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Chaintech AV-710 7.1 Audio Card Review

Chaintech AV-710 7.1 Audio Card Review

Supplied by Chaintech

Price: 27 USD


Sometimes all the bells and whistles aren’t required. Why pay for the “extras”
that may go unused? Some people just want to listen to music or watch a DVD
with high-quality multi-channel audio support. Chaintech made the AV-710 a highly
affordable solution that delivers 7.1 channel sound with the quality of the
ENVY24 chipset. The AV-710 is half to two-thirds the cost of other Envy chip
solutions but what does it deliver and what does it lack?

art

Audio specifications are always written to up sell the potential of a product.
How the product is going to be connected to a set of speakers is important to
remember when making a purchase. The AV-710 configuration is not unique. There
are the analog connections and a single optical S/PDIF connection. Positional
game audio always works best through analog connections. Game audio is different
from Dolby encoding and decoding which may happen through the optical cable
into an external amplifier and thus degrade the sound quality. Always experiment
as to what sounds best to personal ears.

connectors

The AV-710 package contains the card, install CD, a 5 foot optical
cable and manual.

cd

optical5foot

manual

The user’s guide is only a printout of the software installation menus. If
shipping this product it is highly recommended that you ask the retailer to
open the box and pad the inside with styrofoam peanuts or rolled up paper as
the card came to us freely rattling about the inside of the box.

The AV-710 has CD and AUX inputs to enable a CD player to feed the card directly.

digitalinout

Front audio jumpers will enable connection of a front audio
device.

 

frontaudiojumpers

 

Two other jumpers will control the swapping of the center channel
and bass (LFE) channel.

 

jumperbass

Digital Tom-foolery?

Audio specifications are always the art window dressings designed to lure the
consumer. Big numbers are quoted where big numbers look better and small numbers
where small numbers look better. Just because it may say “up to” doesn’t
always mean that it is.

IC Ensemble, who brought the Envy chip to market, melded with Via Technologies.
According to VIA
Technologies
there are differences between the models but it takes a careful
eye to spot them and all are not easily found or available. The following image
is the VT1721 chip used on the AV-710.

envychip

Which looks just like the Envy chip used on the more-extensively equipped M-Audio
Revolution 7.1.

revo_envychip

Model Chip Resolution Digital Sampling Rate Channels
Envy
24PT
VT1720 24-bit 96 KHz 8
Envy
24HT
VT1724 24-bit 192 KHz 8
Envy
24HT-S
VT1721 24-bit 192 KHz 8
Envy
24
VT1712 24-bit 96 KHz 8

Envy 24HT-S specifications

  • Analog 20-bit/48KHz I/Os
  • Digital I/Os supporting 24-bit/192KHz I/Os
  • Bit-for-bit accurate transfers
  • 3 synchronous I²S / AC-link output data stream pairs
  • 2 synchronous I²S / AC-link input data stream pairs
  • PCI 2.2 interface with bus mastering and burst modes
  • Multi-channel AC-link supported alternatively
  • Integrated S/PDIF transmitter with IEC958 line driver
  • Digital loopback and stream routing mechanism
  • Peak meters on all streams
  • MPU-401 MIDI UART port
  • ACPI and PCI PMI support
  • I²C subset interface peripherals control
  • 16-pin, direct access GPIO port
  • Windows® WDM drivers
  • 24.576 and 22.5792 MHz crystal operation
  • 3.3V operating supply (5V tolerant I/O)
  • 128-Pin PQFP (14 x 20mm body)

The marketing hype on each

Envy24PT

The VIA Envy24PT is a multi-channel audio controller that delivers the latest
audio standards in a versatile integrated solution. Enabling 24-bit resolution
and 96KHz sampling rates, the VIA Envy24PT enables the latest audio content
with breathtaking clarity. The VIA Envy24PT also supports up to 8-channel outputs
enabling support for the latest Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES DVD-Video soundtracks.

Envy24HT

The VIA Envy24HT is a versatile 24-bit multi-channel audio controller that
enables studio level audio performance. With support for 8 outbound streams
the VIA Envy24HT can easily support the latest theatre quality 5.1, 6.1 or even
7.1 surround sound systems. For enhanced playback the VIA Envy24HT enables hardware
downmixing that allows customers to experience the complete surround sound experience
whether using four, or even two speakers.

Envy24HT-S

The Envy24HT-S Audio Controller promises to bring 8-channel standards to the
mainstream with Digital I/Os supporting 24-bit resolution/192KHz sampling rates,
and analog I/Os support 20-bit/48KHz formats. The VIA Envy24HT-S also supports
up to 8-channel outputs enabling support for the latest Dolby Digital EX and
DTS ES DVD-Video soundtracks.

Envy24

The VIA Envy24 is a professional versatile PCI multi-channel I/O controller
designed with the needs of the audio connoisseur in mind. With 12 input and
output channels for analog and digital connections, the VIA Envy24 can meet
the most demanding playback and recording requirements. Integrating a high resolution
digital mixer the VIA Envy24 enables up to 20 channels of mixing power. This
feature is aimed specifically for monitoring final outputs, and making master
copies for budget conscious studios.

Installation and software

Do not use the drivers from the AV710 V1.0 install disc that came with the
audio card package. Go to the Chaintech website and download the latest
AV710
drivers (currently 1.30C). The 1.0 drivers have no control panel interface
for the AV-710 but they do work. The only option off the CD would be the WinCinema
Pro bundle.

install01

The software interface is available as a taskbar icon.

 

taskbar

The control panel has 5 tabs. The first controls the number of speakers; two,
four, six or eight and the individual volume of each. Clicking on any one of
the icons across the top adds or deletes the appropriate number of volume faders.

controlpanel01

The second tab controls the analog line-in recording. Since analog connections
are at 20-bit/48 KHz then that is the maximum quality achievable.

controlpanel02

The S/PDIF tab has only two options; enable and enable Hi Sampling Rates (96KHz).
Remember that specification “up to 192 KHz”? The chip may be able
to support those high sample rates but it appears not to be a feature with more
than two channels which is fairly standard on the Envy chipset.

controlpanel03

 

The speaker control tab allows for each speaker to be clicked. The AV-710 sends
an audio jingle to that individual speaker to ensure that it is connected correctly.

controlpanel04

The Advanced Control tab can give the user the ability to load this control
panel at Windows startup as well as place the Microsoft speaker icon on the
taskbar. Sensaura 3D positional audio has a tickbox to enable it. If the user
is playing back a 2-channel audio source such as a CD or MP3 then a final tickbox
will send the audio to all enabled channels.

controlpanel05

Conclusion

wsbox

The Envy24HT-S is a low-cost solution that delivers support for 24-bit/192
KHz digital inputs and outputs and only 20-bit/48 KHz support for analog inputs
and outputs. This means that only the digital audio optical link will support
up to 24-bit/192 KHz audio while the analog connections only deliver up to 20-bit/48
KHz audio.

The Chaintech
AV-710
is ideal for those that favor music and DVD soundtrack audio over
game audio. The WinCinema suite (WinDVD Creator/WinDVD4/WinRIP) will drive software
decoding of DVD audio or it can be handled by an external decoder. What the
AV-710 doesn’t have that more expensive Envy based audio cards have is the ability
to control the shape and dynamics of the audio. There is support for Sensaura
Audio3D for DirectSound3D so gamers will have to settle for software driven
game audio for the rest. So what happens if the choice in setup is for 2 speakers
and now you want 4 or 6 or 8? The latest drivers (1.30C) from the Chaintech
website do have basic control over the number of speakers and individual volume
of each.

The AV-710 is the mid-ground between the 16-bit/44.1 KHz sound cards and motherboard
audio solutions and the higher end, more expensive audio cards that are two
or three times the price. The analog outputs are limited to 20-bit/48 KHz audio
but remember that CD and DVD audio is 16-bit/44.1 KHz unless you are one of
the lucky ones buying SACD discs. The AV-710 is a good, inexpensive audio solution
to upgrade from that old Soundblaster or bolted on motherboard audio. A few
motherboards, including some from Chaintech, are beginning to emerge with this
same chip onboard which promises to elevate onboard audio to meet the needs
of many. Just don’t be fooled by the lofty claims of 192 KHz audio. Only the
more expensive cards support 192 KHz on two channels and 96 KHz for multi-channel.

If you are stepping up from the past and don’t want to spend a lot then the
AV-710 will certainly suffice providing you have adequate speakers. Those “free”
speakers that are small and inside cheap plastic housings won’t help even with
the best audio equipment. The AV-710 hooked up to an external amplifier with
built in equalization sounded much better than through Windows Media Player’s
own built-in equalizer. There was more bass with an external amplifier with
built-in equalization.

This is a good solution for those who use their PC primarily for music audio
and DVD audio. It’s no frills. It’s a plug and play device stripped of the fine-tuning
features that some may not want to bother with. Audiophiles will want to look
to other products but for most the Chaintech AV-710 delivers really good audio
for the price. As a last thought please consider equalization. Hardware equalization
though and external amplifier always sounds better than software equalization
through a computer. If 2-channel sound is all that is required then run out
to the nearest thrift shop and pick up an amplifier and a decent set of speakers.
You may find that combination you would have paid through the nose for years
ago…for cheap.

anglecard

 

Our thanks to Chaintech
for their support of this and many other sites.

Scores Breakdown
Attribute Score Comments
Bonus items & software 7.5 WinCinema PRO
Documentation 7 The manual is pretty well useless.
Features & options 8 It’s a mid-level audio upgrade card.
Performance & stability 8.5 Clear sound but needs equalization.
Presentation 6.5 Bare bones and the box could use an inner frame to hold the card secure in shipping.
Price / value 9 Inexpensive 7.1 audio designed for music and DVD audio.
Total score 46.5/60 77.5%

Comments

  1. Unregistered
    Unregistered I have purchased this card, and thanks for the info about the updated driver.
  2. Unregistered
    Unregistered An update with the latest VIAdrivers would be nice. Asio4allis also inreresting.
  3. Eclipse-X
    Eclipse-X
    MediaMan said:
    Sometimes all the bells and whistles aren't required. Why pay for the "extras" that may go unused? Some people just want to listen to music or watch a DVD with high-quality multi-channel audio support. Chaintech made the AV-710 a highly affordable solution that delivers 7.1 channel sound with the quality of the ENVY24 chipset. The AV-710 is half to two-thirds the cost of other Envy chip solutions but what does it deliver and what does it lack?

    Chaintech AV-710 7.1 Audio Card
    I own this card, and have been looking for a few days about the "Front Audio" Jumpers.. Its difficult to hookup without a layout of the connections.
    If you know em I'd really appretiate this.

    Thanx.
  4. AshayinFLA
    AshayinFLA The info about this chipset about the analog in's and out's is correct, but Chaintech also has a d/a converter chip that will convert the digital output of the chip to an analog output when in 2 channel 192khz mode! This means you CAN use 2 channel STEREO 192khz output, which for most people IS overkill anyway, but if that is what your looking for it is good to know. Chaintech drivers do not support this feature (why I don't know) but I have it working with latest Via drivers.

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