|Interview: M-Audio's Jason Ivan|
January 10, 2003 | Lucian Fong
M-Audio, formerly Midiman, has catered their products toward the professional audio market since it's founding in 1988. With that experience in hand, they have now turned their attention to the consumer audio market. M-Audio has stormed onto the scene with three low cost, higher performance products: the Sonica, Sonica Theater, and Revolution 7.1. Today we speak with Jason Ivan, the Director of Product Marketing for M-Audio's Consumer Division. He joined the company to help start a line of products better positioned for consumer use: gaming, movie and music playback, etc.
IMG: Why did M-Audio decide to enter the consumer audio market?
Jason Ivan: We’d noticed that a lot of our “low end” professional cards were being bought for consumer use. People were building home theater computers, gaming computers, and music playback systems with our professional audio cards. While we think the Pro cards work great for many of these applications, we felt we could do better by designing products from the ground up with these uses in mind. Of course, we still think recording and other music technology is important and our consumer products work great for this, too. We also see audio as a fast-growing market. The huge popularity of DVDs and the increased use of the computer as a media hub means there’s a lot of need for high-quality stereo and surround sound audio solutions for the computer, and plenty of room for innovation.
IMG: Who is the Revolution 7.1 and Sonica Theater intended for and how do the two products differ?
JI: This is a big question :-) To intro this, I should probably talk a bit about the need we’re trying to fill in the market. With the popularity of CDs, MP3s, and now DVDs, the Mac has really become a true center for all your media. As the Mac gains more media capabilities, it can replace more and more consumer electronics devices. We really think Apple’s Digital Lifestyle strategy is going the right direction. However, up until now, most of the focus has been only on only two of the three parts of multimedia: graphics and video. The other part, audio, has been mostly ignored until recently, but Apple’s recent acquisition of Emagic (the makers of Logic Audio), and drastic improvements in Mac OS X’s audio architecture suggests that they’re serious about audio again. M-Audio is also attempting to bring audio up to the level it should be with our hardware and software solutions. Mac built-in audio has been stuck at 16-bit/44.1 since the Quadra days (1993), if not before. And there are a lot of Macs without the ability to record any audio at all. M-Audio wants to drive the audio revolution that’s beginning on the Mac right now.
Both Revolution 7.1 and Sonica Theater are intended for anyone who wants extremely high-quality audio playback or wants to upgrade the capabilities of their Mac’s built-in audio for MP3 playback, audio recording, gaming, surround sound DVD and music playback, media authoring, and more. Sonica Theater is a USB audio device, so it will work with any supported Mac or PC, not just a PCI-based machine. That means it will work with G4 Cubes, iMacs, PowerBooks, etc. For users who don’t have a G4 desktop, or for those who don’t like to install cards in their machine, Sonica Theater is the way to go. Because of the bandwidth limitations of USB, Sonica Theater is not able to do 24-bit/192kHz audio and has to scale back its 24-bit/96kHz capability to 24/48 in 5.1 and 16/44.1 in 7.1 mode. Revolution 7.1, however, is capable of full 24-bit/192kHz audio out all channels, and provides the highest-quality, lowest-latency audio available for the Mac. If you have a G4 with a PCI slot, you should get Revolution 7.1.