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

Revolution 7.1
May 23, 2003 | Greg Gant

Revolution and Games
Unfortunately the Revolution does not provide any methodology for discrete multi-channel sound in games because the Mac still lacks any appropriate surround sound API for game developers and hardware manufactures to support. M-Audio has mentioned that it is interested in supporting such an API. If a solution pops up in the near future, chances are M-Audio will investigate pursuing it.

I did discover that games using the Miles Sound System (found in titles such as Medal of Honor and WarCraft III) supported Dolby Prologic output, which can be decoded with CSII for rudimentary surround sound. IMG readers reported mixed results and felt that it failed in comparison to other technologies present on other gaming platforms, though they were still happy to have it. My experience was similar. WarCraft has almost no surround sound to speak of and Medal of Honor only produced general sound effects out the back. I e-mailed RAD Game Tools, developers of the Miles Sound System and they were kind enough to compile a list of current Mac games that use the Miles sound system. This list can be found at here

Final Thoughts
It is odd to think a piece of computer hardware is so technically advanced that it will take years before it can be fully utilized (after high resolution audio becomes adopted). Aside from the lack of midi in/out, M-Audio includes everything one could hope for in a basic soundcard. I found myself pondering, What could M-Audio change if they wanted to make a Revolution 2 in a year or so? The only route M-Audio could possibly go is with the kitchen-sink approach, found in the Creative Audigy 1/2 Platinum models with fancy break out boxes and wireless remotes. Its a reassuring thought to know that even if M-Audio decides to dish out a Revolution 2 in a year or two, the Revolution wont be even close to being obsolete. The only thing holding it back now is lack of support. M-Audio has done its part, now its Apples turn. Itll be a glorious day when Apple blesses us with a fully functional DVD Player capable of outputting surround sound and a multi-channel gaming API. Until then, all we can do is wait.

My only major complaint is that the Revolution does not decode Dolby Digital. This means one cannot use analog speakers for discrete multi-channel sound, but instead must settle for CSII or use an external device to decode the signal. Also important to note is the lack of a basic equalizer, a feature consumer cards generally have. Lastly, M-Audio should include a high-resolution sound samples disc for disgruntled audio editors for video game publications for testing purposes. I cant blame M-Audio for the lack of consumer audio technologies on the Mac, so other than that, Im unusually gripe free.

I really like this card. For an audio geek like myself, having the ability to playback 192-kHz 24-bit sound even if I lack any source material to do so is heartwarming. Its the same warm fuzzy feeling as the hardcore gamer gets when he notices his computer is playing Quake 3 at 170 FPS. He cant see it, but he knows its there and it makes him happy.

With street prices as low as $89, its hard not to recommend the M-Audio Revolution 7.1. Heck, you can finally uninstall your old SB Live without any regrets.

The Good
Impressive Sound
Ability output Surround Sound and CSII decoding
Future minded

The Bad
No Dolby Digital decoding
No basic EQing
Lack of high-resolution media

Revolution 7.1
Manufacturer: M-Audio


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