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Topic: Contemporary onboard audio - ALC1220, expanded 'supported formats', etc. (Read 4442 times) previous topic - next topic
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Contemporary onboard audio - ALC1220, expanded 'supported formats', etc.

Realtek, the principal hardware audio CODEC manufacturer, has long produced ICs that are technically capable of exceeding CD resolution. Implementation of CODEC ICs, on the other hand, has varied. Relatively recently, motherboard manufacturers have begun to pay close attention to the implementation of the audio subsystems of their boards as a selling point, but even the 'mid-range' contemporary Realtek CODECs have 'supported' 24bit word length and 96Khz+ sampling rates for a number of years. 7.1 output has also been widely available.

So what is a poor CODEC or motherboard manufacturer to do to differentiate their high end products these days?

It's actually a bit difficult to tell what Realtek even claims their new CODEC products are capable of, because no publicly available data sheet appears to exist for their most current products. This makes some sense because the public is not their customer; the board makers are.

I have been curious as to what novel, exciting, and totally unnecessary features the ALC1220 (the current 'high end' Realtek CODEC) might be technically capable of supporting. Conveniently, it was time to update my main desktop system, and AMDs Ryzen 7 CPUs can now be found for less than $300 in retail.  :o  This being the case, I've acquired a Gigabyte X370 'Aorus gaming K5 motherboard' which features the ALC1220 with fancypants nichicon 'gold audio' capacitors in the audio stage. And das kolorful blinkenlights, for some reason.

First impressions:
-In the audio driver app., resolutions up to and including 32bit/192 KHz are supported by the CODEC. Laughable. Seems pointless without 384KHz sampling ;)

-Motherboard product literature claims that (the IC maker doesn't even list the chip on their site yet) the main stereo DAC of the ALC1220 has a 120dB SNR. Quite impressive if true; these CODEC chips are definitely not particularly expensive.

-__ing DSD has now officially penetrated the onboard audio CODEC IC industry! Motherboard claims 'support for DSD128 hardware decode'. Oy vey. I wonder if this means software and supporting hardware will play the SACD layer of hybrid discs; more likely this is referring to just the data type. This means SACD rips could theoretically be supported. At long last. ::)

-Tweaktown's review of this motherboard performed an RMAA loopback test  (likely limited by the CODEC ADC) and found a dynamic range (A) of 108dB, with
THD at a shocking 0.0034% and IMD@10kHz being  0.004%. Initial listening (Paradigm mini monitor/NAD high current amp system) finds output quality to be totally indistinguishable from my Asus Xonar sound card with 16 and 24 bit FLAC audio samples. Shocking, truly.  O:) In the future I'd like to run RMAA at multiple sampling rates, with the Xonar capturing the motherboard output rather than a loopback. It may be that the Xonar ADC is better than that of the ALC1220 and could provide a clearer picture of what the DAC end of the ALC1220 is capable of.

Essentially any competent implementation of this (or nearly any current) CODEC should be absolutely excellent if the Aorus X370 K5 is representative.

-Other notes:
This particular board has a feature Gigabyte calls 'DAC-UP' - two of the USB ports (one front, one rear) are capable of being overvolted by up to 0.3V DC in order to provide more power to external DAC/headphone solutions. Hard to imagine why you'd bother with an external solution with this board, perhaps 600 ohm headphones.

I forgot how nice Gigabyte boards are - they include a little plastic adapter to plug the LED/power/reset leads into so you have one big plug to attach to the board. Why everyone doesn't do this is beyond me.

The Ryzen 7 is really quite an unreasonable CPU - the six core/12 thread chips are a bit more sane. I'm rather irritated with AMD for making a chip like this, because I don't know how to utilize all of its resources. On some occasions I've maxed out quad core systems but that's just not going to happen here. Happily the chip is extremely energy efficient, and the Threadripper CPUs exist exist, helping to make me feel somewhat less ridiculous. :-[

Edit: for any system builders, my board shipped with the 'F3' BIOS and works flawlessly with EVGA 'SuperSC' DDR4 at the advertised 3000/cas 15 (2x8GB).

Re: Contemporary onboard audio - ALC1220, expanded 'supported formats', etc.

Reply #1

The Ryzen 7 is really quite an unreasonable CPU - the six core/12 thread chips are a bit more sane. I'm rather irritated with AMD for making a chip like this, because I don't know how to utilize all of its resources. On some occasions I've maxed out quad core systems but that's just not going to happen here. Happily the chip is extremely energy efficient, and the Threadripper CPUs exist exist, helping to make me feel somewhat less ridiculous. :-[

Edit: for any system builders, my board shipped with the 'F3' BIOS and works flawlessly with EVGA 'SuperSC' DDR4 at the advertised 3000/cas 15 (2x8GB).

I've been a long time user of larger AMD chips and Chrome, and there has been a dirty little secret - that Chrome multitasking on previous and current (Ryzen 7)  AMD chips with  6 or 8 cores has been piss poor for years. Opening more than a dozen windows was pretty ugly.

I don't know what happened but just lately Chrome Version 63.0.3239.84 seems to have alleviated this.

Re: Contemporary onboard audio - ALC1220, expanded 'supported formats', etc.

Reply #2
That's quite interesting Arnold, I had not been aware of any such issues. The observation makes more sense with the FX chips, given their relatively poor IPC per core (although they did have reasonably robust ALU units, in contrast to sharing a single FPU between 2 'cores').

Nice to hear the issue has been resolved, and although I'm assuredly more of a Firefox guy, I definitely use chrome more than edge, however 😉

Re: Contemporary onboard audio - ALC1220, expanded 'supported formats', etc.

Reply #3
I've been using Chrome-dev and Firefox Nightly for years now. Both are considered to be "unstable". However, they're incredibly robust!

Especially Firefox Nightly is incredibly well made for what it is.

As of this writing, my version numbers are:

    Chrome-dev: Version 64.0.3269.3 (Official Build) dev (64-bit)
    Firefox Nightly: 59.0a1 (2017-12-16) (64-bit)

In all the years, I had Nightly behave weirdly on me twice, and Chrome had once a weird issue with displaying some fonts. So for unstable versions, they're pretty robust, if you ask me.

I tend to use both in tandem, Firefox mainly for textual stuff, as it has a better working font rendering engine, etc. Chrome on the other hand is better integrated with other Google products, so I use Chrome for Youtube, Google Drive, and Google Hangouts.

Firefox Quantum has been recently released with the latest release-version of Firefox. I've used it for quite some time, since I'm a Nightly user, but tbh. it offers only really marginal improvement, but it does put it on par with Chrome most of the time (except for the pages that Google intentionally cripples and/or slows down, if you don't use Chrome).
 
I also run Vivaldi every once in a while, mainly to try things out, etc. It's kindof a shame, they also use Blink, the same engine Chrome uses. I quite liked Opera/Vivaldi being the underdog and providing their own engine, which was also pretty good.

I've yet to try out Edge, as I don't use any Microsoft OS past Windows 7. My Win7 VM still has some Internet Explorer version, which I never bother using.

Re: Contemporary onboard audio - ALC1220, expanded 'supported formats', etc.

Reply #4
Interesting, polemon. I'm pretty sold on FFox Quantum at this point, as it does seem appreciably faster with the particular set of plugins I run (script blocker, video downloader, ghostery, https everywhere, etc).

I was a fan of Opera (the browser) way back when, not so much the last decade or so though. Edge is very much Microsoft's Chrome, and it is pretty good, but without decent IE-specific backward compatibility it doesn't really have much of a reason to exist. Microsoft unquestionably has the personnel to do really superior emulation should they so desire, but I assume even they do not want to keep the shambling, undead corpse of IE around, if at all possible. It's a serviceable out of the box browser, to be sure, but it doesn't appear to offer any advantage over existing solutions, and may itself have some disadvantages.

Functionally it's possible to get Ryzen (and any consumer Intel chips since Skylake) running in Windows 7, but I don't believe USB 3.1 (gen 2), or more importantly, NVMe boot drives are typically supported, at least not without some effort.

Win10 is a good effort, but the privacy issues have not really been resolved, which undercuts it a bit. That said, even using a fair number of websites or services (Google for instance) has inherent privacy issues of probably even greater concern. In my mind, it's hard to be upset at Microsoft if you have Gmail, etc. I use both, and Android, to boot, so I'm thoroughly tagged and tracked. And of course there's the telecoms, and the .gov, et al.

I use chrome for Netflix, and general browsing with Firefox myself. Edge gets kicked to the curb with Cortana and biometric logins. Maybe if they hadn't killed their smartphone OS there would be a good case for Edge other than as the built in default; full service autosync and services across console, phone and full-fat OS'. I can't imagine anyone installing Edge on iOS or droid, so Apple or Alphabet are gatekeepers.

Re: Contemporary onboard audio - ALC1220, expanded 'supported formats', etc.

Reply #5
I pretty much only use the Win7 VM for work related stuff, and the odd software that doesn't work on Linux. Other than that, I have really no use for most of Windows. I don't really play game or anything.

When it comes to my browser usage, they're kinda vanilla. I only really use Adblock. I've used GreaseMonkey many years ago, and I always liked the developer tools of Firefox. Other than that, I use Linux commandline tools. youtube-dl and mpv are my main clients for listening to music and watch movies on youtube, if I'm honest. I don't watch Twich and I don't use any streaming service like Netflix or Amazon Prime, etc.

Btw: Firefox makes a better image viewer, and Chrome makes a better PDF reader and media player, drag-drop a video into a new tab and there you go! ┬ŽD

I also use links (the web browser) in graphics mode: links -g. That's my preferred way to read things on the internet, tbh. It can only display text and images, but it does that really good, and I do quite a bit of research like that for my job and whatnot.

Re: Contemporary onboard audio - ALC1220, expanded 'supported formats', etc.

Reply #6
Wow. Someone still using links! Impressive; maybe let Roberto know if RRW displays properly :D

I'm simply not going to be able to avoid Netflix, and my recent experiences have cured me of the delusion that OO.o or Libre are acceptable drop-in substitutes for Word when it comes to the formatting requirements of publishers, and I refuse to be a victim of Apple's profit margins. Publishing obviously can be done with free options, just not always with someone else's template.

Happily for science (and to some degree, engineering) types, Mendeley desktop is available for Linux. For Molecular types in particular, SnapGene is also Linux friendly, which is fantastic if you're doing Cas9/cpf1 editing on the regular.

 
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