The PC sound cards available for selection have been pretty sparse for years, dominated by the likes of Creative Sound Blaster and Asus Xonar cards. Today there is a new sound card from PowerColor.
When you think of PowerColor, you normally think of a manufacturer that has really pushed the envelope lately with the DEVIL line of custom designed AMD-based graphics cards. No one would think of PowerColor as a company that was ready to deliver a well built PCIe-based sound solution.
I had the PowerColor Devil HDX PCIe sound card locked and loaded in my rig for the past few days, and this is my review of the sound card.
The PowerColor Devil HDX comes in a large matte black embossed box with the DEVIL logo predominately featured on the front. The back side of the box lists the specifications, minimum system requirements, and highlights some of the key features.
Inside the box, there’s a more rugged black cardboard box that securely holds the sound card and its accessories. Both the sound card and the daughter card are packed into an antistatic bag. What you get for other accessories are a Multilanguage quick installation guide, a driver CD, a pair of flat audio panel connector cables, and a gold plate 6.3mm to 3.5mm adapter.
The PowerColor Devil HDX is not a long sound card. With the measurement of 157mm along its length, it should easily fit in most desktop cases.
PowerColor’s Devil HDX PCIe sound card is built around the C-Media Oxygen Express series HD CM8888 audio processor and is equipped with a Wolfson WM8741 Digital Audio Converter. The parent board is the main attraction here and mirrors the look of the rest of PowerColor’s Devil series line up. An EMI shield-equipped shroud covers the audio component on the PCB to minimise or eliminate any signal interference that can compromise audio quality.
Audio connectivity for the Devil HDX parent board consists of gold plated jacks including, a 124db rated 6.3mm headphone jack, RCA jacks, Coax output, and an optical output. The signal through the headphone jack runs through the three swappable op-amps that allow the end user to change the tone of the output. Plugging into the 6.3mm jack, the signal runs through a headphone amplifier that supports up to 600 ohms headphones.
At the back end of the card is a 4-pin molex power plug used to eliminate any noise from the PCIe power supply. The multi-channel and HD audio connections to the daughter board deliver the 7.1 sound capabilities. In front of the HD Audio header are a pair of jumpers. These jumpers are used to configure the HD audio connection so it can be used with front panel case ports instead of sending the signal to the daughter board.
For the daughter board, it has connectivity to PC speakers and a microphone. If you decide to use the daughter board, two ribbon cases are included for connecting this board to the main sound card. Both sets of pins on both cards should be connected to each other.
To tailor the sound to your liking, PowerColor Devil HDX comes with a simple all-in-one software program, Xear Audio Center. It is a feature-packed suite, with a huge number of options available to configure and tweak. For instance, you can tweak the speaker setting, in which you can choose the speaker setup you are using, the volume setting for adjusting audio volume, Xear SingFx, which is used to set up the system when having a Karaoke night at your home, Xear Surround Speaker to stimulate a surround environment, Xear Audio Brilliant to ‘restore’ the clarity and details of compressed audio in music, movies and games, Xear Dynamic Bass to enhance the bass reproduction capability of small speaker drivers and Xear Smart Volume, which is used to normalise sound levels.
Another thing that is noteworthy in the software is the Environment Effects that gives the user 28 special environmental emulations so you can hear different sound reflections and reverberations. All in all, I really like the UI design of Xear Audio Center and the program opens and starts very fast upon clicking it.
Music: I chose some random songs, from older 80’s music such as “Good Morning Girls” to newer music from “In This Moment” and “Fiver Finger Death Punch” for my testing. All music is from uncompressed media. No MP3 files were used.
Overall, the sound quality was exceptional. I can hear the songs as they should be heard, the sound is solid and able to catch everything, and I can feel the punch and throbbing double bass kick in some bassline songs. It really shows the card can power through these songs at high volumes with clarity.
Two movies were selected based on their overall variety of sound and their dynamic content. They are Skyfall and The Hobbit. There are plenty of different environmental sounds to test the driver’s transient response. The music tracks for both movies are also very dynamic as well.
I found both movies are thoroughly enjoyable with the addition of all the small nuances I have missed. Both the lows and highs were excellent. There is also no need to adjust any of the settings in Xear Audio Center for movie watching.
Two games were selected for the testing. They are Metro: Last Night and Battlefield 4. Both games feature a wide range of environments, from intimate settings to open world vastness. Impact and correct sound placement is critical to gain an advantage in any game.
All the games sounded great with the Devil HDX. The environments were lively and spatially natural. I ended up with shivers down my spine while playing the Metro: Last Night because of how clear the audio was in-game. For Battlefield 4, the echo of a round being fired from inside a structure was particularly cool for me. Especially during large fire fight scenes, all the weapon sounds were in my face. The explosions were deep and the bass notes just thumped in my headphones and helped to draw me further in.
With the Devil HDX PCIe sound card, PowerColor has an absolutely solid addition to its lineup that steps way outside the comfort zone. Put together using excellent hardware from C-Media and others, the card not only looks good, but performs well to boot. There was not a listening scenario that I was disappointed with in any way, shape, or form.
All this audio bliss does come at a premium. But for those of you who can appreciate the luxury a dedicated sound card can bring, the PowerColor Devil HDX will impress your senses.