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Razer Barracuda AC1 Sound Card Review

Former staff writer    -   February 8, 2007


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Specifications:

Technical Specifications

The Razer Barracuda™ AC-1 Gaming Audio Card, powered by Razer Fidelity™ delivers optimized audio signals directly from the computer game to the gamer, creating the most realistic gaming environment. The Razer Barracuda AC-1 features proprietary Razer audio technologies including the patent pending Razer Enhanced Sonic Perception™ (ESP) architecture and Razer’s 3D (720°) Positional Gaming Audio Engine™ to allow gamers to pinpoint exact location of enemies more accurately than before.

  • Razer Enhanced Sonic Perception™ (ESP) enhances positional audio in gaming to allow competitive gamers to take advantage of the expanded dynamic soundstage in-game.
  • Dolby® Pro-Logic IIx surround processor splits stereo audio into 7.1 channel surround sound.
  • Dolby® Headphone technology conveys 5.1 surround or 3D gaming sounds over stereo headphones.
  • Independent Dolby® Digital Live (AC-3) 5.1 real-time encoding bit-stream to facilitate connection with CE AV receiver.
  • Dolby® Virtual Speaker solution brings amazing virtual surround sound fields via general two speakers.
  • DTS® Interactive Real-time 5.1 encoder that takes any 2 or more channels and encodes it into DTS bit stream
    DTS® NeoPC An upmixing matrix that turns any 2 channel audio into 7.1 surround sound.
  • Supports 7.1 CH digital audio playback for WinXP 64, WinXP ,Win2000 (Microsoft® DirectX V.9.0 above is required) and most industrial standards of PC 3D sound for gaming, including EAX™ 1.0&2.0, A3D™ 1.0, and DirectSound™.
  • PCI 2.2 interface (Burst Modes and Bus Mastering) 4 synchronous I2S input/output pairs.
  • Integrated 192k/24-bit S/PDIF receiver/transmitter Multi-channel AC-link. (supports up to 2 AC97 codecs)
  • S/PDIF IN supports digital loop back path for transforming between optical and RCA connection.
  • Serial bus to communicate with micro control unit (MCU)lMPU-401 MIDI UART port support.
  • All I2S I/O pairs support 32-bit high-definition PCM data transfer and adjustable sample rate up to 192KHz.

Testing:

Testing Setup

  • AMD 64 4600+ X2
  • DFI Lanparty NF4 SLI-DR
  • 1 GB OCZ Platinum Ram (PC 3200)
  • NEC DVD/CD Re-Writeable
  • Lite-On CD ROM Re-Writeable
  • OCZ GameXtreme 600W PSU
  • Thermalright XP90 HS/Panaflo Fan
  • XFX 7600 GT XXX 256MB GPU
  • Thermaltake Shark Case
  • Windows XP Media Center SP2

I realize that the Razer Barracuda AC1 is considered a gaming sound card, but not everyone games as some might listen to music or watch movies. So before I tested the sound card in-game I decided to crank up iTunes and listen to some music. I played with all of the settings and tried many different combinations until I found the choices that best fit my preferences. The sound filled the room and surrounded me. By adjusting the speaker time delay, I was even able to develop what I would call an echo. I tend to listen to a lot of techno and ambient music, so being able to adjust the sound in this way was a plus. It truly relayed the eeriness and reverberations of many songs in my playlist.

Next, I tested a movie. I chose XXX - with Vin Diesel - because of the many background sounds that accompany, Action Movies. I could honestly say that if I didn't know any better, I would have thought I was in a theater.

Okay, on with the gaming. I tested the sound card in two ways: with my speakers and with the Razer Barracuda Headphones. With the speakers, the sounds in-game were crisp and it was very easy to hear my opponents coming from around corners. I truly felt that I had an advantage. Lately, I haven't been into purchasing and using add-on sound cards since many motherboards come with what I would consider decent on-board sound. I guess I forgot what advantages there were when you used a stand-alone card.

Using the Barracuda Sound Card in conjunction with the Barracuda Headphones proved to be a whole new experience. The entire game changes. I was immersed in the battle and felt as if I were actually there. With the Razer ESP set to wide, I could hear bombs dropping from what seemed to be miles away. This is something I haven't experienced before, at least not while playing Call of Duty 2. I had one problem though. It was hard to hear footsteps with all the background noise, so I lowered the range of the Razer ESP until I got it to the perfect range to hear my attackers. Unfair? They didn't know what hit them. My kill ratio went up from 14 kills and 1 death to 22 kills and 1 death. I was now playing the game not only using my visual acuity, but my auditory senses were working with the visual more than I had ever experienced before. I knew they were coming, whether it be from the left, right, front or back.

While interviewing Robert "Razer Guy" Krakoff, he mentioned that the Razer Barracuda sound card will actually increase the framerate in a game. He explained that unlike other sound cards (on board and stand-alone), the Razer Barracuda does not utilize system memory, thereby increasing your framerate in-game. I tested this theory and below you will find screen shots of memory usage and a list of the difference in FPS.

There is definitely a difference is system memory usage. I took these screen shots immediately after exiting the game and the difference was clear.

Using my on board sound card, my available memory was 614,844 KB, and using the Barracuda it was 839,512 KB. That's over 200,000 KB of available memory.

Now what difference did I have in game? I used Doom 3 and calculated FPS with Fraps at three different resolutions: 800x600,1024x768 and 1280x1024. Below are the FPS differences. Even though I did have 200,000 KB more of available memory, my FPS in all but 1280x1024 only went up by two frames, whereas with 1280x1024 I had a 3 FPS difference.

Doom3


 

 




  1. Introduction & Closer Look
  2. Installation and Configuration
  3. Configuration Continued
  4. Specifications & Testing
  5. Conclusion
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