It's not often we have sound cards on the review block here at bit-tech, but then again, there's not that much worth reviewing. Creative seems to dominate with a mass of marketing, catchy terms and even endorsements from top gamers. Everyone else just seems to be content with fighting it out in the, albeit larger, cheap and cheerful market. But the problem is, with motherboards offering integrated High Definition audio now, where do companies go? One small company making a brave move against the might of Creative Labs in the high-end PC enthusiasts audio arena is Sondigo.
What is Sondigo?
Sondingo is run by Len Layton, who established Layton Electronics in 2005. You can go read about his bio in full, for yourself if you so wish, but the interesting bits within it I've helpfully picked out for you:
In 1998, staff from Dolby Laboratories heard a demo of the technology, which was called "Lake Personal Surround" and just a few months later Len had negotiated a deal for Dolby to license the technology from Lake and then in turn license it to companies worldwide. [...] At Dolby, Lake Personal Surround became Dolby Headphone.
This guy was part of the team that made the Dolby Headphone technology. But wait! There's more:
In October 2003, Len left Dolby to become Senior Vice President for North America for Taiwan-based semiconductor company C-Media Electronics.
It just so happens that the Inferno soundcard uses C-Media electronics at the heart of its operation and integrates Dolby Headphone as a part of its impressive feature set. Who better to design and produce a decent PC soundcard for enthusiasts?
What crazes me out is that I had to dig around the site in order to find this out. For a small, fresh company this kind of pedigree backing for a new product should be at the advertising forefront; making people know it isn't just something else on the shelf with lots of brand stickers for Dolby this and DTS that, from some unknown company that's decided to diversify and using the cheapest components. The Inferno appears to stem from genuine audio enthusiasts who have had years of experience with developing renowned world wide technology standards.
Ok then, there's a lot of wind blowing out on the soundcard sea but will Sondigo's boat continue sailing, or will it sink like many others have done in the past?
The Inferno 7.1 comes in a neat little box but it's a bit generic that doesn't say much about the product. At the same time though it's nice, clean and professional with a detailed explanation of all the supported technologies on the back so you know you aren't just buying into sticker programmes.
Inside you get the Inferno soundcard, driver CD, InterVideo WinDVD 5 (we'd have preferred PowerDVD) CD, Optical cable and a Quick Start Guide. It's as much as I've ever seen when it comes to PC soundcard extras and doesn't afford the consumer any extra cost by adding needlessly to the bundle, but at the same time isn't that special either.