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Interview: M-Audio's Jason Ivan
January 10, 2003 | Lucian Fong

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IMG: Will there be a control panel to allow users to adjust output volumes and other options?

JI: Yes. We think our Control Panel is an incredible asset. It makes it amazingly easy to control complicated features. A user can simply choose their speaker setup from a list (Midiland Mli 466 speakers, for example) and the Control Panel will automatically set crossover size, speaker size, number of speakers, speaker layout, and more. The user can also set the distance to the speaker (to optimize unbalanced speaker placement), adjust per-speaker volumes, perform speaker tests, and more. Theater-grade bass management sends bass that satellites can’t handle to a subwoofer and is modeled after bass management on high-end theater receivers. The interface is graphically rich and very Mac-like.

Speaker Setup

Output Mixer

Surround Sound

IMG: 6.1 and 7.1 sound is not very widespread among games or DVDs, yet this is a major selling point of the Revolution 7.1 and Sonica Theater. Why did M-Audio decide to include this feature?

JI: The two latest versions of Dolby Digital (Dolby Digital EX) and DTS (DTS ES) are basically 6.1 encoded. A number of popular movies, including The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars Episodes I and II, Terminator 2, Toy Story, the latest Austin Powers, etc. are all EX or ES encoded. So surround sound DVD content has clearly grown beyond 5.1. I should also note that 7.1 really refers to the speaker configuration, not the content. While EX content is 6.1, both the Dolby and THX websites recommend playing it back on a 7.1 speaker configuration. This is similar to how the older Dolby Pro Logic had two surround speakers that played back a mono surround channel. While Revolution and Sonica Theater also support true 7.1 output, they will still support playing back 6.1 content the way it was supposed to be played back…at 7.1. And while we don’t expect all of our users to jump right to 6.1/7.1, we didn’t feel that they’d want to be “outdated” the day the buy their card. The card will work just fine in 4.1 or 5.1 mode, but if you want the ultimate immersive experience, you can jump to 7.1.

IMG: While 2.1, 4.1, and 5.1 speaker systems are widely available, 6.1 and 7.1 systems are relatively uncommon. Where can Mac users interested in experiencing 6.1 and 7.1 sound find such systems?

JI: Great question. In the home theater world, 7.1 is definitely here. A number of well-known home theater receiver companies offer 7.1 receivers including: Onkyo, Rotel, Denon, Marantz, Harman Kardon, Sony, B&K, Sherwood, and a number of others. You can hook up as many speakers as you want and build a 7.1 system. The computer world is still catching up to the consumer electronics world, though. On the multimedia/powered speaker side, it’s been a catch 22 up until now. Until recently, there were no 6.1/7.1 sound cards, so no one created speakers to match. Now that there are three 6.1 or 7.1 sound cards available (for PC at least) including ours, we should see more speakers available. Creative has a 6.1 set and other speaker manufacturers we’ve talked to are working on 6.1 or 7.1 sets. We’re even thinking of creating our own 7.1 speaker set.

For now, users have three choices for 6.1/7.1: 1) plug into a 7.1 home theater receiver, 2) get the Creative 6.1 set, or 3) add a stereo speaker set to an existing 5.1 set. You can plug any powered stereo speaker set into the surround center left/right output to “expand” a 5.1 set to a 7.1 set. This is a really easy and cost-effective way to upgrade your speaker setup. Of course, you’ll do better to match your new speakers with your old.


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