M-Audio's Revolution 7.1 sound card

Talking 'bout a revolution

LAST YEAR, Terratec's high-end DMX 6fire 24/96 opened my eyes to how good PC audio can be. In our audio card comparison, the DMX 6fire 24/96's audio quality blew away every other card we tested. Not only did the card offer support for 24-bit/96kHz audio via ICEnsemble's fabled Envy24 audio chip, it also produced incredibly clean, crisp sound with normal CD-quality audio. Against an array of sound alternatives, ranging from integrated VT8235/ALC650 audio to Hercules' Gamesurround Fortissimo III to Creative's Audigy, there was no contest; the DMX 6fire 24/96 was in a class all by itself. I didn't know PC audio could sound that good.

Of course, the DMX 6fire 24/96's price was in a class all by itself, too. At $250, the card is out of reach of many consumers, and it's not even widely available in North America. So where's an enthusiast to get his fix of high-fidelity PC audio?

From M-Audio's Revolution 7.1, perhaps. The Revolution 7.1 is a sub-$100 sound card that pairs a newer version of the Envy24 audio chip with high-quality DACs to ensure that the audio chip's full 192kHz/24-bit precision is retained all the way to the card's outputs. Available at retail outlets like CompUSA, the Revolution 7.1 has the potential to bring the kind of clean, crisp, high-precision audio that's traditionally been reserved for audiophiles to the masses. Does the Revolution 7.1 have the fidelity to compete with a high-end audiophile card like Terratec's DMX 6fire 24/96 and the gaming performance to take on Creative's Audigy2? Let's find out.

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