Intel HD Audio Arrives

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.

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