Print 39 comment(s) - last by shortylickens.. on Apr 3 at 8:46 PM

Xonar EMI shield concept

Xonar D2K at CeBIT, image courtesy of VR-Zone
ASUS readies its upcoming Xonar D2 and Xonar D2K PCI and PCIe x1 sound cards

ASUS last week at CeBIT demonstrated its upcoming Xonar-series sound cards. The upcoming Xonar-series spawns two variants, the D2 and D2K in PCI and PCIe x1 interfaces. Dolby Digital Live and DTS Connect multi-channel audio encoding technologies are available for digital multi-channel audio. The Xonar-series also features 7.1-channel analog outputs for those that prefer analog to digital.

Early reports claim the ASUS Xonar-series feature an Analog Devices audio DSP, however, ADI denies any involvement in the sound card.

“I checked with our sales team and there is not an ADI part in this unit,” said Sandra Perry, product line manager, SoundMAX, DSP Division.

ASUS also touts Dolby Pro Logic IIx, Dolby Virtual Speaker and Dolby Virtual Headphone technologies for multi-channel upconverting and surround sound with stereo speakers and headphones. ASUS rates the Xonar-series with an 118dB playback and 115dB recording signal-to-noise ratios. The upcoming Xonar-series sound cards support 24-bit/192 KHz playback and recording resolutions and ASIO 2.0 as well.

ASUS internal testing reveals the Xonar-series is capable of low total harmonic distortion rates. The Xonar-series has 0.000006% THD on all eight analog outputs and the single line input, between the frequencies of 20Hz to 20 kHz. ASUS also equips the Xonar-series with an EMI shield and touts it provides “stable audio quality.”

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By Gecko1 on 3/23/2007 1:58:31 PM , Rating: 2
Wow! exdeath just laid out my entire sound system!

RE: Wow
By exdeath on 3/23/2007 2:03:24 PM , Rating: 2
Been there done that... until I got my Def Tech towers a few years ago and never looked back.

RE: Wow
By exdeath on 3/23/2007 2:07:14 PM , Rating: 4
Even with the Klipsch system I have on my PC, look at the crappy tangle of wire they give you to connect them with, lol.

I love it when people spend $500 on a pair of cables to connect to their $2000+ amplifier or HDTV with gold plated exposed jacks... open up the amp or the TV and and look at the 20 ga copper wire soldered to the tab on the back of the jack with corroded tin solder. Lol

RE: Wow
By Tsuwamono on 3/23/2007 2:40:13 PM , Rating: 2
thats my arguement with my brother in law(he sells expensive sound systems to people with more bucks then brains) he insists that better cables make better sound. I dont disagree but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. and more often then not its the solder on the inside thats holding back the signal. not the wires that come with it.

RE: Wow
By exdeath on 3/23/2007 3:37:43 PM , Rating: 6
Someone tried to convince me that a dedicated high end DVD player is far better than the DVD drive I use in my HTPC, because of the cheap PC ribbon cables, noisy power supply, interference, software decoding, etc.

How do you explain to someone like that the concept of DIGITAL...

A stream of bits decoded off a disc over a 50 cent SATA cable translates to 128 0 0 and send over a $5 HDMI cable translates to 128 0 0 on the display device at that exact pixel, the same exact way a $2000 DVD player.

What do those people think is inside their $2000 DVD players? With a HTPC I have the advantage of altering the codecs, etc., I'm not locked into a black box with pre-configured hardwired firmware. HD upscaling? Cleaner decoding? Buffering layer changes? Region compatibility? All things that can be done in software 100 times better than a dedicated box.

People that like to by expensive electronics are having a hard time justifying the cost difference in the digital domain. With analog signals, cables and things like that can make or break a good AV system. With digital you can use a $5 HDMI cable that is 50 feet long as long as it works. About the only thing to gain by paying for expensive digital cables is longer runs.

The signal can be distorted to hell and back on the shittiest cable possible, and as long as the threshold between a '1' and a '0' is preserved, it will look just as good as a $1000 cable on the same screen.

RE: Wow
By mendocinosummit on 3/23/2007 4:08:21 PM , Rating: 2
$5 HDMI cable, wow, I would like to know were your buying yours at. I do agree with you though.

RE: Wow
By paesan on 3/24/2007 8:05:27 AM , Rating: 2
Try and you will find hdmi cables that cheap. I have many including a 25' running from my pc to the tv.

RE: Wow
By digitaldreamer on 3/23/2007 4:26:55 PM , Rating: 3
I agree with most of your points regarding digital signal transfer. However, there are differences in the way video upscaling and deinterlacing is done on HTPC and dedicated players.
Most run-of-the-mill PCs don't really offer the quality per-pixel motion-adaptive deinterlacing found in players with Faroudja or Silicon Optic Realta chips, although a lot of that is changing with ATI's and NVIDIA's new GPUs.


RE: Wow
By exdeath on 3/23/2007 4:42:21 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah, but in software, things can be changed and upgraded. I was thinking more a pure software decoder engines more than incomplete hardware offloading in graphics chips. That is all configurable. Personally I have no interest in upscaling DVDs after seeing 1080p with 1:1 mapping so I don't really pay attention to that realm.

But to say a PC DVD drive isn't as accurate in video rendering as the drive in a dedicated videophile player because of a cheap low quality ribbon cable? Come on... 12345 is going to be sitting in a DRAM chip as 12345 somewhere and fed to a TMDS transmitter all the same.

That is the whole point of digital after all =D

RE: Wow
By Comdrpopnfresh on 3/23/2007 4:29:19 PM , Rating: 1
There is really no such thing as a digital circuit. Digital circuitry is just analog- with brackets of voltages cordoned off as 0's and 1's. If the air has static, or the cable runs too long and experiences voltage drop, or the internal wires are not balance and properly shielded from one another- there can be inductance which changes the voltage values above of below their norm and changes your 0 and 1.

RE: Wow
By exdeath on 3/23/2007 4:58:55 PM , Rating: 4
Yes, the signal can be garbled off the board, but as long as those 'brackets' are maintained the signal goes through 100% accurate. It's all or nothing, the only requirement is that the cable be at least good enough quality and low resistance enough that the weak low voltage signal can be picked up on the other end.

If 5 volts is the minimum threshold to be a '1' and you send 0010 in pulses of 0.5 0.5 5.5 0.5 and you get a noise on the line and end up with 0.6 0.7 6.9 0.3 , in digital its still 0010 despite the noise. This is why digital systems have been used in computers from day one.

Thats not exactly how the signal is encoded in digital but it gets the point across. Any signal is analog by definition of the word 'signal' but the encoding method is digital and there is a threshold between a '1' and a '0' along with things like error correction, checksums, differential transmission to cancel mutual noise, etc. Things you don't have with raw analog.

On a analog transmission if you get noise like that, you just shifted all your hues, saturation, etc. and you can't get consistent result, esp. with the way color is encoded as phase and frequency. With digital everything is just evenly spaced strobes at a fixed frequency with a fixed amplitude.

With digital, the color grey is still 128 128 128 even with moderate signal noise as the digital encoding scheme can still pick up the swings even with significant noise. With analog you dont even know there is noise to begin with, you just end up with 135 123 140 on the other end instead of 128 128 128.

I'm simplifying it alot, but thats the basic idea.

The biggest problem with digital HDMI cables is impedance mismatching where you have connectors, couplers, etc.

RE: Wow
By DragonMaster0 on 3/23/2007 10:50:53 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, with HDMI/DVI you're right, there's no difference.

The only difference with the cables might be that a $5 one will not last long, and a $25 one with minimal gold plating will. The other thing is that jitter might be present, but every TVs pass the data input through a signal processor, which corrects the signal.

With analog signals, power supply noise, DAC quality, etc. matters a lot more(Not to the point of buying a $2000 player tho. Get a $150 player, get $40 worth of better quality components, replace the ones in the player with those, and you have what a hundreds worth more player is).

SPDIF is a digital signal, but might not always give the greatest quality, but that depends of the source and receiver. Jitter might affect the SPDIF decoder and audio DACs, as they're hardware(and synchronous, data comes in and out) and do not necessarily understand clearly an unclear signal. A software DSP would correct it(It has time to work on the signal), but not every receivers work with one.

Here, the computer has an advantage. For example, the computer doesn't read the DVD in real-time, so it has time to re-read the data if it's been misread. To the opposite, a standalone DVD player running at 1x has to do everything in real time, and will use hardware-dependant error correction, and the data on the disc isn't re-read a second time.

It's the same thing through all the computer : The data is asynchronous, it's sent in packets, and re-sent and corrected if it's not valid, so, with a computer, you're sure that the data read by the laser is the same going to the PCI and PCI-Ex buses to your sound card and video card(Unless there's processing somewhere between). An overly scratched disc is the only thing that could get the data wrong.

Then, it's up to the sound and video card to do the async to sync digital job(They're the only things that can get the sound worse). For DVI/HDMI, it's up to the TV to be good. For the sound, the sound card might play with the sound quality, and a good external sound card is preferred to a not-high-end receiver(Simply for the way the stream is handled between the SPDIF or I2S stream transmitter and receiver).

OK, compared to the computer, a $2000 player does every thing in sync and in real-time and doesn't take the time to correct everything. It's DVD drive is running at 1x, forget error correction, and the signal that comes in is coming out instantly. Every of the ICs in the player could be affected by jitter, as well as the signals between components as they are not asynchronous packets.

BTW, I've been talking about jitter for a while, it's important because if the signal shape is not as square and synchronized as possible, the reciever might not know immediatly if the bit received is switched or kept to 1 or 0, it might hesitate and cause errors in the output it will give. A system working in real-time is going to be affected by this as it's directly affected by the input signal. DSPs and computers process data in software and not in sync, so they have the time to receive the data correctly and handle it the same way.

RE: Wow
By shortylickens on 4/3/2007 8:46:47 PM , Rating: 2
Thats what I try to tell people all the time and they never listen.
It only needs to be able to distinguish between a 1 and a 0.
Maybe I should print out your speech and hand it the next person I see trying to act smarter than they are.

RE: Wow
By pdelagarza on 3/23/2007 3:43:04 PM , Rating: 2
Remember that the conection betwen the the RCA jacks its quite poor due to only a few contact spots, thats why you need to make it as good as you can, when you solder a cooper wire to that gold plated connector, that solder make it almost a perfect connection. So the weakest link is the rca conector, also remembre that the cable is only carring a signal, so that signal will be amplified later, thus amplifing also all the noise picked up by the cable in the way from the source to the amplifier.

I dont think a cable is worth $500, but I like to use good quality cables, I have spent for my HT about $200 in cables. also good cables usually last longer, and after installing everything, I dont want to mess with it again to change a bad cable. :)

RE: Wow
By exdeath on 3/23/2007 4:10:56 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah I use high quality heavy duty cables for my speakers and analog video where it counts. I think I paid at most $200 just for a pair of heavy duty molded cables with gold plated banana plugs for my front main speakers, and in retrospect that was probably slightly too much... but at least they look nice since they are visible.

I also went extra careful running a 30 foot insulated and shielded component video cable by spending $100 to ensure that it was 3 independant 75 ohm broadcast grade coax cables, of the kind suitable to carry high bandwidth 1080p over a 30 foot run in a perm. in wall installation for a projector. The wall jack that is really no more than a bunch of RCA couplers is my weak link, but it's unavoidable.

The s-video cable... well that was the lowest signal I was willing to wire up for a HDV system (forget composite) and just got some cheap cable. s-video sucks anyway and you can't change that by throwing money at it. Besides my sources are just pre-component video game consoles. For example the SNES which put out 256x224 through a cheapo RGB->NTSC RF noise generator doesn't look so hot blown up on a HD projector no matter how much you mess with it... I have slight ghosting, but I don't know if thats avoidable with a better cable as S-video isn't typically desireable for long runs in the first place.

The HDMI cable was like $40 for a 10 meter run, the cheapest I could find. My only concern was that the signal merely GET to the display over the long run. As long as that happened, the image would be perfect. Digital is kinda a 'it works or it doesn't' thing.

Unless you are running unusual distances, a fiber optic cable is a fiber optic cable. A $5 one and a $100 THX Monster one will have absolutely NO difference in that 4 foot cable from your PS3 to your stereo!

RE: Wow
By exdeath on 3/23/2007 4:22:27 PM , Rating: 2
The people I laugh at are the ones that get 99.999999% nitrogen filled cryogenically treated cables that are suspended off the ground with no bends, etc.

Even in my case I doubt the solder connections and wiring from the jacks to the internal crossovers in my Def Techs are as good or better than my $200 cables...

RE: Wow
By rcc on 3/23/2007 5:40:18 PM , Rating: 2
Digital is kinda a 'it works or it doesn't' thing.

That's an extremely simplistic view of digital. From a practical standpoint it is generally true, however, as your thresholds get noisier, the receiving circuit has to guess as to whether it's a 0 or a 1. Granted, even if it makes an error, you'll probably never hear it as it's one bit out of many. OTOH, the same type signal in your computer will drive it to it's knees because every bit is critical.

Digital audio, be it HT, cell phone, whatever, will typically work until it doesn't. The threshold is almost, but not quite like throwing a switch. Analog actually holds up better after a certain point because the signal is still there, however noisy; where a digital system becomes random junk.

Only partially applicable, I know. But it's an important distinction in general.

RE: Wow
By Zoomer on 3/24/2007 9:52:32 AM , Rating: 2
You mean RG6 cable for the video. :)

RE: Wow
By Comdrpopnfresh on 3/23/2007 4:25:52 PM , Rating: 2
I think the cables do make a difference- to an extent. I'd agree that the gold-plated thing is stupid- silver would be cheaper, and work better! But the transmission of data over one cable is where you get interference. So yes- the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, but the weakest link is usually the longest one that is exposed tot he outside ~ the wires connecting equipment.

RE: Wow
By exdeath on 3/23/2007 5:01:00 PM , Rating: 2
Silver oxidizes easily and quickly. Gold and platinum are used for this reason alone, not for conducting properties.

By Jammrock on 3/23/2007 2:16:45 PM , Rating: 2
EMI Shield ... thank you.
PCIe ... about time.
No SoundMax parts ... smart (and people think Creative drivers are bad)
Supports lots of cool features...happiness!
RCA outputs ... good.
Gold plating ... excellent.

Now the only big questions left are, which audio chipset and do the drivers suck? Overall it looks very promising though. Hopefully it will start enough competition to get Creative off their duffs and fix their drivers at long last.

RE: Interesting.
By Hare on 3/23/2007 2:45:56 PM , Rating: 3
According to another article:

Digital output: coaxial only

Noooooooo. Where's my toslink/optical!

RE: Interesting.
By AnotherGuy on 3/23/2007 3:35:14 PM , Rating: 2
it doesnt mention when will these be available or how much $$$$$$$$$$$ ????

RE: Interesting.
By Anh Huynh on 3/23/2007 3:17:04 PM , Rating: 3
Judging by the specifications and features, I'd say its the CMEDIA Oxygen HD used by the Auzentech X-Meridian and other DDL and DTS Connect capable sound cards.

RE: Interesting.
By elFarto on 3/23/2007 3:35:46 PM , Rating: 2
Yep, I'd guess that too, but as I found out all the useful features of the CMI8788, like the DTS encoding and such are actually implemented in the driver, not the hardware. This rules out any useful Linux support, infact on the C-Media website it says:

Linux driver available (w/o Dolby®/DTS® and other DSP technologies)


By Goty on 3/23/2007 4:36:57 PM , Rating: 3
Now just give me a discrete PCI-E x1 card that supports hardware acceleration.

RE: Great...
By KristopherKubicki on 3/23/2007 7:06:09 PM , Rating: 3
More importantly, will it run Folding@home.

RE: Great...
By Xavian on 3/23/2007 8:27:30 PM , Rating: 2
Everything and its mother does right now, so I wouldn't be surprised...

RE: Great...
By Xavian on 3/23/2007 8:27:30 PM , Rating: 2
Everything and its mother does right now, so I wouldn't be surprised...

0.000006% THD ?
By peldor on 3/23/2007 1:28:49 PM , Rating: 5
That translates to 99.999994% TBS.

Total Bull Shit.

RE: 0.000006% THD ?
By bubbacub616 on 3/23/2007 1:38:57 PM , Rating: 2
hmmmn dolby digital live goodness, reminds me of my best mobo - asus nforce 2 with soundstorm.

wish creative would pull their fingers out and support DD live

(which is bit off topic but hey at least i didn't bring sony/ps3 into it.... dammit just did)

RE: 0.000006% THD ?
By BucDan on 3/23/2007 1:40:55 PM , Rating: 2
i dont know....sometimes u can let them work their magic. lets see what asus truely has with this new prduct of theirs... their specs do seem to real...

By exdeath on 3/23/2007 1:52:06 PM , Rating: 3

I bet the PCB traces are 100.00000000% gold and the entire sound system is frozen to 0.00000000 K right?

That THD is beyond any real world method of even measuring. WTF? Some decisions by Asus leave me wondering if they are getting too big for their own good. It happens the same way every time; a company that earns a solid reputation for the best product, starts branching out, dropping the ball, and selling products on the basis of bling factor and name alone (*waves hi to Sony, Square, etc*)

But the best part about it is that it will be connected to peoples crappy speakers blown speakers with a maxed out bass knob connected with scrap speaker cable made of spliced phone cable and lamp power cords...

RE: 0.000006%
By poring on 3/23/2007 3:14:07 PM , Rating: 2
The THD number seems to come from 1/2^24 in %. Thought the quantisation noise alone would generate more than one bit worth of distortion.

RE: 0.000006%
By aos007 on 3/23/2007 4:13:13 PM , Rating: 2
Those distortion numbers are highly suspect. I don't believe there's a DAC chip or, hell, opamp in existence that can produce distortion that low. I've designed a number of DACs and I haven't heard of anything in that range. You'd have trouble even getting S/N ratio to be high enough to be able to detect such low distortion. If you say that the number comes from half a bit of a 24-bit word, then even more so.

By exdeath on 3/23/2007 1:57:54 PM , Rating: 3
It's about time we have some PCIe 1x cards. PCI needs to go away just like the era it came from; eg: 1993, along with floppy's, etc.

Mind you I only mean the 32 bit parallel 132 MB/sec physical layer, as the PCI protocol itself remains even in PCIe.

RE: However
By MrBungle123 on 3/23/2007 2:38:34 PM , Rating: 2
yes, now if only creative would follow suit.

RE: However
By Lord Evermore on 3/25/2007 12:17:20 AM , Rating: 2
What about the 64 bit 66MHz 512MBps version? :-) Or PCI-X?

PCI to PCIe bridge
By Lord Evermore on 3/25/2007 12:16:06 AM , Rating: 2
So, it's still not native PCIe, is it? I suppose it may not matter too much, it'll mean the audio chip gets a dedicated PCI bus to itself, but what might that do to latency? And what other fiddly things might it result in that a native connection wouldn't?

I guess it's inevitable that there will be a "transition" period where lots of things won't be native PCIe, it just seems like after this long a wait, they could have skipped that step.

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