
Now the software is not the most intuitive or user friendly, which is where we drop a point in the overall score for this package. However, once you have it set up I found that the surround effect was pretty good. It is never going to be as good as real surround, but I really have no complaints, when you take into account the cost of all of this, which I will mention in a minute.
There are a couple of bad points about this product. The size of the sound card is an issue. Although it is small, it is actually too thick to plug in next to other USB peripherals – especially in a laptop with vertical USB ports. An extension lead would have been nice. It is also a fairly cheap construction.
This brings us to the best point about this product. It looks cheap and has slightly difficult to use software, because it is cheap. At the time of writing it will set you back about £20. Now for me this represents excellent value for money. Of course it is not as good as having a desktop PC with the latest high end all singing all dancing sound card. However, for laptop users this is as good as it gets for this kind of money and I think you will be more than happy with it!
- Connector Types 1 – USB A Male
- Connector Types 2 – Phono 3.5 mm Female
- Maximum Data Transfer Rate 480 Mbps
- Warranty 1 Year
- Color Black
- Chipset ID C-Media CM108
- OS Compatibility Windows 2000/ XP(32/64bit)/ Vista(32/64bit)/ 7(32/64bit)/ Server 2008 R2, Linux, Mac OS X
Gold Y Award