The Revolution in Video
So, you like to play games? I've been playing more games lately, not because there are better games out (there aren't), it's just that I'm avoiding doing work I'm supposed to do. Like writing reviews. Ahem.
I tested the Revolution 7.1 with a variety of games, with and without the Sensaura 3D game mode. I can recommend players not use the Sensaura 3D with the Revolution 7.1 as it produces a little bit of lag in the sound, perhaps about 1/16th of a second. It was easy to adapt to it, but still pretty annoying. For my own gaming pleasure, I left Sensaura 3D off.
Also of importance is the use of headphones. If you haven't used the AudigyDrive's or a similar external breakout box, going back to plugging stuff into the back of your sound card seems, well, primitive. I get around it by having an extension cable that I can plug into the sound card. You can get extension cables at RadioShack, or go for some quality Grado cables. Anyway, I still miss the external volume control. There's nothing like firing up CounterStrike only to discover you've left the volume at ear-splitting levels. And the AK is extremely loud.
Warcraft III: Frozen Throne
This game has lots of ambient sound. Due to the fact that the Revolution 7.1 has a relatively short soundstage, I didn't get as much immersion as I did with the DMX 6-fire. I wasn't disappointed, certainly, but nor was I blown away. Warcraft III needs a sound card that can deliver clean, crisp sound and the Revolution 7.1 delivered that with fidelity to spare.
I'm back on my old addiction, CounterStrike. I should probably play through Half-Life again to get ready for Half-Life 2. In any event, the Revolution 7.1 pounded me with high volumes until I could get it set just right. One very good compliment for the Revolution 7.1 came at a LAN party where one player was repeatedly getting spanked by another player using the Revolution. When the player in question asked how he was doing it, the guy replied, "I heard you coming." I don't think you can publish a higher compliment for a sound card.
Splinter Cell - Demo
I'm too cheap to get the full game, especially when the local retailer is out of stock. Sneaker/Shooters are especially sensitive to environmental sounds, and a great place to show of EAX. The Revolution 7.1 produced fine, crisp, detailed sound. There wasn't any confusion about any of Splinter Cell's sounds. It was all vividly audible. That being said, there wasn't anything remarkable, either. EAX is better for games than Sensaura.
Soap Box Alert: For fast-twitch games like Quake, who is going to care about audible environment modeling? The action just goes by too fast. For games that require more ambiance for immersion, like sneakers, it just might be an important, ground-breaking, earth-shattering, revolutionary (excuse the pun), feature. But for now, it doesn't work. I think eye candy has been much more important than ear candy in game engines these days, and I hope that will change. I hope that some day I cannot hear through concrete walls.
The use of the Revolution 7.1's SRS TruSurround technology in DVD's is interesting. It worked well for regular speakers, but not so well for headphones. Creative's CMSS technology was far less heavy-handed in its effects and worked better, to my recollection. I suppose the SRS technology relies heavily on interaural crosstalk to be effective. With headphones, most sounds were a little smeared, unclear, and too distant. SRS does have headphone enhancement technology, but M-Audio doesn't use it for the Revolution 7.1 Normal stereo had better placement cues than the SRS with headphones.
The control panel doesn't provide adjustments to the amount of the SRS TruSurround that is employed, but you can tweak 'dialog enhancement' and 'bass'. Dialogue enhancement didn't produce much effect, or at least very subtle, on Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. I'm sure feral screams from early humans doesn't count as dialogue, and SRS didn't do much to enhance it. I watched the rest of the movie in stereo.
With Pulp Fiction the SRS TruSurround wasn't so bad. I left the SRS on and was not annoyed with the difference. I played around a little bit with the dialogue settings of the SRS, but I eventually left it alone to watch the movie with SRS engaged.
The SRS TruSurround technology works well, provided you don't use them with headphones. The effect is a little heavy handed compared to other multi-channel expanders, but it does give a good challenge to Creative's CMSS technology.