NForce-2 sound crippled by mobo makers

DawnWolf

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Just glanced through Tom's NForce-2 Ultra roundup, and noticed that no mention was made of onboard sound quality at all. Which is a shame, as there's something here that needs pointing out:

Manufacturers cripple the sound of the MCP-T by use of a really cheap codec, the ALC650.

NVidia's reference board used two Sigmatel codecs, and it shows. The outstanding results are at http://www.3dsoundsurge.com/reviews/nForce/nForce-p5.html

I tested my MSI board, and the results are rather horrible:
http://www.shawnbehrens.de/rmaa-results/MSI K7N2 Delta ILSR.htm

Now, some of this will be down to MSI's implementation, but most of it, I am sure, is due to the codec used. Heck, even my aging SB Live! Value beats the living daylights out of that codec.

It seems the OEMs have all decided to go for the ALC650, with one exception, Epox, and they use the C-Media CMI9739A ... no idea whether that's any better than an ALC650.

So, here's my appeal:
Download RightMark Audio Analyzer from http://audio.rightmark.org/ and test it on your NForce-2 (Ultra) board. And let us know the results.
And if you're unhappy with the sound results you get, write to the CEO of your mobo maker :).

Shawn

P.S.: For Audio Testing, the RMAA wizard works well. Connect Line Out to Line In (not Microphone) with a stereo cable. Mute everything but Wave, Master, Line In, to avoid picking up noise from a bogus source. Disable all equalizer, EAC, etc. effects. And go for it.
 

ad_rach

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Yeah.I was reading about the same thing yesterday somewhere.Apparently the soundstorm audio only comes into its own when you use dolby digital via a digital output and a decoder.Having said that, i have always been happy with the analogue audio coming from my abit NF7-S.It may sound different to me now that i know it is not officially regarded as 'good quality' though!The mind plays tricks on you.

no matter how hard you try, you can't polish a turd. :]
 

phsstpok

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I thought the outboard chips were only used for analog preamplification and that the nVidia APU still did the actual D/A conversions.

<b>56K, slow and steady does not win the race on internet!</b><P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by phsstpok on 07/22/03 03:44 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
 

TheMASK

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Here's all ur links clickable.

<A HREF="http://www.3dsoundsurge.com/reviews/nForce/nForce-p5.html" target="_new">http://www.3dsoundsurge.com/reviews/nForce/nForce-p5.html</A>

<A HREF="http://www.shawnbehrens.de/rmaa-results/MSI K7N2 Delta ILSR.htm" target="_new">http://www.shawnbehrens.de/rmaa-results/MSI K7N2 Delta ILSR.htm</A>

<A HREF="http://audio.rightmark.org/" target="_new">http://audio.rightmark.org/</A>

<A HREF="http://www.au-ja.org/review-msi875vs865-13.phtml" target="_new">http://www.au-ja.org/review-msi875vs865-13.phtml</A>

<b>Take my advice, I don't use it anyway.</b>
 

Crashman

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I've got a great idea, one I haven't suggested in a LONG time, nVidia should COMBINE their audio and graphics technology into ONE CARD! Then they could specify what parts are used, and we would have choices between the good companies who complied, and the cheap ones that didn't. Also, it would make those horrible cube PC's more practical, freeing up a slot. And how's this for 3D sound...it could use the 3D position generated by the video card to perfectly locate sound sources!

<font color=blue>Only a place as big as the internet could be home to a hero as big as Crashman!</font color=blue>
<font color=red>Only a place as big as the internet could be home to an ego as large as Crashman's!</font color=red>
 

markgun

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Well, if it ever happens we'll know where we heard it first! Hehe, I'm sure you just loved that recent cube roundup.

<b>Qui habet aures audiendi audiat</b>
 

Crashman

Polypheme
Editor
Yes, the cube roundup, almost as thrilling as the latest Dell vs Compaq shootout at ZDNet.

<font color=blue>Only a place as big as the internet could be home to a hero as big as Crashman!</font color=blue>
<font color=red>Only a place as big as the internet could be home to an ego as large as Crashman's!</font color=red>
 

DawnWolf

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AC'97 (which stands for Audio Codec 97) employs two components: An AC'97 digital controller, and an AC'97 Analog Codec. See Figure 2 in this pdf:
<A HREF="http://ftp://download.intel.com/labs/media/audio/download/ac97_r23.pdf" target="_new">http://ftp://download.intel.com/labs/media/audio/download/ac97_r23.pdf</A>

The NVidia APU does not include a DAC. A good block diagram is hosted at nforcershq: <A HREF="http://www.nforcershq.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=23721&sid=e7a48125fa8f0db249bcfd82c0bd60d9" target="_new">http://www.nforcershq.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=23721&sid=e7a48125fa8f0db249bcfd82c0bd60d9</A>

Or, in NVidia's words:
"At its core, the Audio Processing Unit is a multi-processor audio rendering engine (see Fig. 1). The APU is responsible for providing hardware audio acceleration for both output streams (playback) and input streams (record). The APU renders completely to system memory. This decoupling allows the resulting stream to be transferred to any transducer including an AC ‘97 CODEC or a USB speaker system."
<A HREF="http://www.nvidia.com/docs/lo/2027/SUPP/APU_TechBrief_71502.pdf" target="_new">http://www.nvidia.com/docs/lo/2027/SUPP/APU_TechBrief_71502.pdf</A>

3DsoundSurge explains this very well at <A HREF="http://www.3dsoundsurge.com/reviews/nForce/nForce-p2.html" target="_new">http://www.3dsoundsurge.com/reviews/nForce/nForce-p2.html</A>

The ALC650 is an AC'97 v2.2 CODEC, which can be used with soft-audio (the CPU provides the actual digital sound) or with an AC'97 controller (which the MCP-T acts as).

In other words, whether SoundStorm will "take the world by storm" (words from NVidia's promo song) depends heavily on the DAC used by the OEMs. And said OEMs have been going with the cheapest option available, as few users understand the difference the codec makes, fewer are complaining, and thus there is no business need to differentiate on that front.
 

pIII_Man

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few are complaining because if you compare to the sound quality of past intigrated sound boards the nforce2 is damn good...for poeople who really care about sound...get an audigy 2 they are 60bux oem....

So easy to fry yet tastes so good...
Silicon: The other, other, other white meat :evil:
 

phsstpok

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Thanks. Some good info there. Obviously I was mis-informed.

I've been considering a low-cost nForce2 mobo but I only have a cheap Cmedia 8738 based sound card. (Tested better than those MSI K7N2 Delta ILSR results, though).

So the questions are, which nForce2 mobos have better quality audio output? Only the Soundstorm certified models? others?



<b>56K, slow and steady does not win the race on internet!</b>
 

pIII_Man

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you could totaly get around this problem if you used the optical or spdif output on many of these boards...

So easy to fry yet tastes so good...
Silicon: The other, other, other white meat :evil:
 

DawnWolf

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>>
So the questions are, which nForce2 mobos have better quality audio output? Only the Soundstorm certified models? others?
>>

If you know the codec used, output quality becomes somewhat predictable. You will see some fluctuation with implementation, but nothing big.
All mobos use the ALC650 (again, Epox uses C-Media, which isn't any better) rather than the Sigmatel which NVidia used in their reference design.

So, you're out of luck as far as sound quality goes.

Responding to the "just get an Audigy-2" card comment:

This seems, somehow, just wrong to me. How much more is a Sigmatel codec for the end user? 5 bucks? 2 bucks for the manufacturer? And because of that difference, users who would have been happy with the sound the MCP-T can deliver, but aren't happy with the "crippled" version, now are expected to spend another 60 + shipping?

That's silly. That's like saying "oh, never mind the onboard ethernet and firewire only have 1/4th the promised throughput, just get a Realtek Ethernet, they're only 10 bucks OEM; and fireware cards are cheap too".
Can't see anyone going for that.
(Just to be clear, the onboard Ethernet and Firewire are fine, just peachy)

I understand differentiation. Hence the MCP (soft-sound) and MCP-T models. I can even see differentiating MCP-T further: Some OEMs offer mediocre sound, others offer sound that showcases what the MCP-T can do. And the consumer can decide.

But there is no differentiation. All of the OEMs use cheap codecs. And I, for one, feel I am being deprived of a feature that I would have liked to have. Without buying an Audigy-2, thank you.
 

pIII_Man

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i think you are missing the fact that most people who go for intigrated audio are not very concerned about the sound quaity...sure it would be nice if the manufacturers impliment it....but then again they probably don't think it is very necisarry either...

So easy to fry yet tastes so good...
Silicon: The other, other, other white meat :evil:
 

phsstpok

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Offtopic:

Hey, I like Audio Analyzer. I created a CD with the test and calibration signals and was able to test my DVD player and receiver. Always wondered if the claimed specs were right, or even close.

<b>56K, slow and steady does not win the race on internet!</b>
 

phsstpok

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"Mediocre". Yikes! That's like FM radio quality.

Intersting, I have a cheapo CMI8738 sound card which benches better than the codec of the CMI9739A of the MSI 865PE Neo2. Wouldn't one expect a newer generation sound chip do better than an older one?

<b>56K, slow and steady does not win the race on internet!</b>
 

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