The XS71 sound card uses a C-Media CMI8768 sound chip, which is the same one used in similar sound cards from Voyetra/Turtle Beach. It's a decent chip, but don't expect studio quality from it.
The CMI8768 does have an open source Linux driver, so GNU/Linux users will be able to use the Diamond XS71. There are no fancy onboard features that require Windows-only proprietary software, so if you're looking for a good digital sound card for a GNU/Linux media center or desktop machine, this may be a good choice.
There are 4 analog output jacks for speakers, two for input (mic and line-in), and connectors for S/PDIF input and output. There are two internal connectors for CD audio cables -- they're the black kind that snap in, not the older, smaller white kind.
I measured the power consumption of the Xtreme Sound 7.1 card and found that it drew so little power that the results fell within the margin of error. There is perhaps a difference of 1KWh per month of increased power usage by using this sound card over an integrated sound chip. Power usage costs of sound devices depend heavily on how often they are used, and how loud the output is, so your results may vary somewhat.
The sound quality of the Diamond XS71 is noticeably better than the onboard sound chip on my Asus A8N-E test motherboard. I got a richer, more detailed sound experience in Unreal Tournament 2004 -- or at least that was my perception.
I hooked up a loopback cable from the stereo speaker output to the mic input and used PassMark SoundCheck to measure the level of distortion at opposite ends of the audible sound spectrum. The test settings were 16-bit, 44.1KHz, stereo -- that's CD quality, and it's as good as computer sound can get as of this writing. Below are sine waves of the XS71's recorded input (top) and the actual source waveform (bottom). The first image is 200Hz, which is the lowest audible sound frequency; the second image is 15,000Hz, which is the upper range of the audible spectrum for human beings. As you can see, there is some distortion (click to enlarge the image):
How does this compare to the onboard sound on the A8N-E motherboard? Here are the waveforms from the onboard Realtek ALC850 sound chip:
As you can see, there is considerably less distortion with the Diamond Xtreme 7.1 card, but it's nowhere near perfect.
There is nothing particularly remarkable about the Xtreme Sound 7.1 sound card's electronics. There are no special processors to remove distortion, no onboard amplifier, and no MIDI/Game port. There's nothing spectacular about its internal connectors, either: there are no headers for frontpanel audio, and no digital sound inputs for DVD-ROM drives. The sound quality is above that of most onboard sound chips, but it's not on par with high-end PCI sound cards.
If you're looking for a low-cost upgrade to your substandard onboard audio chip, the Diamond Xtreme 7.1 is among your best choices.
|Device support||7.1 (8-channel) speakers, S/PDIF. PCI 2.2 interface.|
|Market||Low-budget gamers, desktop computer DVD playback or surround sound environments|
|Price (retail)||US ~$30 (Buy it direct from Diamond Multimedia)|
|Product Web site||Click here|