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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:

Test Setup

ABIT NF7-S v2.0: AMD Barton 2500+, 2 x 256MB Corsair TWINX PC3200, MSI FX5700 Ultra, 80GB Western Digital, Windows XP SP1, ForceWare 56.64 (Video), ForceWare 3.13 (nForce 2).

Software used for benchmark testing:

Audio Winbench99
TMPGEnc AVI+WAV to MPEG
Unreal Tournament 2003

We'll also be covering subjective testing after the benchmarks. We'll be comparing the Entertainer to the onboard nVidia solution.

Audio Winbench

Screenshot 1
Screenshot 2

As indicated in the screenshots, red denotes the best scores, and we can see an awful lot of red for the Entertainer. Performance was very close, but the Entertainer seems to be less CPU dependent than the nVidia solution.

TMPGEnc AVI+WAV to MPEG

In order to test the codec and CPU usage, we'll be encoding an AVI and WAV file into a VCD compliant MPEG-1 file as outlined by this procedure here. Lower times are better.

Sound Card
Time in Minutes:Seconds
Mad Dog Entertainer
1:40
nForce 2 Onboard
1:43

As we've seen with the Audio Winbench, less CPU usage for sound processing means more for other tasks. I was quite surprised to see such a large gap, though through five runs of this test, the gap did hit four seconds once.

Unreal Tournament 2003

Citadel Map
1024x768
640x480
Mad Dog Entertainer
102.31
122.91
nForce 2 Onboard
99.53
113.71

Although we can see better performance at both resolutions in favour of the Entertainer, the Mad Dog card does suffer a larger performance hit, percentage-wise, against itself when moving up in resolution.

Inferno Map
1024x768
640x480
Mad Dog Entertainer
156.94
160.21
nForce 2 Onboard
87.67
89.69

We see similar results on the Inferno benchmark, as we do in Citadel.

Antalus Map
1024x768
640x480
Mad Dog Entertainer
124.57
125.45
nForce 2 Onboard
113.66
114.63

Not much of a change between the two, though the nForce 2's onboard sound consistently won this particular test when it comes to percentage of lost performance. That being said, we can see the Entertainer having the edge when it comes to framerates.

Final Words

Certainly, if you have the speakers, 7.1 sound should be more immersive than 5.1. That being said, I used my Klipsch ProMedia 5.1 speakers, and played a variety of rock and dance CDs to gauge the quality without the Wolfson DAC (hence only six channels). To be honest, both the Entertainer and the nForce 2 sounded very good, and it was tough to pick out a clear winner. However, the Entertainer had a much more extensive software control panel, and it was much easier to tweak the music to how I like it.

Gaming is much like the CD playback, in that it is very good. I don't have any complaints about it, though the lack of hardware channels will mean more of a performance hit compared to the Audigy cards should the game require them. However, compared to the best onboard solution we have, the Entertainer should get the job done.

DVD playback was very good, and the true test was watching the Lord of the Rings: Two Towers and the attack on Helms Keep. Quite amazing, and the Entertainer is about as close to theater quality as I could get in my cluttered dorm room.

As for the recording, we tested the card tolerance to distortion, which is something I know Hubert complains about quite often with onboard sound. At the highest recording volume, there was practically no distortion. At default driver setup, there was a bit of hiss, but the software control eliminates most of it. The actual quality of the recording was decent, but the average quality of my mic was likely the bottleneck here. Be aware that the card does not support 24-bit analogue recording, so serious musicians may want to look elsewhere.

Pros: Great sound quality, well priced, 24-bit output, low CPU usage.

Cons: No DirectSound hardware acceleration, software configuration required for 7.1 sound.

Bottom Line: A very solid card, and well worth the 60$ street price. If you're looking for a new sound card without the big price tag, the Entertainer is worth a look.

If you have any comments, be sure to hit us up in our forums.

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