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Christopher

Want a NICE cheap soundcard with digital out?

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If you live in the US or can find a retailer that will ship internationally [if necessary], do yourself a favor and get one of the best valued soundcards on the internet today! I'm just about to order one, myself.

It's called the Chaintech AV-710.

For a mere ~$30ish, you get:

* PCI 2.2 I/F with bus mastering and burst modes

* 24-bit resolution audio format support

* Sampling rates up to 192KHz

* Supports Mic In / Line In / 4 Line outs & Digital Optical output

* 2 separate CD audio stereo inputs

* ACPI and PCI PMI support

* Windows WDM drivers

* Dimension:120mm x 106mm

..and more! This little gem is buzzing around the audio communities and I thought I'd share.

You can find e-tailers and prices here: http://froogle.google.com/froogle?q=av-710...ab=if&scoring=p

Here's a mini-review I leeched off Head-Fi [click here for the original review]:

In response to Tuberoller's demand, er, plea for reviews, and plus the fact that the AV-710 is becoming quite popular, yet no reviews, I decided to write one. I'm quite pleased with mine, anyway. I blame all errors on the fact that I'm simultaneously studying the OSI Layers while writing this. With that said, let the fun begin...

Brief History

For the longest time, computer audio seemed to be doomed. Creative was pretty much the only available card without spending hundreds. Turtle Beach and Hercules were players, but small ones, and they didn't have the greatest game support. Then, along came the M-Audio Revolution. Great, people thought, now we can have 24/192 support for under $100. Sure, it didn't have the greatest game support compared to Creative's offerings, but for the audiophile on a budget, this was as as close to heaven as you could get. And then, the Chaintech AV-710 came out. Envy24HT based chip, the same as the Revo, 24/192 support, 7.1 card, and all for $25. The Revo uses a Asahi-Kasei AK4381 DAC, whereas the AV-710 uses a Wolfson WM8728. (Note these both only apply to 2-channel mode. The surrounds use lesser DACs) The AK4381 has a 108dB SNR, opposed to the WM8728's 106dB SNR. I highly doubt you'll notice any difference between these two, but still, for the anal amongst us, (GUILTY!) the difference is there. They are both 24/192 capable chips, however. In any case, this card was an answer to prayer. Finally, high quality PC audio was available to the masses, and with a price tag like that, no one could ignore it.

Specifications

Envy24HT-S Controller

Wolfson WM8728 24/192 DAC for 2-channel mode

Via VT1616 18/VSR (Variable Sample Rate) DAC for Surround

7.1 Capable

Mic In/Line In/Surround Outs/Optical Out

Bundled with optical cable, drivers, WinDVD, and WinRip

OS Compatibility

This is a big issue for many people here, and I think many times reviewers forget that not everyone uses Windows exclusively. No offense, of course, but hey, we are here That being said, this card can be used in Linux, from what I've read, using ALSA. This page has some good info on anything related to audio and Linux, but is quite long. Should answer any questions you have, though. Macintosh users, sorry, you're on your own. Googling didn't turn up anything.

Sound Quality

Ah, the one you've all been waiting for. Before I begin, I want you to know that is is all strictly subjective, IMO, YMMV. Equipment used was the AV-710 (duh) with JP3/4 jumpered to 1-2 (more on that later), running through the Rear Out with Hi-Rez mode enabled, through a fairly crappy/normal 1/8" mini-mini to an AD832AN-powered CMoy running off of 12v AC, to HD 280 Pros, well burned in (~800 hours as of May 2004), with the Blue Tack Mod applied. 280 bashers may now shut up

Bass

Combined with the CMoy amp, this thing will shake your head apart. I realize the 280s aren't known for their qualities, but I doubt anyone will argue that they go LOW. 20Hz is no problem for these. After Blue Tack, they'll pump out low and mid bass as pretty as you please. The German EBM band Eisbrecher has some pretty serious bass on their tracks, and it's reproduced beautifully.

Midrange

Dream Theater is a well-known progressive rock/metal band, and for good reason. Their music flat out rocks. James LaBrie has rather interesting and powerful vocals, with tons of midrange. It's reproduced beautifully clear here, with no signs of clipping, harshness, or sibilance.

Treble

This is my (and others) only beef with the card; with certain CDs, notably newer ones (2000s mostly), there is harshness occasionally on cymbals, guitar solos, and some vocalists. It doesn't happen often, but it is there. The fact that it happens mostly with newer CDs leads me to believe it's mostly due to the hyper-compression applied to modern CDs. Other than that, though, it rocks. Marshall stack sound comes through loud and clear, bells ring loud and clear, applause is sharp and crisp.

Overall

The sound is tight, fast, and ready for any musical genre. I've thrown everything under the sun at this; Dream Theater, Eisbrecher, Elton John, Metallica, Michael W. Smith (his _Freedom_ symphony album) Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Tool... the list goes on. It handles them all with grace and adapts to the musical style. It can be slow and soothing one second and suddenly jump into an all out barrage on your senses. I was in awe just tonight while listening to Dream Theater's track 'Disappear' off their CD, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. I could hear individual guitar strings being plucked as he strummed chords. The vocals were crisp and well defined. It was one of those moments where you just stop whatever you're doing and sit back and marvel.

Tweaks

user posted image

As with all things, there are things that can be tweaked. The very first thing you should do is make sure you've installed VIA's drivers, not Chaintech's, on the CD with the card. The 1.43d drivers seem to be the best as of now (May 2004), but be on the lookout for better ones. After you've convinced Windows that you want these installed (not an easy task sometimes), go into the Envy Audio Deck, click on the Digital Out tab, and make sure the Enable Digital Output box is checked. Then go down and check Enable High Sample Rate box.

I mentioned changing jumpers around earlier; this is a good start for actual mods. Look on the very upper left hand of the card, to the right of the screw, where you'll see 'JP3/JP3', and settings. Notice one says Line-Out, and the other Speaker-Out. Now, we don't want things getting amplified twice, do we? So, find JP3/4. Go over to the right about an inch, to the jumper bank labelled Front Audio. Now go down, and you'll see a chip marked U14. Directly below this are the jumpers in question. Move both of them over one notch, so they short pins one and two. Congratulations, you just modded the card! Doesn't that feel good? Now, these results have not been verified, but I thought there was increased bass, for one, and an overall tightening of the sound with this tweak. YMMV.

Also, you're going to want to get ASIO support enabled on this card double-quick. Kernel Streaming is another option, but I like having a known standard. So, how to accomplish this? ASIO4All. Download the .zip (~80K), drop the .dll into your %systemroot% folder, open your favorite audio application, and choose ASIO as the output method. (you'll have to have an ASIO plugin installed for your audio player of choice already) Also of note, it's important to make sure Wuschel's ASIO4All is the method selected. Then, open up the ASIO4All control panel (should be a shortcut on the desktop and in Start Menu) and start playing. You'll first want to try the Direct DMA Buffer I/O method, but if that fails, disable it, and start playing with buffer sizes. Also of note, reduce the buffer size in your audio player to 0, and let ASIO4All deal with that. The buffer size needed is likely going to vary widely depending on your system configuration. I'm running 1024/2, but that's just because I got tired of occasional pops while launching an application. I can have it down to around 500 if all I'm doing is listening to music or browsing the internet, but launching anything causes pops and crackles. For output options, you're going to want to disable any resamplers you have running, as this is going to output a bit-perfect 44.1KHz stream that completely bypasses KMixer. Rejoice! Output bitdepth is up to you, but might as well bring it up to 24 bit. Padding to 32 bit seems to work best with ASIO4All.

Finally, there have been a few threads about more in-depth modding. Everything from replacing op-amps and capacitors to cutting traces. I'm considering switching out some caps at some point, but you're completely on your own with this. Good luck.

Conclusion

People who've heard both the M-Audio Revolution and the Chaintech AV-710 say the differences, if any, are so slight that most people aren't going to notice them. For $25 as opposed to the Revo's $100 price tag, you can't ignore this card. If you're hesitant about PC audio, pick up this card. Hook up a nice amp, sit back, and go through a few of your favorite CDs. Then, of course, you'll upgrade to an Emu or RME, and then you'll mod

it...

Highly recommended.

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Hey, this card sounds pretty good. It'd make a nice upgrade to my damn awful Soundblaster!

Done a bit of searching and haven't been able to find any UK suppliers. It's a shame .. $30 is a steal!

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I've had this soundcard for some time on my Win2000 box... Just recently I switched that over to Ubuntu Linux and it doesn't work now. Has anyone had any luck getting this to work w/Linux?

EDIT: Nevermind, I just found this: http://www.ubuntuforums.org/archive/index.php/t-187920.html

Hopefully I can get things working now...

Edited by raintheory

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Without meaning to sound pointless, is the only reason to get this because it has optical, because every onboard soundcard has an Optical out these days. Not having invested a great deal of time into what sound comes out of my PC I can't speak subjectively.

I was however going to plump for one of those Onkyo 'cards, and I think it's about time I did something.

Are these really that good, or is it worth the extortion of this

http://www.audiocubes2.com/category/Computer+Accessories/product/Onkyo_SE-200PCI_HD_PCI_Digital_Audio_Board.html ?

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Without meaning to sound pointless, is the only reason to get this because it has optical, because every onboard soundcard has an Optical out these days. Not having invested a great deal of time into what sound comes out of my PC I can't speak subjectively.

I was however going to plump for one of those Onkyo 'cards, and I think it's about time I did something.

Are these really that good, or is it worth the extortion of this

http://www.audiocubes2.com/category/Computer+Accessories/product/Onkyo_SE-200PCI_HD_PCI_Digital_Audio_Board.html ?

There's another thread here where the guy mentioned that he found the card I recommend which has optical IN as well as out, going for $12 + shipping.

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Consider one of these http://trust.com/products/productdrivers.aspx?artnr=12950

I have one, it cost me approx

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I like the looks of that Onkyo card, lots of monster capacitors and a high S/N ratio. Anyone listen to it yet? I have a Creative Fatality Platinum that I'm pleased with, sound wise. Don't bother using it with Vista though, not worth the trouble. Works fine in my older XP box :)

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That looks like a very nice card, Wizard. I noticed it has "Vector Linear Shaping Circuitry", is that what the Onkyos use? Sounds promising, please post your findings!

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Hi to everybody. I'm also in the "quest" for a soundcard for my pc with digital output. I live in a very small apartment, so my girlfriend and me have to use pcs for almost all media actions (not hearing music, thanks to MD!!!), and we don't have any HI-Fi or DVD player.

I would like not to be dependant of going to my parents' home to use their dvd player to record MD from CDs (using SP in my collection).

The problem is both have only laptops, so I need an external soundcard, usb or pci express one, as I have said before, with optical output to record the MDs, but I can't find any. Do you know something about them?

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One word comes to mind immediately - "Extigy". (EXTernal version of the audIGY)

There are probably others (eg from NAD, Sinclair) but I bet this is the most affordable (it is/was by Creative).

There's also that Aussie gizmo that (I think) Sony adopted, when they didn't have NetMD ready, called a Xitel MDPORT. The one you probably want is the MDPORT-DG2, if you can find one.

Here it is, $11 Aus, what a deal I'll almost get one just for the heck of supporting my laptop some day.

http://cgi.ebay.com.au/Xitel-MD-Port-DG2-sound-card-w-Optical-Cable-MP3-Music_W0QQitemZ140392830704

There - I just did it.... they've got lots.

Stephen

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Here's another one. I held off because it's NOT clear to me that it will force 44.1Khz on output.

http://cgi.ebay.com.au/7-1CH-USB-2-0-External-Optical-Sound-Card-Audio-Adapter_W0QQitemZ280403228946

For some reason the magic trick seems to be to look in Australia. Weird.

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Uauh! Thanks Stephen :D A nice help.

I think that Xitel MD-Port DG2 is what I was looking for. Just two questions:

Do you think I will get same quality reconrding cds from my tablet pc using this than using dvd player? I mean, last one is a very good one, but given I'll use digital output I believe quality is the same (more or less) but it would be good to confirm :)

And second, but not less important: does anyone know if this would work under Windows 7?

Thanks a lot.

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TBH, the second one looks newer (and therefore more capable), and more likely to work with 7. At the ridiculous prices (no more than a simple cable) I got myself one for a rainy day anyway.

About W7: good question, I have no idea. That's the first thing I will do before my W7RC version expires forever on 1/June.

Stephen

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Thanks Stephen. I will contact the vendor to ask about w7, but if he couldn't confirm me anything (in one way or another) I think i'll dare to buy it and try myself. I'm thinking that if I can get it works under 7, it will almost surely work under Xp, so maybe I culd try using xp mode as I do with my old scanner.

I'll let you know what I can discover.

TBH, the second one looks newer (and therefore more capable), and more likely to work with 7. At the ridiculous prices (no more than a simple cable) I got myself one for a rainy day anyway.

About W7: good question, I have no idea. That's the first thing I will do before my W7RC version expires forever on 1/June.

Stephen

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Thanks Stephen. I will contact the vendor to ask about w7, but if he couldn't confirm me anything (in one way or another) I think i'll dare to buy it and try myself. I'm thinking that if I can get it works under 7, it will almost surely work under Xp, so maybe I culd try using xp mode as I do with my old scanner.

I'll let you know what I can discover.

Talisin,

http://www.dansdata.com/xitel.htm

It's detected as a "USB audio device", in theory no drivers needed and it should "just work". I've got a couple of DG2's on the way and also plan to use them with Windows 7. In theory under Linux also and I plan to try with Ubuntu too.

A Xitel DG2 is my recommendation given your scenario with digital optical recording and laptops.

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My HTPC ended up with THREE audio devices (the HDMI card with the graphics chip, the motherboard sound card, and bluetooth Audio). The difficulty (usually I think) that I have had is that the default is hard to control. This has meant on occasion disabling one of them completely to get one of the others to work.

I'm intrigued by the orange one because of its ability to accept recordings IN. Not sure how this will work but I am always being amazed by the little things :)

Stephen

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Talisin,

http://www.dansdata.com/xitel.htm

It's detected as a "USB audio device", in theory no drivers needed and it should "just work". I've got a couple of DG2's on the way and also plan to use them with Windows 7. In theory under Linux also and I plan to try with Ubuntu too.

A Xitel DG2 is my recommendation given your scenario with digital optical recording and laptops.

Hey Himran, thanks for the information and the review link ::) I'm going for one, definitively :D

And Stephen, if the only problem is disable the default soundcard for recording my MDs at home, I'm glad :D

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Here's another one. I held off because it's NOT clear to me that it will force 44.1Khz on output.

http://cgi.ebay.com.au/7-1CH-USB-2-0-External-Optical-Sound-Card-Audio-Adapter_W0QQitemZ280403228946

For some reason the magic trick seems to be to look in Australia. Weird.

It does seem, that whilst the Xitel-DG2 does output at the proper frequency of 44.1Khz (or 48Khz if that was the source), the 7.1 adapter referred to (which just arrived today) DOES force the output to 48Khz sample rate (I checked because my amp has a readout showing what the input frequency is). I recorded a CD track to an NH600's optical in, and the recording was ok, but I cannot definitively say that it was better/worse than with other devices known to output 44.1kHz.

Now I have also tested its ability to record INTO its TOSLink/SPDIF optical socket, and that much works. Again I have no clue if this is being sampled and resampled, and what that does to the quality of the sound.

Maybe someone with more knowledge would like to predict??

One more thing: the orange one came with drivers for Windows 7.

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It does seem, that whilst the Xitel-DG2 does output at the proper frequency of 44.1Khz (or 48Khz if that was the source), the 7.1 adapter referred to (which just arrived today) DOES force the output to 48Khz sample rate (I checked because my amp has a readout showing what the input frequency is). I recorded a CD track to an NH600's optical in, and the recording was ok, but I cannot definitively say that it was better/worse than with other devices known to output 44.1kHz.

Now I have also tested its ability to record INTO its TOSLink/SPDIF optical socket, and that much works. Again I have no clue if this is being sampled and resampled, and what that does to the quality of the sound.

Maybe someone with more knowledge would like to predict??

One more thing: the orange one came with drivers for Windows 7.

What do you mean,"record INTO its TOSLink/SPDIF optical socket? I'm intrigued.

-ja

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What do you mean,"record INTO its TOSLink/SPDIF optical socket? I'm intrigued.

-ja

This is a means to add optical (digital) input to any computer with USB. So now even my laptop can use waverec/audition/cooledit/sound forge to capture the digital emanations without using the infamous (and usually-flawed) line in (on most computers it simply isn't good enough).

It has digital output too at 48kHz.

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It does seem, that whilst the Xitel-DG2 does output at the proper frequency of 44.1Khz (or 48Khz if that was the source), the 7.1 adapter referred to (which just arrived today) DOES force the output to 48Khz sample rate (I checked because my amp has a readout showing what the input frequency is). I recorded a CD track to an NH600's optical in, and the recording was ok, but I cannot definitively say that it was better/worse than with other devices known to output 44.1kHz.

Now I have also tested its ability to record INTO its TOSLink/SPDIF optical socket, and that much works. Again I have no clue if this is being sampled and resampled, and what that does to the quality of the sound.

Maybe someone with more knowledge would like to predict??

One more thing: the orange one came with drivers for Windows 7.

What do you mean by "record INTO it's TOSLink/SPDIP optical socket"? I'm intrigued.

ja

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Asked and answered....?

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Asked and answered....?

I hit 'send twice' sorry....two left thumbs on the keyboard yet, I coordinate four limbs on the drum kit... go figure.

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Hi guys!

I received yesterday the Xitel-DG2, and making tests today. First one is a SP recording of Bat out Hell (Meat Loaf), and for now, I can't differenciate it from my another SP recording MD from the same album made with digital output from a JVC DVD Player, so it seems good, and given sfbp has said DG2 outputs at proper frequency, I think this is a winner!!!

Now I can get my sp MD collection continues growing every day, not having to wait being at parent's home to take borrow the DVD player. Great!

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