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Chaintech AV-710 7.1 Sound Card

Date: August 15, 2005
Author(s): Rob Williams

Are you looking for a quality sound experience at a great price? We are looking at Chaintech’s AV-710 card, which is based on the proven Envy24 chipset. Does it have what it takes to compete with the big boys? Let’s check it out.



Introduction

When I was in the market for a new sound card, I immediately thought about buying an Audigy 2 ZS. To my surprise, friends kept telling me to get a Chaintech AV-710 instead, which costs less than half of what the Audigy does. So, I picked one up, played around with it for a week, and this review is what I thought of it as a whole. Here first, is a quick blurb about Chaintech.

About Chaintech

Chaintech, the fastest growing motherboard, graphic card, and IA manufacturer in the world! While global tech sales have steadily decreased over the past year, Chaintech has had an astonishing growth of 23% in second half over first half of 2002.

What makes Chaintech so distinguished? In the past 17 years, Chaintech has devoted to develop the most innovative and customer-oriented products based on our most professional and experienced R&D team. Pioneered by our R&D team, everyone in Chaintech faces the dynamic and exhilarating IT market with alertness and global view. We work based on the principle of keeping everything the most up-to-date.

Before we go any further, here you can check out the card specifics:

For a sound card, one would not likely expect it to be delivered in such a large box, but Chaintech has done it! There is not many extras in there, but they definitely wanted the box to look good and informative. Once we tear it open, we unveil the card itself, a manual, CD-Rom and an optical cable.

Upon closer inspection of the card, we can see a lot of what the card has to offer. At the end of the card, we can see a Mic In, Line In, Line Out, Surround Out, Center/Bass, ALT Out and an S/PDIF Out. To the top right, we have the Aux In and CD In connectors.

About Envy24

The heart of the card is the Envy24 HT-S Chipset. The HT-S is capable of 24bit sound, with a 192kHz sampling rate. Here is what VIA has to say on their chipset:

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.

For you die-hard audio junkies, who likely already know all of this, here are the Envy24 HT-S’s specifications:


Introduction, Conclusion

Before this card, I used to have a Philips PSC724, which also had the Envy24, but the GT version. I had constant problems with it, that I won’t get into, but it seems that all the kinks have been worked out, because I’ve had no issues so far with this card.

Testing the AV-710

I didn’t do any synthetic benchmarks with this card, but rather tested it and played it by ear. I wanted to do the available sound tests with 3D Mark ’03, but it told me the card was not supported, so I was unable to do so. Instead, I played through many, many rounds of Counter-Strike: Source, a few rounds of Unreal Tournament 2004 and then tested out a few DVD movies and music.

I first grabbed Gone in 60 Seconds and turned it straight to the Elenor scene, where Nicolas Cage is trying to get away with the 50th car. This scene in particular is a treat for the ears. Tires screeching, buses running into cars, people screaming. It’s great! Overall, the movie sounded fantastic. Previously, I was using the built-in 7.1 that comes with the Ultra-D motherboard. The sound difference was definitely noticeable, I was surprised.

As already mentioned, I played through many rounds of Counter-Strike: Source, and Unreal Tournament 2004. The sound was amazing here as well. Overall, the game was more immersive with the better sound, and I had a blast. In Counter-Strike, specifically, I found I was better able to pinpoint where the opponents were. With UT 2004, it was just overall, more clear and clean sounding, even at loud volumes.

Anybody who knows me, knows I’m a music freak. I listen to various genres, some that would make you laugh, I’m sure. For my punk fix, I threw on The Empire Strikes First, an album by Bad Religion. I was impressed by how well the card handled loud volume.. the music did not get distorted. I am sure, even with a better set of 5.1 speakers, I would be even more impressed.

Of course, punk music may not push the sound boundaries. So to do this, I threw on a song called “Policia” by a band called 666. This is a hardcore trance song that constantly pushes the bass. Once again.. wow. There is no way I expected the sound at high volume, from this song, to sound so clear. I am impressed at how much better this song sounds through this card, rather than the onboard. Another favorite, Rainbow In The Sky, by DJ Paul Elstak, proved the exact same results. Even at max volume, it sounded unbelievable.

Apparently this card excels in music and movies. I found it worked great for gaming as well, but it could have been better. It could also be my speakers holding me back, but with music and movies sounding so good, I don’t think so. This card is one I highly recommend though, unless you are looking to primarily game and want your card to focus on that. Sure, this card may not be the *best* one out there, but how many are this good for only $24.00?

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