As time progresses, the role of computers in our lives progresses and evolves into machines that are commonly used for a host of different tasks - companies are now creating computers meant for digital video editing, gaming, serving, and acting as a media center. With this so called "evolution" of computers, components have been universally standardized (companies such as Dell now use non-proprietary components,) which has allowed for the component market to expand with new vendors, as well as new chipsets.
For a long time, Creative has been known for their dominance in the sound card industry, their DSP (Digital Sound Processing) is boasted by many an audiophile to be the best for a non-professional sound card. Companies have taken up Creative as a rival in the past before, such as Aureal, and even now, Creative has competition in the market - such as M-Audio, Hercules, and C-Media now present consumer sound cards that have been successful. Today I will be reviewing Chaintech's C-Media based sound card, the .
The first thing that I must point out about Chaintech's AV-515M is that it is a budget sound card. In this review, I will be pitting it against a Creative Soundblaster Audigy Platinum. Pricewatch shows the card retailing for $126.00 USD + shipping, while Chaintech's AV-515M is listed for $21 USD + shipping. That's roughly a $100 difference between the two.
However, certain extras are included with the Audigy that boost up the price - so I will instead disregard the Platinum features of the Audigy and treat it as the non-platinum version, which retails (boxed) for $80 USD. Is the $60 dollar difference between the sound cards really worth it?
Chaintech AV-515M: New Multi-channel sound Chip: C-Media 8738 - 6 Channel MX
6 Channel Output Support
Supports 6 output speakers
Supports Dolby AC-3 5.1 channel specification
OP101 SPDIF IN/OUT daughter board
Supports Toslink optical fiber input/output
Free Bundle: AudioRack stereo center
Control/Edit wave, mid, MP3 on a stereo center
New Version supports 6 channel speakers
Free Bundle: Software DVD
Intervideo WinDVD (5.1 Channel) software DVD player
Some of these specifications are implicitly true for the Chaintech card (such as AC '97, Plug and Play, DirectSound, and PC 2.1 compliance.) The only feature that really stands out in the Audigy is that it by default has a firewire compatible port onboard.
The Chaintech card is approximately two inches smaller (lengthwise) than the Audigy, and has a somewhat substantial section of PCB that is unmarked, whereas the Audigy's PCB is littered with connections and small IC's (Integrated Circuits.) Included with Chaintech's card is Intervideo WinDVD, and a daughter board that allows for optical input and output. Unfortunately, I do not have the proper utilities to test optical sound input and output, so they will not be covered in this review. Both cards support 5.1 sound output, which will be tested with headphones, and individual speakers.
Next Page -Testing & Final Words