Diamond Xtreme External 7.1 USB Sound Card Reviewairman -
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The software included on the disk is a very slim installation executable, where a menu allows the user to install the open source audio editor Audacity, view user's manuals, visit the manufacturer website, and install the Diamond software for the sound card. I already have Audacity, and I have already read through the user's manual, so I chose to install the software. Installation took only about 60 seconds, and then it prompts for a reboot. After the reboot, I didn't find any start menu programs, new folders in the program files directory, but I did find a system icon of the Diamond logo. Clicking on this icon brings up the Diamond software for the sound card, which I found to be very easy to navigate — easy enough that those who choose not to read through the manual should still be able to understand it.
The main window has only a few drop down menus, all of which are self-explanatory. These drop down menus include one for the number of channels on input, output, audio format, and S/PDIF output format. Choosing the number of channels for the input is important if you wish to up-mix the audio from only 2 channels to up to 8 channels. Having this ability allows every speaker on a 7.1 channel system play audio, which the general integrated sound card on my desktop cannot do easily. Enabling DSP for 7.1 virtual surround sound brings up a different window in the output device window. It allows the user to configure placement of the speakers so that the audio can be compensated for. As an example, if you drag a the left rear speaker further towards a corner, the effective volume of this speaker increases to even out the volume mix at the listener's station - allowing for powerful customization and DSP controls. For a more simple approach, leaving DSP turned off will still allow for up-mixing along with still retaining the ability to adjust individual volume levels of each speaker.
Even with this feature-rich main tab, there are still four other tabs, three of which are for toying around with more options. These four include a level mixer for inputs, a 10 band EQ, karaoke controls, and an information page. The karaoke features include microphone echo, key change, and vocal removal, which, though of no use to me, could be interesting to have. The pictures below are rather self explanatory, though I will mention some extra things about the "Effect" tab - which includes the 10 band EQ. This tab offers the ability to simulate and compensate for different room sizes, which can be useful in achieving the best sound quality. Generally, these settings would be configured and left alone, but someone may like to tweak these settings regularly, so they are in an easy to access location in the software.
With the software installed, speakers hooked up, and settings configured for my setup, the time to put it through some testing is near.