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Review: Gainward Hollywood@Home 7.1

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 10 January 2004, 00:00

Tags: Gainward

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The Card

Card

I mentioned VIA's Envy24 ASICs on previous pages, the Hollywood@Home 7.1 uses the Envy24HT-S version. The Envy24HT-S supports 24-bit, 192kHz on the digital inputs and outputs, 20-bit, 48kHz if it's an analogue input or output.

So while the Hollywood@Home 7.1 uses the impressive Envy24 for audio, it does so only to enable eight channel support. The HT-S version of the ASIC, while supporting eight channel audio formats like Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES, and admirably so at high bitrate and sample rate on the optical output, is no more impressive than a massive variety of motherboard based audio solutions when using the analogue speaker outputs.

The Hollywood@Home 7.1 has no digital input, so the Envy24's impressive digital input capabilities sit unused. The card simply serves to give you eight channel output, little more.

To that end, given the limits of the ASIC in terms of analogue output performance, Gainward pair it with the VT1616 'Six-Trac' ASIC, also from VIA, along with a Cirrus CS4341 D/A for the trailing stereo channel pair.

VT1616

The VT1616 is a six channel chip, supporting 18-bit input and output, further crippling the Envy24HT-S base spec, with 48kHz sample rate.

CS4341

The CS4341 is a 101dB, 24-bit, 96kHz part. Two channel stereo only and its high spec largely unused on the Hollywood@Home 7.1, it nonetheless provides the support for the remaining channels the VT1616 doesn't cater for. Given the DACs that sit in front of the Envy24, presenting you with analogue audio, the final spec of the card pans out like as so: Eight audio channels, 18-bit resolution, 48kHz sample rate with 24-bit and 192kHz on the digital output.

CS4341

Looking at the port layout from right to left, we hit digital optical output first, followed by four ports for your eight speakers and separate ports for microphone and line inputs. Flexible enough in that the mic and line-in ports aren't shared with any outputs, not bad for a cheap card like the Hollywood, an added dimension over shared ports on motherboard bundled audio solutions.

Limited, but functional, the key feature is provided by Envy24HT-S and the two DACs drag it all down to regular motherboard audio levels.