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High end motherboards are including an ESS Sabre 9218 DAC with WIMA capacitors, for example https://www.aorus.com/X570-AORUS-XTREME-rev-10

 

Can these things ever deliver sound quality competitive with an outboard USB DAC or even something like the EVGA Nu Audio card?  How do such motherboard DACs get their input?  Obviously, it isn't USB.  I really wonder about the quality of power and clocking with such DACs.


NUC7PJYH/AL --> Berkeley Alpha USB --> Jeff Rowland Aeris --> Jeff Rowland 625 S2 --> Focal Utopia 3 Diablos with 2 x Focal Electra SW 1000 BE subs

 

i7-6700K/Windows 10/HDPLEX 200W/HDPLEX 400W DC-ATX --> ISO REGEN/LPS-1.2 --> iFi iDSD Micro --> Focal CMS50's 

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Target audience for MB/soundcard is a gamer.  +1200w PSU, liquid cooling, RGB everything, overclocked everything... as near opposite a fanless audio only computer as possible to construct.  Basic aim is stability during extended periods of maximum load. Then adding MCH audio or powering headphones.  

 

When I asked @amir57bs if he planned on testing any more of this type of equipment.  It was with an eye towards seeing how it actually operated in an isolated environment.  Despite being engineered to survive use nearer that mentioned above.  

 

There is a market for these devices against lower end Schitt products etc.  Reality is the roadmap leads towards MCH home theater PC interests being better served.  With an audiophile CEO doing as much to preserve audio quality as possible. 

 

Who knows, something might sneak through aimed at "gamers" using a (not overclockable) processor lacking onboard video and external DAC that just so happens to be loaded with large high quality caps.

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7 hours ago, rickca said:

High end motherboards are including an ESS Sabre 9218 DAC with WIMA capacitors, for example https://www.aorus.com/X570-AORUS-XTREME-rev-10

 

I just put my server upgrade together with Z390 AORUS MASTER motherboard with ESS audio (reason I purchased the mobo was their DAC-UP USB ports, not the onboard audio). The onboard audio even supports DSD. CPU is i7-8086K and RAM is HyperX Predator DDR4-2400 with CL12. No fancy GPU's though.

 

I will run some measurements for the audio when I find time, I will need to use horribly long cables because I don't want to bother to move my measurement rig or the computer from rack.

 

I will also run some measurements for the EVGA card when I find time. No long cables needed for that, I will put it in my i7-7700K + RTX2080 Windows workstation.

 

7 hours ago, rickca said:

How do such motherboard DACs get their input?  Obviously, it isn't USB.

 

PCIe just like for example the RME HDSPe pro-audio cards I have.


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This is some sort of Realtek ALC 1220 of Asus Z370-i motherboard.

I think this is pretty good for motherboard analog audio output.
Summary.png.0fad9f282f50f77ebaa3b07c85c1acca.png

 

RMAA result. Click image to enlarge.

 

AsusZ370i.thumb.png.cff91ce33b5c536e2324144e589470ef.png

 

Measurement setup.

MeasurementSetupa.thumb.png.77d40e92b673163e086dd65e5884b529.png

 

 

 

+0dBFS 1kHz sine wave output. Frequency is accurate. Output voltage is 2.2V RMS.

Sine.jpg.1b48a0e25c7fd726e5ecaa065ee7e645.jpg

 

Analog reconstruction filter is brick-wall linear-phase.

Impulse.jpg.9b5d91bf52b506e7e6d52cd1538733e4.jpg

 

It seems high frequency noise is well suppressed.

Spectrum.jpg.f7a51c6c484d487ad5a1a8937da93c37.jpg

 

 

 

 

 


Yamamoto2002

Developer of PlayPcmWin

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On 7/8/2019 at 5:22 PM, rickca said:

How do such motherboard DACs get their input?  Obviously, it isn't USB. 

 

Rick, I would not be too sure about that. The EVGA you mentioned is also based upon USB.


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On 7/9/2019 at 12:22 AM, rickca said:

How do such motherboard DACs get their input?  Obviously, it isn't USB.

 

Onboard audio codec chips are connected to south bridge with PCIe. On X570 Aorus Xtreme motherboard, Realtek ALC 1220VB audio codec is used. This audio codec connects to ESS Sabre DAC.

 

ALC 1220 uses "High Definition Audio" protocol. This High Definition Audio protocol for PCIe audio is equivalent to USB Audio Class protocol of USB DACs. HDMI audio also uses High Definition Audio protocol.

https://www.intel.com/content/dam/www/public/us/en/documents/product-specifications/high-definition-audio-specification.pdf

 

Studio PCIe/PCI cards such as RME Hammerfall,  Echo Layla 3G, Lynx AES16e etc has proprietary protocol.


Yamamoto2002

Developer of PlayPcmWin

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In a typical PC, one of the main chips includes a High Definition Audio (HDA) controller accessed over PCIe (PCI in older designs). There are also HDA controllers available as separate chips, also using PCIe, from e.g. Cmedia. The driver programming model is defined in the HDA specification. This part is somewhat analogous to the EHCI specification for USB controllers.

 

The HDA controller interfaces with an external codec (DAC and ADC) chip over an HDA link. This is a bidirectional synchronous serial interface carrying multiplexed command/response and data streams in a fixed-length frame structure. Comparing to the DAC chips we are familiar with, the HDA link combines the functionality of the I2C and I2S links commonly used.

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9 hours ago, PeterSt said:

 

Rick, I would not be too sure about that. The EVGA you mentioned is also based upon USB.

I know the EVGA Nu Audio uses USB (ASMedia) but it's an add-in card, not a motherboard DAC.


NUC7PJYH/AL --> Berkeley Alpha USB --> Jeff Rowland Aeris --> Jeff Rowland 625 S2 --> Focal Utopia 3 Diablos with 2 x Focal Electra SW 1000 BE subs

 

i7-6700K/Windows 10/HDPLEX 200W/HDPLEX 400W DC-ATX --> ISO REGEN/LPS-1.2 --> iFi iDSD Micro --> Focal CMS50's 

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4 hours ago, rickca said:

I know the EVGA Nu Audio uses USB (ASMedia) but it's an add-in card, not a motherboard DAC.

 

Yes, I know.

Found out how the Asus works already ? However, notice that I never had a MoBo like that in my hands. With that it would be relatively easy. All I know is that wherever I look, it is a "secret". Probably the reason that you ask.

 

Anyway I thought you gave the example of the EVGA as being a good sound card. Maybe it sounds good, but I personally like to avoid USB (for reasons of course).

There is way (way) too much around which uses USB, just because it is readily available, while otherwise the license of CMedia or whatever is needed. And the modern CMedia is no good either (also for my good reasons).

 

Maybe I'm wrong.

 

Btw, for me it wouldn't be about the DAC (chip). I'll stick my own on it. It is about the interface.

 

You don't need a MoBo "DAC" for a direct interface with PCIe. That can just as well be a sound card. PCIe is everywhere these days.

I hope I make sense ...


Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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