Gaming Theater Made Right!

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Although Guillemot has been making budget cards like the Maxi Muse for some time now, it’s since released the Game Theater XP under its Hercules brand. In a word, this thing screams. The included external rack unit — it doesn’t fit into a bay on your computer — contains enough inputs and outputs to satisfy just about every musical need, and it even works as a powered four-port USB hub. In addition to all its inputs and outputs, it’s Dolby Digital certified and even includes Dolby headphone decoding. Although the software doesn’t include games, it does include full versions of PowerDVD, MusicMatch and Sensaura Virtual Ear, a 3D sound-positioning utility. Its MIDI playback is for the most part on par with the Live! cards, and it includes support for EAX 2.0, A3D 1.0 and DirectSound from Microsoft. All this, and it retails for $50 less than a Live!Platinum? Sign us up.

This may be Guillemot’s first entry into the high-end sound card market, but the company has definitely done its homework. Hooking the unit up is easy. The card includes connectors for CD Audio and any auxiliary device, and the back only has two outputs. One is an auxiliary 1/8″ line-in and the other is for the cable that connects to the external rack. This thick, six-foot-long cable has the bandwidth to handle the input it may transmit, including USB devices, digital devices like MP3 players or MD players, etc. The dark blue unit may be in contrast to the familiar beige computer setup, and it’s a little wider than most computer cases, but it will balance easily on top of a case. Its usefulness pretty much outweighs any finicky color coordination awkwardness.

MP3 fanatics will love the convenience of having both coaxial and optical digital inputs and outputs, as well as the fact that MP3 decoding is hardware based, making it less of a strain on the CPU. This also makes things easy for owners of DATs or MiniDisc recorders, because true digital recording is easier than ever. Those with USB-enabled MP3 players will like the convenience of simply plugging their unit into one of the four USB ports and having excellent transfer rates. For more traditional tasks, there are also analog inputs and outputs, including both microphone and headphone jacks with volume knobs. Finally, there’s a standard MIDI In and Out as well as a gameport — no more crawling behind the computer to switch from the gamepad to the racing wheel. Everything is clearly labeled for ease of use.

If we have to find something wrong (and we don’t have to, but nothing’s perfect), it’s that some of the software will try to associate itself with practically everything on your computer. The only required software is the drivers, so it’s not necessary to use the included additional software, but those without MP3 encoders or DVD software will want to. This can cause some silly things to happen. For example, MusicMatch is known for associating itself with practically every music format, so double-clicking an MP3 or inserting a CD may not bring up your favorite listening software. It isn’t that the MusicMatch software is bad; rather, it’s that it assumes the rights to many file formats, almost without asking. Some of the included software is also on a trial basis. Both Sonic Foundry programs will expire after so many uses, and even the Karaoke software is limited (but that may be a good thing). These complaints, though, are really just sort of nitpicky, especially since it’s optional to install this software. The perfect gaming screen nowadays is not bigger than a tablet, because it is just on most smartphones already. QHD, amoled,iPS to name a few just to play their favorite games like Clash Royale hack found here.

As a whole package, the Game Theater XP is in direct competition with the Live!Platinum and, on most accounts, it comes out on top. Some will argue that the MIDI sound quality from a Live! card is better, but they competition is usually too close to call. Some will like that the Platinum Live!Drive fits into a bay on the computer. Feature for feature, though, the Game Theater XP is nearly always on par — and it actually offers a little more with the inclusion of the USB hub. Those shopping for a complete sound solution should definitely investigate this package. It costs less and it offers additional functionality that the competition doesn’t have.

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