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Intel Media Music

The Successor to AC'97: Intel High Definition Audio 428

An anonymous reader writes "A few days back Intel announced the name to its previously dubbed 'Azalia' next-generation audio specification due out by midyear, under royalty-free license terms. The Intel High Definition Audio solution will have increased bandwidth that allows for 192 kHz, 32-bit, multi-channel audio and uses Dolby Pro Logic IIx technology 'which delivers the most natural, seamless and immersing 7.1 surround listening experience from any native 2-channel source'. The architecture is designed on the same cost-sensitive principles as AC'97 and will allow for improved audio usage and stability."
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The Successor to AC'97: Intel High Definition Audio

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 18, 2004 @03:44PM (#8014693)
    Will it still also suffer from the same effects of background noise from the rest of the voltage going through the motherboard, or have they found a way to block that out also? 32/192 is fine as a standard... but it is still onboard sound. It needs some seperation from the motherboard to maintain a high S/N ratio
  • OSS drivers? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cyb97 ( 520582 ) * <> on Sunday January 18, 2004 @03:44PM (#8014695) Homepage Journal
    Does the royalty free license also imply that we'll see good opensource drivers for a plethora of platforms?
  • by ten000hzlegend ( 742909 ) <> on Sunday January 18, 2004 @03:47PM (#8014722) Journal
    True progress from Intel, strange but true

    This new system for audio managment is great news for portable devices such as DVD+screen, next-gen PDA devices and even handheld game systems *Gameboy Advance II or PSP?*

    I've long been following PC related audio solutions, all the way from Sonarc to the latest 5 and 6 channel set-ups, my normal set-up is bass speaker, left / right and one for routing system alerts etc... this kind of announcement coupled along with the latest cards supporting the new Dolby processing solutions could well make me upgrade

    More to post...
  • Re:OSS drivers? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Sunday January 18, 2004 @03:49PM (#8014741)
    I just hope for good drivers period. I can't tell you how many times I've had problems with onboard audio even in Windows. I've seen computers where the audio will work flawlessly in Win2k but not in XP, where it'll work fine in XP, but not in 2k, where it'll work fine until you reformat and reinstall the exact same OS, then be broken, etc. etc.

    I finally got fed up with it and just got a cheapo PCI card and haven't had any problems since. Incidentally, you get better gaming performance when you don't use onboard audio, too.
  • by ten000hzlegend ( 742909 ) <> on Sunday January 18, 2004 @03:53PM (#8014759) Journal
    With modern audio requirements, getting as close to the fidelity of the original is the "flavour of the month"

    Last year, Pink Floyd released Dark Side on SACD, 24-bit audio at 48khz / 96khz, the amount of clarity over a CD, once the benchmark, was remarkable, I attended a launch party at was blown away even in a relatively acoustic poor setting

    I for one welcome consumer 32-bit audio
  • by UrGeek ( 577204 ) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @03:55PM (#8014775)
    Mmmm, what would really be nice if the DAC's were not on the sound chip but in a sheilded housing if it's own and then some nice connectors. And the sound chip would have that digital audio interface - i forgot what it is called - if it even supports something as insane as 32-bits/192kbps
  • by bstadil ( 7110 ) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @03:55PM (#8014778) Homepage
    Any idea what it would take to use this as an opportunuty to establish a sort of Azalia Certified for Linux Logo and a set of requirements that goes with it?

    Logo that you could stick on the box and "Journalists" et al could include in the normal fluffy Buzz Word compliance reviews.

  • That's great! .. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ShadeARG ( 306487 ) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @03:55PM (#8014779)
    .. but when will we see high definition video support with component and dvi i/o?
  • Re:Initial reaction (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BoomerSooner ( 308737 ) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @04:00PM (#8014824) Homepage Journal
    Agreed, AC97 is a POS. Every computer I've ever seen someone is using it on the driver implementation and quality is pure shit. Just spend the $50 and get an Audigy card.
  • Re:Initial reaction (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dnoyeb ( 547705 ) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @04:01PM (#8014831) Homepage Journal
    Yea, integratedness has fallen out of favor with me. At least those things that are human detectable such as audio and video.

    Integrated sound thus far has been a bad failure. It works well if nothing else is taxing the CPU, but otherwise, it can stutter. My nforce stutters when the network is active so no playing mp3s located on my Linux share...
  • by boa13 ( 548222 ) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @04:07PM (#8014869) Homepage Journal
    Last year, Pink Floyd released Dark Side on SACD, 24-bit audio at 48khz / 96khz, the amount of clarity over a CD, once the benchmark, was remarkable, I attended a launch party at was blown away even in a relatively acoustic poor setting

    How much of that clarity was due to the excellent sound engineers they probably hired? How much was due to the stage setup, and the excellent speakers and amplifiers they probably had? How did you compare the clarity over a CD? If they offered a comparison, how do you know the CD was a good one, and not a voluntarily dirtied version?

    I for one am very wary of launch parties.
  • DSD Support? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by babymac ( 312364 ) <> on Sunday January 18, 2004 @04:14PM (#8014909) Homepage
    When will we see support for the DSD audio format in computer hardware? I have yet to hear this technology for myself, but friends who have heard it say it's incredible. Like analog, only better. The one bit tech behind it is very compelling...
  • by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @04:16PM (#8014922) Homepage Journal
    The problem is that at 24 bits per channel, it is impossible to fully realize that sort of dynamic range with physical objects.

    The extra eight bits to get to 32 bits is simply a waste. The best I can think of is steganography where you can hide data in the least significant byte and few would catch on unless the data was carefully analyzed.
  • memory requirements (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Saville ( 734690 ) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @04:28PM (#8014995)
    Since you can fit ~80minutes of music on a ~700meg CD you have ~146K/sec for your music. That is at 16bit 44.1KHz stereo songs. Now audio data will take 8.7 times as much memory if recorded in stereo, but if recorded with eight (7.1) channels each song will take almost 35x as much memory thanks to the higher sampling rate and the use of 32bit values instead of 16bit. That is 5.08 megs/sec for your audio.

    I like that this standard is very future proof, but when can we use it? Already CD sound is good enough for all but maybe 10,000 people on the planet. Most people's audio experience is probaby limited by their audio hardware, not the source sound. Hey, most people are quite happy encoding their mp3s at 128k!

    Where will the high quality sound data come from? Audio CDs are still going to be 16bit, stereo, 44KHz. DVDs have compressed audio. Almost all video games use compressed audio of some sort too because we don't have enough memory yet for even CD quality sound.

    I love that it is 7.1 and that it is very future proof, but other than making 7.1 standard it seems to be a standard for marketing to use as an advantage, not something consumers will ever use (by the time they can use it they'll have upgraded anyway). It seems that this beyond CD quality audio is just included because they can and we'll never see it in use this decade :)

    Better to overbuild than underbuild I guess. But I'm not excited about this promise of higher quality audio.
  • 7.1? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cyno01 ( 573917 ) <> on Sunday January 18, 2004 @04:33PM (#8015020) Homepage
    I had this discussion the other day with some friends, none of us are audiophiles, but we all have decent setups. I have 4ch surround for my entertainment center and 4.1 for my sterio in my bedroom, but we all understand that the 5th is a front center, and we all assume, but none of us know that 6.1 has a rear center chanel. But none of us could figure out the arrangment of 7.1 surround. Is there an overhead speaker or no front center speaker and 4 evenly spaced in front. Can anyone shed some light on this?
  • Re:That's audio ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DarrylM ( 170047 ) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @04:33PM (#8015023) Homepage
    192 kilo-Hertz? that's more longwave radio than audio. Hell, it's like 5 times the frequency of ultrasounds.

    Yeah, that is pretty high, but it will allow for a flatter frequency response in the human hearing range than what is possible with 44.1kHz or 96kHz. The reason is that the sampling process has a frequency response of a sync function: sin(x) / x. At a sampling rate of 44.1kHz, the amplitude response of the sample at the high end of the human hearing range will be a fair bit lower than at the low end of the human hearing range. This results in less amplitude (volume) range for the higher frequencies - meaning that the sound won't be quite as close to the original.

    When you sample at a higher frequency, the sync function is, in effect, stretched out so that the frequencies at the high end of the human hearing range have a much better amplitude response. Translation: the sound output should, theoretically, be closer to the original at higher frequencies.

    Other people have also mentioned the benefits of reduced harmonics and such. As for how much of an actual difference to the perceived sound quality this will make, I have no idea. My speakers aren't all that great, anyway. :-)
  • I prefer OSS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MarcQuadra ( 129430 ) * on Sunday January 18, 2004 @04:37PM (#8015050)
    I still prefer OSS, even on my 2.6 testbox, ALSA is about two-and-a-half more bitches to set up from scratch. I really hate having to do all the module configs when OSS just seems to work.

    All I really need is playback from my systems, ALSA is overkill for my needs, and I hate recompiling the alsa-drivers package every time I update my kernel (on 2.4 systems).

    Hopefully someone will automate or simplify ALSA for low-end use.
  • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @04:48PM (#8015117) Homepage Journal
    But isn't Dolby Pro Logic IIx for creating natural surround from stereo for music/movies while EAX allows game developers to create surround sound reflections for 3d enviroments?

    And Creative has breakout boxes, multiple inputs, surround emulation software, accelerated audio, EAX# and A3D compatible, support for most games, etc. (And DRM)

    I don't see this killing off creative, but will hurt its marketshare from non-gamers.

    On the flip side, Creative labs have been quite stale, only minor updates to its Audio card line. They have been adding many other products [], they even have mini-pc's, gfx, burners, mice, keyboards, etc..
    Secondlife []
  • by kamelkev ( 114875 ) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @05:00PM (#8015201)
    "The 44 kHz (IIRC) sampling frequency of a CD means that you can actually record signals with frequencies as high has 22 kHz (half the sampling frequency -- that's a methematical theorem about the discrete Fourier transform). The reason they designed CD audio around that figure was exactly because of the limits of human hearing."

    You are referring to the Nyquist criterion, which states that in order to guarantee you are not losing analog signal information you must sample your source at twice the frequency of the source.

    A detailed explanation of the criterion and theory is here []

    I don't believe it has anything to do with Fourier, or more likely, it can be understood very simply without any knowledge of advanced mathematics (see the link)

    I both agree and disagree with you on your above points... it seems unlikely that the average person can hear about 20khz, but that doesn't necessarily mean that sampling at a higher frequency is pointless. It seems somewhat intuitive that the lower ranges would be that much more "correct". I.E. it can't hurt to sample faster, but it probably doesn't help so much.

  • by midifarm ( 666278 ) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @05:12PM (#8015287) Homepage
    I mean seriously... Professional recording studios at most record in 24-bit 192kHz. So where would this 32-bit recording come from? Hasn't most of the world been dumbed down to where MP3's sound good or at least good enough? I don't know too many people with a sound system worthy of playing anything 32-bit. Besides what is the point of it all?

    The hottest selling gadget of the "music" world is the MP3 player and the seemingly hottest article of contention is the online music store. None of these are even close to being prepared for 32-bit let alone the sizes of the files necessary to create such a file.

    There are a lot of comments about 6.1 and 7.1 CD's or recordings and it's all rather silly. There's no real precident of a true recording done in surround. Would you really want the lead guitar only coming from the left rear channel? The only time that I would think that it would be cool would be at a live performance, but as far as I know no one has really done anything like this.

    So were looking at several GB of needless information to recreate a CD with most likely marginal musical worth, and Intel is leading the charge? I think they're looking at their dwindling x86 market share (AMD is on the upswing, not pushing my Mac-centric views out there) and trying to find a niche by using it's brand recognition. I think Dolby and DTS will have more to say as to whether this proposed solution will have any legs.

    Remember most of the manufacturers and broadcasters still haven't totally agreed upon an officially acceptable HD format! DVD took too long. CD was all Sony, but took long enough for acceptance. Where is this leaving the consumer? A 32-bit 192kHz audio card in their computer, decoding 7.1 channels of information so they can play video games using samples that have been resampled from their original 16 or 8-bit formats.

    I think the word is overkill and it's needless. Most people can't tell the difference and for those that can, I scoff at you. I've worked with some of the best audio engineers in the world and they wouldn't be able to hear the nuances you claim. There is "air" there in higher fidelity recordings, but most speakers can't play it back any way. Ah well, thoughts?


  • Wow (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ajagci ( 737734 ) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @05:58PM (#8015557)
    The Intel High Definition Audio solution will have increased bandwidth that allows for 192 kHz, 32-bit, multi-channel audio

    This is so that my eight-eared mutant pet bat from outer space can finally have a full high-fidelity experience.

    For regular humans, of course, CD-quality audio is already overkill.
  • by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @06:20PM (#8015726) Homepage Journal
    I am not an audiophile but I will note these things:

    The Nyquist theory is an absolute best-case, and assumed that you sampled at the peaks.

    Even with four samples per wavelength you can get pretty weird looking sample data. IIRC, EEs try to get at least eight samples per shortest wavelength to get a decent waveform representations, less than that and you can get some noticable potential frequency and phase shifting errors. On CD audio, that makes it a little over 5kHz.
  • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @06:32PM (#8015818) Homepage
    If they were really serious about noise, they could use RF construction techniques and put the analog components in a shielded can on the motherboard, with bypass capacitors on the power/ground connections. You can shield anything if you are willing to spend some money.
  • by havaloc ( 50551 ) * on Sunday January 18, 2004 @07:52PM (#8016297) Homepage
    I'm surprised no one has brought this up, but does it have any sort of DRM (Digital Rights) built in to it? If so, no thanks!
  • by nathanh ( 1214 ) on Sunday January 18, 2004 @11:58PM (#8017662) Homepage
    Higher sampling rates do capture more accurate detail particularly on the phase accuracy.

    No, you get EXACT reproduction without having to use higher sampling rates.

    In fact, if sampling a 1kHz sine wave at 2kHz, one has to sample at the peaks or get a magnitude error. If the samples happen at the zero crossing (out of phase sample), one gets no signal samples at all:

    That's because you mistakenly think Nyquist's theorem is Fn = 2Fmax. Nyquist's theorem is Fn > 2Fmax []. So what you're seeing is aliasing when Fn = 2Fmax. This causes an attenuation in the amplitude proportional to cosine of the phase difference between the sampling frequency and the signal. If you have Fn < 2Fmax then you get a "beating volume" effect as the phase difference shifts over time.

    Don't get all excited. You haven't proven Nyquist wrong. You just didn't understand what Nyquist said.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 19, 2004 @02:38AM (#8018403)
    The general rule is that you get 6 additional dB of dynamic range per bit. That means that a 32-bit system yields a dynamic range of 192 dB. The range of human hearing is much smaller (it's on the order of 100 dB). If we're dealing with human ears, 32-bit digital recording gives us a lot of superfluous bits taking up disk space. There aren't really any music applications where we need more than 18 or 20 bits. But companies shall do doubt continue to misinform consumuers...

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger