Let's take a overall look at the Revolution 7.1. It's a well designed card, but digital inputs would have been welcomed as well as internal input connectors for those who miss them. On the other hand, it's music reproduction qualities, are excellent for it's price. Compared to previous cards which I've auditioned, including but not limited to the Audigy, Audigy 2, Soundstorm, Turtle Beach Santa Cruz, Sound Blaster Live!, the Revolution is sonically superior to them.
The story changes when gaming is taken into consideration. The lack of hardware acceleration of Directsound3D streams on the Envy24HT really takes a toll on framerates. Gamers would want to have a powerful CPU to offset the performance loss, or have a 2nd soundcard to takeover gaming duties, where sound quality isn't a factor. This however, is expected to change, as future games like Doom 3 will utilise in-game sound engines which will output multichannel audio directly, negating the need for hardware 3D audio processing.
On the other hand, the Sonica Theater isn't really directly affected by such factors, as it is targetted at notebook users who want a portable audio solution. In fact, for it's target market, it is a fantastic device, as notebooks generally have poor onboard audio chipsets, and is usually limited to 2 channels. Most notebooks don't even feature a S/PDIF output port, so the Sonica Theater comes in handy.
In short, M-Audio has a terrific line-up with incredible sound quality for a low price. Hardcore gamers however, will have to look elsewhere for their gaming needs.
*We have tried to locate retail Revolution 7.1s, but couldn't find any. Local distributors in this part of the world are stumped and are unable to provide an ETA. M-Audio should take note of this as, inavailabilty problems will not look good to consumers.
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