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Mad Dog Entertainer 7.1 Sound Card Mad Dog Entertainer 7.1 Sound Card: We take a look at a 7.1 channel sound card that not only sounds great, but it's priced to move.
Date: March 22, 2004
Manufacturer:
Written By: Quasar
Price:

For the majority of users, I would imagine that quality sound is a must have for your PC. If you're an aspiring musician, quality sound is a must. Gamers or HTPC enthusiasts will certainly want something that doesn't sound like a five dollar sound card. You know the type... zero bass, nonexistent highs, and no lows to be found.

A few years ago, an addon sound card was mandatory for almost every pre-built or do-it-yourself (DIY) PC. Either the onboard solution was garbage, or more likely, your motherboard didn't have one. Over the past couple years, motherboard manufacturers began to add more onboard peripherals, including sound. Today, it is unthinkable to omit this feature, and in most cases, the onboard sound isn't too bad. For the most part, I am fine with many of today's solutions, although these onboard chips are not perfect in every scenario, which we've covered in our motherboard reviews.

Sometimes, we'll need to go old school, and in these cases, there is no replacing a good sound card. There is such a thing as good and bad sound cards though, and like most of the cases in the past, some money needs to be spent for a quality card. Though Creative Labs still dominates the consumer mindset when it comes to sound, VIA has been gaining momentum with their Envy24PT, which we covered briefly last year. Unless you're lucky enough to have a motherboard with an onboard Envy24PT, you'll still need to spend some dough picking up a standalone card featuring the Envy24PT.

Enter the Envy24HT-S, which is targeted more at the mainstream market. Our Envy24HT-S based card arrived in the form of the Mad Dog Entertainer 7.1 Sound Card. It's about half the price of the Envy24PT based products, but the question is, will it sound half as good?

Specifications

ENTERTAINER 7.1 DSP
8 Channel PCI Audio Card
24-bit Digital Signal Processor (DSP)
Sampling Rates up to 192 kHz
PCI 2.2 Interface with Bus Mastering and Burst Modes
3 Synchronous I2S/AC-link Output Data Stream Pairs
2 Synchronous I2S/AC-link Input Data Stream Pairs
Multi-channel AC-link Supported
Integrated S/PDIF Transmitter with IEC958 Line Driver
Digital Loop-back and Stream Routing Mechanism
ACPI and PCI PMI Support
I2C Subset Interface Peripherals Control

The Mad Dog Entertainer 7.1 Sound Card

The Mad Dog Entertainer 7.1 Sound Card's box clearly outline's the card's capabilities. Always a good thing when you're comparison shopping, and would like to compare products side-by-side. Inside, the sound card is secured in a recessed cardboard cutout which actually kept the card in place during shipping.

The card is, as expected, PCI-based. The small size will pretty much guarantee it will fit in almost every case or small form factor on the market. The only problem cases and SFFs will be those that require half height cards. The PCB is dark brown, with a small Mad Dog sticker covering the Envy24HT-S chip.

Peeling off the sticker reveals the star of today's show. The Envy24HT-S chip itself supports 7.1 channel output, as well as 24-bit/192kHz audio, which is a rare feature for a card in this price range. However, it is a bit misleading at the same time as in the case of the Mad Dog Entertainer, you'll only get 24-bit/192kHz sound depending on which sound outputs you use. The S/PDIF ports will support 24-bit/192kHz sound, but getting this quality out of the other ports will depend on how you choose to plug in your speakers.

The supports the AC'97 2.2 specification, and features 5.1 support and an 18-bit independent rate stereo ADC. Basically, you can record (analog) at 18-bit/48kHz, and output to six channels. As mentioned earlier, the Envy24HT-S is capable of outputing 8-channels, at 24-bits. In the case of the Mad Dog Entertainer, to get the most out of the Envy24HT-S, it needs some help. The comes into play on the Mad Dog Entertainer to output the coveted 24-bit through the rear center output. The WM8728 is a SACD compatible, 24-bit/192kHz audio DAC, which gives the Entertainer the 24-bit certification.

Therefore, the Mad Dog Entertainer is a 24-bit card, but will need some configuration in the drivers to get the most out of it. Another thing to point out is the card is lacking DirectSound hardware acceleration. This will place the work on the CPU, and this is something to consider if the games you play have a lot of 3D audio.

Coloured gold, there won't be any mistake which PCI backplate is the Entertainer. There are eight connections located on the backplate, which are: Front Out; Rear Out; CEN/LFE; Alt Center; Mic In; Line In; S/PDIF Out; S/PDIF In. On the top of the sound card, you also have your AUX and CD In connections.

Rounding out the package, we have a quick start guide, driver CD and an audio TOSLINK cable for digital sound.

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