IMG Archives
Archives  Reviews  Revolution 7.1  

Manufacturer: M-Audio
Min OS X: Any Version    Requires: Free PCI Slot

Revolution 7.1
May 23, 2003 | Greg Gant

Revolution and DVDs
Possibly the most enticing feature of the Revolution 7.1 is its ability to play movies in surround sound, but thereís a hitch. It can only pass a Dolby Digital or DTS signal through the digital output using a media player called VLC (VideoLan Client). This means the digital output must be connected to a decoder such as a receiver, speakers with a digital input (with an internal decoder) or a stand-alone decoder device.

Iíve read many complaints about VLC, but honestly I donít have any problems with using VLC over Apple DVD Player. VLC may not have menu screen support, but one can still access the entire movie content. Both Dolby Digital and DTS worked fine. Due to the nature of digital sound, the quality was no different than watching the DVDs on the stand-alone DVD player in my living room with the same set of speakers.

At this time the Revolution cannot decode Dolby Digital, but luckily it includes SRS Labsí Circle Surround II (CSII), which can decode Prologic, Prologic II and Circle Surround encoded material and create into multi-channel sound from any stereo source. CSII also features SRS Dialog Clarity and SRS TruBass enhancements.

CSII does a fairly good job of performing advanced guesswork to turn stereo movies into 5.1, however it canít compare to the real thing. For the most part, it worked well, though I was caught off guard a few times when random audio came out the back speakers for no apparent reason. Since CSII can be applied to any stereo sound source, it also can be used to make music multi-channel as well. I found applying CSII to any source alters the soundscape. Iím a bit of a stickler when it comes to messing with my music, so I preferred plain olí vanilla stereo. Overall, I felt CSII did fairly good job decoding movies and proved to be better than I expected. On the other hand, I canít say the same about the other SRS Labs enhancements.

SRS Labs TruBass claims to make any speaker output deep, powerful bass without the aid of a subwoofer. After a quick listen, it was apparent that TruBass used some sort of algorithm that applies harmonics by mirroring bass frequencies at higher octaves to reinforce them. This is by no means a bad thing, but there is a tradeoff. When enabled, it detracts from the overall sound detail and even muffled softer tones. I found I preferred simply increasing the bass equalizer on my receiver or turning up the subwoofer volume on the computer speaker sets. SRS Dialog Clarity didnít impress me either. It sounded like a narrow band equalizer that simply increased upper midrange to give it more presence in order to help muffled vocals. I tried using SRS Dialog Clarity on low quality streaming video and noticed only minimal improvement. It also should be noted that neither TruBass nor Dialog Clarity could be used without CSII enabled.


Archives  Reviews  Revolution 7.1