M-Audio Revolution 7.1 soundcard review


Thanks to Creative Labs, high-resolution PC audio support is something of an ambiguous area and as was found with the original Audigy, using 24-Bit/96kHz DACs doesn't necessarily mean it the card does play audio at that rate.

Internally, the original Audigy operated at 16 bit/48kHz, meaning it resampled audio above that rate and below it to some extent also. While the Audigy 2 operates at 24-Bit/96 kHz the effects engine is limited to 16/48 kHz, meaning that anything passing through it is resampled also.

So is the Revolution a similarly quasi-24-Bit/192kHz soundcard? Well…

Let me introduce to you M-Audio’s Revolution 7.1, powered by VIA’s Envy24HT chipset, the card internally supports 24-Bit/192kHz for up to 8 (7.1) channels. Free from AC97 limitations, the Revolution doesn’t resample sources below 48 kHz, something pretty much all consumer soundcards do (Audigy 2, Santa Cruz, etc., most obviously with CD playback, which has a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz).

While this does seem to indicate the Revolution 7.1 is truly capable of high resolution, resampling-free playback, we found a couple of caveats to this (see page 4 for more) so why don’t you take a deep breath as we take a detailed look to M-Audio’s little gem, from the 24 bit/192kHz debate, to drivers, overall output quality, performance and more...


The Board

The Revolution 7.1 board features Line & Mic Inputs, 4 Stereo Line Outputs and a Coaxial S/PDIF Output (noticed there is no S/PDIF input). Interestingly enough no MIDI port is available either, nor are internal connectors for CD-In and the like. This should really be of no loss to most users as many of these have been legacy connections for a long time now. Over the course of testing the Revolution I connected it to both MegaWorks 510D and Inspire 6700 systems using available Line-Out's as well as conducted some testing using a pair of Philips headphones. For testing digital output the Coaxial S/PDIF Output was connected to a SoundBlaster Extigy.

Out of the box, the Revolution 7.1 includes a quick start guide and a large printed manual covering installation, as well as describing the various options available in the control panel.

In addition to drivers CDs M-Audio also provides “over $200 of high-quality software”. The complete software bundled is listed on the specifications page, though perhaps the most noteworthy inclusion to most users will be WinDVD 4 (Dolby Digital Surround EX version), as well as full versions of Tony Hawk 3, MixMan Studio and VJ Lite.

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