is simple: to provide high-quality technology and features,
but at accessible prices for the consumer. How can you
combine the best audio with a bunch of features, and still
come in under $100? Their approach was to look for the
one of the best audio chipsets out there, and provide some
powerful, yet easy to use software. Let's see if it
Installation and Setup
Quick and easy
the card was straightforward, and after hearing about
earlier problems with the drivers on the CD, we opted to
download the latest version from M-Audio's website.
The download was quick (about 8MB) and it's all that you
need. A quick check of Creative's website showed close
to 20 downloads of various types and sizes for just the
Audigy 2 alone, never mind their other cards. Kudos to
M-Audio for keeping it simple.
started up, and as expected, a new multimedia device was
found. We cancelled out of this, and ran the
installation of the new driver set, which then prompted us
to shut down the system, ostensibly to install the card.
It struck us a bit odd, as if the drivers should be
installed before the card, which we have seen with some
hardware from time to time. At any rate, we proceeded
to shut down, and then reboot the system. Again, a
multimedia device was found. We chose to automatically
install the drivers this time, and were up and running.
The color coding
of the ports makes attaching most modern speaker sets a
breeze. The Logitech Z640 speakers we were using had
green, orange, and black cables which match the ports for a
5.1 speaker setup. The last silver port would be used
for an additional 2 speakers in a 7.1 setup. Rounding
out the connections were the microphone jack (red) and
line-in (blue). At the top of the bracket was an RCA
jack for digital output, but unfortunately there was no jack
for digital input. We also noticed that no MIDI port
was on the card either. For a card touted to support
high-end recording, we found these to be noticeable
After a quick
look at the card, we noticed that the typical CD-IN
connectors were also missing, but this shouldn't cause any
concern. Actually, the card was quite clean with few
traces mostly surrounding the AKM DACs. M-Audio
explains that this layout was designed in such as way as the
keep the audio signals as clean as possible. Placing
components too close together could introduce noise into the
signal, thereby degrading the quality of the sound.
This knowledge stems from M-Audio's long history in
producing professional audio components, which they have
brought into the consumer market.
At the heart of
the Revolution is the
VIA Envy24HT chip, also known as the ICensemble ICE1724.
With support for 8 outbound streams, it can easily support
theatre quality audio in 5.1, 6.1, and 7.1 surround sound
systems. The Envy24HT even enables hardware
down-mixing, which allows users with 2 or 4 speaker setups
to enjoy a complete surround sound experience. The
Envy24HT also supports 24-bit performance and 192kHz
sampling rates for all 8 channels. This brings the
highest audio playback and recording quality to the
mainstream PC enthusiast.
closer look at the drivers
Bringing it all together
All of the best
hardware in the world won't do much for you, unless you've
got some decent drivers to get it working right.
M-Audio provides a fully functional control panel that
provides the user with quick and easy choices to get up and
running quickly, but also provides some fine-tuning for
audiophiles. Unlike some other companies, whose
drivers have become somewhat bloated and arcane, here
everything is presented in an easy-to-read graphical format.
The speakers can be set up from
the first screen using pre-defined quick-switch settings at
the top, but for more precise setups M-Audio has provided
specific configurations obtained from a drop-down menu.
Scrolling through the list, I was able to choose my Logitech
Z640 speakers, which then correctly set the size of the
speakers in the original setup screen. This leaves
less guesswork to the user, and the list of speaker sets is
fairly comprehensive. At the bottom of each of the
screens is a quick and handy slider for controlling the
master volume. The output and input mixers allow fine
tuning for each of the speakers or input sources. When
testing your setup, you have the option of muting each
device, or listening to that device only by clicking on
'solo'. One section that we felt may have been missing
here, especially considering the background of M-Audio, was
an equalizer. While general levels for input and
output can be determined, the audio source itself cannot be
In the Surround
Sound section lie some of the really intriguing options.
For optimal game compatibility, Sensaura/Game mode should be
turned on. This is mostly for games with 3D support,
otherwise 'No Surround Processing' can be selected which can
save some CPU cycles. The last choice is labeled SRS
Circle Surround II, and it is the same technology you can
find in high-end receivers. Basically, it takes a
stereo signal, and translates over multiple speaker setups,
thereby enriching the sound. The sound can be further
enhanced using the Dialog Clarity and TruBass sliders.
One note, however, is that with CS II enabled, a maximum
sampling rate of 48 kHz is supported. At higher rates,
you are dropped back to stereo output only.
CPU Utilization benchmarks