Diamonds 3rd PCI sound card with Aureal A3D support.
This card ROCKS!
Two of the biggest changes over Diamonds previous Monster Sound M80 are the support for 4 speakers and improved MIDI capabilities. I am not into MIDI so I can't really say to much about the MIDI capabilities so your on your own to dig up that info. What I am into is 3D sound, I am willing to go the extral mile to have great 3D game sound.
The problem with support for DOS legacy games is the same for the MX200 as with the M80. The installation process is also the same. Below is taken from the M80 review.
A long time devoted Creative Labs AWE32 user I wasn't sure in the beginning. There were a few drawbacks that concerned me at first. Not having support for legacy games when you use the M80 by itself made me frown. I was hesitant about not being able to play Decent 2 and Nascar 2. Yes, you can still play these and other legacy games but only when you keep your old legacy sound card in the system. To me that kills the main idea behind upgrading to PCI sound, to leave behind the ISA buss and move towards the future. I still wanted to try and make it work.
I didn't have a spare IRQ for the AWE32 so out it came. Installation of the M80 went smoothly and then the testing began. After playing Quake 2, Forsaken, and Jedi Knight I just didn't get that overwhelming feeling that other reviewers had. I understood that Jedi was the only Aureal A3D enhanced game but I still wasn't that impressed even with Jedi Knight. Don't take me wrong, I did notice a fuller sound in Jedi Knight and the sound was clean and crisp but no where near what I had read in other reviews. From what I had read, I was expecting a religious experience.
On the legacy game issue, I looked at it realistically I only had 2 old DOS based games that I was clinging onto Nascar2 and Descent2, could I live without them yes and that is just what I did (delete). Forsaken and Unreal have taken their place and time is ticking, before long Nascar3 will be here and the beat goes on.
To be free of ISA sound is good. I have turned the corner and won't look back.
Acceleration of sound due to the faster PCI buss is another issue that is not going to make you jump out of your chair and say wow! It's a more subtle benefit that allows more streams of audio to play simultaneously which can enhance the sounds that you hear. I never experienced more than 1 frame per sec loss in Quake2 even when using my ISA Creative Labs AWE32.
End of M80 data.
How does it work
When setup properly all of these apply Awesome, Amazing, Incredible, or any other word you can think of.
At first I tested using small cheap speakers on rear channel output. I was impressed but something was missing, finally with four speakers I did heard sounds coming from behind me. Something that I could never hear with the M80.
I figured out what I was missing in the first test. Four speaker A3D does not work like Dolby Surround. With Dolby Surround you can basically hang any speakers on the rear channels and have sound that is acceptable because the low bass frequencies are output to the front speakers and or subwoofer, bass frequencies are not directional so you don't notice the fact that they are coming from the front speakers or subwoofer.
A3D appears to send all frequencies to the direction of the sounds, so if all the sound is coming from behind you only the rear speakers output sound. What this means is you will need speakers that are of equal quality to your front channel output. Also, a subwoofer would be required on the rear output to get the full benefit of the rear output (bass frequencies). Without a subwoofer and good speakers on the rear you end up with flat (no bass) sound whenever the sound is primarily coming from the rear.
In the second test I used 4 good quality speakers and two subwoofers one on the front output and one on the rear output. The output was incredible. What is this? Voodoo2 SLI syndrome if you really want the best plan on using 2 of everything (LOL)
On the other hand, when the rear speakers are close to the size and quality of the front speakers you can bypass the second subwoofer and still get good A3D effects. Just don't expect to hang two cheap little speakers on the second output and get fantastic sound.
Another requirement for ultimate four speaker A3D sound is the ability to control volume levels for the rear subwoofer and speakers independently. I'll use my system for an example. I have two 5.25" two way speakers beside the monitor with a subwoofer under the coffee table. The rear speakers are positioned on the back of my couch with each speaker about one foot to each side of my head. With the speakers that close to my head I have to turn the volume on the rear subwoofer amplifier way down to not blast my self off the couch. With the volume level that low the rear subwoofer doesn't get enough power. With independent speaker and subwoofer volume controls on the rear output you can lower the speakers level and leave the subwoofer at the higher level.
I am going to do the Radio Shack do it yourself thing. I think they sell a 25watt L-PAD an L-PAD is what is used in speakers to control the midrange and tweeter output and should work fine for this. I will update this when I get the parts.
Here is the plan.
How about Quake2 and other non A3D games
Good news again, with the Monster Sound control software you can set the output to StereoX2. What this does is send the left stereo signal to both the front and back left speakers and the stereo right signal to both front and back right speakers. You can then adjust the rear output level to make it sound like you have headphones on. A very cool sound even though it is not A3D it makes the game feel more spacious. Plus if you use the two subwoofer setup the second sub adds a lot to the bottom end and makes games really kick.
Games that I tested with the MX200 Unreal, Jedi Knight, Forsaken, and Quake2.
I am sold on this card at this time. If you are upgrading and thinking about the M80 or other PCI cards available I would give a serious look at this card. The four speaker setup requires a little work and spending extra for the additional speakers and subwoofer but if you really get into sound like I do I am sure you will be happy.
Pros: PCI buss, Hassle free installation, one IRQ.
Cons: Requires ISA sound card to use legacy DOS MODE based games, Sound Blaster compatibiity mode requires two extra IRQ's beond the one used bythe card itself, two that I didn't have! and only works from a Windows DOS box.
Other Reiviews of the MX200:
MX200 Review 3DAI
Diamond's are Forever 3DAI
Monster Sound- MX200 Hardware Zone