Mad Dog Entertainer 7.1 Sound Card

Soundcards and Speakers 106 Page 8 of 9 Published by


Performance - Listening

Listening Tests
As always, testing a sound card comes with the penalty of reviewing subjectively. I used a pair of Grado SR-125 headphones for all critical listening. WinAMP 5 was used simply because it offers fast switching between sound cards.  Foobar2000 was used for kernel streaming the 96kHz and 192kHz waves to the Prodigy and Entertainer. Thanks go to reader A/S/LayerAODsk for pointing us to Foobar.  Dude.  Rockage!

Media used:

  • Jimi Hendrix, Little Wing, 320kbit MP3, LAME 3.94b
  • James Brown, Papa Don't Take no Mess, 16 bit/44.1kHz WAV
  • Patterson, String Quartet No.1, 16 bit/44.1kHz WAV
  • White Stripes, Ball 'n Biscuit, 24 bit/96kHz WAV
  • Bob Marley, Jammin', 24 bit/192kHz WAV

As we know there are two DAC's onboard the Entertainer, the VIA SixTRAC and a Wolfson DAC. By selecting "enable high-sample rate" the Wolfson drives the 'Alt-center' speaker outputs, which were used for the 96kHz and above sampling frequencies. The analogue source is a Rega Planar 2 with a Sumiko Blue Point cartridge.  Ah, the credit card years.

Jimi Hendrix, Little Wing, 320kbps LAME 3.94b. This song steals large parts of guitarists lives to learn every lick contained within. The Entertainer in SixTRAC mode sounded very good. However, the SoundStorm did have a slight edge in separating the instruments. The Entertainer was a bit more blended, if you will, and was a little more difficult to pick out bells, bass, and such. Winner, SoundStorm, but just by a hair.

James Brown, Papa Don't Take No Mess, 16 bit/44.1kHz. Getting the funk out, it was clear that the DMX 6-fire is king of this roundup. But, this is not a DMX 6-fire review. Likewise, the Prodigy is not far behind the DMX 6-fire. The soundstage for the song is very wide, with many instruments populating the sound field, and not to mention, funky. The Entertainer has a fairly short soundstage, and at times seemed like it was blaring at you. It reproduced the reverb decay very well and with lots of low level detail, which harkens back to the Santa Cruz. SoundStorm produces very good sound as well, however it is bass shy. Funk is all about the bass guitar. It didn't seem to offer the same level of detail as the Entertainer with this song, either, with cymbals especially not coming across very life-like with SoundStorm. This is a win for the Entertainer in either SixTRAC or Wolfson DAC mode.

Robert Patterson, Quartet No. 1, 16 bit/44.1kHz live recording. Imagine a country tune played by a classical string quartet on crack. It's a beautiful nightmare. The Prodigy kicked ass, as did the DMX 6-fire, which excels at classical music. Strings are not kind to the Entertainer, however. There was a lot of grain or hash, or whatever you call it, surrounding the instruments that were not present in the other sound cards. The SoundStorm was very fine, clean and clear. Winner, SoundStorm!

The White Stripes, Ball 'n Biscuit, 24 bit/96kHz, digitized from the vinyl edition of Elephant. Totally retro. It's not a complicated song, nor are White Stripes a paragon of fidelity, but the Entertainer handled it well. The snare drum was snappy and the kick drum was deep, but not flabby. Sibilance, which is the bane of vinyl, was not as crisp and defined with the SoundStorm. Winner, White Stripes!

Bob Marley, Jammin', 24 bit/192kHz digitization of the vinyl. If you thought 96kHz was overkill, then 192kHz is definitely Vinyl Armageddon. Vinylgeddon? Eh?  Whatever.  The Prodigy 7.1 wins this one hands down. It was the full bass sound and detailed, but not overly bright, top end that clinched it. The Entertainer indeed had the bass, but the high end was too bright.  The backing vocals were not as clear as the Prodigy. While not being as good as the Prodigy, the Entertainer certainly gets kudos for being cheaper, and still being able to play such high-resolution sound files.

It may look bleak, but the Entertainer did very well, actually. It does indeed support 24 bit/192kHz sound files, and wins 3 out of 5 songs against nVidia's SoundStorm. Compared to the higher priced sound cards in this round-up, both the Entertainer and the SoundStorm sound a little thin. The SoundStorm is getting old, but it's not out. Rumor has it that nVidia will put out a new APU. Keep an eye out for it. Until then, perhaps an Entertainer can, ah, entertain you?

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