Formosa21 Aim Audio SC8000

24th Sep 2010 | 07:27

Formosa21 Aim Audio SC8000

Can the new kid on the PC audio block impress?

TechRadar rating:

2 stars

A soundcard without any inputs. What a curious idea.

Like:

High-end processor

Dislike:

No front panel header; No analogue surround; No mic or line in

Formosa21 aim Audio SC8000: Overview

It's not often a new company comes along to compete in the component business, and one that enters the increasingly niche world of sound cards is even rarer. But that's exactly what Formosa21 is doing with its aim Audio SC8000.

It may seem an odd place to be trying to cut a name for yourself, but Formosa21 has a 17-year history in the OEM audio business, and the component list sounds impressive enough. A 32-bit CMI8787 processor is as good as they come, and the JRC4580 op amps have been seen on the prolific Auzentech's cards in the past.

Consider our interest in the aim SC8000 piqued.

Sound is, by its very nature, a subjective experience. The process of turning electronic pulses into high fidelity renditions of Bach's most subtly nuanced cantos is technically complex. Together, these two facts create the perfect conditions for snake oil salesmen to grow, ready to blind with the science of audio and fleece some cash.

It's why we can love the expensive ASUS Xonar Xense, but be wary of the similarly priced Creative Titanium HD. At a third of the price of either, how does the aim SC8000 compare.

Formosa21 aim Audio SC8000: Verdict

The quarter-inch headphone jack has a separate 70W amplifier chip to the RCA stereo out ports, although confusingly both chips seem to be the same, raising the question: why? Still, plug in a pair of cans and it's a potent experience. There's an enormous amount of power in the mid-to-low range – nice if you're a fan of death metal or rock music.

The somewhat muted treble response is only the beginning of the aim SC8000's problems, though. We can overlook the fact that there's no support for the Dolby standards or in-game effects like EAX in the driver, and no analogue surround out isn't a deal breaker. Stereo speakers are generally better for games, and if we want to go 5.1 we can use a digital connection and decoder.

What makes it absolutely impractical as a PC expansion is the fact there's no mic or line in ports. There's also no header for connecting up jacks on the front of the case.

You can work around this by leaving the on-board sound card enabled and using that for recording, but even if all you want to do is listen to music, we'd recommend the Xonar D2X or any of Auzentech's cards instead. Not only do they have more features, the aim's drivers are just not as mature and we're fairly sure they caused the occasional stutter and distortion in MP3 playback.

This isn't a question of sticking with tried and tested brands, there's just no stand out part of the SC8000 that overcomes its shortcomings.

It's not snake oil. It's just not very good.

We liked

Competition is a good thing, and more sound card manufacturers will bring top end components like some of those found on the aim SC8000 down to affordable levels. We like the raw power of the SC8000, even if lacks finesse in the high frequencies.

We disliked

Oh, where to start... Dodgy drivers that need you to manually select the source quality? No front port header or Blu-ray passthrough? Nope, it's the lack of any kind of inputs which is a real bummer. What, exactly, is the point?

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