M-Audio Revolution 7.1 soundcard review

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Music Output Impressions

As hinted previously the Revolution 7.1 is a highly capable soundcard when it comes to music playback, in several aspects more so than competing consumer level products. However, not to be confused by certain sources of misinformation, the Revolution is currently not capable of DVD-Audio playback, while the DACs used in the board are indeed promoted for use with DVD-Audio players; the only current PC DVD-Audio solution for now is the Audigy 2.

M-Audio offers the following statement regarding DVD-Audio support:

The Revolution 7.1 software bundle is already extremely full-featured, with over $200 of retail software included, but M-Audio is actively working toward offering upgraded new features to our users at the minimum cost possible. Currently, no software DVD-Audio player is available on the market. We are actively working with developers of DVD-A player applications to try to accelerate the development process. It is not yet clear whether it is possible to support all of the required CPPM copy protection in software-only, but early information looks promising.

If M-Audio is able to provide a software-only feature upgrade to existing Revolution users, we will attempt to do so at only marginal cost to interested users: just enough to cover the cost of licensing the software from a 3rd party, plus the cost of media & shipping/handling. Users interested in taking advantage of this opportunity should register their Revolution 7.1 card with M-Audio. We will contact registered users when more information is available.

Basically put, the Revolution may, or may not, provide DVD-Audio support in the future, if it does it appears that this capability will be available to other manufacturers at that point though.

On a brighter note is that the Revolution is capable of playing audio without resampling up to 192 kHz when ‘No Surround Processing’ is selected in the Surround Sound drivers options. This is of most relevance when it comes to CD playback, which is normally at 16-Bit/44.1 kHz. Most PC Soundcards resample 44.1 kHz sources to 48 kHz, be it Santa Cruz or Audigy 2, if it features an AC 97 codec then it will do this.

For playback of CDs I used Windows Media Player 9, while for MP3s I used WinAMP 2.81 along with the MAD, SSRC waveOut & ASIO Output plugins. For optimum output quality I configured options as specified beneath:

 

Next I modified the SSRC waveOut output plug-in, settings used shown beneath also.

Finally, I configured the ASIO Output plug-in.

For testing music playback I used a variety of sources including Medal of Honor AA (128Kbps MP3), Episode II: Attack of the Clones soundtrack (192Kbps MP3), ET soundtrack (CD), Close Encounters of the Third Kind soundtrack (CD), Gladiator (CD), The Two Towers (CD) and several others.

As I hoped, sound quality was excellent. Based on listening tests with the MegaWorks 510D I’d have to say the Revolution provides the best overall music playback quality I’ve heard, with the Audigy 2 and Santa Cruz coming close enough to some extents, certainly noticeably better than the likes of the Live!, Audigy, nForce or Hercules range. On a lower end system like the Inspire 6700 the differences aren’t so distinct though.



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