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Envy24HT-S - The Definitive Source

post #1 of 1036
Thread Starter 
Update 2008.04.17
I just through my old AV-710 into one of my Vista machines and it runs like a champ! I have to fiddle around and figure out the Immezio stuff, but the card runs great!
I NO LONGER SUPPLY THE FLASH FILES! Audiotrak, the dudes who make the Prodigy, are struggling as a company to even exhist. If you want the coolness of the Prodigy 7.1, then go buy one. They need your support.

Please don't ask for the files in this thread, and please don't spam everyone's PM boxes begging for the flash files.



This is a continuation and compilation of info from the thread "Differences between Envy24HT and Envy24HT-S?" and the other threads related to the Envy24HT/HT-S. That thread's direction changed with the hopes of being the ultimate source of info for people selecting an Envy24 based solution. As such, I thought it wise to start this new thread to better organize the information.

As such, this is a work in progress!

Personal notes:
It seems a bit odd that I would do such extensive research into the available cards *after* I had already purchased one of the available options (Chaintech AV-710), but I am interested to know exactly which one is best. If it turns out that I picked the wrong one, then I'm not particularily worried about it as it only cost me $30 and can be moved to my secondary PC if I need to acquire a different one for the HTPC. Besides, this forum is supposed to be about people's experiences in the HTPC realm, and I would like to add to that with my well-documented adventure with the Chaintech card. I promise to try as hard as possible to not flavor my opinions on any of these cards with my personal invvestment in one of them.

As always, all feedback is welcome! Thanks for being patient with this little documentation experiment!

AVS HTPC Threads Regarding the Envy24HT/HT-S

Differences Between Envy24HT and Envy24HT-S

Sources and Thanks:
dm, for this ASIO->KS Wrapping thread:

if you too feel like i've ripped you off at some point, then feel free to PM me or leave a post in this thread and i'll put a thanks here for you too. i'm always of the opinion that the information itself is far more important than the person it originated from, as such, i can be rather lazy with sourcing and thanks. frankly, i just don't care where the info came from, as long as it's there. just like i don't care if someone copies this entire thread and posts it on every board they can find. i'll be the first to admit that i originated very little, if any, of the info contained in this FAQ, just as 99% percent of the posts on this board are entirely comprised of info that didn't originate with the poster. my goal was to compile the relevant info into one place, not waste a bunch of time sourcing everything i wrote.

i was originally going to go through and source everything, but that is just going to turn into a giant time-sink. so instead, PM me if you want to be added here. it's easier, cuz i'm lazy

just so we are clear - no, i didn't copy-paste any of the text contained in the following FAQs. it is all written free-flow from the tidbits of info floating around in my brain (sorry, no URL to that ). sure, some of that info came from this forum, but alot also came from other locations throughout space and time.

thanks yall!
post #2 of 1036
Thread Starter 

Questions requiring YOUR help!:
- Can anybody get the Mad Dog manual off the driver CD and upload it somewhere or email it to me? (darklordjames3(_AT_)hotmail(_DOT_)com) It's appearantly an 8 page PDF, so it shouldn't be too big.

Similarities between the Envy24HT-S cards:
- Mad Dog and Chaintech use the same VIA VT1616 (6 channel, 18-bit, 48khz) and Wolfson WM8728 (2 channel, 24-bit, 192khz) DACs.
- The documentation/websites for all the available cards seem to be terrible.
- VT1616 drive channels 1-6, the secondary DAC (WM8728/CSxxxx) drives channels 7-8. Driver modifiable to send stereo analog through the superior secondary DAC.
- All three cards have the CD/AUX connectors on the top of the card. As in my experience, this may cause problems when trying to use one in a low profile case. It would have been preferable to have them on the right-hand side of the card.
- All cards contain the jumpers for center/bass channel swapping.
- Chaintech and Gainward have the jumpers for line/pre-amped speaker output.
- Chaintech and Gainward layouts are essentially identical.
- All three cards use the VIA reference drivers.

Differences between the Envy24HT-S cards:
- Mad Dog and Chaintech have different layouts, the CD and AUX conectors are in different locations, the DACs are placed differently, and Mad Dog has fewer capacitors, but the ones that it does have are larger. My current guess as to why is the selectability of pre-amped speaker-out of the Chaintech.
- Mad Dog has the addition of optical SPDIF input
- PCB/back-plate colors
- Chaintech has a bank of jumpers labeled "Front Audio" which is for potential routing of audio to jacks on the front of your case.

Differences between the Envy24HT-S and Envy24HT cards:
post #3 of 1036
Thread Starter 


The one I currently own. Retails for ~$30. Dark brown PCB, gold back-plate. The webpage for this card is horrible, as it even lists the chipset used as the Envy24PT, which is not what is on the card. Contains the "Front Audio" bank of jumpers that is used for connecting the outputs to optional audio jacks on the front of your case. "Front Audio" consists of 5 pin sets, meaning 4.1 output? Or maybe it's 2.1 with half of them pre-amped? Gotta test it. This card is currently the most popular of the group. It can do ASIO through an ASIO->KS wrapper like ASIO4ALL, though there has been some frustration by some in getting ASIO to work.

Personal Thoughts:
This is the card that I currently own, and I love it! I have no problems recommending it to anyone. If you don't need analog-out or SPDIF-in, then this is the card to go for. If SPDIF-in is required, then check out the Maddog version.

Short Media review. Describes the "Front Audio" jumpers. Covers the bases, but doesn't offer any info that's particularily exciting.

Head-Fi review. He mentions ASIO and points to other threads concerning mods to the card. Pretty good overall for a user-submitted review.

Verum Media review.


After reading everything I can find on it, this is what I have found. It's PCB is colored dark brown, almost black with a gold back-plate. It is the only HT-S availabe with SPDIF input. It uses the VIA reference drivers. It can be purchased through the local retail chains of OfficeMax and CompUSSR (where the "customer appreciate bat" is their greatest achievement). Street price is $60, but CompUSA occasionally has rebates. The webpage for the card is very minimal, the newest drivers not posted, no documentation posted, and there are no FAQs regarding the card. It comes with a Limited Lifetime Warranty, whatever "limited" means. It contains one set of jumpers, which is used for center/bass channel swapping. The package includes a driver/manual CD, a quick install card, and a terrible toslink cable.

Personal thoughts:
Currently I am of the opinion that this is your best Envy24 based option if you are only concerned with digital output and have no use for analog, but require SPDIF in.

The Tech Report review. Best review of the card I have seen yet. Mentions the use of the different DACs (and the stereo analog routability), objectively measures capabilities, and utilizes a blind audio test.

Mad Shrimps review. Frankly terrible.

X-TremeModz review. This isn't even a review, it is a cut and past of the Mad Dog site and VIA site info. It also falsely states that the chipset is a Envy24HT, not HT-S. The only redeeming quality is the screen-caps of the driver control panel.

Tweak News review. Interesting Winbech audio and Rightmark audio benchmarks. Walkthrough of driver interface. Suffers from cut and paste of Mad Dog site info. Falsely states that VT1616 supports 192khz.

UberHardware review. It succeeds in saying nothing.

ViperLair review. okay review. good pictures. factually correct for the most part. it shows the Envy24HT-S being faster than the Nforce2 Soundstorm, which is probably whacked. one of the things Soundstorm is known for is it's low CPU usage. no tests of SPDIF at all.

Guru3D review. the pictures suck. its one of the few reviews to mention the Wolfson DAC. they complain about not knowing what the jumper block does, yet they are labeled right on the card with a diagram. they also review with the old 1.43 drivers, when the 3.02 drivers have been out for 3 weeks now, just how hard is it to do a quick check of VIA's site? it even falsely states that the new Turtle Beach Riviera is a competing Envy24HT-S card, when a small bit of research reveals that it is based on a C-Media chipset. overall, a plusungood review.

HotHardware review.

Tech-Mods review. Boring, shallow review.


This card comes on a red PCB with silver backplate and retails for about $35. It is nearly identical to the Chaintech, minus the "Front Audio" pins. Also, the Wolfson DAC has also been replaced with the inferior Cirrus CS4341 capable of 24-bit/96khz. The downloadable manual is terrible, and the webpage for the card is rather mediocre.

There is no further research required for this card, as it really isn't an option. It's features aren't as good as the Chaintech varient, yet it is more expensive. It lacks the "Front Audio" option, and uses an inferior DAC for channnels 7/8. The only things going for this card are the red PCB (if that tickles your pickle), and the fact that the back-plate is the standard silver to match all your other back-plates.

Hexus review. OK review. He points out the DACs and specs for them. Unfortunately, he starts out predetermined to hate the card.

NordicHardware review. Mentions lack of ASIO, and he did some RightMark Audio testing.

DriverHeaven review. Simply terrible review.

3Dvelocity review. Mentions a problem with the back-plate getting in the way of installing the card.

Techtree review. Okay review. Nothing new, nothing surprising.


I have heard nothing about this card, but looking at the pictures on newegg, it seems to be the exact same thing as the Maddog Entertainer 7.1. It has a MSRP of $80, but can be had off of Newegg for $55. Looks like it uses the vanilla reference drivers. It's webpage and manual are the best I have seen for an Envy24HT-S card. I haven't found good pictures yet, so I don't know what the DACs are. It does not come with a Toslink cable.

Personal Thoughts:
One would be better off getting a Maddog Entertainer 7.1 instead of this card. No Toslink cable included. No info about the DACs. No legitimate reviews. Too bad too... Turtle Beach used to be such a good company.

Sudhian Media review. This isn't even a review. The guy makes assumptions like "my guess is it uses a VIA Eight-Trac (VT1617) codec", when it would make alot more sense to actually *look* at the card to find out. He then uses a picture of the Gainward Envy24HT-S, leading me to believe he didn't even have a card in hand to review.

Audiotrak MAYA44 MKII

This is the first Envy24HT-S card I have seen that is not closely based on the reference design. It is frankly just wierd to see. Audiotrak also lists ASIO as being supported. Meaning this card looks to be the only HT-S card with customized drivers. Also, no VT1616 in sight, looks like Wolfson DACs all around. Red PCB, gold back-plate, and 1/4" jacks instead of 1/8" jacks. Coax and optical SPDIF output. Only 2-channel analog output, no 7.1 for this card! No Sensaura support.

Personal Thoughts:
Interesting and wierd. More research required! This is deffinitly a card aimed at the budget home recording studio. As such, it is not suitable for HTPC uses.

Digit Life review. This is how a found the card, after Googling "Envy24HT-S" on a whim. Excellent review overall.
post #4 of 1036
Thread Starter 

Audiotrak Prodigy 7.1

Envy24HT based. Native ASIO. Custom drivers. Of the Envy24HT based solutions, this one looks like the best bet at the momment.

Guru3D review.

TechConnect review. Prodigy vs. Revolution.

ipKonfig review.

HotHardware review. Prodigy vs. Aureon.

Digit-Life review. Good pictures.

Gamepyre review.

Big Bruin review.

Terratec Aureon 7.1

I have not touched one of these first hand, but the card is essentially physically identical to Prodigy. The major difference is that the drivers for the Aureon suck.

Personal Thoughts:
Due to the lack of quality drivers for this card, I would have to recommend the Prodigy of this one any day of the week.

HotHardware review. Prodigy vs. Aureon.

Xbit Labs review.

DriverHeaven review. This is the Universe version of the Aureon 7.1. They seemed to like it.

M-Audio Revolution 7.1

Envy24 based. Custom drivers. Native ASIO, but *not* over SPDIF. If one were to do a search in this forum, they would find alot of early recommendations for this card, which later turned into frustration due to lack of quality driver updates. Esspecially concerning the lack of ASIO over SPDIF. This can be solved by using a ASIO to Kernel Streaming wrapper, but then you might as well just get a much cheaper Envy24HT-S based card, like the Chaintech AV-710. Currently not recommended.

SoundCardCentral review.

3D Audio Immersion review. Nothing exciting here.

SystemCooling review.

Hard Extreme review.

TechConnect review. Prodigy vs. Revolution.

SubZeroTech review.

Bit-Tech review.

HotHardware review.

Omega Hardware review.

FutureLooks review.

TechSpot review.

LAN Addict review.

Tech Report review.

Legion Hardware review.

3D Xtreme review.



Personal Thoughts:




Personal Thoughts:

post #5 of 1036
Thread Starter 

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.

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.

What 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.
post #6 of 1036
Thread Starter 

What is ASIO?
ASIO is a low-latency audio standard that essentially interfaces directly with the card, bypassing the drivers. It was originally created for professional recording and mixing uses. With ASIO you lose the ability to stream mulitple audio sources to a card at one time, unless the ASIO-enabled software you are using does it's own internal mixing. Examples of software with internal audio mixers would be professional mixing/tracking software and games. In a desktop setup, this can be seen as a bad thing since you lose the ability to have notification sounds (like Windows beeps and ICQ beeps) mixed into the audio if you have a song playing. In an HTPC setup this is pretty much a non-issue since one is realisticly only going to be playing one movie or one song at any given momment.

ASIO also bypasses Microsoft's Kmixer that is built into Windows. By bypassing Kmixer, one gains the ability to play audio in a bit-perfect capacity. This is an excellent advantage as your audio is then unmolested and not converted to a frequency that it isn't natively in. An additional bonus to having unmolested audio is that you can then play DTS-CD audio on your HTPC, which is natively encoded at 44.1khz, and becomes corrupt when upconverted to 48khz or passed through Kmixer at any frequency.

What is Kernel Streaming?
Kernel Streaming is essentially the same thing as ASIO, giving you the same end result. Instead of being originally designed for professional use, it was designed by Microsoft as a bit-perfect playback format. It has the same negatives and same positives as ASIO.

What is Kmixer?
Kmixer is the internal audio component of Windows that does the multi-source mixing. It allows you to have multiple programs supplying audio information, and it mixes them all together for playback. Kmixer also handles your volume controls. Unfortunately, the mixing and volume control has the end result of forcing resampling of all of your audio, causing the magling of your audio. This isn't a good thing, as audio wants to be played back in it's original format. This problem is the main reason that it is desirable to bypass Kmixer with ASIO or Kernel Streaming for HTPC purposes.

Okay. So Kernel Streaming is cool. How do I get to use it?
Lucky for you, Kernel Streaming support is built into the drivers for all of the Envy24HT and Envy24HT-S drivers. Since you already have Kernel Streaming support if you have an Envy24HT/HT-S card, all you need now is a media player that will support it. Refer to the following "Which media players support Kernel Streaming?" section for information on selecting a player.

Okay. So ASIO is cool. How do I get to use it?
ASIO support is a bit more iffy for the Ennvy24HT and HT-S cards. Some cards have support built into the drivers (like the Audiotrak Prodigy 7.1), but most do not. As such, you need to use a utility that will wrap the ASIO commands to Kernel Streaming. Refer to the following "How do I use an ASIO->KS wrapper?" section. Once you have a card with native ASIO support, or have a ASIO->KS wrapper set up, then you just need a media player that supports ASIO playback. Refer to the following "Which media players support ASIO?" section.

How do I use an ASIO->KS wrapper?

These are the three available wrappers that I know of. ASIO4ALL and ASIOx are still in developement, but ASIO2KS seems to be dead. I personally have not used ASIOx or ASIO2KS as ASIO4ALL does everything I have tried to make it do so far, but it is perfectly safe to install all 3 at the same time with no adverse effects. This will result in you being able to pick which wrapper to use from within your different audio programs. Perhaps there are programs I haven't seen yet that will work with one wrapper and won't work with others. Do yourself a favor though and just start out with ASIO4ALL, but be willing to move to another one if you have problems. Since ASIO4ALL is the favored wrapper around here, that will be the one I focus on initially. I will come back and add in notes on other wrappers at a later time.

Upon installing ASIO4ALL, you will get a control panel for it on your desktop. Open that up and set it up as follows. The buffers I have described here are huge, but it is better to have large buffers when trying to get it to work, and then work the buffers down once you know things are functional.
Audio Device = Envy24 Family Audio (WDM)
Sample Rate = (greyed out)
Buffer Size = 2048
KS Buffers = 4
Always resample @ 44.1khz = off
Disable input = on
Force 16 bit samples = off
Direct DMA Buffer I/O = off

Now, go grab Winamp and the ASIO plugin and set up the plugin as described below. Try playing an MP3/CD Audio track and see if you have success. It works? Good! The battle is half won! If you are using SPDIF in your setup, and have a reciever that does DTS decoding, then you need to do a 44.1 khz DTS test. If the DTS test passes as well, then you are one step closer. Do one last test with a DVD or Divx with an AC3 track and see if that still works. If it does, then you are good to go. Welcome to the bit perfect world! At this point you should fiddle with the buffers in the ASIO control panel and Winamp to see how low you can get them without noise/dropouts. Of course you can also use other ASIO-enabled programs as well now, but I will leave the details of that up to you. You know the concept of getting this to work, that was my aim.

But let's say you weren't lucky, and things aren't working. Or AC3 output is now dead. Uh-oh. First, double-check your settings. The ASIO4ALL Control Panel is dynamic, and as such it can be used while Winamp is open and any changes you make will take place immediately. There is also one other thing that may need to be done. There is an exploit in the Envy24HT-S driver's Control Panel that you can take advantage of, but I believe this is only valid for SPDIF output. Go to the Digital Out tab and select PCM Only. Then select the 8 Channel output tab and go to Sample Rate & Immerzio 3D. Under Sample Rate Select uncheck Automatic, select 44.1khz, and re-check Automatic. Go back to the 2 Channel tab and go to Digital Out. Select AC3 or PCM Autoselect (48khz only). This should result in the Envy24HT-S Control Panel essentially being tricked into letting AC3 or PCM at 44.1 and 48khz autoselect between eachother. I don't know why it doesn't just work like that in the first place, but, whatever.

Thanks to Signal and B3b0p for the above Control Panel trick!

Which media players support Kernel Streaming?
Foobar 2000 supports Kernel Streaming natively. This media player is freeware, but it is a bit plain for my personal tastes. Go to Foobar 2000->Preferences->Plaback->Ouput and change Output Method to Kernel Streaming to enable KS playback. Under Settings you should change the Device to the Envy24 card you are using. The only other option is Buffer Length, which defaults to 2048ms. If you are having audio dropouts, then increase this buffer a bit until your audio is smooth. Another set of options that may be useful are under Foobar 2000->Preferences->Plaback. Under Output Data Format, there are several options which may or may not work. After enabling Show All Options, these are the settings I found to work under my setup (tested with 44.1DTS track): 16bit fixed-point, 16bit fixed-point padded to 24bit, 16bit fixed-point padded to 32bit, 18bit fixed-point padded to 24bit, 20bit fixed-point padded to 24bit, 22bit fixed-point padded to 24bit, 24bit fixed-point, and 24bit fixed-point padded to 32bit. So, if you want the option of using KS or ASIO, then 16bit Fixed-Point Padded to 32bit or 24bit Fixed-Point Padded to 32bit are your best options.

plugin url goes here.

Which media players support ASIO?
J. River Media Center has native support for ASIO playback. This commercial media player is actually quite nice, and has an impressive feature set. Go to Tools->Options->Playback and change Output Mode to ASIO. Output Settings should consist of the Device being your Envy24 card, or the ASIO->KS wrapper that you are using. The buffer should be set to a level that provides dropout free playback for you, with a smaller buffer being more desirable. Be careful about using any of Media Center's DSP options, as adding any DSP to your audio will make it be no longer pit-perfect.

Winamp 5 does not support ASIO or KS natively, but an ASIO plugin is available at the second link above. Grab the Winamp5 ASIO_out (dll version), unzip it, and dump the out_asio(dll).dll file into your Winamp\\Plugins folder. The plugin's site is an Asian language, but the plugin links are English. Anyway, this player is Winamp, not much more needs to be said about it. After installing the ASIO plugin, go to Options->Preferences->Output. Select the "ASIO Output Plug-in" and go to Configure. Device should be set to your Envy24 card, or the ASIO->KS wrapper you are using. Thread Priority has a couple options on what you can set it to. Above Normal is the lowest I would go, but if you are using your HTPC for just audio playback when you are using Winamp, then Time Critical is a perfectly acceptable option. Time Critical is the safest for audio quality concerns. Buffers are the same as all the other programs, the smallest possible is desirable, but a larger one may be required depending on your system. Resampling is evil, and should be off as resampling destroys the bit-perfect goal that we are trying to achieve here. The other options require more research by me before I can go into them more. The best thing is to play with them and see what works for you.

Foobar 2000 supports ASIO with the plug-in linked above. This media player is freeware, but it is a bit plain for my personal tastes. Go to Foobar 2000->Preferences->Playback and change the Output Data Format to "16bit Fixed-Point Padded to 32bit" after enabling Show All Options. The only two options for this setting that worked on my setup are: 16bit Fixed-Point Padded to 32bit and 24bit Fixed-Point Padded to 32bit. So, if you want the option of using KS or ASIO, then 16bit Fixed-Point Padded to 32bit or 24bit Fixed-Point Padded to 32bit are your best options. Next go to Foobar 2000->Preferences->Playback->Output and select ASIO (DLL Version) as your ouput method. Go into the settings and change the Device to your preferred ASIO wrapper, Thread Priority should be somewhere between Above Normal and Time Critical, and the Buffer should be as low as possbile without having drop-outs (16 is good for me). Shift Output Channels is set to 0 for me, as that is the SPDIF port, you may need to use a different number for your front analogs (I'll test it later). Lastly, Use Direct Input monitor is off for me, as I believe that disables the ability of Windows alerts to interupt the playback. Will test later.

What kind of general tips should I follow to achieve bit-perfect?
- Don't use any of your media playback software's DSP (sound processing) functions. Adding any processing to the audio will make it no longer bit-perfect, essentially destroying what we are trying to accomplish.

- Play with the buffering options. Each system will require different buffering, but as a general rule, lower buffers are desirable for latency reasons. On the flip-side, you don't want your buffers to be too low, as audio drop-outs may occur when the system is under load. One could easily argue that drop-outs are far worse than the default resampling that we are trying to avoid.

How do I test that Kernel Streaming or ASIO is playing bit-perfect audio?
Using a CD-Audio format DTS track (16-bit, 44.1khz) is the most effective way to test for true bit-perfect playback. If anything happens to corrupt/modify/resample your audio, it will destroy a DTS-CD track. This can only really be tested with SPDIF out to a DTS-decoder of some sort. The theory is that your computer will treat the track as regular CD-Audio PCM and pass it out to your reciever, but your reciever will see that the incoming stream is DTS and decode it appropriately. Links to DTS-CD samples will come later.



Okay, here's the goal with this little guide. My hope is to make this a good step-by-step setup FAQ for the Envy24HT-S so that everyone is on the same page before they come asking questions about how to set this card up. This way we can assume that everyone has read this and knows the basics about getting this card running, so when there are problems we can just focus on the problem itself. I am going to assume that anyone with an Envy24HT-S is going to be using it for SPDIF output, since one should realisticly be using the Prodigy 7.1 if they want analog output. I am also going to assume that when I say "Device Manager", "BIOS", or "PCI slot" that you know what I'm talking about and know your way around these things. This isn't that basic of a guide

Step One: Driver Removal
So you bought your Envy24HT-S and want to use it for SPDIF output. Cool! Good for you! They are great little cards, and you should be enjoying it's excellent output shortly.

First thing you want to do is remove the drivers for your previous card. My preferred order of driver removal is to go into your Add/Remove Programs Control Panel and remove any software that is related to your old sound card. Second step is to go to your Device Manager and see if the drivers for your old soundcard are still there (they may have been removed by Add/Remove Programs). If you still have the soundcard listed in Device Manager, then remove those devices as well.

If you were previously using an add-in soundcard, we are going to physically remove it in the next step. If you were using on-board sound, then you also need to go into your BIOS at this point and disable your on-board sound.

Variations on this step - If you are planning on having a dual-soundcard system for multizone uses or whatever, I still recommend removing your primary soundcard first. This way we can make sure that the Envy24HT-S is working fine in your system. You can then add your second soundcard back later and try out some dual soundcard stuffins.

Public Service Announcement - Please, for the love of Spam, be running Win2000 or WinXP on your HTPC. This card may, or may not, work the same on Win9x. ASIO4ALL may, or may not, run on Win9x. I don't know, and frankly I don't care. Nobody in this day and age should be running a system based on the Win9x core. Win2000 is damn fast natively (I was running it on a PMMX-233 when it came out), and there are some really cool DOS and DOS-sound emulators out now.

Step Two: Physical Installation

Now it's time to open your system. Pop out the old soundcard
post #7 of 1036

Originally posted by darklordjames
Chaintech also has a bank of jumpers labeled "Front Audio" which I currently have not discovered the use of (there seems to be no documentation of this).

These jumpers are usually used to select between using the back panel outputs (jumpers in place), or the audio I/O jacks available on the front panel of some new cases (jumpers removed and wiring from the case installed in their place).
post #8 of 1036
Thread Starter 
helzerr - thanks for the input on "Front Audio"! will add it
post #9 of 1036

Good idea, here. Also, good find on that Entertainer review. I hadn't managed to google that one up on my own and it was much more informative than all the others IMO. That whole thing with the Wolfson's DAC being on the Alt/Rear Center output is really odd. I wonder if Cliff Watson noticed that when he took his look at it back when.

post #10 of 1036
Thread Starter 
kensai - thanks for the positive input. as for the Tech Report review, it just came out today good to see you followed over to this thread from the other one.

The Mad Dog section is essentially done now. minimal questions left, and final thoughts to go. next is the Gainward version!
post #11 of 1036
Hi guys just wanted to add I use Foobar2000 to feed a upsampled 2 channel, 24bit [88Khz] PCM signal to the envy chipset for digital output to the Sony TA-E9000ES pre amp DSP. Actually I utilize a solid state dejitter device as intemediary [Camelot Dragon 5.1] to reclock the PCM signal prior to delivery to a high density toslink input on the Sony pre amp DSP.

Based on feedback on this website and others. I think for this use case, end to end 24bit high frequency delivery of 2 channel PCM data, you cannot get a more cost effective solution.

Too bad I don't even care about the wolfsen DAC and analog outputs. I just can't get how someone can feed a pre amp with mini converters.

My only concern is utilizing Kernel Streaming mode thereby eliminating Windows delegatgion of WAV audio streams. I don't know why more audio oritented applications do not lock out any other Windows application from contributing digital audio to the sound card and audio signal channel. Is this not a fundamental of quality audio delivery and transmission from HTPC. Always crashes for me.

How do I play DTS CD audio(s)? Can I use foo bar?
post #12 of 1036
You are correct, the jumpers on the Entertainer are for swapping the Center and LFE channels.

Thanks for the link to the Tech Report review. I have to say I was particularly surprised by the RightMark audio quality results. The Fortissimo III did as well or better than the Entertainer in almost all of the RightMark tests, and even better than the Revo on some. I can tell you, however, that I have used the Revolution, Forissimo III, and Entertainer, and the analog outputs from the Revo and Entertainer sound way better than the Fortissimo. The listening tests seem to confirm this, but it just goes to show you that specs and benchmarks are not the "be-all end-all" of evaluating audio quality.

I now use the Entertainer in my HTPC (instead of the Revo), mainly because I need the optical input and output. However, as I said in another thread, (at least on my system) I think the analog outputs of the Entertainer sound just as good as the Revo.
post #13 of 1036
Thread Starter 
jaybrubin - unfortunately, i do not have the answers to any of your questions yet

sigma - thanks for verifying the Mad Dog jumpers.
post #14 of 1036

I just want to verify that both teh Mad Dog and Chaintech use the same Wolfson WM8728 DAC on channels 7/8 and both can have that channel switched to be 1/2 by using that "enable high res output" checkbox.

I also wanted to see if you would check for me if any of the other channels are active once this has been done (are channels 1/2 still coming out of the 1/2 jack simultaneously? is anything else active at the same time? i.e. can you get 5.1 out from a software DVD player while using the good 7/8 output for channels 1/2?).

Thanks for all the work.

post #15 of 1036
Originally posted by Kensai
I also wanted to see if you would check for me if any of the other channels are active once this has been done (are channels 1/2 still coming out of the 1/2 jack simultaneously? is anything else active at the same time? i.e. can you get 5.1 out from a software DVD player while using the good 7/8 output for channels 1/2?).

The way it works on the Entertainer is as follows:

1) In 2 channel mode (and only in 2 channel mode), if you check the "Enable High Sample Rate" checkbox, the front (1/2) and rear (7/8) outputs will become active simultaneously.
2) In 4 channel and 6 channel mode, the "Enable High Sample Rate" checkbox is disabled and the rear (7/8) output is not active.
3) In 8 channel mode, the "Enable High Sample Rate" checkbox is disabled, and all outputs are active (assuming your software is capable of using 8 channels).

In a nutshell, the only way I have found to use the 7/8 output is to use the "Enable High Sample Rate" option in 2 channel mode. BTW, in the latest driver release (143d) this checkbox is labelled ""Enable High - Sample Rate(96KHz) Playback on BackStereo(7 and 8) speakers and S/PDIF Output and disable front speaker". Does that make sense to anyone? (Especially since it does not disable the front speakers...)
post #16 of 1036
Just a bit of Engrish double speak . . . replace "disable front speaker" with "disable 1/2 output" and it should make alot more sense.

BTW, I picked up an open box Entertainer while I was out on lunch (actually no box, no CD, not optical cable, nothing . . . just the card in a plastic sleeve), so I'm going to download some drivers from Via and try very hard to get this installed tonight and play with it a bit so I can jot down some impressions relative to my old Revo.

post #17 of 1036
The sound quality via the Wolfson DAC is really very good. Compared to that of my Revo (please note that it has been about two weeks since I've been able to listen to the Revo's analog output), it is comparable, and possibly (flame suit on) even better in some respects. There were some faint details in a very familiar track that I can't remember ever hearing before via the same gear but with the Revo (or anything else for that matter) as the source. The cost of that seems to be that the Wolfson is a touch brighter which some will like and others won't (I don't know for myself yet since I would need some extended listening opportunities to discern that). Please note that this is via Winamp using Wave Out for the Mad Dog and ASIO out for the Revo (win98se).

That leads to ASIO compatibility. I do not believe that the Via drivers contain an ASIO driver. However, the behavior demonstrated when I tried to use ASIO Out was not consistent with the behavior noted with other non ASIO devices. Normally there is an error message stating that the plugin couldn't be started or something similar. This time, pressing play while ASIO out was enabled resulted in the program running for a moment but then defaulting back to stopped mode. This gives me hope that perhaps some combination of settings will still allow ASIO out in this situation (but given my lack of time last night, I was not able to explore this).

I A/Bed the stereo output from the Wolfson with the VT1616. The SQ of the Wolfson was obviously greater. The VT1616 output was louder at the same settings (probably 4-6dB; I have no way to measure this, so I'm just guessing). Surprisingly, though, the VT1616 SQ was perfectly adequate, much better than any built in or add in solution I'd had up until the Revo. This may simply be due to the fact that it is not resampling everything to 48khz internally like all Creative, Hercules, Philips, Turtle Beach, and other smaller name cards do and not actually be any sort of testament to the VT1616's DACing capability, but doesn't take away from the fact that it actually sounds good (all things being relative).

I did not test multichannel out of any kind or the optical I/O. I have nothing at hand that has optical out to try feeding it. My speaker/receiver arrangement is in flux (so much so that the actual need and practicality of having the receiver in the mix at all is in serious question). Without getting into much detail, I'm modding some existing gear to come up with a fairly unique configuration that will really only require some creative cabling to get Stereox2 from the Wolfson music and line in and 4.0 from the VT1616 for DVD (which reminds me, I haven't had a chance to test line in or the "stereo expander" function yet).

All impressions and comparisons I've presented here were made over the same set of Grado SR-80 headphones to be as fair as possible.

post #18 of 1036
Thread Starter 
confirmation about ASIO. the via drivers do *not* support it. damn. now to look into this kernel streaming option.
post #19 of 1036

Originally posted by darklordjames
confirmation about ASIO. the via drivers do *not* support it. damn. now to look into this kernel streaming option.

I understand there are no ASIO capabilities built into the VIA drivers. However, can't soemthing like ASIO4ALL work?

I may try this, but my HTPC is in the family room and I am really weary of making any changes to it without a good amount of research.

post #20 of 1036
Thread Starter 
ASIO over kernel streaming is what i am currently researching. i'll get back to everyone when i figure it out
post #21 of 1036
OK well wife and kids are out so I gave ASIO4ALL a quick try.

Was using VIA drivers 1.43d, Chaintech AV-710, Winamp 5.02, ASIO4ALL 1.7 Beta 5, Winamp ASIO Plugin .040 (non SSE) DLL version.

This same configuration will output ASIO on my SBLIVE machine and my Audigy machine (though at 48KHz).

However on the Chaintech card, I could not get sound using the Direct DMA mode in ASIO4ALL. I could get sound using "standard" mode, but the sound quality was awful.

A brief bit of tinkering with options in Winamp ASIO configure and ASIO4ALL control panel did nothing to improve the sound quality.

I didn't do much with it in terms of troubleshooting, and I'm not really very knowledgeable with the relevant pieces of software, so someone else my have better luck. It was promising that I could get sound output using this configuration, but when I say awful .. I really mean awful in terms of sound quality.

If anyone has further luck with "bit perfect" audio out over SPDIF with the Chaintech AV-710 I'd love to try the configuration.

post #22 of 1036
Wow! Keep going this direction and soon I will buy one when ASIO/Kernel Streaming works.

Good Job!
post #23 of 1036
I got the winamp asio plugin but it does not list my card when I configure it. Is there something else I need to do before I can use it?

post #24 of 1036
Try ASIO4ALL or try to flash the EEPROM on your soundcard (for the Chaintechs, at least).

post #25 of 1036
post #26 of 1036
So, anyone figure out that Chaintech AV-710 does bit-perfect for PCM? I need a soundcard do bit-perfect with optical output. M-Audio has coax only, too bad...
post #27 of 1036
If you flash the eeprom, then you can use a different driver. However, the stock card and the VIA reference driver does not do bit-perfect playback.

post #28 of 1036
has anyone succesfully flashed the EEPROM on a Chaintech AV-710 card and gotten ASIO or Kernel Streaming to work?

The instructions about flashing the EEPROM were not really intended for a Chaintech card. I know they are only $27 but they are a pain to find in Canada and I can't really afford to be without sound on the HTPC if the process kills the card.

If however the mroe adventurous types have validated this works with the Chaintech AV-710 and it's possible to get ASIO or KS working reliably, I'll give it a shot.

I'd love to hear from anyone who has tried this with the CHaintech AV-710.

post #29 of 1036

Originally posted by Ursa
If you flash the eeprom, then you can use a different driver. However, the stock card and the VIA reference driver does not do bit-perfect playback.


I see. I don't understand why bit-perfect is so difficult for a sound card. I think curently only M-Audio doing that? Any other brand/model? I need an optical(toslink) port badly...

post #30 of 1036

Originally posted by WoodyT
I see. I don't understand why bit-perfect is so difficult for a sound card. I think curently only M-Audio doing that? Any other brand/model? I need an optical(toslink) port badly...


I think it is because...

1. Creative cards decided to implement 48KHz (re)sampling, negating them as an option for 44.1 KHz audio playback
2. ASIO is typically a feature of very expensive sound cards
3. Windows is buggy and even if your sound card is passing 44.1 KHz audio, something in Windows called "kmixer" resamples from 44.1KHz to 44.1 KHz!

...therefore you need a NON Creative card, capable of 44.1KHz sampling with either ASIO or Kernel Streaming capable drivers.

This card:

...seems like a decent option, but is quite expensive and only has coax, not toslink.

Another good card seems the M-Audio 2496, but again only coax, not toslink:

The Revo seems ok, but it really sounds like the drivers are flaky and ASIO over SPDIF does not function with the Revo cards.

I would definitely agree tho... sound has been the most problematic area of my HTPC. It's WAY more difficult than it should be imo.
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