One of the very tricky things of doing a sound card review is the lack of hard data to show you. With a video card, I could show you screenshots and frame rates, but I have no way of showing you the crystal clear sound that comes from this card. Previously I had a Creative SoundBlaster Live! 5.1, and after it died I had to rely on my integrated AC'97 sound for a short time. Going from AC'97 to this card was like having someone hum a song, then hearing the orchestra perform it live.
I even noticed distinct differences between this card and the SoundBlaster. Things are much clearer, particularly at high volume. Previously I thought my speakers kind of sucked because they would distort badly when there was a lot of overlapping sound at high volume, especially in FPS games. Now, everything is much clearer, and doesn't sound so muddied. With headphones, the difference is just that much more noticeable. Prior to getting the Revolution, at LAN parties I would have to crank my settings to the max when using headphones. Even with the volume cranked, everything sounded weak and watered down, distorting badly with sounds such as explosions. Now I run at about half volume, and things sound almost life like.
Since I only have a 2.1 speaker system, I was unable to test the card to its full potential in gaming while I had it in my PC. However, I did lug the Mac into my living room and connected it to my Onkyo 5.1 Home Theater system via the digital out.
The sound quality was great, with everything from DVD's to MP3s. I used my Pearl Harbor DVD to run the THX audio tests, and everything sounded great. I watched part of the movie in Dolby Digital 5.1, and had no problems at all. In fact, I would say that it actually sounded better than when it was hooked up to my DVD player. I did discover one problem. Whenever I tried to enable DTS, I had no sound and the video flipped out on my Mac. From what I could tell, it looked like the video card was setting the refresh rate wrong for my TV. The screen would continuously roll up the screen so quickly it was ghosting 5 or 6 times. I'm not sure whether it was a problem with my Mac, the settings I was using, or just a problem with the card, but I could not get video to return to normal until I rebooted. When I tried enabling DTS again I got the same result.
In conclusion, M-Audio has put together an awesome card for not a lot of cash. It performs exceedingly well in everything from gaming to home theater use. Other than the minor problem with the DTS, I can not think of any reason not to like this card.