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Performance and Conclusion

Finally, to test the card and driver performance overall, we enlisted the use of ZD's Audio WinBench '99. Audio WinBench 99 measures the amount of work that the sound card offloads onto the CPU, and thus is not available to other tasks. It includes eight automated tests, four use Direct Sound, while the other four use Direct Sound 3D, both at 22 kHz and 44.1 kHz, 8 bit and 16 bit from both a static buffer and streaming buffer. The results are definitly not as good as we were expecting, with the MUSE using nearly 3 times more CPU power than the AC97 codec on our Soyo 7VBA133 based testbed. All tests done on a Pentium 3 800 under Windows Milennium with 128MB of RAM and DirectX 7.0

Direct Sound 32 Voice Tests: AC97 Codec Maxi Sound MUSE
22 kHz, 8 bit, Static 0% 4.42%
22 kHz, 8 bit, Streaming 0% 4.42%
44.1 kHz, 16 bit, Static 0.936% 4.79%
44.1 kHz, 16bit, Streaming 1.01% 4.95%


Direct Sound 3D, 32 Voice Tests: AC97 Codec Maxi Sound MUSE
22 kHz, 8 bit, Static 0.562% 6.39%
22 kHz, 8 bit, Streaming 0.544% 6.7%
44.1 kHz, 16 bit, Static 1.47% 6.62%
44.1 kHz, 16bit, Streaming 1.55% 6.46%


Direct Sound 3D Hardware Voice Tests: AC97 Codec Maxi Sound MUSE
22 kHz, 8 bit, Static 2.66% 10.4%
22 kHz, 8 bit, Streaming 1.35% 12.2%
44.1 kHz, 16 bit, Static 1.32% 12.3%
44.1 kHz, 16bit, Streaming 3.25% 12%



So as the numbers say, this is not a card that you want to use for 3D gaming for the simple reason that you'll lose on average around 8% of your performance compared to even the AC97 codec. Not very impressive when you consider that these are straight Direct Sound performance tests, if you were to run a A3D 2.0+ game, you would lose even more performance when the system is forced to translate the A3D calls to A2D in software, and then playback the sounds through Direct Sound 3D.

Click for larger imageOverall, for $30 the Guillemot Maxi Sound MUSE is an ok buy. For those upgrading from no sound, or from an older 2 channel card who do some light gaming, but will mainly be using the card for music and MIDI playback, the MUSE will serve you fine, and you will enjoy the performance of a true 4 speaker setup.

However, for DVD enthusiasts the MUSE is not a good choice as it lacks a digital output for 5.1 or 5.2 speaker playback, and the drivers do not allow for different enviromental settings based on the sound input like LiveWare offers. For gamers the MUSE simply does not perform well. It's lack of support for A3D 2.0+ and abnormally high CPU usage are really what is the determining factor here, there is simply no area in which the MUSE excels when gaming.

Andrew Oliver November 8, 2000

 





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