AudioTrak Prodigy 7.1 - Performance Listening Tests
For subjective tests, I compared the Prodigy with two other Envy24 siblings, M-Audio's Revolution 7.1 and Terratec's rather good DMX 6-fire. If I was a competent reviewer, I would also include Creative's Audigy2, but I don't have one in-house. I humbly suggest that the Audigy2 could not compete here anyway, in terms of sound quality. I used a combination of WMP8 for CD's and WinAMP3 for MP3's and .wav files.
I noticed one small bug, which, according to the AudioTrak forums, isn't a Prodigy problem. Every so often, a constant hum will be produced when pausing a sound file. This appears to be a Windows problem. I'm sure Microsoft is working on it.
All sarcasm aside, I like what I hear with the Prodigy. I really enjoyed the presentation of the Prodigy, big bass, not too bright, and a very wide sound field of moderate depth. I am generally very pleased with the quality of the VIA/ICE Ensemble Envy24 chips in general, and the Prodigy doesn't let the family down.
With the Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic" off of the Hello Nasty CD, the Prodigy put out some tight, crisp bass, but not exceptionally gripping. There are a lot of ambient sounds flying about the song, uh, thusly imparting a spacey sound to the song. It was easy to place sounds moving about, as well as the vocal tracks which have a different places in the field.
On 'Paranoid Android' off of Radiohead's OK Computer, the Prodigy produced less of a sharp 'tick' sound of the ride cymbal. It did have a deeper bass 'thump' on the kick drum, especially with the headphone amp kicked in. The Prodigy also put out a very wide stereo field, reproducing fine detail of the claves and the washboard, which to my ears was just a little better than the M-Audio.
For those with a classical bent, a live recording of Beethoven's Op. 131 for string quartet fits the bill. The first movement opens with a fugue, where a simple melody gets passed around from instrument to instrument. Where the Revo produces a bright and detailed sound, the Prodigy produced a deeper and more tonally satisfying sound. Dynamics are really the name of the game with classical music, especially intimate, quiet Beethoven. The Prodigy seemed to portray a better sense of those dynamic swings, making dramatic swells and decrescendos sound very much like the original performance. The Prodigy was closer to the DMX 6-fire in this regard than the Revolution.
The Prodigy is an outstanding performer, just like its cousin the Revolution. It has a very smooth delivery of sound that I really enjoyed. Man, nothing felt rushed listening with the Prodigy. It's not as detailed in the higher octaves as the M-Audio Revolution, but it has a deeper bass reach and better low level detail. The Prodigy couldn't quite reach the crushing performance that the DMX 6-fire commands, but it was closer to it than the Revolution. The Revolution is a Rock'n Roll kind of card, ballsy and fun; it makes you shake your booty. The Prodigy is a little more refined, like Belgian chocolate, smooth, pleasant, and tasty. They both have great detail, but the Prodigy brought out small details like room reverb just a little better and placed instruments a little more accurately in the stereo field.