Board Highlights #2: 3D Sound onboard
The value-added CM8378 chipset, supporting 4.1 channels!
Instead of integrating the standard run-of-the-mill ACPI audio support, Iwill have gone a step further and implanted 3D positional audio support (up to 4 speakers) using the CM8378 chipset. In particular, an optional SPDIF IN/Out module connector is purchasable, which provisions for MD recording & playback, etc.
Undoubtedly, for those requiring the crème-de-la-crème in PC audio, one would still demand a higher end add-on card like Creative’s SBLive!! or VideoLogic’s Sonic Fury. Nonetheless, the CM8373 is more than sufficient for others. Let's savor its specifications in detail:
- Full duplex playback and recording with built in 16bit CODEC;
- HRTF 3D positional audio, supports both Direct Sound 3D & A3D formats;
- Supported outputs: earphones, 2 or 4 channel speakers;
- Supports Win 3.1/95/98 and NT4.0 (note that it also includes Win2K WDM drivers; if not, these can be easily downloaded from CM’s website)
- MPU-401 Game/Midi port and legacy audio SB16 support;
- Downloadable Wave Table Synthesizer (DLS), supporting Direct Music.
- Stereo analog mixing from CD-Audio, Line-In;
- Stereo digital mixing from Voice, FM/Wave-table, Digital Audio;
- Mono mixing from MIC and software adjustable volume;
- OPL3 FM synthesizer
Optional Digital Audio interface (SPDIF IN/OUT):
- Up to 24 bit stereo 44KHz sampling rate voice playback / recording;
- Full duplex playback and recording, 120db audio quality measured;
- Auto detectable SPDIF IN signal level from 0.5V to 5V;
In addition, the Audio Rack software has been included, which typically acts like a software Audio control centre – rendering playback of MP3, WAV, MIDI, Audio-CD, etc. A proprietary mixer is also included. Although not mentioned in the manual, the chipset also supports EAX (Environmental Effects). The player comes with preset Environmental effects for use (like Quarry, Pipe, Bathroom, etc) that work quite well, together with an Equalizer containing several pre-configured modes (Rock, Classic, user-customizable, etc). My personal favourite would be the “Classic” mode, being the most balanced sound offering of the lot, IMHO.
The Audio Rack app resembling a Hi-Fi play/record centre
In regards to multi-channel speakers, this is only supported (I gather) via DS3D programmed games / demos. Hence, for most D3D games in the market now, this should be incorporated seamlessly. But as a point to note, the “Rear Speakers” and “Line-In” output share the same socket on the motherboard. Thus, only one may be used at a time, in practice.