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Cooler Master Musketeer 3 - Cooler Master Musketeer 3
The final step is to attach an output from your sound card into the Musketeer PCI socket and to plug your speakers or headphones into either the front bay or the connection on the rear bracket.
This certainly won't be convenient for everyone as it makes changing between the valve effect and the clean sound card output a question of physically changing the cable and plugging the speakers back in. It would have been far more convenient to have included a bypass switch on the box. If you have a surround sound speaker set up then this again will require manually changing the connections, although a Y female mini-jack cable from Maplin could be an option.
Once installed, a warm light emanates from the windows. There's nothing more wonderful than toasting one's hands over a gently glowing vacuum tube. For this though you're going to have to buy a proper valve amp as the one here isn't of the glowing type (but it does get hot so keep little people away). There's a back light for the valve and another for the volume meter. I'm unconvinced of any practical benefit to having a meter on the front of the PC, but it's there and it works. There's a slider beneath the meter for volume level.
Listening to the sound reveals a definite change in the tonal quality. It shares some similarities to listening to a record player where the sound becomes less focused but more up-front. Depending on the material being played, there's an element of saturation (as audio folks like to call it) or analogue distortion. There's a definite drop in clarity and stereo spread, this probably isn't helped by the cheap cables and wires connecting the device to the sound card.
I'm not convinced though that I actually care for the effect, I find the reduction in definition and emphasis in the bass (due to the distortion) distracting. As the effect is more noticeable in some types of music, I would have thought it sensible to have included a mix fader so that the effect balance could be adjusted. Given that there's probably just as much interest in recording with valves as playing back, an input on the front panel combined with a preamp might have made it more practically useful.
At almost £40 in the UK, it's hard to recommend this as anything other than a cool looking novelty. Your money may well be better spent on a budget turntable if it's that analogue fix that you crave.