Besides sending out press releases in an interesting version of Chinglish [Unapproachable Cooling has to be one of my all-time favorites, Ed.], Sparkle Computer presented SFAUD2A1 during Computex Taipei 2009 tradeshow. Unlike a regular sound card, this simply-named card actually doesn’t create audio per se.
Instead, the SFAUD2A1 card is a sound amplifying card, something we haven’t heard before in this form. Sparkle created a card that uses either a discrete, or more expected – motherboard-integrated audio chip such as RealTek’s ALC series – to clean up & amplify the signal going out to the speakers. This concept is interesting one indeed, but going through the specifications made us wonder.
In order to create the card, Sparkle teamed up with D2Audio, digital amplifier company that was recently purchased by Intersil. By using the DAE chip [already proven in Alienware's Hanger 18 HTPC, Ed.] and so on, Sparkle hopes to create the market of PC amplifiers. This is a regular T-class amplifier with low power consumption similar to ones in cars and mobile stereos. Regardless of the quality, this is first product in this class and we would say bravo to the manufacturer – this is a product that can be big in the IT world.
Sparkle’s Audio Amplifying card promises a lot… but can it deliver?
According to the list of paper with specifications, Sparkle should amplify the sound by eight Ohm, 25W output on five channels, making a total of 125W. With DAE-3, new world of possibilities opened. Still, until we see this product and run it through our measuring equipment, we cannot confirm marketing specifications. Just like 119-124 dBA Sound-To-Noise ratio isn’t something that you can achieve with a $5,000 LynX AES16e plus Aurora 16 setup, yet you’ll read that claim plastered all over $150-200 sound cards. Just some food for thought.
There is one part of the spec where we have to take offense… Sparkle specifies "High Thermal Efficiency – no Heat Sink required", an obvious jab at Creative and ASUS. Folks, sound cards or sound amplifying cards don’t need heatsinks because of thermals. But they need to be built inside a full aluminum, top-and-down enclosure to protect the audio signal from the ever-present EMI [Electro-Magnetic Interference] that just destroys sound quality and increases the noise. Regardless of "digital chip", the AD-DA conversion is still made at the output part, and this is where the sound generating products such as sound cards are vulnerable and yet, exposed to EMI.
If Sparkle dares to send the card for testing, we would like to put it up for testing in our Bright Audio Labs and see did they pull a rabbit of out the hat or was this yet another case of "paper specification promises".