The Soundblaster from Siren Software is a simple stereo amplifier with speakers and headphones, offered for use with different home computers. There isn't anything special about it; it doesn't contain any I/O ports or sound generators. A similar device is the Maestro from Vanguard Leisure Ltd.
NOW HEAR THIS ... Barry Woods sounds out a peripheral which gives your Electron a bigger voice
HOWEVER much effort is put into the sounds of a game on the Electron, the effect will never make the house reverberate. Screams, bangs and explosions all sound like squeaks through the micro's tiny speaker.
Now, from Siren Software comes a neat way to boost the volume - Sound Blaster. It consists of a small amplifier with power supply, two loudspeakers and a pair of headphones - in case the neighbours want to sleep.
Setting up the kit is a piece of cake: Just remove the cover from your Electron, unplug the speaker and plug in a new lead.
This can then be fed out of the case through either the UHF TV or video socket cutout - whichever you aren't using. Then replace the cover.
The lead now coming from your micro is connected to the amplifier, as are the speakers and power supply. You're then ready to run your favourite game with something new in sound.
There are two volume controls on the wedge of cheese-shaped amplifier, one for each speaker.
I don't know what the unit's power output is, but turning the volume up to one quarter of maximum is very loud indeed. There is certainly enough power to fill the largest of domestic rooms.
You won't be disappointed by the quantity of sound, but what about the quality? The one channel Electron sound isn't hi-fi, but the added volume certainly gives a better effect on games. However, I wouldn't recommend the unit - or an unexpanded Electron - for musical applications.
There's always a slight hum from the Electron's speaker (hardly noticeable on the small built-in one) and although this is amplified by Sound Blaster it isn't a distraction.
A version of Sound Blaster is also available to plug in to Complex System's Sound Expansion - also reviewed in this issue of Electron User.
The connection is even easier than to an unexpanded Electron, the amplifier just plugging into the phono plug on the cartridge.
The Sound Expansion alone gives more volume than a standard Electron, but using the two expansions together gives excellent results - four channel sound at a high volume with very little background noise.
Another use for the Sound Blaster is as an amplifier for the Hybrid music system. The quality of sound obtained using these two units together with your Electron is superb. Whether used alone or with another Electron add-on dedicated to sound, the Sound Blaster is a doddle to set up and is well worth the money.
Product: Sound Blaster Price: £44.99 Supplier: Siren Software, 84-88 Princess Street Manchester M1 6NG Tel: 061 228 1831
This review appeared in the May 1990 edition of the "Electron User", published by Database Publications.