Intel HD Audio Arrives

By Dave Salvator  |  Posted 2004-06-24 Print this article Print

Review: Motherboard audio gets a major (and long overdue) facelift. ExtremeTech takes you through the highlights and low points of Intel's first HD Audio solution.

Motherboard audio has long been the ugly stepchild to its PCI-based sibling. For the longest time, if you wanted really solid audio in your PC, you had to get a PCI-based sound card. That started to change with the arrival of Nvidias nForce chipset, which put three DSPs into the south bridge and encoded Dolby Digital in real time. Nvidias solution seems to have become an orphan for the time being, though the company maintains that its working on further audio solutions. Analog Devices has also championed better motherboard audio through its SoundMAX offerings and companies like SigmaTel have been instrumental in improving the lot of motherboard-down audio. But all have had to deal with the limitations of the aging AC97 standard, which Intel defined about eight years ago. The audio world has undergone some major changes since then and its become increasingly clear that AC97 needs to be retired.
With the arrival of its Grantsdale and Alderwood motherboards using the 925 and 915 chipsets, respectively, Intel has simultaneously brought out three major platform changes: new and improved chipsets, PCI Express, and HD Audio. Youve gotten your first taste of the platforms overall performance, so today well show you Intels new motherboard audio sub-system, where we kick the tires and take it for a test drive.
Next page: Intels HD Audio

Dave came to have his insatiable tech jones by way of music—,and because his parents wouldn't let him run away to join the circus. After a brief and ill-fated career in professional wrestling, Dave now covers audio, HDTV, and 3D graphics technologies at ExtremeTech.

Dave came to ExtremeTech as its first hire from Computer Gaming World, where he was Technical Director and Lead (okay, the only) Saxophonist for five years. While there, he and Loyd Case pioneered the area of testing 3D graphics using PC games. This culminated in 3D GameGauge, a suite of OpenGL and Direct3D game demo loops that CGW and other Ziff-Davis publications, such as PC Magazine, still use.

Dave has also helped guide Ziff-Davis benchmark development over the years, particularly on 3D WinBench and Audio WinBench. Before coming to CGW, Dave worked at ZD Labs for three years (now eTesting Labs) as a project leader, testing a wide variety of products, ranging from sound cards to servers and everything in between. He also developed both subjective and objective multimedia test methodologies, focusing on audio and digital video. Before all that he toured with a blues band for two years, notable gigs included opening for Mitch Ryder and appearing at the Detroit Blues Festival.


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