In the Forums...
Posted: April 29, 1999
Written by: Keith "Farrel" McClellan
Estimated retail price: $99.95
Diamond is well known for it's easy to install, dependable products; and the MX300 is no exception. With an almost too simple install process and a software bundle to rival most video cards, the MX300 impressed me from the moment I pulled it out of the box (more than a week before I expected it to show up).
Installation was a snap. The instruction manual was clear and concise, and the process was flawless - no complaints here, except that maybe it was too easy - I get paranoid when things work the right way the first time.
The Monster Sound MX300 is a fully featured 3D audio accelerator that comes with a lot of extras that really make it worth picking up, such as:
At first I thought the price was a little high, but when I took into account the price/performance ratio, it started looking like a better and better deal. If anything, for the price, I would have liked a digital SPDIF port for high quality sound (now available through a $40 daughtercard).
I used a set of Altec Lansing ACS-490 speakers and a Casio CTK-530 for this test. The ACS-490 speakers are physically identical to the ACS-495 speakers, except they use an analogue interface rather than USB. Overall, the sound quality on them rivals my stereo - so I'm not complaining. As for the Casio CTK-530, it's a MIDI capable entry-level synthesizer.
The CD audio is just a lot clearer than my old Soundblaster 64, particularly in the area of lyrics, which previously I'd had trouble understanding. This is not to say the CD Audio on the old card was bad, just that the new card sounds that much better. The MIDI wavetable on the MX300 is top-notch - much better than my old one. I was playing around with my MIDI adapter (connects the keyboard to the joystick/MPU 401 port) and everything worked great. I've had several configuration problems previously with bad or non-compliant joystick ports, but in comparison, it was a piece of cake.
The A3D 3D sound blew me away. I got too used to stereo sound, I guess, because when I started up Shogo with A3D acceleration, I simply couldn't believe my ears. I found myself wondering "What was that behind me?" even when only playing with a 2 speaker (+ subwoofer) setup. The CPU utilization on it was very low, and the improved sound quality was worth a few frames per second.
In Half-Life (Day One demo included), the sounds are even more spectacular, to the point where I just stopped and listened several times. It is a good way to tell where the baddies are, particularly if your speakers are set up properly (didn't Dan write something up about that? hehehe).
Overall audio acuity was sharp up until the very highest levels (Uhh... when it's that high you can hear it on the 3rd floor) - and I think that is due more to the speakers than the sound card (need to hook up some Infinity speakers to it). Overall, the bass is strong and clear, and the treble is comparatively clear. Overall, I wish I could put the thing in my stereo.
For the most part, the software bundle is excellent. The Monster Sound control panel and some of the other utilities that come with the card were phenomenal, with one glaring exception, Mediaworks 98. The program itself serves its function well enough, but it overwrites the association of Audio CD's to the CD Player, and it won't always automatically play them itself. More of an inconvenience than anything else, but it is still annoying.
The included games aptly show off the best qualities of the sound card, and are good plays as well (particularly if you don't already own a copy of Half-Life). If anything from the software was a disappointment (other than Mediaworks 98), it was that the install program for the sound utilities doesn't let you customize which files will / will not be copied to your system. That is particularly annoying if you like some of the programs, but not all.
The MX300 is an excellent piece of hardware that I would recommend to any serious gamer or sound aficionado. It innovative feature set and top-of-the-line sound quality will have all your friends drooling over your computer's sound system (uh... well, maybe not quite, but you get the picture).