Sound Card Overview (Part 2)

As far as a sound card is concerned, the status of the audio processing chip is self-evident. The main chip is responsible for most of the operations required for sound processing, including playback, sampling, and recording of sound signals. Nowadays, the popular three-dimensional sound support also needs to be synthesized by the main chip. Therefore, the quality of the audio processing chip directly affects the performance of the entire sound card. Nowadays, all kinds of sound chip princes are coming together, and their performances are different. Below I will give you a systematic introduction and evaluation of mainstream sound card chips on the market today.

Rating items:

Audio quality- WAV channel processing capabilities, including playback sound quality and recording effects.
Compatibility—Inspect the software compatibility and DOS compatibility of the sound card.
Three-dimensional effects-the sound card's ability to support various three-dimensional sound APIs and audition effects
MIDI performance-performance review of MIDI wavetable synthesis capabilities.


9-10 points-excellent performance and professional level.
7-8 points-good performance and moderate performance.
5-6 points-The function is very limited and acceptable.
3-4 points-The performance is very low and unacceptable.
1-2 points-no such function or its inferior.

1. ESS series

ESS is well-known in the field of sound card chips. Since the ISA era, its products have been known for their good quality, low price, and good SB compatibility. ESS688 is a very famous chip. Since entering the PCI era, ESS has successively launched a series of chips with the code name 19XX. The author will introduce them one by one.

1.ESS MAESTRO-I (1948)

1948 was the earliest PCI sound card chip introduced by ESS. At the time, it was in full compliance with the standards of the new generation PCI sound card. Because of its new DLS technology, MIDI provides a 64-voice wavetable synthesizer, making the effect much more pleasant than FM synthesis. It uses SpaTIalizar 3D technology for three-dimensional sound, which can provide hardware accelerated Direct Sound and Direct Sound 3D functions, and the software supports A3D 1.0 standard, but the effect is not obvious.

MAESTRO-I performed moderately in all aspects and inherited the tradition of better compatibility of ESS. Although it is not the same as the function of the new generation of chips at the moment, when the PCI sound card has just started, it is still a product with a high cost performance. The sound cards that use this chip in the market today include: AUSU AXP-201, Qiheng shock education and other brands.

Rating: Audio quality : 7.5 3D effect: 6.0 Compatibility: 8.5 MIDI performance: 6.0


ESS MAESTRO-II is ESS's second-generation PCI sound card chip, and its performance has been greatly improved over 1948. First of all, the 1968 chip adopts advanced 32-bit thread processing technology, which has the advantage of greatly reducing the CPU occupancy rate when the sound card is playing. Secondly, it also adopts the data cache technology (WaveCache), which fully utilizes the advantages of PCI bus large-capacity data transmission, so that the overall cost can be further reduced. The sound quality of MAESTRO-II is excellent, and the signal-to-noise ratio is extremely high, reaching 85db. At the same time, it also provides support for two stereo audio outputs (one SPK OUT and the other LINE OUT), which can create an analog surround effect for users (don't misunderstand it as 4 channels). In addition, it uses Sensaura technology in three-dimensional sound, which has a certain improvement over the SpaTIalizar 3D used in the 1948 chip. Of course, it also has many shortcomings. The most obvious is that the MIDI synthesis effect is not good. Although the driver provides a set of 4MB sound library, the sense of listening is more erratic, and there is not much improvement compared with the previous game.

In general, the functions of many aspects of MAESTRO-II are excellent in the same price chip, good sound quality and low CPU occupancy rate, it is worth the choice of ordinary users. The products currently using this chip mainly include the famous Dimeng S70, AUSU APX-202, Aopen AW300 and Qiheng choking red pepper A3D Pro. At the same time, the simplified product launched by ESS, SOLO-I (1938), also has a large market share, mainly used for motherboard integration, and its performance is slightly reduced, but it is stronger than MAESTRO-I.

Rating: Audio quality : 9.0 3D effect: 6.5 Compatibility: 9.0 MIDI performance: 6.0

3.ESS Canyon3D (MAESTRO-2E 197OS)

Canyon3D is the latest masterpiece from ESS, with strong data processing capabilities. The biggest difference with MAESTRO-II is that Canyon3D can really support four channels. And different from other multi-channel sound cards, Canyon3D provides an independently controllable subwoofer output interface (this interface is shared with LINE IN), which is a relatively unique point. At the same time, it uses Sensaura MulTIDrive technology (optimized for 4 channels) to process 3D sound effects to obtain a variety of mainstream APIs including DS3D, A3D 1.0 and EAX, which can provide better surround effects in four-channel mode. In stereo mode, the widened signal frequency through three-dimensional processing technology allows users to obtain virtual surround sound. In other respects, Canyon3D's CPU usage is not stable (driver problem), sound quality is good, DOS compatibility is relatively good, basically inherits all the advantages of the previous work, but MIDI synthesis still has not much improvement, even basic feedback and The sound effects cannot be clearly expressed, which is quite disappointing. And the sound effect changes it provides are simulated by software, not by chip synthesis, which will increase the burden on the CPU. Xinzhong's Golden Melody Hi-five and Dimeng's MX400 both use this chip.

Rating: Audio quality : 9.0 3D effect: 8.0 Compatibility: 9.0 MIDI performance: 6.0

2. CREATIVE series

From the ISA era to the PCI era, CREATIVE has always occupied the dominant position in the sound card industry and even multimedia technology. But to be fair, after entering the era of PCI sound cards, CREATIVE's products have been challenged by various factors, and their status in users' minds has declined. Let's take a closer look at the differences and commonalities between several main chips used in various CREATIVE sound cards from low-end to high-end, and point out the direction for everyone to purchase.

1. CREATIVE 137X series (ES-137X)

This series was developed and launched by ENSONIQ, so the original chip code prefix is ​​"ES", and the first one in this series was ES-1370. This is a relatively "old" chip. As early as the beginning of 1998, when the PCI sound card just appeared on the market, there were products using this chip (Hoxin's HOT-255). CREATIVE then acquired ENSONIQ, and successively launched three sound cards with the ES-1370 chip, ENSONIQ AudioPCI, Sound Blaster PCI 64 and PCI 128.

Everyone will find a very strange problem. The early PCI sound cards of CREATIVE used ES-1370 chips. The hardware structure of the boards is basically the same. The difference is that the driver limits the performance of low-end products. Take ENSONIQ AudioPCI and PCI 64 as examples. At the earliest, CREATIVE equipped ENSONIQ AudioPCI with two sets of wave table libraries, 2MB and 4MB, and only supports 32 polyphony. The PCI64 driver has an additional set of 8MB sounds, and the polyphony number is increased to 64 ; ENSONIQ AudioPCI can not support 4 channels, and PCI64 can output 4 speakers through software simulation. Since the two are actually a kind of card, it was rumored that PCI32 (the original code name of ENSONIQ AudioPCI) became the "magic" of PCI 64. In fact, it is to equip ENSONIQ AudioPCI with a PCI64 driver to improve performance. You know that the price difference between the two was nearly double! However, CREATIVE is also aware of the disadvantages of using drivers to make articles, and responded quickly to market considerations-launched a new version of ENSONIQ AudioPCI, this time using the chip ES-1371 this simplified product. Most of the boxed goods that enter the domestic market use this chip. The biggest difference between 1371 and 1370 is the support for 4 channels. Now the driver included with ENSONIQ AudioPCI on the market can make it support 64 polyphony, and provide 8MB sound library file, but can not support 4 channels. At the same time, the PCI64 (1370) driver cannot be used on the 1371 anymore. Then CREATIVE launched this series of the smallest "brother"-1373 chip, mainly used for motherboard integration, the performance is the same as 1371.

There are so many "historical issues" above, mainly to let everyone understand the difference between the 137X chips, so as not to be harmed by JS. So what are their performances?

Let's take the ES-1370, which was the first to be launched and has the most complete functions, as an example. First of all, the chip itself has a relatively high fidelity. In the WAVE channel recording and playback test, you can get a relatively satisfactory sound quality, which is in the upper middle level of various PCI sound card chips. In terms of MIDI, because ENSONIQ is a traditional electronic musical instrument manufacturer, the sound library it makes for the chip is still good, especially in the bass instruments such as drums, electric bass, etc., and it supports 3 rendering effects. However, because the synthesis algorithm is relatively simple and the overall effect is not very good, some MIDI music will cause confusion during synthesis. In terms of three-dimensional sound, the 1370 can accelerate DS3D by hardware, simulate A3D 1.0 and EAX by software, and the effect is not obvious in two-channel mode. Since it can simulate and support 4 speaker outputs (there must be an AK4531 Codec chip to match it, and the rear output is shared with the LINE IN port), it can get better three-dimensional positioning in four-channel mode, but it must be supported by the software. In normal use, it can provide widened simulation 3D processing for WAV channels, and the effect is not obvious. A more obvious defect is that 1370 (137X series) does not support multi-audio streaming playback, and does not make good use of the data band brought by the PCI bus, which is related to its earlier launch time. In addition, the software compatibility of 1370 is relatively good, and DOS pronunciation is basically no problem. The overall feeling of the 1370 chip is quite satisfactory, and it can provide cheap four-channel support at a low price, which is a major advantage.

ES-1370 chip

Rating: Audio quality : 8.5 3D effect: 7.5 (subject to 4-channel output effect) Compatibility: 9.0 MIDI performance: 7.5

ES-1371, ES-1373 chip

Rating: Audio quality : 8.5 3D effect: 6.0 Compatibility: 9.0 MIDI performance: 7.5

2. CT-2518, CT-5507 and CT5880

CT-2518, CT-5507 and CT-5880 are used for CREATIVE's VIBRA 128, SB PCI 128 and SB PCI 128 Digital, respectively. The CT series should have been the code name for innovating its own sound card chip. However, from the use feeling of some friends, these three chips are essentially no different from the ES-137X series, only some changes have been made in small details. CT-2518 can only support dual channels, while CT-5507 can simulate 4 channels like ES-1370, and CT-5880 adds support for digital audio on the basis of 5507.

Rating: same as ES-1371, ES1373

3.EMU 10K1

It is undeniable that in today's sound card field, CREATIVE still has the most powerful research and development strength, EMU 10K1 is the best evidence, worthy of the most powerful sound processing chip today. EMU is an innovative subsidiary with strong strength. In the ISA era, the popular SB AWE series used EMU chips. Entering the era of PCI sound cards, CREATIVE launched their blockbuster-SB Live! Series, and its core is the super chip EMU 10K1.

EMU 10K1 has 1000MIPS data computing capability, which can provide powerful audio processing capabilities. Because it is the first to use the 8-point interpolation operation function, the sound quality is excellent, reaching a peak of DSP data conversion, so the processed audio signal after it is converted is guaranteed by quality. In terms of three-dimensional audio processing, EMU 10K1 can easily cope with various complex audio processing with its powerful computing power. The environmental sound technology developed by CREATIVE for it has brought the effectiveness of EMU 10K1 to the limit. No one has been able to match it so far. At the same time, it also provides the best software compatibility. The shortcoming is the ability to synthesize MIDI. Although advanced SOUNDFONT technology can be used to add a variety of tone libraries, the overall effect cannot be comparable to soft wave meters such as YAMAHA and ROLAND due to the simple algorithm.

Overall analysis, the EMU 10K1 chip is undoubtedly the most advanced sound processor today, and due to its programmable features, it can be upgraded by software to achieve the purpose of improving performance, which is very valuable. Recently, EMU 10K1 chips have been manufactured using 0.25 micron technology, overcoming the defects of large heat generated by the original 0.35 micron manufacturing technology.

Rating: Audio quality : 10.0 3D effect: 9.0 Compatibility: 10.0 MIDI performance: 7.5


As mentioned earlier, YAMAHA is also the main R & D manufacturer of cheap SB compatible sound card chips, and YMF-719 is a typical one of them. After the PCI sound card became mainstream, Yamaha launched three series of 724, 740 and 744, mainly for the low-end market.

1. YMF-724 and YMF-740

YMF-724 is YAMAHA's more successful chip. Its main feature is its excellent MIDI synthesis ability. I have already mentioned YAMAHA's position in the field of synthesizers, so its high performance in MIDI is not surprising. YAMAHA once produced a hardware MIDI sound source device called MU-50, the effect is very shocking. Then in the period of rapid development of soft wave table technology in early 1997, they launched the MU-50-based software synthesizer-SYXG-50, and the simulation effect is very realistic, becoming a popular software sound source for users. In 1998, the PCI sound card gradually became popular. YAMAHA took the opportunity to launch their own new generation chip-YMF-724 on the market in May, and its MIDI part can be said to harden the SYXG series back. On the one hand, we can get a good synthesis effect, on the other hand, without consuming too much CPU, it can be described as the best of both worlds. And the 724 chip also adds a unique Soundius-XG physical model synthesis technology, so that the realistic sound effect of its instruments has not been greatly improved. In terms of MIDI performance indicators, 724 supports a maximum 6MB tone library (actually provided is 2MB capacity, and can not be upgraded) and 192 polyphonic synthesizer (64 are directly provided by the chip, and another 128 are generated by software).

The performance of the other 724 is also very good. The chip itself provides a signal-to-noise ratio of around 85db. And using Sensaura technology to achieve three-dimensional sound effects, using the latest driver can make it support DS, DS3D, DSM and A3D1.0, EAX 1.0. However, because the 724 chip is a two-channel audio chip and cannot be connected to four speakers, the surround effect is relatively poor. In terms of compatibility, 724 is better. Because it supports SB Link function, there is no problem with DOS pronunciation. In addition, it can also support the SPDIF OUT function, and can provide a digital audio interface (but not all sound cards with 724 chips are equipped with this interface).

In summary, the YMF-724 chip has excellent performance in many aspects, especially for entry-level MIDI enthusiasts. However, it is necessary to pay attention to the chip number when purchasing. YMF-724B and C version have design defects, which causes problems with DDMA function and BX motherboard compatibility, while YMF-724E and F version fix the above two BUG Can be used with confidence. So everyone should pay attention to the code name of the chip when buying, in order to prevent unnecessary losses. In addition, because the 724 chip is positioned in the low-end market, some manufacturers have cut corners in design and production in order to save costs, resulting in the quality of sound cards using the 724 chip on the market today, and users report that the noise is relatively serious. Relatively good are mainly Zhongling 3DS724A, Kao SV550 and WAVEFORCE 192XG produced by YAMAHA.

So where is YMF-740 sacred? In fact, it is a simplified product of the 724 chip, which is mainly used for motherboard integration, and the performance indicators are similar.

Rating: Audio quality : 8.5 3D effect: 6.5 Compatibility: 9.5 MIDI performance: 9.0


The newly launched YMF-744 chip is based on the previous generation product. Compared with 724, 744 has little change in MIDI, the only difference is that the latter can support up to 8MB tone, but I think there is not much practical value. The major improvement is that the 744 chip has added the popular 4-channel and DVD software support, and the three-dimensional surround effect has been greatly improved. And after retaining SPDIF OUT, SPDIF IN function was added.

Overall, YMF-744 has strong functions, but it still has a big gap compared with high-end products such as EMU-10K1. It is an important factor to base on the market price. The products that will soon appear in the market using this chip include: YAMAHA's original XG-Movie 5.1 (built-in YSS-912 DVD AC-3 decoding unit, suggested retail price $ 199!), Qiheng choking red pepper 64 4.1, Colorful Butterfly YMF744B and Kao's SV1500.

Rating: Audio quality : 8.5 3D effect: 8.0 Compatibility: 9.5 MIDI performance: 9.0

4. Aureal series chips

Aureal is an old American R & D manufacturer of audio processing chips. The current mainstream products on the market include Vortex1 AU8820 and Vortex-2 AU8830 two chip series (early there may be a Freedom5600, but whether it is independently developed by Aureal or not (Confirmed), the performance is very outstanding, so far, they are the biggest competitors of CREATIVE.

1.Vortex AU8820

Vortex AU8820 is the first audio processing chip put on the market by Aureal. We usually call it Vortex-1, which is the first sound card chip that truly supports the A3D 1.0 standard. We have mentioned A3D many times before. In fact, it is the earliest HRTF three-dimensional sound algorithm technology developed by Aureal. Therefore, the A3D adopted by the Vortex series is the most orthodox and the effect is relatively better. Even in the two-channel mode, you can get a better virtual surround effect, which is the best among today's many stereo sound cards. In addition, Vortex-1 is also very satisfactory in terms of input and output sound quality, which can basically achieve its nominal signal-to-noise ratio. In terms of MIDI, it provides a 4MB GM, GS sound library with a maximum of 64 polyphony and two special effect processors. The synthesis effect is general. Vortex-1 has no major errors in compatibility and is satisfactory. However, the CPU usage of this chip when processing various sounds is generally higher than other products.

Rating: Audio quality : 9.0 3D effect: 8.0 Compatibility: 9.0 MIDI performance: 7.0

2.Vortex-2 AU8830

Vortex-2 AU8830 is the second generation chip of Aureal. It has the fastest processing capability in the field of sound card chips today. It is the only product comparable to the EMU-10K1 chip. The most impressive aspect of Vortex-2 is that it is the only audio chip on the market that fully supports the A3D 2.0 specification, and offers more features and changes than A3D 1.0. A3D 2.0 fully supports the use of 4 channels to express three-dimensional sound effects, adding sound wave tracking technology in order to obtain more sound change experience. So in terms of game effects, A3D 2.0 and EAX 2.0 can fully compete, the key is what standard the software supports (now it seems that EAX has the upper hand). Vortex-2 is also unique in WAVE processing. The signal-to-noise ratio reaches 96db, and a hardware-processed 10-band EQ equalizer is provided, which can make the sound (especially music) achieve a shocking feeling in the playback effect. The EMU10K1 only provides a high and low bass enhancement attenuation adjustment in this regard, which is not as rich as Vortex-2. In terms of MIDI, Vortex-2 and Vortex-1 use the same synthesis technology, and the effect is basically the same.

Rating: Audio quality : 10.0 3D effect: 9.0 Compatibility: 9.5 MIDI performance: 7.0

5. Other chips

The above introduces the main products of well-known chip manufacturers on the market today. Of course, some small and medium-sized manufacturers also have sound card chips with excellent performance or a certain significance. Let them debut one by one. Since the authors of these chips have not personally tested them, they will not be scored one by one in accordance with the principle of fairness and objectivity, so as not to mislead.

1.S3 Sonic Vibes

S3 is a well-known manufacturer of graphics chip design, but do n’t ignore the “Sound” item in the three “S” (the remaining two items are speed and sight). It can be seen that S3 also wants to have in the field of sound card chip. As a result, Sonic Vibes came into being.

From the time of launch, Sonic Vibes may be the earliest PCI sound card chip, so there are still many functional limitations. But it brought us the first DLS technology to achieve cheap MIDI wavetable synthesis. As far as the effect is concerned, the 32-tone polyphony and 4MB (8MB later) sound library provided by the chip is relatively dull. A more unique point is that Sonic Vibes comes with SRS 3D surround sound effector, which can simulate a virtual sound field surround for the listener, but the effect is indistinguishable from today's popular EAX, A3D and so on. In other respects, Sonic Vibes has no features at all. After all, it is an earlier product, and we cannot blame it too much. Qiheng's first-generation PCI sound card used the S3 chip.

2.CMI-8338 / 8738

CMI-8338 and CMI-8738 are audio chips developed by Taiwan's C-Media. 8338 was launched earlier, and 8738 made appropriate adjustments and improvements based on it. The more obvious point is to increase the function of the soft cat (but not all sound cards that use the 8738 chip support). The rest are similar.

CMI-8338 / 8738 supports 4-channel output, conforming to the development trend. Another very good thing is that it can provide SPDIF IN and SPDIF OUT at the same time, and can support fiber input and output through the daughter card, but the price is very approachable, which is deeply loved by users. In terms of three-dimensional audio support, so far CMI-8338 / 8738 can only support A3D 1.0 and DS3D. In the future, EAX can also be simulated by upgrading the driver software. It is regrettable that the CMI-8338 / 8738 hard wave table synthesizer is extremely poor. It is disappointing to install a soft wave table to make up for this defect. Generally speaking, the CMI-8338 / 8738 chip provides more powerful functions at a lower price, which is more value-for-money. The recently popular Litai 4XSound and Nightingale 6400 have adopted this chip.

3.Trident 4D Wave DX / NX

Like S3, Trident is also a relatively well-known graphics chip supplier, and also has its own sound card chip series-4D Wave. This is a chip series positioned in the low-end market, mainly in DX and NX. 4D Wave DX was launched earlier, with moderate performance. The HRTF algorithm used is Q3D, which supports DS and DS3D. In terms of MIDI, it provides multiple sets of sound libraries with different capacities for users to call, with a maximum of 6MB. 4D Wave NX is a newly-launched product. The biggest difference with DX is that NX can fully support 4-speaker output and SPDIF. The most obvious shortcoming of this series is the poor compatibility of DOS, but in today's era of Windows domination, this does not seem to matter. The sound card using this chip is PCI288 Q3DII of AZTech.

4.VLSI Qsound Thunderbird 128

VLSI's Thunderbird 128 is a high-end audio chip. Everyone sees that the "128" in "Thunderbird 128" may be the meaning of 128 polyphonic MIDI synthesis, but it is not. Here 128 means that this chip can support 128 audio streams, of which 64 are generated by hardware and 64 are generated by software, which shows the strong processing power of Thunderbird 128. In addition, it also uses Q3D technology to process three-dimensional sound effects, supports multiple APIs, and can choose 4 speakers for output. Its 320 polyphonic MIDI synthesis is also quite unique, providing three special processing effects. It is also worth mentioning that Thunderbird 128 is also a programmable audio chip like EMU-10K1, but it seems that manufacturers have not made good use of this feature. AZTech's PCI368DSP uses exactly this chip.

5.Fortemedia FM-801AS

Speaking of the FM-801 chip, everyone may be relatively unfamiliar. In fact, it has already appeared in Hong Kong and Taiwan. After several revisions, FM-801AS is a relatively mature product. FM-801AS uses Q3D's HRTF algorithm and supports most of the mainstream API interfaces today, but the actual effect is average. DOS compatibility is acceptable. But MIDI is so bad that it does not provide hard wave table support. The remaining aspects are also in accordance with regulations. But the biggest selling point of FM-801AS is its very good DVD matching performance. This chip can support up to 6-channel output, and can decompress AC-3 audio signals through two very famous players, WINDVD and POWERDVD, so that users can get very cheap DVD multi-channel audio enjoyment. The APAC Red Magic sound card that recently adopted this chip has entered the domestic market and is a product that everyone has paid close attention to recently.

In addition, the Crystal CS series is also a relatively well-known brand, but because the model is more complicated, it will not be described in detail here.

Part IV Product Selection Guide

1. PCI sound card product review

After understanding the performance of many audio chips, let us take a look at the mainstream market today and explore the sound card purchase skills. Although the overall performance of the sound card depends on the chip, but in the end we buy the finished sound card. Due to the differences in design and workmanship of different manufacturers, sometimes the products using the same chip have a big gap in quality and function. Therefore, it is necessary for you to specifically analyze the specific situation of sound cards of different brands of low, medium and high grades on the market today. Since PCI sound cards have become mainstream in the market, I will not introduce products of various ISA interfaces.

1. CREATIVE products

As an innovative company that is still in a leading position in the industry today, it has a very complete sound card product line: VIBRA 128 with a price of 180 yuan in the low-end market, has achieved certain sales with CREATIVE's gold signboard and good cost performance; In the mid-range market, there is the newly launched SB PCI 128 Digital, the price is about 300, which realizes digital functions at a lower price and supports 4 channels; the high-end market is SB Live! In the world, the digital version, deluxe version, and platinum version correspond to enthusiasts with different requirements. Overall, the innovative sound card is in place in terms of design and workmanship, low-end products have good hardware and software compatibility, and high-end products have relatively strong features and rich bundled software. Therefore, the CREATIVE brand is quite trustworthy. Of course, the disadvantage is that the price is higher.

2. DIAMOND's products

DIAMOND, the self-proclaimed "king of media", has entered the domestic market since 1998. Whether it is its sound card products or graphics card products, it has always followed a high-priced route. Its first PCI sound card-S70, has set off a wave of PCI sound card fever with a good performance. Subsequent M80 and MX200 are also masterpieces, but due to the high price, the market is cold. S90 is DIAMOND's very successful product after adjusting its price strategy. The attractive A3D features and the mid-range price make it a popular PCI sound card with a very high market share. The MX300 was the only sound card on the market comparable to SB Live! With excellent A3D 2.0 support. Right now DIAMOND is about to launch two new products using ESS chips-MX400 and S100, I believe their advent will bring a new round of market impact. DIAMOND's products have first-class design and workmanship, and the materials used are also very elegant. But there are obvious shortcomings: In addition to the high price, the product driver and hardware compatibility are not perfect, for example: the MX300 sound card has a high CPU usage, and the S90 and VIA motherboards conflict.

3. Qiheng Red Pepper Series

Qiheng series is a very well-known sound card brand in Taiwan, but due to publicity reasons, its products are not very popular in the domestic market. In fact, Qiheng's choke red pepper series PCI sound card has a very "long" history, and the quality is still very good. The price is also a mid-range route, and the price is very high. Among the mainstream products at the moment, they produce choke red pepper 64 4.1. This product with YMF-744 chip has a good reputation among users.

4. Kao series sound card

Relatively speaking, the fame of Kao Sound Card, also from Taiwan, will be much louder on the mainland. As early as the time when ISA sound cards dominated the world, Kao entered the domestic market as a major brand in the compatible sound card field. And with the relatively low price and excellent product quality, it has won praise from users. In those years, wave table sound card prices were generally higher, and Kao's 530 series has become the history of best-selling products. We can see the high cost performance characteristics of Kao sound card. However, with the intensification of market competition, in recent times, Kao's domestic product sales seem to have declined. At present, the two main products of Kao-SV550 and SV750 can only be regarded as the rule of thumb, without too many surprises.

5. AZTech's products

When it comes to AZTech, everyone may not be familiar with it. But friends with a long history of fever must be familiar with it. AZTech used to be the world's second-largest sound card supplier comparable to CREATIVE, but it was gradually abandoned by its opponents in the fierce competition in the market and once disappeared from the market. Recently, AZTech has regrouped and re-entered the retail market with three products with different characteristics, such as PCI368DSP, PCI288Q3D and PCI338A3D, and strived to return to glory. It should be pointed out that AZTech's products have a noble and inexpensive market position. The performance of PCI368DSP is very strong, but the price is only about 400 yuan, which is very good value.

6. Songjing Company's PT series

Songjing's sound card has a very clear positioning-low price. In fact, in today's sound card market, low-cost sound cards still have a relatively large user base. Songjing's products are a wise choice. Among them, PT-2629 with YMF-744 is one of the few low-priced 744 cards on the market, so you may wish to pay attention.

Other products such as AUREAL, Zhongling, Leadtek, and Suojishi also have excellent products, and also have highlights in performance. The author purposely summarized the list of mainstream sound card products on the market today (see the attached table), and you can compare them.

Second, the specific purchase plan

The above introduces so many brands of products, everyone must be picky. In the face of products with different functions, I often encounter some friends who ask me this question: "I want to buy a sound card for about 200 yuan, which one is the best?" Is MX300 better? "In fact, these questions are all one-sided. The author has always believed that the purchase of sound cards should be based on their actual use needs as the selection criteria, and should not first look at the price, which brand? The correct way of thinking should be:

Step 1: List your own requirements for the performance of various indicators of the sound card.

Step two: According to these requirements, combined with your own preferences, find a suitable sound chip.

The third step: find a product that can withstand its own economic ability among the many sound cards using this chip, and try to choose the famous brand products of big manufacturers as long as the price is not much different.

Following this line of thought, you can definitely find products that meet your appetite and have the best performance. Below, the author proposes a comprehensive set of purchasing strategies based on this idea.

1. Music Appreciator

Recommended products at low and medium prices: DIAMOND S70 (ESS MAESTRO-II chip)
High-end price recommended products: CREATIVE SB Live! VALUE (EMU10K1 chip)

Many users have relatively high requirements on the computer's ability to playback MP3s and the sound quality when enjoying CD records. This requires that the chip itself and the sound card itself have a relatively high signal-to-noise ratio. Among the many chips, ESS MAESTRO-II, EMU 10K1 and Aureal AU8830 have done quite well in this respect. Among them, ESS is a low-priced product, and the other two are positioned in the high-end market.

In the sound card using the MAESTRO-II chip, the S70 of DIAMOND has a very good workmanship, and has the best sound quality at the low and medium price points. Many users highly praise it. When the sound is turned up very loudly, as long as the speaker is strong, the S70 can fully ensure that the sound is not excessively distorted. At the same time, it has two stereo outputs (one LINE OUT, another SPK OUT, not a 4-channel concept), which can create a virtual sound surround for users. Therefore, the performance of S70 is very outstanding in low-priced products, especially for music lovers. The only regret is that the S70 is relatively rare in the market, everyone needs to find it. In contrast, the performance of other low-cost PCI sound cards is similar in sound quality, leaving no products that have a deep impact.

The long-established EMU 10K1 and AU8830 chips in the high-end market are indistinguishable in terms of sound performance. But why did the author finally choose SB Live with EMU 10K1 chip! What about VALUE? The reason is SB Live! The series of sound cards support CD SPDIF, which can theoretically transmit CD music signals without electromagnetic interference, which is more in line with our use requirements. At the same time, with the continuous introduction of new products, SB Live! VALUE has fallen into the bottom of the price, and has a better price-performance ratio than the MX300 or SQ2500 sound card using the AU8830 chip. However, everyone pre-orders as soon as possible, because CREATIVE has discontinued VALUE. The author does not recommend that you immediately buy the new SB Live that will be available soon! Digital version and deluxe version. Because the CD SPDIF pin is canceled on the digital version, and the luxury version has a gold-plated interface, but the price is very high.

2. MIDI enthusiast

Recommended products at low and medium price: Leiling 3DS724A (YMF-724 chip)
High-end price recommended products: CREATIVE SB Live! VALUE (EMU10K1 chip)
DIAMOND MX200 (Freedom 5600 chip)

Since entering the era of PCI sound cards, with the increasing popularity of wavetable synthesis technology, MIDI has also been favored by more and more friends. You can even compose your own MIDI music via a mouse or keyboard on an ordinary computer. Of course, the prerequisite is that you need a sound card with good MIDI performance.

When you see MIDI, everyone will naturally think of YAMAHA, and its YMF-724 and 744 have the same MIDI effect. Since the 744 sound card has not been as popular as the 724, it is difficult to find a product of excellent quality in the domestic market. In comparison, there are quite a few sound cards using YMF-724. Zhongling Leigong 3DS724A is a very famous one. This product includes an S / PDIF output port. The materials used are much better than some other 724 sound cards and are recommended.

In contrast, CREATIVE makes the MIDI specification of the EMU10K1 chip more beautiful than YAMAHA, but the actual synthesis effect is sometimes not as good as 724. The reason why EMU10K1 is recommended as high-end is because of its unique SOUNDFONT technology. SOUNDFONT is also the meaning of wavetable samples, but it is not fixed, users can define it.我们可以将许多传统GM、GS音色库中无法找到的乐器采样加载到系统内存中,使得系统拥有处理这些音色的能力。因此SOUNDFONT技术是波表合成的有效扩展,大大加强了EMU10K1的MIDI处理能力。从音色扩充这个角度看EMU10K1的确要比YAMAHA强出不少的。这里笔者依然推荐价廉物美的SB Live! VALUE。



中低价位推荐产品: Aureal Vortex V1(AU8820芯片)
高档价位推荐产品:Aureal SQ2500(AU8830芯片)

三维音效的发展带动了新一代PCI声卡的销售。前面我们提到过A3D和EAX是效果最出色的两个标准,而A3D在声音定位上则要更胜一筹。如今大部分主流声卡芯片都能够提供对A3D 1.0的支持,但效果都没有Aureal自己开发的产品好,所以要体验A3D的真正威力,选择Aureal的声卡芯片是势在必行的。

起初Aureal自己只开发生产芯片产品,随后把芯片交给合作厂商DIAMOND,由其生产出声卡成品。市面上流行很广的S90和MX300就是由DIAMOND生产,采用8820,8830芯片的A3D声卡,分别定位于中低档和发烧级。前些日子传来消息,AUREAL公司终止了与帝盟的合作关系,今后也将不再向外提供由它们自己设计开发的声卡芯片,AUREAL将自主生产声卡。最近采用8820芯片的Aureal Vortex V1和采用8830芯片的Aureal SQ2500声卡已经上市,价格为V1-300RMB左右,SQ2500-800RMB左右,基本与S90和MX300相近。但是Aureal重新开发了驱动程序,把以前DIAMOND产品上存在的诸多弊病扫除,成为了市场的新贵。


中低价位推荐产品: SB PCI 128 Digital(CT-5880芯片)
高档价位推荐产品:CREATIVE SB Live!VALUE(EMU10K1芯片)

要体验环境音效的魅力,CREATIVE的声卡芯片是明智的选择。我们需要明确,要真正表现出EAX的效果,需要声卡芯片自身拥有强大的渲染运算能力,在众多产品中EMU10K1是真正拥有这项功能的。这就是为什么SB Live系列声卡的环境音效处理能力要远远强于其他声卡的重要原因。因此在高档价位推荐产品中自然还是SB Live!VALUE的位置。相对而言,在低价位产品中要选出一个适合EAX表现的声卡就比较困难了,最后笔者想到了SB PCI 128 Digital。它是CREATIVE新推出的中档产品,用以替代原来的SB PCI 64。PCI128D支持4声道,有利于EAX的表现,卡上附带一个Digital接口,300元左右的价位也比较适中。


高档价位推荐产品:SB Live!Platinum(EMU10K1芯片)



在高档市场,数码音频更是早已深入产品的设计中。CREATIVE最新发布的旗舰级声卡——SB Live!Platinum就非常明显的体现出这种开发理念。从音频主卡的规格看,Platinum与老版本的LIVE相比并没有什么突出的改变,但它却提供了超强的数码扩展能力,一切源自于Live!Drive II。Live!Drive II是一个固定在机箱5.25英寸扩展前面板上的设备连接器。用它来连接各类外部音频设备,变得非常轻松惬意。Live!Drive II提供了以下多种接口:

立体声MIC IN 或立体声Line In.
音量和Line/Mic转换开关和Mic 增益控制立体声耳机插口.
立体声耳机音量控制旋纽SPDIF 分线口电缆SPDIF In/Out RCA接口标准5-pin 母头MIDI 接口,用于MIDI In和Out
立体声Aux RCA
可选光纤SPDIF In/Out.






当出现Windows95系统无法正确识别声卡的时候,我们可以回到DOS系统下把声卡的驱动装好,随后重新Setup Win95,注意在安装过程中一定要在“本机即插即用设备”选项中选定“声卡”一项,一般在进入WIN95后就可以解决该问题了。如果依然如故,用户不妨再重装一下系统,在DOS基础上先安装Windows 3.x,在3.x中装好驱动程序,成功后再升级安装Win95,这样的话声卡大多可以被正确识别。相对而言WIN98的设备识别成功率要比95好一些。


笔者认为驱动程序的质量对于声卡的安装难易程度也有很大影响,而且Win 9X有自动检测即插即用设备并自动安装驱动程序的特性。如果安装的这个驱动程序偏偏不能正常使用,这就麻烦了。以后,每次当你删掉设备重新启动后,Windows都会自动匹配原来的驱动程序,并且不能用“添加新硬件”的方法解决。此时我们可以进入Win9Xinfother目录,把与声卡相关的inf文件统统删掉,再重新启动后用进行手动安装。这一招时非常有用的。

二、 PCI声卡在WIN98下使用不正常










如果您的无法正常欣赏CD唱片,最大的可能就是您没有连接好CD音频线,这条4芯线是CD-ROM和声卡附带的。线的一头与声卡上的CD IN相连,另一头则与CD-ROM上的ANALOG音频输出相连。需要注意的是早期声卡上CD IN类型有所不同,必须用适当的音频线与之配合使用。




廉价的低档声卡往往在放音时会出现较大的噪音。这是由于这些产品往往采用了比较廉价的功放单元,同时在做工上也不能令人满意,很容易受到电磁干扰。一般这类声卡往往有一个Speaker out、Line out的切换跳线。Speaker out表示采用声卡上的功放单元对信号进行放大处理,通常这是给无源音箱使用的,虽然输出的信号“大而猛”,但信噪比很低。Line out则表示绕过声卡上的功放单元,直接将信号以线路传输方式输出到音箱,这样廉价声卡的噪音问题就可以得到适当的解决。


    大家注意:这里探讨的“爆音”特指声卡在放音过程中出现的间歇干扰声,而不是诸如信噪比低而引起的信号“噪音”。爆音问题主要出现在PCI声卡上,主要是由于PCI BUS Master控制权引起的,并在PCI显卡与PCI声卡共同工作的电脑中显得尤为突出。其“病症”通常是:在PCI声卡处理声音信息的同时,运行其他大型的应用程序,在诸如下拉菜单滚动条,使图形画面出现变化的时候,会发出间歇的“噼啪”声。究其更本原因,其实是PCI显卡在作怪。由于当时显卡制造厂商为了最大程度的提升自己产品在运行Winbench之类软件时的图形测试分值,往往将PCI显卡设置为BUS Master的方式。在放音时,画面有所动作,显卡瞬间抢过了PCI BUS Master的主控权,势必造成PCI声卡受到干扰,以至出现瞬间的爆音。如果是AGP接口的显卡则不会有这类困扰,且也并非所有的PCI显卡都有抢夺PCI BUS Master主控权的“恶习”。这类原因引起的爆音是可以非常容易被解决的——在Windows安装目录下找到system.ini文件,对其进行编辑,我们可以试着添加或寻找这样两段语句:


如果已经有了这两段话,则一定要注意将busthrottle和optimization后面的变量设置为“1”。如果您的PCI声卡爆音来源于BUS Master控制权的争夺,那么修改了以上设置,重新启动机器以后,应该可以解决问题了。

另外SB Live声卡与VIA主板的兼容问题,CD-ROM的数字音频输出等也会引起爆音,这里我们就不详细讨论了。


最近时常听一些朋友反映某些声卡号称支持4声道,但使用中有时不正常,譬如SB PCI 64和PCI 128。具体表现为在玩游戏时4个音箱可以同时发音,但在听MP3或是CD的时候,却只有前面的两个音箱有声音。其实这主要是因为这类声卡的4声道是需要DS3D支持的。在DS3D环境下可以正常使用,而到了非DS3D环境下只有立体声输出。也可以说,这类声卡的4声道不是真正的4声道,而是通过软件模拟的。




一般声卡拥有4大接口:LINE OUT(或者SPK OUT)、MIC IN、LINE IN和游戏杆(外部MIDI设备接口)。其中LINE OUT用于连接音箱耳机等外部扬声设备,实现声音回放;而MIC IN用于连接麦克风,实现录音功能;相比较而言LINE IN受重视的程度就不够了,其实它也是非常有用的。顾名思义,LINE IN就是线性输入的含义,与LINE OUT的功能恰恰相反。LINE OUT用于把经过声卡合成处理的声音对外输出,而LINE IN则是把外部设备的声音输入到声卡中。

对于我们普通用户而言,LINE IN接口最为实用的一个功能莫过于把WALKMAN连接到我们的PC上,这样我们就可以一边使用电脑,一边欣赏FM调频广播或是磁带歌曲了,够惬意吧。具体方法如下:到音响器材店花大约10元钱买一条双头3.5毫米插孔的音频连接线。将这条线一头与WALKMAN相连(插在耳机孔内),另一头插进声卡上的LINE IN插口就可以了。打开WALKMAN上的广播开关试一下,听电脑音箱是否传出广播节目声。如没有,可检查一下系统音量控制是否将LINE IN接口设为了静音,打开静音开关一般就可解决问题。

通过这一连接,我们甚至可以通过适当的录音软件,把自己喜爱的广播节目或是磁带歌曲制作成MP3永久保存呢!在后面我们还要利用LINE IN连接双声卡呢!可见,一个小小的LINE IN接口还是很有用处的吧。利用同样的原理我们还可以用LINE OUT接功放,把电脑与发烧音箱融为一体,何乐而不为呢?发挥您的想象力,声卡还可以为您做许多事情。








PCI声卡优点不少,但却也一个非常明显的劣势——在传统DOS环境下处理声音的能力不强,在某些DOS游戏中不能正常发音。这是由于PCI声卡取消了IRQ和DMA所至。虽然所有的PCI卡都提供了不同的DOS下的SB 16或者SB Pro兼容能力解决方案,但多多少少存在着一些不足(包括CREATIVE自己的live!系列也是如此)。但是如果我们在PCI声卡的基础上再安装一块ISA声卡,这样DOS兼容能力就可以保证了。这是安装双声卡最为实用的一个方面,如果您是DOS游戏的忠实爱好者,请一定要试试看呦。另外,不同的PCI声卡之间也有着不同的特性,譬如这一块的MIDI部分好一些,而那一块的信噪比高一些。我们可以通过安装双声卡的办法,让它们互取所长,达到发烧新境界!





(2)如果音箱上只有一组输入口,那么我们就选择两块声卡中音质较好的一块直接与音箱相连。然后用一条我们前面提到过的双头3.5毫米插孔音频线把另一块声卡的LINE OUT与已经连上音箱声卡的LINE IN连接,这样就可以了。




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