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

-on time/subjective observations "> The first thing we noticed was that for all the bells and whistles found in Intel Audio Studio (IAS) and in Realteks own audio control panel, neither application has a mixer in it to replace Microsofts clunky old standard mixer applet. Also known as the kernel mixer (Kmixer), this applet is very long in the tooth and its UI has needed a serious face lift for many moons. Granted, the mixer is a Microsoft application since its part of the OS, but any Windows audio hardware worth its salt gives you a better mixer than the one Windows provides by default.
Microsoft actually brought forth a new audio architecture in the OS to make way for Intels HD Audio had a hand in developing HD Audios OS interfaces. This new architecture, called Universal Audio Architecture (UAA), is intended to enable HD Audio and provide more robust audio interfaces for FireWire- and USB-based audio devices. According to Microsoft, UAAs goals are:
  • Simpler installation of audio peripherals
  • Higher performance: Minimum CPU time consumed when streaming, while taking advantage of increased bandwidth
  • Glitch-free audio
  • Ability to update the operating system while guaranteeing high-quality audio performance
  • More stable and secure audio for server applications
  • Fewer drivers and upgrades required and less driver code to be developed, tested and supported
  • Reduction in support calls and returns
While these are all laudable goals, we still wish a new and improved mixer application had made its way into the feature list as well. You Dont Know Jack One of HD Audios most visible features is its jack-sensing technology, which ensures you make the proper connections to the growing number of output and input jacks that now populate back panels of motherboard-down audio solutions. Realteks implementation fares pretty well, where the driver senses a jack insertion event by "listening" for impedance changes in the jack. Each time we plugged in a line-input or line-output, wed be prompted by the Realtek control panel app to verify that what we plugged in was in the correct jack. After about the fifth prompt, this implementation, though well-intentioned, started to get annoying. Weve seen smarter implementations from Analog Devices and SigmaTel that not only sense a change in impedance in the jack, but also can distinguish the amount of change in impedance and figure out whether a line-input or a microphone was just plugged in. They can also distinguish between a line-output and a pair of headphones. So even if you plug an input or output into the wrong jack, the driver can re-patch channels to ensure the wiring configuration, even if erroneous, will still work. Next page: Intel Audio Studio

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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