With the anticipated release of the Razer Mako loudspeakers, we have a look at Razerâ€™s Barracuda AC-1 audio card, and compare it to two other common audio solutions. The Barracuda AC-1 boasts an impressive feature set, and its audio chipset has an excellent reputation for sound quality. Will it be a fitting partner for the new Mako speakers?
In my experience, one of the defining characteristics of a Razer product is meticulous attention to detail in all aspects of the productâ€™s design, including the packaging. The Barracuda AC-1â€™s product box incorporates design characteristics that are common to all Razer packaging, among them eye-catching foil lettering, dark metallic hues, matte-finish black accents, and a big, clear photo of the product itself. More importantly, however, the design is distinctively Razer, with the characteristic distressed visual elements Razer incorporates into almost all their graphic design. Itâ€™s a box design that definitely appeals to the gamer in me.
The back of the carton lists the sound cardâ€™s features and technical specifications in ten different languages, and provides a detail view of the sound card along with numbered points that identify some notable features.
Lifting the top reveals Razerâ€™s enigmatic three-serpent logo and even more inky black blackness; this is one of the most tastefully-packaged sound cards I think Iâ€™ve ever encountered. Even the inside of the box is black â€“ itâ€™s great. Lifting away this second layer of cardboard reveals the boxâ€™s contents, neatly packed in their respective wells of a pressed cellulose-fiber tray. I find that these trays are becoming more commonplace in product packaging as manufacturers turn to more environmentally-conscious alternatives to Styrofoam.
The AC-1 card itself is wrapped in an anti-static bag and nestled in one of the wells of the internal tray. The card itself features a striking black powder-coated rear cover, black PCB, and a large metal enclosure that covers most of the card. Iâ€™ll explain more about this later. The Razer Fidelity chipset is exposed, however.
Also included with the Barracuda AC-1 is a dongle that plugs into the back of the card and offers full 7.1 connectivity. Youâ€™ll need this if you arenâ€™t using Razerâ€™s matching Barracuda HP-1 headphones. A CD with drivers is provided, and Razer also supplies a quick-start guide and a more detailed â€œMasterâ€ guide.
Conspicuously absent on Razerâ€™s web site are any technical specifications. The â€˜specsâ€™ page is actually a â€œfeatures and benefitsâ€ affair, without much that can be included here. In this section, I typically try to bring you some numbers, but they arenâ€™t to be found, which is a disappointment. I hope Razer will come to understand that gamers care about image, but PC enthusiasts also care about numbers. These specifications were taken from Newegg.com and my own research.
|Model||Barracuda AC-1||The Razer Barracuda gaming audio system is comprised of two components, a multichannel sound card and a multichannel headphone system.|
|Audio Core||Razer Fidelity (CMI8788)||This is the same chipset that is used on the Auzentech X-Meridian and the Sondigo Inferno.|
|Channels||7.1||This sound card is capable of handling the most demanding multichannel formats available today; still, this is becoming industry standard for high-end audio cards.
|Sample Rate||192kHz||This high sample rate ensures that this card wonâ€™t add artifacts when playing material that samples at 44.1kHz, like audio CDs.
|Digital Resolution||24-bit||24-bit audio is the same resolution thatâ€™s used by the DVD audio specification, so this card will have no trouble getting the most out of a 24-bit format digital recording.
|Signal-to-noise ratio||117dB||This is the signal-to-noise ratio associated with the CMI8788 audio processor, but it isnâ€™t necessarily the final SNR at the cardâ€™s output.|
|Interface||PCI||My motherboard has two PCI slots and three PCIe 1x slots. Where, oh where are the PCIe sound cards? Oh well, at least itâ€™s backwards-compatible with much older motherboards.|
|Ports||Toslink SPDIF In
Toslink SPDIF Out
|Iâ€™m happy to see that Toslink optical connectors were used here, so that a Toslink-to-Toslink optical cable is all thatâ€™s required to connect this card to my multichannel receiver. The HD-DAI connector is good news to some and bad news to others, for different reasons.|