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Auzentech Prelude 7.1 (Source: Hardware Canucks)
EAX 5.0 and Dolby Digital Live on a single PCI sound card

Auzentech is set to release the first third-party Creative Labs X-Fi based sound card – the Prelude 7.1. The Prelude 7.1, announced last month, allows users to enjoy multi-channel EAX 5.0 positional audio without connecting four sets of audio cables. Auzentech licenses Dolby Digital Live multi-channel audio encoding technology to provide users single-cable convenience over S/PDIF.

The new Prelude 7.1 mates features previously found on the Auzentech X-Meridian with the Creative Labs X-Fi sound processor. Auzentech equips the Prelude 7.1 with a removable OPAmp on the front channels output of the sound card, unlike the X-Meridian’s four removable OPAmps. A LM4562NA is the default installed OPAmp on the Prelude 7.1.  

Auzentech pairs the Creative Labs X-Fi sound processor with two memory chips for 64MB of memory. AKM digital-to-analog convertors are installed on all eight audio channels, a step up from the Cirrus Logic DACs employed by Creative Labs. Other notable features of the Prelude 7.1 include audio headers, although it is unknown if they meet Creative Labs’ specifications.

Expect the Auzentech Prelude 7.1 to trickle into retail channels in the coming weeks.

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RE: PCI Express
By Xavian on 5/30/2007 8:05:08 PM , Rating: 5
actually, PCI-Express has latency problems, sure its great for high bandwidth, but latency is very important for soundcards.

Soundcards need low latency, PCI-Express is higher latency then PCI. So unless soundcard engineers work-out how to handle the latency, its gonna be PCI-only for quite some time yet.

RE: PCI Express
By AnnihilatorX on 5/30/2007 8:37:56 PM , Rating: 2
Hm I have heard about this somewhere.

I am sure there will be workarounds. PCI can't be around forever.

Caching is a well established method to reducing impact of latencies. CPUs do it, HDDs do it.
Not to mention there're on board RAM on these soundcards

RE: PCI Express
By wien on 5/30/2007 9:42:52 PM , Rating: 5
Sound cards need near real-time latency. You can't cache information that doesn't exist yet. Take for instance sound input processed by the CPU and sent back out through the output (very common in studio applications for instance). Latencies down into the milliseconds can be quite noticeable in these cases. Same goes for games which generate sounds real time. They need output as soon as possible. Caching isn't an option.

RE: PCI Express
By supasso on 5/31/2007 5:15:07 AM , Rating: 5
I don't buy that. If the PCI-Express has latency problems for sound card, why is it ok with graphic card? Our eyes are even less forgiving than our ears, in term of latency. The speed of sound is 344m/s, meaning that it takes 3ms for sound wave to travel from the speakers to your ears if you sit 1m away from the speakers, more if you sit further. On the other hand, the latency of PCI-Express is probably measured in ns.

Myth busted.

RE: PCI Express
By Vinnybcfc on 5/31/2007 7:27:01 AM , Rating: 3
Why vote him down? You people need to do some research.

Creative have released X-Fi products on PCI Express before look at this:

Yes it may be on a laptop and using Expresscard but Expresscard uses PCI Express.

There are other reasons on why Creative don't want to release a desktop PCI Express card.

RE: PCI Express
By erwos on 5/31/2007 8:28:04 AM , Rating: 3
You need to do some research, too. ExpressCard has access to a PCIe 1x lane, but it also has access to USB 2.0. This could very well be a USB 2.0 product using ExpressCard's physical interface. In fact, I'd be shocked if it wasn't, given Creative's love of USB sound devices.

That said, the "high PCIe latency" excuse is not something I've ever heard actually backed up with numbers or sourced in any way. The fact that GPGPU stuff works as well as it does puts lie to it, IMHO.

RE: PCI Express
By Flunk on 5/31/2007 9:36:23 AM , Rating: 3
Not to mention that USB is significantly higher latency than PCI-E and there are plenty of USB audio processing products. Soundblaster Audigy USB for one example.

I think the real reason that sound cards are still PCI is that there is little reason to switch to PCI-E. All new motherboards still have PCI and it's cheaper to produce cards with only one interface (If they switch they still need to product PCI cards for older systems).

I expect sound cards to switch to PCI-E around the time that motherboard manufacturers start making boards that don't have PCI slots. Then it will happen very quickly, every card will be PCI-E. This is what happened in the transition to PCI from ISA and I expect it to be repeated here.

RE: PCI Express
By psychobriggsy on 5/31/2007 9:34:21 AM , Rating: 2
How does that explain those USB attached soundcards? USB clearly has far far far far far worse latency than PCIe.

As for PCIe's latency, it's not that bad compared to PCI because it is clocked much faster, and there are other advantages because the bus is point to point rather than shared. Indeed an x1 link can have 250MB per second going in and out of it, rather than PCI's ~120MB/s, so the latency of sending (e.g.,) 128 bytes via PCIe is actually lower than sending them by PCI.

Never mind the fact that most PCI buses in chipsets are now hanging off of the southbridge, which is attached to the northbridge via a high-speed serial interconnect, which is PCIe in many cases. So you have the PCIe latency added to the PCI latency.

PCIe latency could be increased if you use a PCIe -> PCI bridge on the sound card too. Creative need to put a native PCIe interface on their sound chip.

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