Turtle Beach Montego DDL Sound Card
Reviewed by: Makaveli
Reviewed on: June 10, 2007
: Turtle Beach
: Turtle Beach
Price: $59.99 USD
With surround sound being more popular than ever before, the demand for sound cards that can handle a 7.1 speaker setup is quite high. Everyone wants to be immersed into their music, games, and movies. So what is a better way to do that than get the big 7.1 speaker home entertainment system? In order to use that entertainment system, you'll need a sound card that can handle the system and put out the sound you desire to hear. Turtle Beach’s Montego Dolby Digital Live (DDL) card is the first 7.1 sound card released from Turtle Beach. Let’s see how it performs when it’s put to the test of an avid gamer, musician, and movie-goer.
Turtle Beach is one of the biggest companies of the audio technology industry. It has been around for more than 30 years, providing some of the most innovative audio products backed with a world renowned standard of high quality. Turtle Beach has always been an elite and innovative manufacturer in the audio industry and the company continues to strive to keep its place at the top of the list.
The shipping box that the Montego DLL came in had the Turtle Beach logo tape on it and was in near perfect condition. The inside of the shipping box had plenty of packaging peanuts to keep the box from being damaged during shipping. The box has the card’s name over it, with a magnificent wave in the background looking as if it’s about to crash over the logo. The back of the box boasts about how the card is the “complete surround sound solution” as well as the uses of the card and its software. On the side of the box, you can read the specifications of the card.
Once you open the box, you’ll find a piece of cardboard folded up to securely hold the sound card in place. Included with the sound card is a quick start guide, a few messages for the user, and the software CD.
The sound card is packaged in an anti-static bag, which is the only way to safely ship a sound card.
I took out the card and examined the front and back. On the front you can see the Aux In/CD In ports and the audio chipset on the card. The back of the card has the card’s logo printed in white. There are 8 ports on the sound card. Starting with the green port, you have the front-out, rear-out, center, bass, microphone in, line in, S/PDIF Out, and S/PDIF In ports. The S/PDIF Out/In ports have plugs which you pull out in order to plug in the respective cables.
Before you install the sound card, it’s a good idea to remove all the sound drivers for the card you had installed before this card. To install the sound card, you’ll need a free PCI slot on your motherboard. Just firmly push the card into the PCI slot and then plug in your speakers into their respective ports and turn on your computer.
Once you’re computer is on, insert the software CD into your optical drive and follow the on-screen instructions.
After you install the control panel, you’re going to have a plethora of options to tune your music to perfection. Let’s take a look at the different tabs in the control panel. The first tab is called “Speakers”. This is where you can control the master volume, which speakers the sound comes out of, and arrange your speakers on the screen so that the software can adjust and play accordingly.
The next tab is the equalizer. Here you can select one of the 8 music categories with predefined slider values, or you can make your own profile and save it.
“Effects” is definitely my favorite tab because it allows the user to drag each speaker in the picture so that you can have it set up exactly how your setup looks like. For me, I have the sub somewhat in the middle and then my rear speakers mounted behind me and my front speakers in the front of me. In the next column, you can tell the program what kind of environment you’re in. I told the program that I was in a large room (the basement) and that it was a music pub.
The last tab is “Mixer”, which is where you can modify the sliders for Wave, SW Synth, Microphone, CD Player, Line-In, and Master volume; just like the default mixer in Windows.
Included with the control panel software is a demo for “Audio Surgeon” and a program called “Recording Station”. Since “Audio Surgeon” is a demo, I couldn’t do much, but I snapped a shot of the program so that you can get a gist of what it’s about. The screenshot on the right is the “Recording Station”, which was fun messing with because it was really easy to make some pretty wild sounds.
|Hardware Decode||Dolby Digital, DTS|
|SPDIF In||Up to 16bit/48kHz|
|Operating Systems Supported||Windows 2000 Professional / Windows XP / Windows XP Media Center|
|Features||Front Out, Surround Out, Sub/Center Out, Rear Out, Line In, Mic In, S/PDRIF Digital Out, S/PDIF Digital In|
|Package Contents|| TBS-3300-01 Montego DDL Sound Card
To test the sound card, I’m going to be comparing it against a Diamond XS 7.1 sound card. I’m going to critique on how each card sounds with music, games, and movies. I'll be checking for any sound clashes or wrong sounding notes. Both units are being tested with Logitech 5.1 X-540 speakers since I don’t have any S/PDIF cables around the house to test the 7.1 capability. Each application is going to have 2 different categories, Turtle Beach and Diamond, with two subcategories, which will be speakers and headphones. I will report any findings of mine throughout the testing.
- Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Processor
- ASUS P5N32-SLi SE Deluxe Motherboard
- Mushkin XP2-6400 (2 x 1GB) DDR2 800 Memory
- eVGA 7950GT KO Video Card
- Cooler Master 750watt Power Supply
- Western Digital 250GB IDE Hard Drive
- Western Digital 160GB SATA 3.0GB/s Hard Drive
- Seagate 80GB IDE Hard Drive
- LG DVD-R DL Burner
- Windows XP Media Center 2005
- Turtle Beach Montego DDL Sound Card
- Comparison Sound Card: Diamond XS 7.1
- Enermax Uber Chakra ATX Full Tower Case
- iTunes (Music)
- Team Speak (Voice Application)
- Counter-Strike: Source, Battlefield 2, and World of Warcraft (Gaming)
- Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (DVD Movie)
Turtle Beach Montego:
- Speakers: Music is a huge part of my life, so it was no question that I was going to be a very harsh critic on these sound cards. I thought the Montego definitely sounded much better because each note was very distinct and it was this way for each genre of music I played. I can't tell you how many times my parents yelled at me to turn it down during this test. Even though it's loud, I felt like I needed it to be turned up even more.
- Headphones: With headphones on, the sound definitely felt more direct. When I closed my eyes, I could see myself in a recording studio. The volume for the headphones was more than enough and I wouldn't want to turn it up too loud unless I hated my ear drums.
Diamond XS 7.1:
- Speakers: While the music certainly sounded good with the speakers with this card, it did seem as if I was in a bathroom and everything sounded like one big sound - not distinct. It did go loud, but not as loud as the Montego. In the control panel of this sound card, it definitely had more preset genres for you to set the mixer to, which is a big plus. I was especially fond of the "Live" mixer setting.
- Headphones: I honestly could not tell the difference between this card and the Montego. Both of them sounded great.
Team Speak (Test):
Turtle Beach Montego:
- Headset: Team Speak a program designed to allow users with a microphone to talk to each other on the server. In this case, I was playing Counter-Strike: Source with my friends who all had microphones. They all said I sounded great and I heard them perfectly. This sound card definitely passes this test.
Diamond XS 7.1:
- Headset: With this sound card I had the same experience. My buddies didn't even know that I changed sound cards, so this card also passes the test because my friends said I was crystal clear and I definitely heard them perfectly when they spoke.
Turtle Beach Montego:
- Speakers: In order to administer this test, I played Counter-Strike: Source, Battlefield 2, and World of Warcraft for hours on end so that I could get a good feel for how everything sounded. I was very impressed at how I could pick out where each sound was coming from because it was so distinct. This card definitely put me in the game. For example, in Battlefield 2 a grenade exploded right in my face and I jumped about ten feet out of my chair because it sounded so real. During my airborne flight out of the chair, I could distinguish my team mates avenging my death behind me.
- Headphones: During this test I didn't get the surround sound effect as I did with the speakers but the headphones did sound much better than I was used to because I used to use on-board sound when I gamed.
Diamond XS 7.1:
- Speakers: The sound was different when I was gaming with this card. I kept wanting to pop the Montego into my computer again because I missed how distinct the sounds were. While I could still hear my shadow bolt hitting the enemy in World of Warcraft and my friend firing his wand behind me, I just felt like I was in a bubble of sound.
- Headphones: I still couldn't really distinguish the differences from the other sound card and this one with headphones on.
Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Test):
Turtle Beach Montego:
- Speakers: This was the part where I clearly noticed what sets this card above the Diamond sound card. I could tell just how much better the movie sounded with Dolby Digital Live enabled. It was like a whole new movie experience because everything sounded very enhanced compared to the Diamond card, which doesn't have the DDL feature. I know now that I'll never watch a movie again without Dolby Digital Live enabled.
- Headphones: I could still tell the difference in the headphones with Dolby Digital Live enabled, but the movie with speakers was much better.
Diamond XS 7.1:
- Speakers: This card does have Dolby Digital EX (enables 6th and 7th channel in Dolby Digital) which I felt really couldn't compete with the Montego when I watched Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift the second time around.
- Headphones: The Diamond sound card lost here because of the card not being Dolby Digital Live enabled.
The Diamond sound card isn’t that bad, but I felt like it played all the sounds almost as one whole sound. In other words, it wasn’t too distinctive with the notes. The Montego was absolutely wonderful in distinctively playing each individual sound to make it all sound crisp. I could definitely tell with both sound cards that the categories in the mixer were roughly the same and sounded nearly identical. So overall, the Montego got better marks because of how it distinguished each note instead of sounding like one big sound as with the Diamond card. Also, the Dolby Digital Live capability of this card definitely made a noticeable difference in the movie. Below is a picture of the two cards next to each other. The Montego is on the left; notice how the cards are almost identical with few differences.
Music, games, and movies are nothing without sound. After looking at the results, you can get a pretty good idea that the Turtle Beach Montego sound card performs quite well against the competition. With the DDL (Dolby Digital Live) capability, you really can’t go wrong when you’re watching a movie. It was a completely different movie with Dolby Digital Live and I can't believe I've gone this long without having a DDL enabled sound card. The main reason I like this card over the Diamond XS 7.1 is that each sound is very distinctive instead of sounding like one giant mix of notes. My old sound card was huge and took up a lot of space in the case, but this sound card is as small as it can be to fit in the PCI slot. The software included was very good because it was very easy to use and really let me set up my environment and settings in a matter of minutes. If you’re picky like me when it comes to sound, but don’t want to break the bank with a new sound card, take a look at the Turtle Beach Montego DDL sound card. I would certainly recommend this card to my readers, friends, and family because it’s got a really good bang-for-the-buck. For some reason, I couldn't quite get the sound up to where I wanted it to be volume wise. Don’t get me wrong, it was very loud, but I felt like I needed a bit more.
- Distinctive Sound
- Dolby Digital Live
- Could be louder