M-Audio Delta Revolution Review -
High Definition Audio, 7.1 Surround
By Gill Boyd
Harmony-Central.com - Avid to Acquire M-Audio:
Another one bits the dust... "...M-Audio will become a business unit
of Avid's Digidesign audio division and market its line of computer
audio peripherals, PCI sound cards, keyboard controllers and control
surfaces, microphones, speakers, and distributed software and
proprietary sound libraries alongside Digidesign's award-winning Digital
Audio Workstations for the professional and home/hobbyist markets."
Professional PC Audio Solutions Provider,
(formerly Midiman) has joined in the fray of the Consumer Audio Sound Card market.
M-Audio introduces Consumers to their Pro Audio world with the M-Audio Delta
Revolution 7.1 – High Definition Surround Sound PCI Card. Audio is a
very subjective and personal experience whether you’re a music listening
aficionado, audiophile, musician, just plain tone deaf or simply love
music! Each inference or reference point has one thing in common – It’s
all about the music! Get ready to become immersed in Revolution High
Definition Surround Sound!
To get a feel for this card, we started with the
usual progression of Stereo CD Digital Audio Discs, MP3s and CD Quality
playback of Digitally Extracted Audio plus Recorded wav files. This
allowed us to test Revolution Mixer variances and gain experience to
create an acceptable User level comfort zone. In other words, we took
out time in learning our way around the Revolution Mixer interface. The
SRS Audio Multi-Channel Surround Sound enhancements are a nice added
feature. If you only have Stereo Speakers the Revolution can accommodate
you now and later when you’re ready to move into Discrete Multi-Channel
Surround Sound playback!
Should we consider the Revolution 7.1 a Consumer or
Prosumer Sound Card meaning better than Consumer quality yet not quite
Professional? This would depend upon the perception and perspective of
the intended User. The M-Audio Delta Revolution 7.1 is designed
and marketed as a Consumer High Definition Surround Sound PCI Audio
Card. We were both pleased and yet dismayed with the Revolution. Based
upon the Chipset and performance, we were very pleased. And yet upon the
chosen feature set implementation, we were disappointed. The Chipset can
do more than currently configured.
After much consternation we settled in with what we
can do rather than what we could not do. The Revolution
PCI card is designed for Digital Audio Playback and does just that very
nicely in both Stereo and Discrete 5.1 High Definition Surround Sound
mode. The Revolution can also be used to record Digital Audio and can do
what the On-Board MotherBoard Audio can do, only better. We tested the
Revolution with the OnBoard MotherBoard Audio, Creative CT5880 Sound
Chipset which is the Creative Sound Blaster PCI128 (WDM) Driver still
active and fully functional. On this particular configuration both
Hardware Sound Devices can coexist. We also installed Total Recorder
from High Criteria for controlling Audio Recording with no problems.
Total Recorder currently only records in Stereo. So far, so good and
everything looks OK in Device Manager too.
Installation, Setup and Configuration was a snap in
both WinXP Pro and Win2000! We’re Dual Booting through Hardware instead
of software. This is a nice feature of the GigaByte MotherBoards
supporting Athlon XPs. The Win2000 installation of the Revolution went
without a hitch. After the fact – The Driver installation says install
the card when you’re done. OK. What if we installed the card before we
installed the drivers? Then just Reboot instead. Next screen – Yes,
power my computer down now. OK. Also Reboot. Now Viola - You’ll see an
M-Audio Revolution icon in the Windows System Tray. Configuring the
Revolution Mixer initially yielded errors in Win2000. Subsequent Mixer
interaction was positive with no problems or ill side effects. You’ll
definitely use the M-Audio Revolution Mixer primarily for Speaker Setups
and maybe in conjunction with the Microsoft Mixer for CD Digital Audio
playback. CD-Audio Music CDs are now played as Wav data! We’ll share
more about the Revolution Mixer later.
Revolution WDM driver under WinXP Pro prior to SP1
initially indicated up to 96kHz Sample Rates. The 192kHz Sample Rate was
grayed out with Stereo playback. According to the Revolution ReadMe,
Sample Rates greater than 100kHz are only supported on WinXP with SP1
installed. Verified. So now we have another reason besides USB 2.0 for
WinXP Pro SP1 – For 2 channel, 192kHz Sample Rate support. The
Revolution Mixer Sample Rate indicated adjusts automatically depending
upon Digital Media content played.
Revolution Mixer Configuration - 5.1 Surround
The M-Audio Revolution Mixer is fascinating. This
Mixer has to be seen to be appreciated. Revolution Mixer changes are
immediate. Nice Mixer implementation when you get the hang of it. No
Help files nor bullet Help associated with the Revolution Mixer. The
Windows Mixer has Volume Sliders for Wave (CD Digital Audio), SW Synth
(Software Synthesizer – Uses whatever is available, Default is Microsoft
GS Wavetable SW Synth) and CD Player (Analog not Digital therefore
Quick Switch Settings include: Master Presets for
Headphones, Stereo, 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 Surround Sound. Additional Speaker
Presets are defined under Current Sets for just about every Brand of
Speaker imaginable. And for those Speaker Sets not thought of, M-Audio
allows for Custom User defined Configurations. Slick!
- QuickSwitch Settings: Headphones,
Stereo, 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 Surround Sound.
- Current Set: Custom Speakers Sets both
predefined and custom configurations.
- Speaker Setup tab: Speaker Metering
indicates the selected Speakers highlighted. To view other Speakers
in a given Speaker Set, click to highlight.
- Output Mixer: Self explanatory.
Indicates individual Channel Levels for Monitoring.
- Surround Sound: Choose Sensaura Game
Mode, No Surround Processing or SRS Surround Sound II and associated
- Input / Output: Line / Mic Input
Levels, Sample Rates and ASIO Buffer Size.
- About: Indicates SRS technologies plus
Mixer and Driver versions.
M-Audio logo: From the Mixer, clicking
on the M-Audio label will take you to their web site. Smart and
Surround Sound Audio Properties:
Audio Properties: WinXP Pro.
Revolution Mixer Speaker Settings.
WinDVD 4: Included with Revolution.
PowerDVD XP 4.0: Included with LiteOn DVD-ROMs.
In Stereo w/Integrated Subwoofer mode, the SRS
TruSurroundXT feature gets annoying quickly and sounds muddy initially.
If you’ve ever had a sound card that sounded muffled, not here! Crank it
up! So far, this card is responsive under WinXP Pro. Only Documentation
installed: From Start, Programs, M-Audio Revolution, ReadMe & Uninstall.
When downloading Revolution Drivers, we suggest also getting the most
current Revolution PDF Manual & Quick Start Guide. Both are worth
reading and choked full of details. These PDF files should also install
as Defaults instead of having to hunt for them.
SRS TruSurroundXT from
www.SRSLabs.com delivers Virtual Multi-Channel Surround Sound to any
two Speaker Stereo System by adding three unique audio enhancement
techniques according to SRS Labs – Virtual Surround With Dialog Clarity,
Increased Bass, and Expanded Soundstage. Effects achieved depend upon
the Content played. Results will vary. SRS Labs, SRSWOWcast technology
was a more dramatic experience as witnessed when used previously in
Windows Media Player. For Windows Media player, SRS Labs will be happy
to upgrade Users to SRS Circle Surround II (CS II) - The 6.1 Matrix
Surround Decoding System for a slight fee. SRS CS II is designed to
enable up to 6.1 multi-channel surround sound playback from Mono,
Stereo, Dolby Surround and Circle Surround (SRS Labs) encoded sources.
For $14.95, get 5.1 Surround Audio from MP3s and RedBook Audio CD’s.
This feature already exists and is accessible on the Revolution Mixer
For Midi I/O, the Revolution requires purchasing
additional Midi gear made for the job of Midi even though the VIA
Envy24HT chipset supports that capability. Therefore, don’t expect GSIF
driver support either on this card for Tascam’s GigaStudio. And no
apparent support for Midi DLS – Downloadable Samples either. The key to
understanding that issue might go to the Chipset implementation by
M-Audio for High Definition Surround Sound playback. Think PC Home
Theatre experience here!
Although the M-Audio Revolution does appear to have
VST support according to the Revolution Mixer since the ASIO Buffer Size
can be adjusted, we have not test for this capability yet. The
Revolution Mixer does not indicate what version of ASIO is supported.
As for the price of the Revolution, we vacillate
somewhat given the Price / Performance Feature Set Ratio. Considering
what we get and what we’re doing, I’d like to have seen more Value for
less Money as we all would with any product. High Definition Surround
Sound & DVD Playback was our main concern. The Gaming aspect was not a
priority with us.
No internal CD connectors, this card is strictly
Digital! So if you’re wondering what happened to the analogue CD-ROM
sound cable plug-in – Forget it! Yes, Digital Playback only! Even the
Revolution Driver install screen alerts Users to the fact. Finally! By
default, Enable Digital CD Audio for CD/DVD Drive(s) and Enable DMA
transfer mode for CD/DVD Drive(s). A resounding YES to both of these!
Redbook Digital CD Playback is IN, Analogue Playback is out! This
Default configuration will adversely affect the CD-ROM front panel Audio
Jack rendering that plug inoperable. This is a characteristic of Digital
Audio playback rather than Analog playback of the past.
310439 - CD Audio Is Played Even Though
an Audio Cable Is Not Connected to Your CD-ROM Drive:
Listening to Surround Sound Output whether from
Discrete 5.1 Channel (AC-3) or Stereo CD’s enhanced with SRS Circle
Surround II (SRS CS II) technology was a pleasurable experience. As
tested, this card can coexist with other Sound Cards. As in times past,
this all depends upon the Audio Chipsets involved. User experiences may
Why now and why this card? The Revolution provides
Audiophile quality 24-bit/192kHz playback and 24-bit/96kHz recording on
a Desktop PC! With that criteria established, what makes the Revolution
special – The ability to play Audio from both DVD-Video Discs as well as
DVD-Audio capable. DVD-Video sounds superb in Discrete Dolby
MultiChannel 5.1 (AC-3) playback using Klipsch Promedia 5.1 Speakers.
Yes, six Speakers.
Sample rates greater than 100kHz are only supported
on Windows XP with Service Pack 1 installed. AC-3 (Dolby Digital 5.1)
under Windows 2000 requires Service Pack 2 installed. As shipped, we
were able to test Dolby Digital 5.1 (AC-3) playback on both WinXP Pro
and Win2000 using Klipsch Promedia 5.1 Speakers for Discrete Analog
Sound. Even though the Revolution supports DTS (DVD-Audio), the included
DVD Player software did not.
The OBE – Out of Box Experience can
only achieve 6 Speaker (5.1 Channel) playback. To hear the additional
Speakers, the DVD Playback software must also support those Speakers.
Quoting the Revolution PDF Manual, “You need specialized software to
play back Surround Audio formats above Two Channels.” M-Audio has
included the InterVideo WinDVD 4 application for Discrete Analog
Surround Sound (5.1) & Stereo Playback. WinDVD 4 does support S/PDIF for
Dolby Digital, DTS. Otherwise, you’ll see this Message: DTS
Decoding is NOT supported by this version of WinDVD. Please select
another audio track or visit
www.intervideo.com to upgrade to WinDVD Plus with DTS support.
Bummer! DTS (DVD-Audio) requires Upgrading to InterVideo WinDVD Plus
with DTS Support. After visiting the InterVideo website, this actually
entails purchasing both WinDVD Platinum 5 for Windows & the DVD-Audio
Pack for WinDVD 5. In Full Screen mode, WinDVD 4 hides the Mouse Pointer
within 5 seconds of inactivity. Nice feature.
M-Audio claims there is no DVD-Audio player while
InterVideo claims there IS and they have it! Further research indicates
the Creative DVD-Audio player IS likely to be the InterVideo DVD-Audio
player. This DTS (DVD-Audio) player capability would be nice to have
been included with the Revolution.
DVD-Audio Discs tested with Revolution:
- VH1 Divas Live, Chapters 12 & 13 -
Shania Twain: DVD-Video. Yea Smooth! When playing Discrete Dolby
Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, turn OFF SRS CS II. Otherwise, the Voice
gets lost in the mix as the Instruments come to the forefront. This
is the DVD I use to configure all DVD enabled Systems.
- Faith Hill – Cry: Plays Surround &
Stereo - DTS requires Player Upgrade.
- The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me:
DTS requires Player Upgrade.
- Deep Purple – Machine Head: Plays
Advanced Resolution 6-Channel Surround Sound & DVD-Video Compatible
- Queen – A Night At The Opera:
DTS requires Player Upgrade. This DVD-Audio Disc features DTS 24 /
96 – 5.1 Digital Surround & PCM 24 / 96 Stereo. Could not get the
included InterVideo WinDVD 4 to play the PCM 24 / 96 Stereo tracks.
Windows Media Player 9 would play the PCM Audio tracks only after
closing InterVideo WinDVD. This DVD-Audio Disc was made for DTS!
- Diana Krall – Love Scenes: DTS requires
Player Upgrade. This DVD-Audio Disc was also made for DTS!
- Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon:
DVD-Video features making of the Sound instead of the actual Music.
Plays fine. Poor Disc example for 5.1 Channel. We prefer just the
Music, not the Video about the Music! I’ve heard the Windows Media 9
version of Pink Floyd’s Money from Dark Side of the Moon in 5.1 on
the Revolution – WOW! Why did they release this album in SACD
instead of a DVD version!?!
- Sarah Brightman - one night in eden - live
in concert: DVD-Video, Stereo only not Discrete 5.1 Sound. Breathtaking & Dramatic Experience... In
Stereo with SRS CS II turned ON! Digitally
recorded 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Sound.
Another note for Firewall savvy and Security
conscious minded Users, WinDVD Version 22.214.171.1242 (WinDVD.exe) MFC
Application, as included with Revolution, wants Internet Access! A quick
IP Search for the offending IP: 126.96.36.199 Port 80 and Reverse IP
lookup yields the same – This is
www.Intervideo.com phoning home and not
www.M-Audio.com in case any Users were wondering!
Installing the Revolution is only part of the
equation. The Revolution Mixer defaults to Stereo. And so does the
included InterVideo WinDVD Player. Both have to be configured for 5.1
Sound Playback if you want to hear Discrete 5.1 Surround Sound.
Everything calls for something else. Both the Revolution Mixer and the
InterVideo WinDVD 4 – DVD-Video Player are easily configured and
reconfigured as desired after the installation procedure! M-Audio keeps
the Revolution Mixer applet active in the System Tray Panel for quick
and easy access. Nice default feature. The Revolution Mixer takes some
getting use to. And for the impatient, the Revolution Mixer is
responsive to quick changes. Occasionally the Sensaura mode will give
you fits when attempting quick changes, so don’t. Sensaura is a neat toy
for games which quickly becomes tiresome and can be turned off. On the
other hand, SRS's Circle Surround II (SRS CS II) is a real plus and is
used to decode music into 8-channel (7.1) Surround Sound. Windows Media
9 also supports the 7.1 Channel format of audio with full 24-bit, 96 kHz
Audio. Yes, that's better than CD quality! Stereo music without the SRS
Circle Surround II processing sounds hollow and flat. We will test the
Revolution with HDCD later on.
If you have ever used or installed an M-Audio
product before, then you have a handle on the Revolution Mixer
Configuration. This Mixer is completely different from the default
Windows Mixer which coexists with the Revolution Mixer. Use the
Revolution Mixer to fully utilize the Revolution’s rich feature set. No
comparison! And for Surround Sound – Get Immersed!
M-Audio has released several Driver Updates since
initially shipping the Revolution. We did not utilize the included
Driver CD and instead opted for the latest Drivers from the M-Audio
website as urged by M-Audio. Good to know M-Audio keeps making a great
product better through Driver Updates. The Revolution also shows up on
the Windows Update site indicating M-Audio’s commitment to excellence.
We have continually updated our Revolution drivers throughout our Tests
to ensure System stability. We tested the Revolution on a Hardware Dual
Boot Platform with both WinXP Pro & Win2000 on an Athlon XP Processor
based System. The full Audio Bit Depth and Audio Resolution can only be
realized under WinXP Pro according to M-Audio and Microsoft and not
Win2000. Good to know in case any of us were thinking about High
Definition Audio Content Creation. We found this to be true for
recording using Sonic Foundry (Sony) Sound Forge Studio 6.0 – 32-bit
depth / 96kHz sample rate possible and Sonic Foundry (Sony) Acid Pro 3.0
– 24-bit depth / 192kHz sample rate possible. Total Recorder 4.4 still
indicates only 16-bit depth / 48kHz. Once upon a time, DVD-Audio was a
‘playback only’ option on a PC. Considering current market trends,
DVD-Audio is easily within reach of PC playback and now PC Content
creation on the Desktop since Sonic Foundry (Sony) released Vegas + DVD.
Ever heard a noisy Speaker when nothing is playing
and the Volume Control is turned up? The Revolution is quiet even when
the Revolution Volume Controls are full volume using Klipsch Speakers.
Since listening to sound can be very subjective, we’ll tell you what we
think, if you have not already figured that out!
As with PC’s, Chipsets rule just like with
MotherBoards and a great PC starts with a good Chipset. M-Audio chose a
Chipset worthy of the Revolution by using the VIA Technologies Envy24HT
PCI Multi Channel Audio Controller. M-Audio had worked with ICEnsemble
on the Envy24HT prior to the VIA acquisition of ICEnsemble. And VIA
appears to be way ahead of the Intel (Azalia) Audio curve as well.
Intel's Developer Forum 2004: Intel and
Dolby announced the HDA (High Definition Audio) Codec Spec [Code Named:
Azalia] providing three specifics for MotherBoard Audio:
- Support for up to 7.1 channels. Got it now
- DVD-Audio support (multi-channel 96kHz
/24-bit, two-channel 192kHz / 24-bit). Ditto with Revolution and DVD
- Dynamic jack configuration (jack-sensing). As
currently implemented on Intel MotherBoards, an annoying noise
ensues when jack sensing is activated. Smart idea, yet an annoying
implementation. The Revolution connectors are all properly color
coded thus making connections easy, rendering jack sensing
Announced for the Microsoft WinHEC Conference
2004, Microsoft will introduce their Universal Audio Architecture (UAA)
yet another new higher quality Audio spec to coincide with Intel's High
Definition Audio (HDA) spec. Both Microsoft and Intel appear to be
addressing DVD-Audio and Dolby 7.1 playback on Consumer Devices among
other things PC Audio related. The Revolution 7.1 has that covered right
now! Love it! Revolution rocks! All in all, the Revolution works for me!
If you experienced delays accessing M-Audio's web
sites in 2003, that issue is resolved. They've since moved to a new web
host providing the bandwidth required to meet Users needs (3/17/2003).
M-Audio Delta Revolution 7.1 PCI Audio Card
M-Audio Revolution PCI Card Rev. 3 – Dated
Chipset: ICEnsemble Envy24HT – ICE1724-0222CD
CE certified; No FCC ID noticed. American
Revolution Front Image &
Connections – Top to Bottom: Digital Out =
S/PDIF Out – RCA Electrical. No Optical S/PDIF Out. Mic, Line & Four
color coded eighth inch Surround Sound 7.1 Analog Speaker connections.
See: Revolution Connections.
M-Audio Revolution Inclusions:
Revolution Users Guide &
Quick Start Guide - Paper Manuals.
Revolution Drivers CD,
Ableton Live Demo 2.0.1.
"This is a Demo version of Live. It is time
limited to 30 minutes. Saving and Resampling is disabled. Live's
ReWire engine has been installed. Live can now be used as a
ReWire Slave. Please restart any ReWire host applications that
might be running." Thirty minutes is just long enough to get
into the frustration of configuring the app! M-Audio should
provide better instructions here. We prefer Acid Pro even though
Sony now owns that app. Since M-Audio is handling Ableton Live,
they should provide better associative documentation. Pass.
Arkaos VJ Lite. Requires QuickTime
Reason 2.0 Demo. Great!
ProSessions Sample Collection. 198 Files in 52 Folders = 159 MBs
of a few Rex and mostly 1411 kbps Wav file Loop Data. A Keeper
worth purchasing more of!
WinDVD 4. Good start for Discrete 5.1 Surround Sound. Needs
Impressions Bonus CD
www.dynamicgraphics.com - Irrelevant to Revolution. Includes MOV
(Requires QuickTime 4 Installed. Included on CD.), EPS, JPG and TIF
files. Nice Graphics.
Game CD: Tony
Hawk's Pro Skater 3 CD from
M-Powered V.3 Enhanced CD. A Collection of M-Audio Artists.
Interesting CD and very appropriate to Revolution. An Eclectic Mix
of Contemporary & Jazz Artists. Let's see more of this! Great music
is just great music!
Studio: Coupon for Free Full Version copy. Good app.
New Drivers! Two driver updates issued since this
card shipped. Drivers Tested, M-Audio, 2/3/2003; Driver Version:
188.8.131.5232; Not digitally signed. Current Drivers as tested to date:
2003-03-07, version 5.10.00.35, Revolution WDM Drivers =
Revo_10028_web.exe 8100 Kb (8 MB). New Drivers to be Tested:
Revo_1028_sf.exe, Dated: February 13, 2004, Version: 184.108.40.206; 10.16 MB
Surround Sound – Get Immersed!
audioMIDI.com MAudio - Revolution 7.1: To purchase Revolution
www.icensemble.com (VIA) - Chipset
Controller – Envy24, PCI multi-channel I/O Controller chipset.
IC Ensemble to be acquired by VIA Technologies, Inc.
(November 8, 2000).
VIA Technologies Inc
Announces Agreement to Acquire IC Ensemble, Inc, a US Based fabless
chip design company specializing in high-performance Audio Signal
Processing and Mixed Signal ICs.
SRS Labs Inc.:
Surround Sound Showcase - Windows Media
Audio 9 Professional:
See if your
PC is ready for 5.1:
Are You Ready for 5.1 Audio on Your PC:
Windows Media 9 Series: Streaming Audio Demos.
Microsoft Windows Media - High Definition Content Showcase:
"Windows Media Audio and Video 9 Series is a breakthrough new set of codecs that enables high definition video at resolutions up to 1080p
and multichannel audio."
Microsoft Windows Media - WMV High Definition Video:
T2 EXTREME DVD - Technical Support FAQ:
Dolby Laboratories Begins Licensing Dolby Digital EX - Dolby
Digital EX (released in cinemas as Dolby Digital Surround EX), which
adds a Center Rear Surround Channel to the 5.1-channel format.
Dolby Digital Surround
Press Release: Dolby and Intel Launch Dolby PC Entertainment
Experience for PCs with Intel High-Definition Audio
Professional Magazine - The Multichannel
and High-Resolution Audio Authority & Surround Conference.
www.highfidelityreview.com - DVD-Audio &
- Surround Sound Coverage and Forums:
Surround 2002 Conference Coverage.
- Dolby Surround™ encoded music tracks to suit every taste,
presented as high-quality variable bit rate MPEG Layer-III files.
Produce your Own Surround CD from high-quality MPEG Audio Layer-III
variable bitrate (VBR100) music files, all of which are Dolby
Surround™ encoded stereo. Can be replayed by two-channel systems
but for best results should be Dolby Pro-logic™ decoded.
Secrets of Home
Theater and High Fidelity:
Technologies Still To Be Explored With
VST support (ASIO):
www.hdcd.com: Using 24 Bit Audio for
Audio CD's (HDCDs).
High Definition Content -
Windows Media Audio and Video 9 Series multichannel audio Content.