Diamond Monster Sound MX400by Mike Andrawes on January 27, 2000 2:08 AM EST
Diamond MX400 Specifications:
- PCI Controller - ESS Canyon 3DTM
- Audio CODEC - Quad AC97 2.1 CODEC
- Utilize up to 48 3D hardware accelerated channels, 64 hardware accelerated channels, or 1024 voices
- Powerful DSP for full 32 bit 48KHz audio signal processing
- True Quad Output
- Standard S/PDIF Out for Dolby Digital
- EAX 1.0, EAX 2.0 and A3D 1.0 Support
Like the MX300, Diamond did not simply go with a reference design, but came up with their own that adds a number of features. The MX400, however, is much closer to ESS's design than the old MX300 was to Aureal's. Diamond took the ESS reference design and dropped the center/subwoofer jack and replaced it with a dedicated mic input. The reference board uses a single jack for line-in/mic inputs that is toggled by two onboard jumpers. The dedicated inputs makes more sense in a market where there are very few 5.1 channel systems available. Of course, Diamond may release a different version of the card down the line as 5.1 output on the PC gains popularity.
The other big difference from the ESS reference design is a 34-pin header designed to support Diamond's RioPC daughtercard upgrade. The Rio is, of course, Diamond's portable MP3 line and now they're once again looking to take advantage of the well established Rio branding and apply it to other MP3 related devices. The RioPC is the first of such devices and offers hardware DSP acceleration for encoding and decoding MP3 and other digital audio. The RioPC also includes an integrated FM tuner.
The hardware MP3 decoding should provide for seamless MP3 playback without any skipping, regardless of what else you're doing on your computer. This is one area that the MX400 is clearly superior to its predecessor and competition. The only draw back is that you'll probably have to use Diamond's MP3 playback and recording utilities to take advantage of the RioPC's DSP.
The MX25 digital output daughtercard for the MX300 was heavily delayed, but Diamond expects the RioPC to be available shortly after the release of the MX400. Let's hope they're right this time.
The coaxial S/PDIF digital output is carried over straight from the ESS design and supports PCM or Dolby Digital AC-3 output. Like other manufacturers cards, the S/PDIF is only capable of outputing Dolby Digital AC-3 audio that is passed on from a software DVD player with proper support for the Canyon3D. There are internal headers for CD, Voice Modem, and PC Speaker input as well.