Home > Product Reviews > Sound Card Reviews > Philips Sonic Edge 5.1 Review

Philips Sonic Edge 5.1 Review

Highs

  • Inexpensive
  • excellent sound quality
  • easy to use interface
  • excellent documentation

Rating

Our Score 8
User Score 5

Lows

  • No true Dolby Digital decoder
  • slightly high CPU utilization
With this product being 3rd in line of a 4 product line up, I must say that Philips created an excellent price/performance ratio.

Summary

With this product being ranked 3rd in a 4 product line up, I must say that Philips has created an excellent price/performance ratio. Their innovative ideas for surround sound and low cost speaker enhancement make this product an excellent choice for those looking for an inexpensive, intermediate sound solution. I am hoping that in the future Philips will create a sound card APU (audio processing unit) that will actually include Dolby Digital decoding and encoding, even though they do a pretty good job without it.

Introduction

We all know Philips is a leader in consumer electronic devices, but its time to take notice to some of their computer line up as well. Philips manufactures 4 sound card flavors to suit just about everyone. The Dynamic Edge 4.1, basic and inexpensive; the Sonic Edge 5.1 which is the entry level music and game card; the Seismic Edge 5.1 which has the Thunderbird Avenger audio accelerator to free up your CPU for gaming; and finally the Acoustic Edge 5.1, the ultimate sound experience with all the features of the Seismic Edge and adds DVD and digital I/O features. Philips sent us a sample Sonic Edge 5.1 from their computer audio lineup, so let’s take a closer look.

Installation

Installing the sound card was no different from any other sound card. There is one thing to mention with any add on sound card and onboard motherboard audio. You must go into bios and turn off onboard audio to prevent conflicts in your OS. Once the sound card was installed, I popped in the included CD and started the driver installation procedure. For those newbies out there, there is even an installation video to walk you through the entire process. After a quick reboot, you get a tray icon for easy access to Sound Agent 2.

Sound Agent 2:

Sound Agent 2 is an easy customizable way to tune your audio experience by providing an appealing interface with standard and graphical representations of control.

On top is the main volume control; big and easy to find while navigating throughout Sound Agent 2. To the left is the default and help buttons. Be careful with the default button, as it will reset everything to factory defaults. Below are six on-off buttons to control various features: Reverb, QSizzle, QRumble, Normalize, 3DEffects, and EQ. I will discuss what each of these is below.

Next I will discuss the setup button, since this where you want to start out configuring Sound Agent.

To the left you will be able to choose with speaker configuration best matches your computer. To the right you have a few slider adjustments. Preamp basically amplifies the entire input before any individual adjustments are made to the output. Then of course fader, balance, and center are self explanatory. To the far right is a low frequency adjustment for the subwoofer in 5.1 systems. The test button allows you to play a sample through each of your speakers.

The effects tab allows you to change QSizzle, QRumble and QXpander.

Ok, let’s talk a little about what each of these do. QSizzle is a midrange and treble enhancement processor that will liven up mids and highs that are lost during audio compression and also improves sound on lower end speaker systems. QRumble basically does the same as QSizzle, except for the lower frequencies and bass tones. QXpander is a stereo field 3d enhancement to simulate surround sound using only a pair of speakers.

Also on this tab is a visual indicator of what enhancements are actually being used. These include Normalization, QMSS, QSurround, and QXpander. Normalization compensates for variations of volume within an audio source and provides a consistent source of volume coming from the speakers. QMSS is an innovative way to produce 5.1 sound from a 2 channel source. Philips emphasizes how the other “solutions” simply double the front stereo signal to the rear to simulate surround sound. QMSS takes a different approach by analyzing each incoming signal and mathematically calculates approximate locations of where each sound should be in a true surround environment. This results in a full 360 degree wrap around sound experience. QSurround closes the gap between the front and rear speaker when listening to Dolby Digital sound sources such as DVD’s.

I am glad to see that Philips recognizes the fact that many of us don’t want to be limited to preset “jazz” or “rock” modes. They included a 10 band graphic equalizer. It’s pretty much straight forward having the lower frequencies to the left and the higher frequencies to the right.

The mixer tab will allow you to adjust volume levels of the different inputs and outputs on the sound card and includes an advanced tab for microphone boost and S/PDIF capture.

The presets tab…yawn. But I guess it’s a great place to start. You can also fine tune with the Sound Agent 2 and save your settings here so you can come back to it later. This is useful when tuning for different games or audio sources.

On the bottom of each tab will be the graphical representation of  QRumble, QXpander, QSizzle, and environments. Everything on this screen can be adjusted elsewhere in Sound Agent. What’s great about this screen is you can just click and drag each of the “Q” effects to suit your liking. There is also a slider that adjusts the amount of environment effects if one is chosen.

Testing

I wanted to test as much of the capabilities of this sound as possible so I gathered some equipment; 2.1 and 5.1 Logitech speaker systems, PowerDVD 4 w/5.1, various MP3’s and various movies.

I went straight to Dolby Digital with the 5.1 Logitech speakers, PowerDVD and a few of my favorite movie titles. When the first movie started, I flipped back over to Sound Agent 2 and started playing with some of the settings. I first took note that the QSurround indicator was illuminated. Sound quality was superb; well after 20 minutes of tinkering with the EQ (I have to get it JUST right). The LFE setting was very useful in tweaking the subwoofer to the correct bass output, and it was interesting to play with QRumble and QSizzle. I am sure this is the way George Lucas wanted it to sound, and everything sounded like what you would expect from a mid range speaker system and a 5.1 source.

With the 5.1 speakers still hooked up, I had to try out QMSS. If you remember, QMSS takes a 2 channel input and synthetically produces the rest of the channels for a true surround environment. I grabbed a few Divx movies encoded only in stereo sound. The QMSS indicator illuminated and I was enveloped in a wonderful surround experience. QMSS did an excellent job reproducing the extra channels.

Next, I tested QXpander. QXpander creates a surround sound listening experience with only 2 speakers. I hooked up the 2.1 Logitech’s, and played a couple of DVD’s and some MP3’s. I have to say that I was pretty impressed with this feature. I was simply expecting some kind of reverb to simulate surround sound, but I found myself inside a sweet spot that disguised the source of the sound coming from the two front speakers.

Last on the list was a quick run through Audio Winbench 99. This is a rather old product but still serves the purpose of testing CPU utilization. Numbers were average on most tests and a little high on others, jumping up to 5% utilization. It was clear that you wouldn’t want to run this card with a slow processor and a demanding game. Philips next card up, the Seismic Edge, boasts a powerful APU that frees up CPU utilization for gaming.

Conclusion

With this product being ranked 3rd in a 4 product line up, I must say that Philips has created an excellent price/performance ratio. Their innovative ideas for surround sound and low cost speaker enhancement make this product an excellent choice for those looking for an inexpensive, intermediate sound solution. I am hoping that in the future Philips will create a sound card APU (audio processing unit) that will actually include Dolby Digital decoding and encoding, even though they do a pretty good job without it.

Get our Top Stories delivered to your inbox: