M-Audio: Catering to the high-end
After the demise of Aureal, competition against Creative Labs became very sparse. There were the usual players of course, but not many of them were able to match the conglomerate grip that Creative held over the sound card market. Hercules’ GameTheater XP was one such gem, but quirks like having to reboot every time you wanted to switch between regular PCM audio out and DD or DTS over the digital SPDIF outs were annoying to say the least.
Today the situation is pretty much the same as it was, but the bar has indeed been raised, thanks to multiple competitors. One of the lesser known ones – at least in the consumer PC audio world – is M-Audio. M-Audio specializes in high-end professional recording products for the PC and Mac. Their products are very well known to artists that spend time with synthesizers and/or recording music from instruments. M-Audio’s products cater to those who want very pristine audio fidelity and very low latency. Things such as all-channel 24-bit/192kHz and ASIO support can be found in almost all of their products.
The Revolution 7.1
M-Audio recently started producing consumer products that took use of the USB features of most of today’s computers. Although this gives quite a convenience to mobile computers (as well as allowing you to stay out of your computers’ innards), it does present a few problems inherited by relying on USB. Because USB 1.1 isn’t very fast, there are a few performance tradeoffs that must be made, and because CPU utilization is relatively high, USB audio solutions aren’t very attractive to most users. Despite all this, M-Audio has managed to produce some very compelling USB 1.1 audio solutions that offer multi-channel audio, Dolby Digital and DTS output as well as high-fidelity 24-bit/96kHz output and input.
The Revolution 7.1 card
What comes in our hands today though, is M-Audio’s PCI audio solution targeted at just about everyone with a PC. Named the Revolution 7.1, M-Audio is indeed upping the ante in audio quality quite a bit as we’ll examine later. But the real bang for the buck with the Revolution 7.1 is its high-resolution audio. Capable of giving you 24-bit/192kHz processing and outputting on all eight channels, as well as full 24-bit/192kHz, the Revolution 7.1 is the answer for those seeking the utmost in sound quality.