Media Vision Audioport. (sound card) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by David English
Wouldn't it be great if you could plug a sound card into your parallel port? Then you could add sound to your laptop or slotless desktop. Make it small enough, and you could fit it in your shirt pocket and carry it with you.
That's just what Media Vision has created with its new Audioport. It contains the same circuitry as the popular Thunder Board, yet it's not much bigger than a bar of soap. It can run on four AAA batteries or the AC power adapter included with the unit. Along with the Thunder Board circuitry, you'll find a volume control, 1/8-inch microphone-input and audio-output jacks, and a built-in 1-1/2-inch speaker.
The Audioport also features Sound Blaster and Ad Lib emulation, though with some important restrictions. The emulation only works with 386SX, 386DX, 486SX, and 486DX machines, and only with software that can run under Windows 3.1's 386-enhanced mode. That doesn't mean just Windows software; you can use the emulation with any DOS program that's able to run within the Windows 3.1 environment. For instance, I was able to run Space Quest IV, Gods, Red Baron, Stellar 7, Falcon 3.0, Lemmings, SimAnt, and a host of other DOS-based games. These days, almost every DOS-based game and educational program can run under Windows.
How good does it sound? With the small built-in speaker, it sounds a little tinny, which is to be expected. On the other hand, it's easy to plug headphones or a larger external speaker into the audio-out jack or to run a cable to your stereo for high-quality 8-bit sound. Overall, it's a reasonable compromise between portability and sound quality.
If I could add anything, it would be a parallel port pass-through. With the current model, you can plug your Audioport or your printer into your computer's parallel port, but not both at the same time. Otherwise, the Audioport is a great little device, especially for laptops.
But do us all a favor. If you insist on using your laptop to play a flight simulator while flying on a commercial airliner, please bring along a pair of headphones. For some reason, most people just don't seem to enjoy hearing the sound of airplanes crashing when they're cruising at 30,000 feet.