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  1. #1
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    My Revo 7.1 arrived - My Review

    How do you describe a color without using another color? Impossible almost so I'll give you my opinion on the TBSC vs. Revo 7.1 vs. what I recall when I had the Audigy 2. The SBlive is not in the same league. We're talking "top" banana's here.

    First impressions: This card is small. Smaller than even the turtle beach Santa Cruz which is smaller still than the A2.. It seems to have "less" on the card. Certainly less than A2 that resembles a high end main board but even less circuits than the TBSC. Mine is marked at the top Rev 2.0 on blue PCB.

    A word about even the latest drivers. Mine were buggy to install. When 2000 was supposed to shut down it hung, no BSOD just hung. I had to hard boot, system came back up and 2000 finished the Revo installation. My first thought was uh oh, here we go. After that hard boot the Revo drivers finished their thing and ask me to reboot again, this time no hanging, system came back up normally and put a small "M" in the icon tray. I was good to go. Whether having remnants of SBlive, TB, A2, and Soundstorm sound drivers residing somewhere hidden in the registry had a bearing on the install I don't know. I didn't use the cd. Got the latest drivers from the website before I stuck the card, then cancelled when windows 2000 found it and installed the latest drivers. Ok, system is up, drivers installed...maybe... let's play. Wanting to go straight to the guts first I went to the control panel.

    My first impression: UI is simple enough as I clicked through the few tabs. I picked up the manual and gave is a quick look. Plain english regarding each tab. Nice. There was enough to read there but not too much to confuse, much like the UI on the control panel. So far so good. I like things simple.

    Being an audiophile and not a gamer my main interest was in CD music. I slipped in Cirque du Soleil the "Collection" cd, opened up Media Jukebox and started to play the overture. What came out untuned was surprisingly good and equal or better to anything I had ever heard come out of this Klipsch system. I went into the control panel and started to tweak. I found the pull down tab for my specific speakers as well as many others including Creative, Monsoon, Altec, Logitech, Harmon Kardon, and Midiland speaker system sets. Each with different configurations and model numbers. As I let go and it defaulted my Klipsch 4.1 the sound shifted instantly. It actually did something! The sound became instantly brighter, the bass became deeper. Separation went to enormous. Each channel was distinct in carrying it's own tones. It was like turning on the light in a dark room! Anyone who knows Cirque du Soleil knows they are well mastered CD's of very high quality with very distinct and unique sounds with many past the limit of human hearing. The Revo did not disappoint as the entire room lit up with deep rich crystal clear sound.

    After a few minutes just sitting there in awe, I became aware of something different still. The best way I can describe the sound from this card is like pouring milk to pouring cream. The sound is very very smooth and clear. Not harsh or brassy, yet completly FULL. Every note, every voice, crystal clear even midbass seems well seperated. Sub became punchy not boomy. I have heard this CD 100's of times. New notes started to appear and the musical "depth" was almost unreal. I thought maybe it was something else going on outside the house. It was not, it was coming from the speakers and off the CD! Chills ran down my spine. Rich, powerful, smooth, and creamy is about the only was I can describe it. I have a pretty well tuned ear for music after 40+ years of music listening and 1000's of cd's from around the world.

    The control panel is miles ahead IMHO over TBSC. No confusing this and that's, no eq is installed which is a good thing. The software does not try to over-do anything or be everything. It's there to power and tweak power levels only. Not to modify frequency ranges. Your player should do that. Not only does it allow you to set up for a variety of specific and generic setups it allows you to balance each channels power setting via an EQ like bar. Want a little more right rear? No problem via the output mixer and you can "SEE" the bandwidth in DB's it's pushing and compares this to the other channels in db ranges and this includes even the sub. Very nice. Bass management can be enabled or not. Crossover frequency can be set. Even the distance from the listening station to the front speakers can be adjusted in feet. You have a plethora of settings to fine tune but not enough to overpower even the novice user. A very well thought out UI.

    We don't buy high end cards for stereo mode. How about surround? Here again you have just enough. On the surround tab you have Sensaura/Game mode, no surround, SRS Circle Surround II are the choices. In the II mode you can change it from Cinema, Music or mono. There is also a slider for dialog Enhancement, SRS Tru bass and a slider for adjusting that to your preferences. Master volume always is available no matter what tab you are on. Next tab is inputs/other. Here you find line/mic levels, sample rates etc. Sample rates obviously up to 192000. While playing music the software detects what sample rate the music was recorded and sets it. 44100 in my case. If you try to change it, it defaults back to what is normal for your output. Smart. ASIO Latency buffer size is also set on this screen up to 2688 samples.

    Now some subjective opinions:

    Music, at least CD quality is beyond the words first rate. Software is intuitive and even a novice can get the most out of their system with just a little tweaking. I've only spent an hour or so with the card so far and not even an EQ. But it's clear this sound card is a real winner for audiophiles. Going from TBSC to Revo is like going from a Ford to a Lincoln Continental. They may call it a "consumer card" but the sound output is pro. Guess that's why even those with $20,000 HTPC's are going with this $99.00 card. It's by far and away the best sounding card I have ever heard including the A2, TBSC, SBlive, Nforce2. Frankly...I'm confident that the card is capable of more than my ProM's can put out. These "crappy" little speakers are holding the sound back now not the other way around and these Promedia's 4.1 are anything but crap. Excellent job M-audio and thank you so much, my PC has NEVER EVER sounded so wonderful!

  2. #2
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    Excellent work.

  3. #3
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    Very well written, if it had support for the latest gaming APIs, and if I had $180 I'd get one of these and some MMGear 4.1 headphones.

    Sounds very sweet!!! Jim, are you getting one?
    PORTABLE: Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 2.4GHz | 4GB PC6400 DDR2 | 160GB 7200rpm HDD | ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 | 8x DVD±RW/Blu-Ray | 15.6" UltraSharp TrueLife display

  4. #4
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    Nice review. I agree on all points. Clarity and fullness of sound is excellant. I've been just as impressed from day1 with the card. Hopefully it will only get better as they improve drivers etc. Good job Joe
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  5. #5
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    My only reservation on this card for the HTPC is the lack of digital input. I would like to be able to rip CD's from my high-end CD player, but this is not a deal-breaker. The stereo sound interests me a great deal, and the surround decoding not at all, since I will be using only the digital output anyway from the HTPC to the HT processor.
    However, it is $50 cheaper than the Audiophile 2496, and if the sound is that good out of it, it might well be hard to stay away from.
    Thanks again for the great review, Joe.

  6. #6
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    I didn't mention the box, which I thought was interesting. Yes I read the boxes.

    It's clearly marked as a gaming card as well. I'm quoting the box now.

    "Ultra 3d positional audio makes you really feel like your're really in the game. Revolution 7.1 supports today's popular game technologies such as Sensura, EAX, DirectSound and Ad3."

    I don't have a clue (or frankly care) what all that means but stand firm on the audio quality being bar none the best. I would be the first to say if the differerences were slight and not worth the upgrade. (I'm really cheap when it come to things like that). But I'm telling you the truth here. It's a REAL world improvement over the TBSC. This is not like going from a Athlon 2100 to a 2200. It's like going from Win 98 to win XP. Why or how I don't know. All I know is what I hear. Maybe people with plastic PC speakers might not be able to notice the difference. I don't know. You have to have good stuff both in and out I think.

    Just for grins last week I sent an email to Klipsh. I asked them if the could suggest a PC sound card for the Promedia line of speakers. My thinking was matching the tonal ranges of output sources to the tonal range that the promedia line of speakers would produce. Thinking I wouldn't get a response, I forgot about it. Yesterday I got this response back from Klipsh. Interesting Klipsh had these comments. It's just not me that hears this.

    "if music is more important then choose the cards in this order (best one on top):

    m-audio revolution: $100 retail
    turtle beach santa cruz: $80 (support for it is soon to end)
    hercules fortissimo III (solid drivers) $50
    audigy 2 $130 ($200 for the platinum)
    audigy 1 (does NOT do 24bit/96khz playback) $100

    for games simply reverse the list.

  7. #7
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    John C,

    Some are replacing the M-audio 2496 with this card over at the AVS forums. I don't know why but I have seen several over there saying so and trying to work out the kinks and make this card work for their applications. There must be some reason as those guys have money to burn.

    I have never used the 2496 so I can't compare and almost bought one. I'm sure there are better cards out there for THPC's but for the average PC music lover this little dude rocks in my mind.

    Now that my neighbors are awake I tried to crank this dude way up. For whatever reason....ZERO distortion at levels my hears can't stand!!! I can't get it to distort! Is the optimization for the Promedia's or the quality components on board I don't know. Whatever mystery is going on...I like it.

    I want to look at this SRS Circle Surround sound II and that peice of the technology. My novice interpretation is that it sends signals in circles around you rather than just seperating the channels and shooting them straight at you. Dunno. If anybody has any interest in this, I'll post what I find.

  8. #8
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    Originally posted by Joe Lacy
    I didn't mention the box, which I thought was interesting. Yes I read the boxes.

    It's clearly marked as a gaming card as well. I'm quoting the box now.

    "Ultra 3d positional audio makes you really feel like your're really in the game. Revolution 7.1 supports today's popular game technologies such as Sensura, EAX, DirectSound and Ad3."

    I don't have a clue (or frankly care) what all that means but stand firm on the audio quality being bar none the best. I would be the first to say if the differerences were slight and not worth the upgrade. (I'm really cheap when it come to things like that). But I'm telling you the truth here. It's a REAL world improvement over the TBSC. This is not like going from a Athlon 2100 to a 2200. It's like going from Win 98 to win XP. Why or how I don't know. All I know is what I hear. Maybe people with plastic PC speakers might not be able to notice the difference. I don't know. You have to have good stuff both in and out I think.

    Just for grins last week I sent an email to Klipsh. I asked them if the could suggest a PC sound card for the Promedia line of speakers. My thinking was matching the tonal ranges of output sources to the tonal range that the promedia line of speakers would produce. Thinking I wouldn't get a response, I forgot about it. Yesterday I got this response back from Klipsh. Interesting Klipsh had these comments. It's just not me that hears this.

    "if music is more important then choose the cards in this order (best one on top):

    m-audio revolution: $100 retail
    turtle beach santa cruz: $80 (support for it is soon to end)
    hercules fortissimo III (solid drivers) $50
    audigy 2 $130 ($200 for the platinum)
    audigy 1 (does NOT do 24bit/96khz playback) $100

    for games simply reverse the list.
    Umm, what happened to their price list?

    I got my Audigy for $60 a year ago, brand new.

    Audigy 2 is about $100, F3 is about $35, and Santa Cruz is about $60.

    BTW, an Audigy 2, from what I've heard, is better than the Santa Cruz and the F3 as far as audio quality goes. I believe our resident audio guru JimZ tested the Audigy 1 vs Santa Cruz on his Klipsch 5.1 Promedias, he gave the audio quality award to the SC (Though he said they were comparable) but as far as gaming/recording, he gave the win to the Audigy. Jim correct me if I am wrong.
    Last edited by JungleMan; 02-01-2003 at 01:02 PM.
    PORTABLE: Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 2.4GHz | 4GB PC6400 DDR2 | 160GB 7200rpm HDD | ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 | 8x DVD±RW/Blu-Ray | 15.6" UltraSharp TrueLife display

  9. #9
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    Jungleman,

    You might look at this graph. It's not mine. It's a RightMark Audio Analyzer test comparing those cards. Of course all ears vary.

    http://members.cox.net/deadduck/Comparison.htm

  10. #10
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    Originally posted by Joe Lacy
    Jungleman,

    You might look at this graph. It's not mine. It's a RightMark Audio Analyzer test comparing those cards. Of course all ears vary.

    http://members.cox.net/deadduck/Comparison.htm
    You beat ears vary, those graphs mean nothing to me, don't know what they mean

    BTW that is the original Audigy not the Audigy 2.
    Last edited by JungleMan; 02-01-2003 at 04:07 PM.
    PORTABLE: Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 2.4GHz | 4GB PC6400 DDR2 | 160GB 7200rpm HDD | ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 | 8x DVD±RW/Blu-Ray | 15.6" UltraSharp TrueLife display

  11. #11
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    I take your point JM. These graphs are like the benchies for Video Cards. Standard points of reference...thats all. See...what is so great...is this card....represents some serious compitition. Is it perfect? Nothing is perfect. Is this card gonna make Creative sweat? Nope. Will the card sell? You bet. Kinda like a Rocky thing goin on. Seems to me. JimZ

  12. #12
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    I must say that this is one of the most impressive $100 cards I've seen as far as audio quality goes. Looks like a real winner.

    Does it have RCA-out?
    PORTABLE: Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 2.4GHz | 4GB PC6400 DDR2 | 160GB 7200rpm HDD | ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570 | 8x DVD±RW/Blu-Ray | 15.6" UltraSharp TrueLife display

  13. #13
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    i like it but my one thing is I wish it had digital optical out, i might just suck it up even though I just bought a cable and go with the other digital out.
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  14. #14
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    Yes is has RCA out, S/pdif Coaxial. They suggets a 50-75 Ohm digital cable to go to a mixer, digital recorder, surround reciever etc.

    I just watched Face Off on DVD. Very nice indeed. The vocals were VERY seperated almost like those channels were completly turned off. This card has great seperation. I was using Power DVD in case that matters.

  15. #15
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    For whatever reason it likes WinDVD 4.0 better than PowerDVD.

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