Diamond Multimedia XS71HD (Xtreme Sound 7.1 High Definition) Review I have reviewed a fair amount of different audio controllers and codecs in the past, and today I will venture into Diamond?s XS71HD, their newest audio card offering. The box does a nice job of showing that it is a low profile sound card and is pretty versatile in regards to adding S/PDIF. The sound card comes with everything you would need to put this in a home theater system or a normal sized computer, it is complete with removable brackets. It has a nice black finished PCB which shouldn?t mess up any color schemes if that is important to you. An up-close of the analog audio ports. Here we have the S/PDIF optical and digital inputs and outputs complete with dust covers for the S/PDIF digital. With a bird?s eye view we can see the channel separation as well as the front panel audio header and S/PDIF header (the cable is included for the S/PDIF add-on card). Here we have the brains of the operation, two very important ICs that basically make up the sound card, the HD audio controller and the HD audio codec. The bottom chip is the Oxygen Express CM8828 from C-Media, a very well-known producer of audio ICs. This High-Definition Audio (HDA) controller is capable of supporting 10 outgoing and 6 incoming audio channels, all of which are capable of up to 192khz/24bits. However the system isn?t complete without the HD Audio codec, in this case it is the CM9982, together they form the sound card?s brain. In fact this audio controller and codec come recommended together for use in PCs and home audio systems. The HDA codec in this case also supports 7.1 surround sound, as well as the 192khz/24bit resolution, 106dB SNR, and -95dB THD+N. The reason I look so closely at the ICs is to make sure one isn?t bottlenecking the other, and in this case they are a perfect match. This figure is from Intel?s HD Audio Specification. Intel?s HDA specification is widely used on motherboards and sound cards, this sound card is no exception. The audio controller has DMA engines which directly access the memory subsystem of the computer, process the memory buffer data, and then send the data to the audio codec chip for output processing. The DMA engines can send or receive data from the memory buffer, for input and output channels. The audio is usually in digital format when outputted from the controller and the codec is responsible for turning the digital signals to analog signals with Digital-to-Analog converters (DACs). What is interesting to note is that on motherboards the audio controller is built into the chipset, and the codec is the chip on the motherboard, however this is off-die and should reduce the use of system resources when compared to the built in Intel HD Audio controller and Realtek codec. Here you can see the wide assortment of capacitor sizes on this sound card. They are all from Yellow-Stone Corporation, a Taiwanese capacitor company with 22 years in the business. These are the HR series electrolytic capacitors; they are rated 1000 hours at 105C. There are three different sizes; seven 220uF, six 100uF, and fourteen 10uF capacitors. This is the included software, direct from C-Media (the supplier of the audio chip hardware), so there should be little to no compatibility issues between this software and the hardware. The software is pretty complete, better than Realtek?s(motherboard vendors too) offerings. Another shot. The card does support ASIO for those of you interested in making your own music. I used RMAA 5.5 to test out the audio like I do with every audio analysis: The results are what you might expect from a C-Media setup, they are better than Intel HDA/Realtek codec setup, and possibly the best you can get without some sort of amplifier or line driver. The THD is impressive, but the Noise Level and Dynamic Range could use some work. In real life the audio is crisp and the bass is clear, I can easily hear the highs and lows in high quality music and I would say that the output is better than that of a standard Realtek implementation on the motherboard. I listened to a few types of music and played a few games, my only complaint is that for gaming it didn?t have all the special effects that some creative solutions provide, however for the price it is hard to complain. Conclusion: This sound card?s price to performance ratio is pretty good, the price is very reasonable, especially if you are looking to do better than your motherboard?s built in audio but don?t want to break the bank. I do wish it had some sort of built in amplifier, however for the price you couldn?t expect much from a built in amplifier if it had one, so perhaps it is better they put the money into the controller and codec. The card looks nice in a computer and its low profile options are to be applauded, as it is the ability to remove the S/PDIF ports as I know a lot of users who don?t use it and would rather it not be attached to the main card. The fact that it is PCI-E compliant means that it you can carry it from system to system for many years to come, I almost feel bad for those with PCI sound cards as Intel has already dropped support for PCI in favor of PCI-E and motherboard manufacturers are doing the same. If you are in the market for a nice upgrade to the integrated audio solution on your motherboard, or you just need more audio options for your projects, then the XS71HD is definitely worth a look.