Mad Dog Entertainer 7.1 DSP Sound Card Review
Unlike the processor
and video card markets, where competing companies are virtually chained to a
six month or less product release schedule in order to remain competitive, progress in
other areas of computer technology keeps to a fairly sedate pace. That is to say,
technological progress is slower.
The pressures of marketing weigh equally heavy on
every sector. This can force companies into some innovative marketing and
packaging techniques, adding features onto a technological platform that has not
really changed in the hope of creating a 'new generation' of product on the
shoulders of the previous line. The soundcard market is a good example,
especially since a lot of the technology they are drawing on is common to the
home audio market, which has been stagnant for a long time.
The most recent breakthrough
in the computer audio market that anyone really noticed was Creative's introduction
of a (mostly) 24-bit audio product in the Audigy. Even in this
case, the company felt obliged to spice things up with firewire connectors
and other features, because 24-bit sound alone was not likely to convince
most users to upgrade.
that, the various 3D sound standards (EAX, Directsound3D, A3D) were the 'killer
apps' that convinced gamers to upgrade, since they offered a tangible
improvement over previous audio technology. There haven't been any major
breakthroughs in computer audio technology since then, so companies like VIA , who make audio chips
for computer applications have been forced to look elsewhere for innovations they can
use to sell their products.
A 7.1-channel surround sound audio chip seems
to be the current solution, though there are few matching speaker packages on
the market for consumer to even take advantage of.
||Mad Dog Entertainer 7.1 DSP
Optical Audio cable, drivers, instructions.|
In this review, PCstats will test out the Mad
Dog Multimedia's Entertainer 7.1 soundcard. This $60USD card looks to compete
directly with Creative's Audigy line, offering many of the same features at an
attractive price. It uses VIA's new Envy 24HT-S sound chip which boasts full
24-bit 192Khz capabilities.
The Entertainer 7.1 ships in a large-ish box
containing the card, driver CD, a single folded sheet of instructions covering
installation and the use of the VIA Envy audio control panel, an analog audio
cable to connect to a CD drive, and a six-foot SPDIF optical cable.
The card itself is pleasantly small (about the size
of one of the old SB live cards) and bristling with inputs, eight in all. From
the top of the card we have: Front Out, Rear Out, Center/LFE, alt center, Mic
in, Line in, S/PDIF out and S/PDIF in. Phew.
The body of the card sports a rather impressive
array of capacitors and one large IC. Peeling the label of this reveals the VIA
ENVY24HT-S sound processor chip. This is VIA's consumer level 7.1 capable
The included instruction sheet is brief but
precise, and gives the necessary instructions and photographs to enable
beginners to confidently install the card. The driver CD contains the drivers themselves, a
quick setup and eight-page PDF 'user guide' (well illustrated, but little more
informative than the included instruction sheet) as well as registration links
and Direct X.