ENVY24HT-S GENERAL FAQ
This is a work in progress. Anyone interested in contributing, please feel free to add your contributions to this thread, or PM me with a contribution.Terms
APU = A term that Nvidia coined as a simple way to say "audio chipset".
ASIO = A low latency playback API that has the added bonus of bypassing Microsoft's Kmixer.
DAC = Digital to Analog Convertor. See "Tell me about DACs! You seem to mention them alot!" question below.
Kernel Streaming = Very similar to ASIO, but developed by Microsoft. Also bypasses Kmixer.
Kmixer = Commonly referred to as "Kmangler". It's the sound layer that everything passes through in a Windows system. Has the unfortunate side-effect of resampling everything, so your audio doesn't stay in it's original form.
S/PDIF = Sony/Philips Digital InterFace. See "Good. Now tell me about SPDIF!" topic below. Connection types are commonly Toslink or coax.Where can I get more info on the Envy24HT-S?
The VIA website is a good place to start. Alot of basic info about the Envy24HT-S and it's brothers in the Envy24 family can be found there.http://www.via.com.tw/en/multimedia/envy24ht-s.jspWhat are the basic characteristics of the Envy24HT-S?
The Envy24HT-S supports 8 outputs and 2 inputs. Over 8 channel analog it is capable of up to 20bit/48khz playback, and 24bit/192khz over SPDIF. In two channel mode, it uses an I2S interface for 24bit/96khz playback. For analog recording it is capable of 20bit/48khz sampling, and 24bit/192khz over SPDIF input. All of the analog sample rates depend on which DAC is used with them of course.
Through the bundled Sensaura driver, the Envy24HT-S supports most common 3D gaming APIs such as: EAX 1.0, EAX 2.0, A3D. It also supports the less common gaming APIs that are bundled in games that run through DirectSound, like Miles3D.So what's the difference between the Envy24, Envy24HT, Envy24HT-S, and Envy24PT?
In my understanding, the Envy24 is the base product that was originally designed by ICEnsemble, and it supports multi-channel hardware mixing, which is cool for professional use. The HT version removes the hardware mixer (unimportant for non-professional uses), and each card producer makes their own drivers for it based on the VIA reference drivers. The HT-S version is almost exactly the same as the HT, it just uses cheaper DACs, and uses the VIA reference drivers without any modifications. The PT version is exactly the same as the HT-S version, it is just the edition used for on-board audio on motherboards.How should I decide if I want an Envy24HT, or an Envy24HT-S?
Price can be a factor here. Envy24HT cards are in the $100-150 range, while Envy24HT-S cards are in the $25-60 range. What you get for spending the extra money on an HT card is customized drivers, and better DACs for analog uses. The customized drivers may or may not support ASIO, but the DACs on an HT card are always better than the DACs on an HT-S card. The two primary quality factors to think about when deciding between HT and HT-S are: 1) Do you need the best analog output possible? If you are running analog out to a set of speakers, then the better DACs may be worth the money. If you are only going SPDIF out to a reciever that will do the decoding/processing, then DAC quality is irrelevant. 2) How important is ASIO support to you, and do you mind fiddling a bit more to get ASIO? If you do not care about bit perfect play-back, then ASIO doesn't matter to you. Also, if you don't mind using an ASIO->Kernel Streaming wrapper like ASIO4ALL to get ASIO support instead of having ASIO built into the drivers, then you can safely get an HT-S card that doesn't natively do ASIO, instead of an HT card like the Prodigy 7.1 that does it in the drivers.I decided to get an Envy24HT card. Which one should I get?
As shown by my reviews above, the only Envy24HT card I will recommend is the Audiotrak Prodigy 7.1. It is just an excellent card. The Revolution and Aureon are also good cards on the hardware level, but their drivers and support suck.I decided to get an Envy24HT-S card. Which one should I get?
There are two good cards for this catagory. The Chaintech AV-710 is excellent if you only need SPDIF output (that's why I own one
). The Maddog Entertainer 7.1 is the other good choice if you need the option for SPDIF input as well. The price difference is $5-30 depending on the day, and what rebates CompUSSR has for the Maddog at the momment. The Gainward version is garbage, and the Turtle Beach card does not have enough information available yet to form any other opinion than "It's over-priced!"Why should I get an VIA Envy24HT/HT-S instead of a Creative Labs Audigy 2?
There are several points to cover, but the main ones are as follows.
How important is gaming to you? The Audigy line of cards are generally considered to be better gamer's cards. They support the newer EAX versions 3.0 and 4.0, something that can't be found anywhere else at the momment. They are also essentially the reference card that developers use when making a game, so how the game sounds on an Audigy is pretty certain to be how it was intended to be heard. That isn't to say that the Envy24 cards aren't good at gaming. I personally enjoy the gaming experience on my Envy24HT-S more than I did on the Soundblaster Live it replaced. Through the Sensaura driver that they ship with, the Envy24 cards support all the regular gaming audio APIs, as well as Creative's EAX 1.0 and 2.0. Any half-way decent developer is going to make sure that their game works well on a Sensaura enabled card (pretty much everything that isn't Creative) since Sensaura based cards are a huge percentage of the market. The Audigy is a bit ahead of the Envy24 on gaming, but not by much. Point to the Audigy.
Is Bit-Perfect playback important to you? This is an area where the Envy24 based solutions destroy the Audigy line. Audigy cards are going to resample your CD Audio (and any 44.1khz source) to 48khz in hardware. There is no way around this. Ideally, audio should be played in the format it is natively in, and if it is going to be resampled, then best results are an even resample multiples. As such, 44.1khz CD Audio should be played at 44.1khz, or resampled to 88.2khz. This *is* possible on the Envy24 series of cards, as they don't resample stuff in hardware. Point to the Envy24.
Are you using analog output, or SPDIF output? If you are using SPDIF output, then this section is irrelevant to you. If you use analog though, then pay attention. The DACs found on the Audigy cards are excellent as a general rule. There may be lower quality DACs on the low-end Audigy 2 or older Audigy 1 cards, but I'm not quite sure off the top of my head. The DACs of the Envy24HT series of cards are also excellent, but I know that the DACs found on the Envy24HT-S cards are average at best. If you look at my recommendation above though, if you are using analog, you should be using an Envy24HT, not an Envy24HT-S. One could probably do alot more research and argue wether one of the contenders has better DACs, but that person isn't me.
One thing for certain though is that if you get a regular Audigy 2, or an Envy24HT, then you are getting good analog. No points here, as they are pretty much tied.
Driver quality. Creative is notorious for their horrible drivers, combined with massive bloat on the driver accessory level. This was definitly a large factor for my purchase of a a non-Creative card this time around. The drivers for the Envy24HT-S are absolutely much cleaner than any Creative driver since the excellent AWE64. Even more full featured drivers like the ones for the Envy24HT based Prodigy 7.1 get you alot more (like ASIO support) for a smaller amount of control panels. Point to the Envy24.
Everything else between the cards will be essentially the same. I'm not here to make the decision for you, but this should be enough to make a buying decision based on what you need the card to do.Tell me about DACs! You seem to mention them alot!
DACs are Digital to Analog Convertors, hence the acronym. They take the digital signal from you computer and convert it to and analog signal suitable for external speakers. I'm not going to go into much detail her, but the basics are as follows. The better DACs you have, the higher quality the analog output from your card will be. If you get an Envy24HT card, the DACs are pretty much garuanteed to be good, and you'll like the sound they give. If you get an Envy24HT-S card though, things get a little trickier. All Envy24HT-S cards come with the VIA VT1616 6-channel DAC for channels 1-6, and then they have a seperate 2-channel DAC for channels 7-8. This leads to one of the quirks with these cards. The DAC for channels 7-8 is higher quality than the other 6-channel DAC, and as such, the control panel for this card allows you to use this card in a 2-channel mode that outputs your sound through channels 7-8 that has the higher quality DAC. In the end, this essentially means that if you are only going to use this card as a 2-channel analog card (ex. headphone use), then the audio can be just about as good as the more expensive Envy24HT cards.Good. Now tell me about SPDIF!
What I commonly type as "SPDIF" is actually properly acronymed as "S/PDIF", which stands for Sony/Philips Digital InterFace. Wether the digital signal is output by optical (Toslink), or coaxial (75ohm RCA), it is the same SPDIF signal. SPDIF is commonly used for outputting the digital PCM or AC3 stream to a reciever which will handle the decoding of the audio. The advantages of this is that you only have to run a single digital cable to your reciever instead of 6-8 analog cables, and you avoid picking up any analog noise from inside your computer case. The only disadvantage I see is that you can't do multichannel gaming unless the game itself supports some special audio encoding like ProLogic II.What are the quirks with the Envy24HT-S cards?
- When using SPDIF input, it seems to be impossible to monitor any other sources at the same time.
- When using the "High Sample" mode, you are locked into 2-channel operation. It seems odd that they didn't just use the higher quality 2-channel DAC for channels 1/2, and the lower quality VT1616 for the other 6 channels, that way no matter what mode you are in, the primary left and right speakers get the best audio.
- You can set the card up to use the 7/8 channels as a higher quality 2-channel mode. This locks you into 2-channel mode, but it routes the sound through the higher quality DAC.
- If you want to turn off the Immerzio 3D mode, it requires a reboot. It is perfectly accceptable to use the Immerzio 3D all the time though.What 3D sound APIs do these cards support?
Through the Sensaura driver included with Envy24 cards, they support A3D, EAX 1.0 and 2.0, and all the other random audio APIs that everything supports. On a side note, Sensaura was recently purchased by Creative Labs. As such, it is possible that Sensaura availability will dissappear from the world, but more likely Creative will continue to liscense it out. That way they make money on every soundcard even if they aren't the ones that are selling them. It is also possible that Sensaura will gain EAX 3.0 and 4.0 support later since it is the daughter company of Creative (the EAX guys).Does the Envy24 do Real-time Dolby Digital Encoding?
Short answer: no.
Long answer: The only APU on the market at the momment that does real-time DD encoding is the Nforce 1 and 2's Soundstorm APU, which was originally designed for the Xbox. There are a couple APUs that always seem to stay on the horizon that will do real-time DD encoding, but they haven't arrived yet. C-Media is supposed to be having a software based DD encoder, but it was announced about a year and a half ago, and still hasn't seen the light of day. The Nvidia APU was recently chopped out of the Nforce3 chipset, and is supposed to be offered as a seperate chip to motherboard makers that want it as an option, but we haven't seen this yet either. Having the Nvidia APU as a seperate chip opens the doors for possible PCI add-on cards that use it. The third option is that the Intel High-Definition Audio (Azelia) standard was recently completed, and this requires real-time ProLogic IIx encoding. Granted, ProLogic IIx is not Dolby Digital, but you only have to look at the Gamecube to see just how good ProLogic II can be. Metroid Prime gives Halo a good run for it's money on my setup. Since ProLogic IIx will most likely be done in software for Azelia cards (hardware implementation would be too expensive for the successor of AC97), there is a chance that a software encoder will be incorporated into the Envy24HT/HT-S driver set to make it Azelia compatible, seeing as how most of the the other Azelia requirements are already met. There are appearantly versions of Intel Azalia audio chipsets that have a software realtime DD encoder included. Check out Asus's Intel based 9xx chipset boards.What do all of the jumpers on my Envy24HT-S do?
This answer is specific to the Chaintech AV-710, but most of the current Envy24HT-S cards are very similar in deisgn, so this should hold true for them all. JP3, 4, and 7 should each have a 3-pin setup, where the first option I list in the following is the 1-2 position, and the second option I list is the 2-3 position. Pin 1 should be marked on the card with either a little "1" or an arrow.
JP3 and JP4 control amplification being added to your speaker outputs. In "Line Out" mode, the speaker outputs are functioning on a lower voltage line level. This is suitable for outputtign to self-powered speakers sets, or output to a reciever. In "Speaker Out" mode, the outputs are pre-amped for use with non-powered speaker sets. It would also be helpful when using headphones if you aren't getting enough volume out of them in "Line Out" mode.
JP7 controls which channel the center and bass channels are routed to. In
"Default" mode, they are in the standard configuration, when changing it to "Swap Bass/Center" mode, it does just that. It swaps the bass (.1) and center channels. You can test which way you should have this jumper configured by going into the VIA Audio Control Panel (AudioDeck) and using the built in speaker test function. If your center and bass signals are going to the wrong places, then you would want to try the "Swap" option.
The last jumper set is CN1 (Front Audio), and seems to be specific to the Chaintech AV-710. This one has been untested by me so far, but it should be there for use with audio jacks that you may have on the front of your case. It should route the line-in, mic-in, and front line-out connections to your case's front panel. It is unclear if this will disable the corresponding jacks on the back of the card.I get popping and stuff in all my audio! This sucks!
Short answer: Turn off the Immerzio 3D option in your Audio Deck control panel.
Long answer: Appearantly the Immerzio part of the drivers doesn't like some people's systems. As far as I can tell, Immerzio is useless anyway, only adding stupid "tunnel" effects and whatnot. I don't believe Immerzio is tied to the Sensaura support, but I haven't verified this yet.