The Bottom Line
- Only PCI Card with Dobly Digital Live
- No Connectors for Front Panel Audio
- Dolby Digital Mode Disables Analog Audio Outputs
- Driver Issues with Support and Sound Settings
- C-Media CMI8768/PCI-8ch+ Audio Processor
- Full-Duplex 8 channel 24-bit/96kHz DAC or 2Ch 16-bit/48kHz ADC
- Integrated S/PDIF Input/Output Supports 44.1/48/96kHz Rates
- Supports Dolby Digital Live Real Time Encoder
- Supports DTS-ES, DD-ES playback with Software Decoding Applications (PowerDVD/WinDVD)
- A3S 1.0, EAX 1.0 and 2.0, C3DX and Direct 3D SW Support
- Two S/PDIF (One Optical, One Coax) Output Connectors
- PCI Revision 2.2 Compliant
- Optional HDA X-10 Digital I/O Extension Board
- Includes Driver CD, Manual and Optical Cable
Guide Review - HDA Mystique 7.1 Sound Card
7/18/05 – The Mystique 7.1 is based upon the C-Media CMI8768/PCI-8ch+ audio processor that is very similar to the model that is found on many motherboards as an integrated solution but it has one major difference. The Mystique's audio processor allows for Dolby Digital Live output. This means the audio card can output a 5.1 audio stream to an external amplifier or Dolby Digital speaker system.
This feature is great for those looking to use the Mystique in a home theater PC. It allows the playback of DVDs in full surround sound with compatible software players such as PowerDVD and WinDVD. But this feature has a major drawback.
In order to generate the Dolby Digital stream, the audio card takes the digital stream that was converted to an analog audio and encodes that to the Dolby Digital output. This extra layer of processing causes additional noise to be introduced into the audio stream. Most people may not notice this but under controlled conditions it is noticeable. The analog jacks are also disabled when digital mode is selected.
Another major issue with the card is the software drivers and their interaction with Windows audio settings. Often the drivers and operating system will disagree about a speaker setting that forces the user to have to realign the two.
Overall, the Mystique is not a bad audio card but it is very specialized. It is a good selection for those using their computer for home theaters but there are better choices for music and gaming audio.