BenQ ZOWIE Vital External Sound Card Review: Plug and Play Pro Audio
Zowie as a company has always been focused on one primary goal. Driverless, plug and play performance peripherals for your PC. Their mice are held at the highest standard no matter what gaming forum you jump on. Purists hate bloatware driver suites for their resource hogging nature – the Zowie Vital aims to fix this for gaming audio.
With the Zowie Vital, the company has brought to market a portable, smart looking USB sound card that stores your personal settings between PCs. At just thicker than an average smartphone and sporting a touch interface clearly showing each function, it doesn’t really require any instructions. Plug one end of the USB cable into the Vital and the other into the PC and it is immediately recognised as a functional input and output audio device in your windows audio settings.
All settings are stored on the device so volume, treble, bass and microphone input settings are all exactly the way you left them between PCs. Even the headphone and speaker outputs are saved separately. The idea is to always have your headset settings work exactly how you like them when attending lans. This is a great idea, and totally in line with Zowie’s primary goal.
The surprising thing was that the digital to analogue converter used was actually incredible. It was audiophile quality, and the included amp could drive my modified Denon D5000 headphones incredibly loud but not quite to uncomfortable listening levels. These Denon’s are just a little harder to amplify than usual so the Vital will be incredibly efficient at pushing your average gaming headset to unbearable levels if that’s what you wanted to do.
The adjustability of the treble and bass levels are a nice touch. For certain games having the tinny sound of a ricochet highlighting your sense of aim direction might be something better suited than something with booming bass. Assuredly, there’d be a list of settings that the pros use for aspiring pro-gamers to replicate so they could play just like their idols.
The bottom line though, is that this is a product that is all about convenience. Having to change sound settings in the audio control panel of your next LAN event can be avoided with the Vital. But forfeiting the extra 5-10 minutes it takes to get your sound working the way you want has to be warranted by the price of the Vital. As it currently stands, at an RRP of $299 AUD, spending the extra 5-10 minutes getting the LAN PCs on board audio settings right doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. The quality DAC used most likely drove the price up (kudos to BenQ and Zowie for not compromising on components) but in all honesty, gamers would settle for less than audiophile level if pricing were more reasonable.
Bring out a new model, lose the speaker output and gimp the DAC just enough to get the price below the $100AUD mark while keeping everything else the same. That would be a must buy regardless of whether you game at LANs or not.
The Zowie Vital is an incredible piece of tech. Simple, plug and play, no instructions needed. But at its current price, I can’t recommend it for your average gamer. For those who absolutely hate setting up equipment at each LAN, this may be worth the price of entry especially if you cross over the line into audiophile enthusiast. For everyone else, you’ll have to consider how many LANs you’ll attend and how much 5-10 minutes of setup time is worth to you.
Price: $299AUD RRP
Where to buy: MWAVE
Disclaimer: A review sample was provided by BenQ Zowie | Respawn Ninja is owned by Mwave Australia, however we retain editorial control over reviews.