The first thing to note here is that I haven't recommended any top of the line sound card this month, and that is due to the impending release of the Creative Sound Blaster Audigy II sound card which Creative promises will be a whole lot better than the last Audigy. The reason why I didn't recommend the old Audigy is partly due to the new Audigy, but also due to some very bad driver support by Creative, which will limit the effectiveness of the Audigy I, especially if you're having problems with it. Seeing as there is no support for the old card, it might not be a very good idea for you to splash out on the older version if you can pick up the new one in a month.
However, if you are looking to buy a new sound card right now, I received a recommendation from a reader regarding the Philips Acoustic Edge sound card. I had a look at the card and some reviews of it, and it seemed to have the goods in a lot of areas, as well as being able to support a lot of features in use right now. To cap it off, I'm told the Doom III presentation at E3 and QuakeCon used the Acoustic Edge card for its sound, so someone up there must like it.
So, if you can, wait and see how the Audigy II turns out. Otherwise I'd have a look at the Acoustic Edge from Philips. Have a look here for details
- Hercules Fortissimo III Sound Card
Times on list: New
A lot of people couldn't really care about their PC audio (to a point obviously, you don't want garble coming out), and thus aren't looking to spend much money on a sound card, or in some cases, no money. The Audigy DE sound card that previously occupied this slot was no doubt a very capable and feature rich card, but the price was a little high, at about AU$170. When taking that fact into consideration, along with the pathetic support described above, I decided that a change was in order.
The Fortissimo III soundcard is, as the name suggests, an evolution of the Fortissimo II soundcard that brought very decent sound to desktop PC's for about AU$100. Feature-wise, the Fortissimo III runs on the PCI bus, as you would expect, and has a sampling rate of up to 48kHz, a DSP accelerated engine for unlimited number of voices, DSL 1.0 compatibility, supports DirectSound 3D, EAX 1.0, EAX 2.0, A3D 1.0, I3DL2 in games and Microsoft DirectSound/DirectMusic, Dolby Surround and Dolby Digital/Dolby Digital EX in other audio tasks (Hercules simply describes it as "Audio Compatibility"). Input and output-wise, it features a digital S/PDIF out, and enough different speaker plugs to support 2,4,5.1 and 7.1 speaker setups.
As of yet, you cannot buy these cards in Australia, although I have been informed that they should be available in the middle of October, but the price isn't set yet. However, their official U.S. price is $50, so they should be very well priced in Australia, possibly under 100 dollars.
If you're looking for a cheap and not nasty sound card, look no further than Hercules latest release.
- Find the best price on Hercules sound cards!
- Sony 21" CPD-G520 FD Trinitron
Times on list: 4
Sony has been making exceptional monitors for some time now and this monitor is no exception. This monster has a viewable screen size of 19.8", has an aperture grille pitch of 0.24mm, horizontal scan range of 30-130kHz, vertical scan range of 48-170Hz, max resolution is a gigantic 2048*1536 and it weighs a massive 64.7lbs, which is about 30kg's!
The picture quality of this monster is crystal clear, as you would hope for the rather large price. With a GeForce4 under the bonnet, you will be able to see this monitor at its best, but if you have a much less powerful video card, you should really look at a 19" model. Sony makes excellent quality 19" monitors as well, and they are far cheaper.
If you're not going to use your PC for gaming, then you may want to buy an LCD monitor. They are reasonably expensive but have excellent picture quality and are small compared to a similar sized CRT monitor. The model to get is up to you, but go for a quality brand such as Sony, and the one that most suites your eyes. If you're after something that looks a little different, try the Hercules Prophetview 720.
- Find the best price on Sony 21" CPD-G520 FD Trinitron!
- LG Flatron 795FT+
Times on list: 4
Most people can't afford to spend AU$2000 on a monitor like the Sony 21" and are stuck looking for a monitor for a quarter of the price. This LG CRT monitor is just that, a quarter of the price and gives an excellent quality picture for a much more affordable price.
The monitor has a 16" viewable Flat CRT screen, has a max resolution of 1600*1200, an aperture grille pitch of 0.24mm, a horizontal frequency of 30-96kHz, vertical frequency of 50-160Hz, weighs 22.7kg and has a 3 year warranty. You will be doing very well to find a better monitor than this one for the same price.
- Find the best price on LG Flatron 795FT+!
Speakers are probably the most "personal" thing in all of computing, so its not really worth saying that everyone finds speaker X brilliant, while everyone finds speaker Y very poor. Obviously, some speakers will be of better quality than others, but a lot of people are willing to put up with dodgy speakers because they don't listen to things that require quality speakers.
However, if you are after a good set of speakers to listen to music and play games in surround sound and the other features you can now utilize, there are certainly some speakers that I would recommend to you. This is the same for someone looking for some cheap speakers to play games and listen to a bit of music, but not willing to shell out the massive sums of money a really good set of speakers sets you back.
At the very top of the speaker range sits the company Klipsch. They make PC speakers in 2.1, 4.1 and 5.1 varieties, and are regarded as the best speakers bar none, just about everywhere. The 5.1 set of speakers, which I would have to recommend as the "best" speakers, feature 5 tweeters and one subwoofer (obviously...), a frequency response of 20Hz to 25Khz, a 113dB maximum audio output, and are THX certified. These speakers themselves are not digital, but you can purchase a "DD 5.1 Digital Decoder" from Klipsch to add this ability and add to the price tag. While those speakers certainly are excellent, there are definitely other very good quality speakers around, so have a look round, and most importantly, listen to them and see what suits you!Recently there have been a lot of entrants into the cheap but feature packed speaker market. One product that caught my attention was the Hercules XPS510 speakers - a cheap set of 5.1 speakers. The Hercules speakers are rated for 60 Watts RMS total, comprised of 20 Watts from the subwoofer, and 8 from each tweeter. While the speakers may not seem special, and I have heard their sound quality isn't stunning, you can't argue with their price. They are about AU$160, which is extremely good value compared with other 5.1 speaker setups. If you add a good quality cheap soundcard like the Fortissimo III to this, you have a very cheap, but still very capable setup on your hands. Have a look at the speakers here!
Take a look at the Klipsch range of speakers here
Some pictures - The first one is the Klipsch ProMedia 5.1's, and the second is the Hercules XPS510.