Thunder Board. (computer sound card) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Denny Atkin
Do you find that hearing "bleep, beep, bloop, buzz" sort of ruins the fantasy when you're playing your favorite flight simulator? Are you tired of watching your computer grind to a halt every time the Windows sound driver plays a digitized sound? It's time to join the multimedia party and purchase a sound card. If you're looking for a quality sound card at a low price, check out Media Vision's Thunder Board.
This half-size 8-bit ISA card includes an Ad Lib-compatible 11-voice FM synthesizer and supports 22-kHz digital audio. The back of the card has audio input and output jacks, a volume-control dial, and a joystick port. An internal connector allows you to mix sound from a CD-ROM drive or Pro AudioSpectrum card.
The card is advertised as being fully compatible with the industry-standard Sound Blaster. It worked perfectly with all the games with which I tried it, as well as with Windows, using the Sound Blaster setting. And like Windows, many games now directly support the Thunder Board as well. I've seen a few reports of problems with Falcon 3.0 and the Thunder Board in some systems, but it worked fine with Falcon when I tried it. Hardware compatibility is no problem; the board functioned perfectly in both a 16-MHz 386SX and a 66-MHz 486DX2 system and even in an Amiga 4000 with a 386SX Bridgeboard. Dynamic filtering on the digital inputs and outputs makes for sound about as clean and crisp as you can expect from an 8-bit sound system.
You can edit digitized sound files using the bundled Thunder Master software. The real fun comes, though, when you plug a microphone into the input jack and sample your own sounds. Your kids will love it, for example, if their own voices welcome you to Windows when you start up your system. You can save disk space by compressing sounds at a 2 : 1, 3 : 1, or 4 : 1 ratio; the Thunder Board will decompress the sounds in realtime.
If you're looking for a card just to play with sampled sounds or add some background music to your games, a 16-bit card is probably overkill. For banishing beeps and buzzes, the Thunder Board is an 8-bit bargain.