Diamond Xtreme External 7.1 USB Sound Card Reviewairman -
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For such an inexpensive little box, the Diamond Xtreme External 7.1 USB sound card seems to be an excellent option for a simple upgrade to onboard sound, or to expand the abilities of products with limited sound setup — such as laptops or older HTPCs. I did find that the overall sound quality between the onboard S/PDIF and the S/PDIF output from the Diamond card was almost indistinguishable, so I wouldn't recommend this device to someone who already has hardware with S/PDIF unless they wanted to use S/PDIF input for recording multi-channel audio. I would, however, say this is a perfect and cheap way to upmix your stereo music to a 5.1 or more channel stereo system that cannot up-mix itself. The volume adjustment works (though I leave it at 100% in windows and control it on the speakers, but this could be a benefit on a laptop), along with the pause/play button. Hardware-wise, it works very well.
The software itself allows for a large amount of customization, but I did find some things that may not be necessary or I coup-mixt get to work well. The best part of the software is allowing music to be played through all speakers rather than just two, as well as the "room placement". For example, your audio set up could be configured to be facing one wall, like a TV, but if one wished to use a projector on a wall at a different angle, the user can use this software to "turn" the sound in the room to simulate the speakers in the correct position. A 7.1 channel system would be better at this, because only the rear of the room would be lacking a center channel. The rest of the tabs, other than the mixer and info tab, I found to be rather non-important. I can't say useless, because they aren't, but I really have no use for them. The equalizer, in default, flat form, seems to be more or less stock which already sounds good so that's not something I would touch, or have a need to. Most integrated equalizers are well configured, and using the one in this software would probably be redundant. Also — the karaoke tab — I don't think I'd ever want to add a cheesy echo/reverb to my loopback microphone, so that's out, and the vocal cancelation wasn't very effective. On the other hand, the key change slider seemed to work well, and didn't appear to be off key — but again, I can't think of a place I'd use it.
So long story short, the hardware is good and works well, especially for how inexpensive it can be acquired, and can upgrade many stock sound devices to expand their limited features and slightly turn up the sound quality on analog devices. As far as cons, I can't really list things that I won't use nor see the point of as a bad thing. This is simply Diamond wanting to satisfy a need by 1% of users, where the remaining 99% probably wont even know it's there. Overall, I'd recommend this product and I'm probably going to continue using it on my desktop to achieve surround sound on stereo music and movies at the hardware level.
- Works well
- A very logical upgrade to integrated systems lacking S/PDIF and/or multi-channel analog
- Can easily be stuck behind the computer or desk and forgotten about
- One of the cheapest ways to add an S/PDIF input
- Vocal cancelation not very effective