Gamers these days are getting pretty picky, but the Montego II Quadzilla has enough features, support and raw power to round out any high-end system.
Opening the box, the first thing you will notice is that the card is in two pieces. The main part of the card that plugs into a standard PCI slot contains everything a gamer will need to get 3D sound with a two speaker setup. Now, this method is not truly 3D sound and is achieved by tricking the listener with various Doppler shifts and other audio clues that mimic a 3D environment, but unless you have been classically trained, I doubt you will be able to tell the difference. And yes, when someone in Half-life is coming up behind you with a crowbar, you will hear them before they start to bash your skull in, and know that they are approaching from the rear.
Still, the true advantage to the Quadzilla is the quad speaker sound support. When you set up two speakers behind you and two in front, sounds that are supposed to come from behind actually do. So even the most discerning player will be able to tell exactly where important sounds, like the report of a sniper’s rifle, are coming from. In testing, this was a huge advantage for me and because of it I rocked most Half-life multiplayer games even more than normal. [15 to one kill ratio on average with the card, 10 to one without – depending on the map]
It was just a lot easier to zero in on opponents when I could hear all the battle around me. As an example, when running behind a building on a smaller map, I could hear a firefight going on between two opponents and knew in an instant they were to my left and behind me, which put them on the other side of the building. Without any visual clues at all, I switched to my RPG, rounded the corner and fired at the sound. The result was that my rocket landed right between the two players as they were dancing around shooting each other, resulting in both of their deaths. That’s two points for the guy with the high-end sound card and a painful respawn for those without. If you could see my evil grin now, you would be very afraid.
The only problem is that for some reason, the support for the rear speakers are on a separate card. Well, it’s not really a card, more like a minicard. The minicard does not even plug into a slot off the motherboard, just to the main card. But unless you want it hanging out the back of your computer, you will have to mount it, meaning you will lose two slots for one soundcard, something that will make most high-end gamers cringe. This is balanced somewhat by the fact that the main card is PCI, which saves you from having to use the prime real estate of yout AGP slots for sound support.
We threw a lot of games at the Quadzilla in the lab, and it performed great in all cases. It flawlessly supported A3D, DirectSound, and DirectSound3D calls, and even all the DOS games we could dig up.
As far as the technical specifications for all the sound geeks out there, the Quadzilla has a 320-voice wavetable synthesis engine, a 16-track MIDI orchestrator and up to 96 simultaneous digital audio streams with a high signal-to-noise ratio. For the layman, this means that no matter what you decide to listen to, it will sound pretty incredible.
Even non-game applications like standard audio CDs sound great. I just received the soundtrack to last year’s GiN Game of the Year [Heart of Darkness – www.heartofdarkness.com] and nearly enjoyed it as much as the game. The Quadzilla really brings out the full orchestra feeling. My guess is that CDs played on a computer with a Quadzilla are going to sound better, perhaps by magnitudes, than when played on most people’s stereo systems. This was certainly the case with me.
Finally, because the Quadzilla shares sound generating cycles with the CPU, games should perform a little better. This was most evident when using the card with lower end computers, as very little challenges the lab’s Pentium IIIs just yet, but it is something to consider if you are running into games that slow down when the audio effects kick in.
The Quadzilla stomps its way to a nearly perfect 4 1/2 GiN Gems. Even though you are going to lose two slots, or have a minicard dangling out the back of your PC, there is no better choice for gamers on the market today. Besides improving performance in certain multi-player games, the Quadzilla will help all games weave their fantasy environments all around players, setting up a zone of fun that reality can’t hope to breech.