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Auzentech X-Fi Prelude 7.1 (Source: Auzentech)
The first third-party X-Fi based sound card will have Dolby Digital Live and DTS:Interactive

Auzentech has posted detailed specifications of the upcoming X-Fi Prelude 7.1 sound card. The Auzentech X-Fi Prelude 7.1 is the first third party sound card based on the Creative Labs X-Fi sound processor.

Auzentech pairs the Creative Labs X-Fi CA20K audio processor with AKM digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital convertors. Auzentech employs four AKM AK4396VF DACs on X-Fi Prelude 7.1. The DACs boast 24-bit resolutions and 192 KHz sampling rates with a 120dB stereo signal-to-noise ratio. An AKM AK5394AVS ADC takes care of audio input duties. The ADC features 24-bit resolution and 192 KHz sampling rates.

The X-Fi Prelude 7.1 features a single user-replaceable front-channel OPAMP. Auzentech installs a National LM4562NA OPAMP with a rated 0.00003% total harmonic distortion levels on the X-Fi Prelude 7.1. The other six channels feature TI OPA2134 SoundPlus OPAMPs. The TI OPAMPs are not replaceable.

The new X-Fi Prelude 7.1 takes advantage of all X-Fi sound processor features including EAX Advanced HD 5.0, CMSS-3D, X-Fi Crystalizer and SoundFonts. Auzentech also installs 64MB of X-RAM on the X-Fi Prelude 7.1.

Eventually the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude 7.1 will feature multi-channel audio encoding technologies. Auzentech plans to add Dolby Digital Live support in Q4’2007 for Windows Vista and XP. DTS Interactive and DTS NEO:PC support is planned for Q1’2008 for Windows Vista and XP operating systems.

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RE: Finally!
By AnnihilatorX on 6/13/2007 3:17:24 PM , Rating: 5

Sound clips can be cached into the sound cards just as well as textures can be cached in video memory

When a player fires a gun in the game, Same amount of delay tolerance is required for the screen to flash with the muzzle animation compared to the soundcard need to play that clip which could have been cached in memory onboard the soundcard.

Latency is not bandwidth. The CPU sends a signal to order the GPU to render the gun fire animation at the same time as telling the sound card to sound the fire. To say PCI Express soundcard is impossible because of latency in this regard is completely a bogus myth.

The truth is, rather than latency being the direct cause, it is the lack of implementation of on board sound memory which can cache sound clips like the sound of a gunshot. Current sound cards pull data directly from main RAM and hence the latency issue, because pulling stuff off main RAM instead of local RAM surely takes longer.

RE: Finally!
By Lakku on 6/13/2007 3:27:21 PM , Rating: 2
Did you even read my post? I see your point, but, without using as many words, I pointed out video cards stored things in their local video memory, and sound cards right now, don't. You proved my point by pointing this out, that there IS a latency issue with sound since they can't cache, other than in main memory. There are latency problems in video as well, as anything that can't be cached in video memory or that is less predictable, often causes hitches or drops in the frame rate as main memory is accessed. This doesn't destroy immersion, but if sounds were not coming as they should, it WOULD destroy immersion. Nothing is worse than unsynced sound.

RE: Finally!
By tayhimself on 6/13/2007 3:30:20 PM , Rating: 2
So your hypothesis is that sound cards don't have onboard memory to cache sounds and apply transformations to said sounds? I didn't know that. You made it sound like video cards somehow saw into the future while soundcards do not.

RE: Finally!
By Lakku on 6/13/2007 3:36:56 PM , Rating: 2
They can.. they can render unseen things ahead of time off screen before they come into view of the player. They are therefore in video memory ready to come on screen before the player needs them. Perhaps I'm not explaining it enough or used the wrong terms, but as it stands right now, sounds come to the player as the player makes an action or something in the environment makes an action. Any latency problems would destroy immersion. Maybe someone else can explain it better.

RE: Finally!
By AnnihilatorX on 6/13/2007 4:09:58 PM , Rating: 3
I see where you are coming from. But you wrongly hinted that PCI Express was the main reason why the latency is the issue.

You see, video card can render off screen objects, but they also cannot predict the user's effect on the objects like moving or destroying them.

The same applies to sound cards. They cannot predict when a gunshot for example is fired. But with appropriate caching techniques the current latency problem of transferring sound data from main RAM can be mitigated. If sound data is cached on a fast local memory on the sound card, the responsiveness of it would be on par with graphic cards.

To sum up, I would not blame the slightly inferior latency of PCI Express as the reason for lack of PCI Express soundcards.

At the time X-Fi, Median is in design, the number of people having PCI Express boards did not warrant the extra cost for developing the chip solely for PCI Express, nor it was viable to design two different chips; i.e., one for PCI, one for PCI-Express. It was simply not economical and the gain of supporting PCI Express was minimal.

Situation is a bit different now as proven by ASUS's move. In this case though, Auzentech's Prelude is based on the X-Fi chip so of course it cannot be easily ported to PCI-Express because of the design.

RE: Finally!
By AnnihilatorX on 6/13/2007 4:16:15 PM , Rating: 2
Small point to add to above

Games are not used to having memory on sound cards. Even if sound card manufactures build RAM in the sound card, (e.g. X-RAM), it would require not drivers, but game manufactures to script code to tell the driver to pre-cache sounds.

The most relevant question is, if caching is impossible, does the slight worse latency of PCI Express contributes to an engineering problem hence lack of soundcards?

I can't say for sure, but if Asus managed to do it right, I would not think that is the reason then.

RE: Finally!
By Hydrofirex on 6/13/2007 6:53:08 PM , Rating: 2
I think your take is more solvent than asserting PCi Bus Latency, but I have to point out that games would have to be caching something sound-wise into main memory. Further, why USB connected sound cards?

With respect to Occam's Razer: Most people don't upgrade very often and when they do they go through a mass market brand like Dell, CompUSA, Compaq, HP, ect. People buying value and mid-range (90% of the market) computers are just now getting towards the point of mass-market adoption.

Conclusion: No Market, then no support.


RE: Finally!
By sviola on 6/13/2007 4:07:17 PM , Rating: 2
The X-Fi lineup has some sound cards with 64 MB of memory, the so called X-RAM.

And from benchmarks and reviews, the few games that support the use of on-board memory haven't boosted more than 1 or 2 extra FPS. Don't know if it is an issue with how the games are using it, but it just doesn't make any difference.

RE: Finally!
By AnnihilatorX on 6/13/2007 4:18:47 PM , Rating: 2
That's very true. It's a chicken and egg thing. Currently game producers won't bother. Tiny percentage of people have X-RAM. If Creative stick those cheap RAM chips on all the X-Fi cards, not just the Fat1lity series or above, there would be wider adaptation and more support for a long term gain.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads
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