If you are looking for a new sound card for your Media Center PC, you best wait a month or so for the new BlueGears XPlosion. What makes this card different from all the others, you ask? Well, for starters, it not only offers Dolby Digital Live (takes 5.1 channels and encodes, real-time, to Dolby Digital format so it can easily interface with your AV Receiver), but this is world’s first DTS Connect logo program certificated PCI audio board, which does real-time DTS encoding. Nice! Personally, I’ve always been a DTS (Digital Theater Sound) fan… it must be the higher bitrate and the few db louder they master the soundtracks with. The XPlosion card uses the new C-Media CMI8770 PCI chipset which can encode 8CH audio on a single chip. The card is scheduled for release sometime in January 2006… no firm pricing yet.
Oh, and in case you are wondering why you would need a soundcard like this, well, if you are only watching DVD’s, then you don’t really need this feature since the material usually contains a 5.1 encoded stream (DD, DTS or both). Where it really comes in handy is if you are playing games with discrete 5.1 sound (not DD or DTS encoded) or Windows Media HD content using the PRO codec (5.1/6.1/7.1 content), those assets are discrete channels, meaning, not in a commercial encoded surround sound format, so the only way to get them to your AV receiver is via 6/7/8 RCA cables plugged directly to your amp, or if you have a Pioneer Receiver that supports the WMA PRO Format via USB. You can also use a software program like, AC3Filter, to achieve realtime DD, but it’s better to use a dedicated hardware device to do it without using any CPU cycles. There you have it… it will be worth the wait!