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October 1999


Audio to Networking to USB

“For Your Computing Pleasure”

By Gill Boyd

Business Audio on a Budget

Shark Multimedia – “Predator 4D-PCI” Sound Card

Features: (Claims 48kHz ‘Pro Audio Quality’ sample rates, installed software CODEC’s only go to 16-bit/PCM, 44.1kHz, ‘CD Quality Audio’); Full Duplex (simultaneous playback & record);

Chipset: Trident Microsystems ‘4D-Wave-DX’ (Q3D technology); 64 voice Hardware Wavetable synthesis; supports Microsoft’s DLS Level 1 Wavetable sample sets 1 to 6 Megs (choice of 4, *.slb files).

Undesirables: Loads (2) DOS drivers in autoexec.bat: WAVEINIT.exe &; Supposedly configurable in Windows “PCI Audio” applet which loads in Windows ‘System Tray’. “Predator 4D-PCI” Sound Card has (4) CD Connections (Mixes old & new type audio
cable connections)! Works great w/ SharkMM PCI 56K Voice Modem (Motorola technology). Claims Sound Blaster (DOS) compatibility, not tested. Current ‘Trident’ drivers will not meet PC 2001 specs.

Comments: Easily installed and configured (Plug & Play). Drivers may require a second installation. Verify functionality by checking driver installation as follows: From ‘System Tray’, double click on ‘PCI Audio’ icon. Select highest allowable Wave Sample Set. Then on 2nd property sheet (‘AC97 Controls’), the ‘Center’ and ‘Depth’ sliders should be functional. Volume control is better than SB Live cards.

Our special HAL-PC price was right to make this a good deal (Under $20.00 @ time of SharkMM Presentation)! Midi playback was acceptable; Unable to discern change of *.slb sample sets (Wave Sample Sets); Defaults to 1.5 Meg ‘Gm15mb.slb’ sample set. On our reference audio CDs, Charlotte Church’s ‘Pie Jesu’ (Voice Of An Angel album) and Andrea Bocelli’s ‘Time To Say Goodbye’ - con Te Partiro’ with Sarah Brightman (Romanza album), our experience was most pleasant! (Las Vegas Bellagio Hotel, here we come!) Good speakers can make anything sound better. Unit tested for midi, wave and RedBook (music audio CD’s) audio playback.

Product Classification: Entry-level Consumer. Good solution for OEM/VAR. Although we prefer predecessor, “Predator 3D-PCI” (A3D technology), “Predator 4D-PCI” does the job on a budget. If you’re looking into higher end audio ‘Prosumer’ selections and can’t make up your mind now, start here. Shark also makes great USB products!

Includes: Q3D Demo, Voyetra Audio Station; DirectX 5 & User’s Manual.

O/S Support & Requirements: Win95/98 or NT; P-166 +; 32 Megs Ram; 5 Megs HD space; CD-ROM Drive; PCI 2.1
compliant; DirectX 5 or above. | Price: Under $30.00


S/P DIF Light Pipe (TOSLink) Digital Audio Output Sound Card

Aureal – “Vortex2 SuperQuad Digital” PCI Sound Card

Features: (16 bit/48 kHz); Full Duplex; S/P DIF Light Pipe (TOSLink) Digital Audio Output (For DAT/MiniDisc); Aureal A3D 2.0 technology;

Chipset: Aureal Vortex2 AU 8830; (3) CD Connections; 320-voice Wavetable synthesizer (supports DLS 1); PC Specs: PC 98/99 & ‘PC 2001’; supports legacy DOS audio (loads

Undesirables: A3D may be superior to Sound Blaster EAX, but everything depends on marketing. As of Press Deadlines, Aureal has not responded to repeated requests for comment. And so it goes…

Comments: If this is a reference design spec to encourage chipset usage, we’re eager to see other implementations. Since everything is going digital, quality can only get better. Expect more Digital I/O on future audio cards.

Product Classification: Consumer / Games.

Includes: A3D Demos; *.arl & *.dls (DSL) files; ‘Aureal Vortex Audio’ Control Panel applet controls feature set (Includes ‘Vortex Graphic Equalizer’ – Gang Left/Right).

O/S Support & Requirements: Win95/98, NT4 w/ claims to support Win 2000. P-90+; 16 Megs Ram; 30 Megs HD space; CD-ROM; PCI 2.1 compliant. | | See: Price: Under $60.00

Downloadable Sounds (DLS) Level 1 and 2 Specs – |


PC 2001 Compliant Internal ‘Powered’ USB (Universal Serial Bus) HUB –

SIIG – “USB (Drive Bay) 4-Port HUB”

Features: Internal installation. Hub is always with PC! Unit provides four ‘Type A’ sockets (Downstream Ports). Room for (1) more Port, maybe. ‘PC 2001’ compliant (4 available USB Ports on PC). “Bay Hub” housed in 3.5-inch plastic mount. Win98 Device Manager sees ‘General purpose USB Hub’. (Plug, Play & Use!)

Undesirables: No 5.25-inch mounting kit. Counterpart: SIIG USB ‘Slot’ Hub.

Comments: Since Hub is ‘Powered’, this one will last for all those odd devices surely to come our way. SIIG “Bay
Hub” should sell well. Why not make a ‘Powered’ 8-Port Hub for 5.25-inch drive bays? Now how about an internal
1394/FireWire Hub?

Product Classification: Consumer / Business. Meets PC 2001 Desktop / Workstation Specs.

O/S Support & Requirements: Win98; Requires power tap (Y Cable Included); 3.5 inch Drive Bay for 4-Port Internal Hub & (1) available USB Port. Also has ‘cable slot cover’ to allow USB cable to pass through to outside of case to connect USB Port (Required for “Bay Hub” activation). | Price: 49.99?


Audio Control Central Command – Samsung – “Jet-Audio 4.0 Plus & Jet-Radio 1.0”

Features: UIB – “User Interface Bitmap;” change component’s color, shape of control button, and insert your photograph on the panel. Supports most major media formats found on Net containing audio.

Undesirables: Does not appear to like multiple CD-ROM Drives. Lacks CD-ROM changer mode capability for multi-drive PC’s as featured under Obvion Systems DiscPlay; Jet-Audio does have ability to import existing *.ini, *.dpc & *.ncd CD database files. Too bad that feature fails.

Comments: Wow! Do not judge a book by its cover! Excellent DSP Effects processing – Flanging, etc. Could be a new OEM “Audio Station” Media Playback standard; consumer grade product for media playback. Windows Media Player does better job playing MP3 Files. Jet-Audio tends to clip high-end of MP3 files. Audio CD’s utilize CD database (see Undesirables sec). Suggest running video display on 17 inch or larger monitor @ 1024x768 for best viewing. Has a ‘MAC’ look to ‘Video’ player and ‘Spectrum Display’; has ‘Jet Audio’ icon in ‘System Tray.’ Jet-Radio works with Real Media files; selections preconfigured; customizable to suite user preferences.

Product Classification: Consumer. Purchase? Other choices more stable, needs an upgrade. Wait till next revision, for now HD clutter.

Includes: Jet Audio Plus, Jet Radio, Adaptec ASPI Driver (For Audio CD Digital Copy) and DirectX 6 (Install says includes ‘Windows Media Player’); Includes sample media files.

O/S Support & Requirements: Win95/98 or NT 4.0; P-90+; 16 Megs Ram (Recommend 32 Megs); CD-ROM; 16-bit sound
card. | | Price: 39.95?


10/100 HUB – SOHO (Small Office, Home Office) Scalable Networking On A Budget

LYNKSYS – “EtherFast 10/100 Auto-Sensing 5-Port Workgroup Hub”

Features: Supports RJ-45 cabling (UTP). Works in mixed environments of both 10 & 100BaseT connections with PC’s, Laptops and Print Servers. Unit tested: small, lightweight w/ (1) Uplink port; rear reset switch; front NIC connections & lights (Plenty of idiot lights); Unit can be surface mounted. Should work with any network configuration.

Undesirables: None apparent prefer 8-Ports for room to grow.

Comments: Two PC’s only need a crossover cable provided 10BaseT speed is adequate, three or more PC’s require a Hub (10BaseT or 10/100BaseT) or better still, 100BaseT Switch. If bandwidth/collisions are a key issue, suggest going for 100BaseT Switch by SOHOWARE due to price. I’m partial to Intel gear (100BaseTX NIC’s) for simplicity, but the price won out on this LYNKSYS HUB.

You’ll always get what you pay for. Make sure you get only what you need! If you don’t use it, you don’t need it!

Search for features and price to suit individual requirements. Unit tested worth the price considering features.

Note: We only experienced collisions when copying files from one PC w/ SCSI Zip (30+ Megs) to 2 other PC’s at same time. Under normal use this should not be a problem. According to our Intel Pro 100+ Server Adapter, we also never achieved Full Duplex Mode (Requires a Switch!).

Product Classification: SOHO Consumer / Business.

O/S Support & Requirements: A/C adapter requires 110-volts. Tested under Win95/98 100BaseT only. Protocols loaded as tested: IPX/SPX, NetBEUI, NETBIOS and TCP/IP; ‘Client for Microsoft Networks’ and ‘File & Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks’ (File & Printer Sharing turned off on TCP/IP for obvious reasons).


Final Thoughts…

Networking is getting easier and less expensive, no reason not to network if sharing resources w/ multiple PCs. Forget the hype on so called ‘Home Networking’ products. Stick to products like these, which utilize RJ-45, CAT5 cabling w/ 100BaseT NIC’s! Just plug in cables, load drivers and share resources! Personally I like it. Good enough for the “How To Build Or Buy A PC” SIG ‘Worth A Look’ List. Price: 89.95?

Test System specs relevant to this review: Intel PII-400, 256 Megs Ram, Promise IDE RAID M/B w/ Intel 440BX chipset, Maxtor HD’s, NIC: Intel Pro/100+ Server Adapter. Speakers: Tweeters, ‘Acoustic Research Powered Partner 570’s & Bass Reflex Subwoofer, ‘JBL IS-1’. Results may vary according to PC configurations.

By Gill Boyd, “How To BuildOrBuy A PC” Special Interest Group (SIG) Leader. Join us for our next “Special Build Session”!

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Web Development, Gill Boyd & Team - Written & Published October 1999; Updated 11/18/2002; Revised 02/01/2003