ASUS has just released a new Beta Version 188.8.131.5200 (dated 01/08/2007) of the SoundMAX driver for Vista x86 and x64.
There's good news and bad news with this new Beta driver release.
The Good News
Unlike the previous Version 184.108.40.20620 (dated 11/02/2006), this new version installed properly. The previous version could not even be loaded by Vista!
Also unlike the default driver Version 6.0.6000.16386 (dated 06/21/2006) initially loaded by Vista, the microphone actually works with this new version. I have not yet tested the line input (in the front panel).
Nighthawk is no longer deaf.
I used the Vista "Set up microphone" and enabled the "Directional Beam" microphone enhancement to take advantage of the SoundMAX SUPERBEAM microphone bundled with my ASUS P5B Deluxe WiFi-AP motherboard.
I then tested the microphone using Vista's "Speech Tutorial" which can be found in "Speech Recognition Options" of the "Ease of Access" folder. The Vista Speech Tutorial stopped listening to me somewhere in the middle so I closed it.
A message window popped up stating "Audio Enhancements Problem. Windows has detected that audio enhancements for the following device are causing problems: Microphone (SoundMAX Integrated Digital HD Audio). Would you like to disable Driver Enhancements for this device?"
I responded "Yes" and re-ran the Vista Speech Tutorial. This time around without the "Directional Beam" audio enhancement, I was able to complete the tutorial without any more problems.
By the way, the SoundMAX SUPERBEAM microphone is connected to the microphone input in the back panel. I have yet to test the microphone input in the front panel.
The line output in the back panel also works as before. I have also not yet tested the SPDIF outputs nor the speaker outputs in the back panel.
The Bad News
The bad news is very bad.
I decided to test the front panel output by plugging my headphones in. Both of my monitors went black immediately. Nighthawk was still powered on and the disk LED indicated some activity, but Nighthawk was not responding to any keyboard input (a good test is the "Num Lock" key because of its corresponding LED indicator light.)
I went to Blackbird to check whether I could access the shared folder on Nighthawk. Nighthawk was not responding. I also tried Remote Desktop Connection from Blackbird to Nighthawk with the same result. Nighthawk was dead.
I powered off Nighthawk, restarted, and repeated the same test. Same result. Nighthawk immediately died as soon as I plugged in my headphones into the front panel input jack.
I guess I won't be using my headphones anytime soon on Nighthawk.