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Product: Pentium 4 2.8GHz & Intel D845EBT Motherboard
Company: Intel
Website: http://www.intel.com
Estimated Street Price:
$637
Review By: Julien Jay

Onboard Audio

able Of Contents
1: Introduction
2: CPU Architecture
3: SSE2 Instructions & P4 2.8GHz CPU Design
4: Intel i82845e Chipset
5: Intel D845EBT Motherboard
6: Intel D845EBT Sound Features
7: Synthetic Benchmarks
8: Games Benchmarks
9: Applications Benchmarks
10: Benchmarks analysis
11:
Conclusion

The built-in audio support of the D845EBT motherboard is, to my point of view, simply a marvel even if some power users may argue it consumes CPU resources to work while a PCI sound accelerator wouldnít. Well donít get me wrong, the onboard chip isnít designed to compete with a Sound Blaster Live or Audigy, but it provides a clear and nice sound that will please everyone especially music lovers along with some advanced sound features explained here. Easy to install (you donít need to do everything since itís integrated), easy to use with powerful and bug free drivers, and pleasant to hear are the features of SoundMax Cadenza. The built-in audio support avoids the need for any supplementary sound card since it performs as well as them and so doesnít waste PCI bandwidth (in case you have a top notch sound card you can always disable this sound circuit). 

 

The integrated ICH4/ACí97 audio solution combined with SoundMax Cadenza technology is a cost effective solution to provide users with a robust sound quality. SoundMax digitally synthesizes, spatializes and mixes music and voice streams by taking advantage of the processor horse power and companion stereo CODEC (COding and DECoding), achieving a perfect audio parity with consumer electronic devices. 

Since the onboard circuit complies to the ACí97 norm it performs analog to digital conversion and perfectly supports simultaneous recording & playback operations. A typical ACí97 solution works like this when you play a wave file: the data is retrieved by the PCI controller, processed by the acceleratorís DSP, converted to ACí97 format and sent over the ACí97 interface to the CODEC. The audio CODEC then converts the PCM audio data to an analog output, which is passed to the back jacks and ultimately to the PC speakers. Today Intel processors offer enough power to perform these DSP effects in software without excessive use of processor bandwidth (with a 800MHz processor, SoundMax uses less than 3% of the CPU horse power). In the audio world, the quality of what you hear is measured using decibels: the higher the dB rate the more the sound is better and the apparatus is able to play near to perfection sound. With an approximate rate of 100 dB signal to noise ratio the SoundMax audio circuit reaches the quality of a good CD player (in comparison a tape deck reaches in best cases 70 dB with metal tape and Dolby C). Being full duplex, the circuit supports 48 kHz sampling rate to deliver outstanding audio and its frequency response covers what the human ear can listen from 20 Hz to 20000 Hz.


Andrea Audio Commander (click to enlarge)

The Intel D845EBT uses the AD1980 SoundMax chip that offers a stereo mic input, and 22db mic preamp circuit along with a 20 bits DAC to offer a SPDIF output. 

Another surprising feature offered by the SoundMax Digital Audio integrated system is the Sensaura 3D positional audio and environmental enhancement that lets you experience a full 360į sound. The same kind of technology is now present in many sound cards and modifies the phase and group delay of outgoing audio signals so users can experience an immersive, three dimensional sound experience. This technique is great especially in games (imagine you can hear your enemies arriving before they appear on your screen, or the bullets flying all around you) and when watching DVD. For high demanding real-time audio applications, SoundMax uses multi-voice DLS Wavetable MIDI synthesises with Staccato SynthCore Audio Rendering Technology to provide physically modelled sound effects capabilities.  

The professional 4 MB DLS2 Sound Set offers 128 high quality recorded instruments while the XGlite Sound Set comes with a 1.2 MB memory that contains 360 instruments. If in terms of sound quality the SoundMax circuit doesnít pale at all in comparison to a Sound Blaster Live!. 

The new feature of SoundMax Cadenza over the previous version SoundMax with SPX, is the advanced voice input features that offer noise-free voice input and support for microphone arrays or VOIP (voice over Internet) allowing advanced operations like speech recognition, command and control. SoundMax is obviously DirectSound compatible and supports EAX so your games will sound as good as with a SoundBlaster Live!

Sound Drivers

   We tested the SoundMax Audio circuit with the latest  drivers release under Windows 2000 Pro as well as under Windows XP Professional with the latest final drivers from Intel. First of all the drivers are using the WDM architecture so they are perfectly compliant with the advanced power management & other DirectX features and perfectly integrated with Windows. The SoundMax drivers offer several software features that let you enhance the depth and strength of bass frequencies for the output signal, models the human HRTF (Head Related Transfer Functions) to position sound effects anywhere in a 3D sound field, and much more. The drivers also let you choose which music synthesizer you want to use, the number of voices that are needed for an optimum playback, etc. The latest drivers come with the SPX extension and Cadenza support: the Sound Production Extensions technology generate responsive, interactive, and dynamic game sounds in real time in response to game physics, environmental variables, and player input.

  

  
SoundMax Cadenza Drivers Control Panel & Tray Icon (click to enlarge)


Andrea Superbeam Microphone

ę Intel D845EBT Motherboard Synthetic Benchmarks Ľ

 

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