Analog Devices bails on SoundMAX, PC audio

Analog Devices‘ SoundMAX line of audio codecs has been one of the more notable integrated audio options in PC motherboards for some time now. SoundMAX solutions have found their way into motherboards from Intel and Asus, among others, and have fared reasonably well in our testing. However, ADI hasn’t quite managed to steal enough market share away from suppliers like Realtek to make a go of it, and now, the firm has decided to cease development of new PC audio codecs in order to focus on other markets. In a statement, Analog Devices explained it reasons thus:

In a move that reflects the maturing state of the PC codec business, Analog Devices has decided not to advance our PC HD audio codec roadmap with additional silicon products. ADI will continue to ship all of the codec products currently in the market, and will continue to provide the support and resources needed by the many customers using these codecs.
More specifically, ADI will fulfill its commitments to current customer product launches and will continue providing software updates to sustain older platforms.

While ADI is proud of the quality that SoundMAX represents in integrated motherboard audio, the PC audio market has become more and more of a commodity space. Accordingly, this decision is in line with a strategy to focus core investments where the company’s signal processing expertise can earn superior returns.

In other words, Analog Devices believes there’s not enough money in integrated audio codecs, and it plans to exit that market and focus on something more profitable. The firm hasn’t said exactly what it plans to do next, but it did mention in its email to us that its digital signal processing team "has a lot of other things in the works." Unfortunately PC integrated audio will be a little worse off as a result.

Comments closed
    • deruberhanyok
    • 12 years ago

    This news makes me sad…

    ECS uses an IDT (the company now responsible for SigmaTel codecs) codec on their 780G ‘black edition’ ATX board (A780GM-A) and Intel still makes use of SigmaTel codecs…

    Perhaps Asus will go with them for audio on their higher-end boards. If they go to all Realtek, like nearly everyone else, then they may as well be just another motherboard manufacturer.

    • SonicSilicon
    • 12 years ago

    Looking around, it would appear Analog Devices did not have any USB audio solutions with the exception of a noise-canceling stereo microphone. Though there doesn’t seem to be any overlap between manufacturers who use integrated sound and produce USB audio devices, I can’t help wondering if lacking in the external discrete market hurt ADI’s integrated offerings. Certainly if a manufacturer had two subsidiaries, each needing different audio solutions, maintaining a common chipset or protocol would be preferred.

    • axeman
    • 12 years ago

    Hmm… IBM and then Lenovo has been using ADI codecs for a long time in both their business desktops and notebooks… it seems pretty sad to see a more respected player exit the arena. Realtek has slowly improved over the years, but are still definitely at the bottom of the barrel IMO.

      • continuum
      • 12 years ago

      And Dell… quite a few Dell boxes with Soudmax, at least in the past.

      Man, things look grim…

        • just brew it!
        • 12 years ago

        My HP desktop at work has an onboard SoundMax audio codec as well. Dunno how common it is on HP systems…

    • PetMiceRnice
    • 12 years ago

    As the owner of an Asus P5B-E motherboard who has used the onboard sound exclusively since day one, I was genuinely disappointed to read this news. Unfortunately, this type of news seems to be a recurring thing when it comes to onboard sound and even sound cards which don’t sell in great numbers. Usually I interpret the first sign of trouble as infrequent driver updates (the last driver update for my onboard sound under WinXP was a year ago) and then I generally expect the vendor to bail like this. It’s too bad, I like SoundMAX. I have to wonder how much support cards like the Xonar will get going forward.

    • Forge
    • 12 years ago

    Jebus wept, this leaves the integrated sound market entirely to the Crab.

    I am saddened.

      • Krogoth
      • 12 years ago

      Why sadden? Discrete audio in general has been on the downward slope. The majority of market does not care and audiophiles who use PCs as their primary means of audio output are a tiny niche.

      Realktek and fairly cheap 2.1 speakers are good enough for the most part. It does not help that most audio content on computers are lossy, making it practically pointless to get high quality speakers.

      Creative’s actions merely hasten the inevitable.

    • Consolidated
    • 12 years ago

    SoundStorm, please!

      • 5150
      • 12 years ago

      I came here for this.

    • Ruiner
    • 12 years ago

    Did the crab ever fix their EAX issues?

    I’m surprised no comments mourning Soundstorm yet.

      • adisor19
      • 12 years ago

      LOL

      I think enough time passed that peeps forgot about Soundstorm. Twas good for its day, that’s for sure.

      Adi

        • swaaye
        • 12 years ago

        Actually I ran into problems with NVAPU in a fair number of games. It did some nasty stuff with EQ2, for example. It was as problematic as any other sound solution I’ve used, honestly. And its analog output was not any better than today’s Realtek stuff (or any other mobo audio solution.)

        NVAPU was just NVIDIA trying to cash in a little extra on their Xbox IP.

          • nerdrage
          • 12 years ago

          q[

        • Krogoth
        • 12 years ago

        SS was only good at digital output, otherwise it ironically relied on the crab for analog stuff.

      • Taddeusz
      • 12 years ago

      I was actually never impressed with the Soundstorm audio on my A7N8X Deluxe. I had an Audigy 2 ZS at the time. I decided to give the onboard a try for a bit. That lasted maybe an hour if that. I really thought it sounded terrible. IMHO, the Dolby Digital encoding mode had too much reverb and was using so much dynamic range compression that the audio was severely clipped and noisy.

    • just brew it!
    • 12 years ago

    Too bad the Envy24 chipset never really caught on… VIA dropped the ball big-time.

      • continuum
      • 12 years ago

      So did Analog Devices.. just didn’t push hard enough to get any real market share. =(

      • crabjokeman
      • 12 years ago

      Yeah, I wish Realtek would’ve bought ICEnsemble instead of VIA. Nobody wants to cooperate with VIA.

    • TurtlePerson2
    • 12 years ago

    That’s why I chose discrete audio instead of integrated. Even though you have to pay an arm and a leg to get discrete, integrated sounds like garbage in comparison.

    • herothezero
    • 12 years ago

    I see a Xonar in my future…

      • A_Pickle
      • 12 years ago

      My future is already in a Newegg wishlist… ๐Ÿ˜€

        • madgun
        • 12 years ago

        W00t ! Are you on sale?

      • srg86
      • 12 years ago

      +1 I’m on an Envy24 at the moment, but my next build will definatly have a Xonar in it.

      • Kaleid
      • 12 years ago

      I have an Asus Xonar XD, and currently the drivers for gaming are much worse than Creative’s. Many engines crash if you enable hardware acceleration plus EAX.

    • deinabog
    • 12 years ago

    Even though I use Creative cards in both my machines the motherboards have SoundMAX solutions onboard. I always preferred them to Realtek and even C-Media. Sounds like integrated audio wasn’t bringing enough cash.

    • Chrispy_
    • 12 years ago

    I wish realtek would clean up their audio codec act or die in a corner somewhere. As far as I’m concerned the only two options for decent integrated audio were SoundMax and Sigmatel. I think Sigmatel offers the better package but the loss of ADI kills competition for the next generation of codecs.

      • ChronoReverse
      • 12 years ago

      Why is there so much hate for Realtek’s codecs? For instance, their 8xx series seems rather decent in my experience (and is confirmed by TR’s tests).

      In fact, comparing the two P35 motherboards I have, one Gigabyte with a Realtek chip and one Asus with an ADI chip, the Realtek-Gigabyte motherboard has less background noise.

      (Realtek also releases their own drivers frequently while I have to depend on Asus for drivers, but I don’t think of this as really a bonus or detriment).

        • Krogoth
        • 12 years ago

        Agreed, my Realtek 850 used on my DFI 975X does a decent job at analog and digital audio.

        I suspect the problem is more to do with motherboard implementation then the codec chip itself.

    • albundy
    • 12 years ago

    some would say good riddens…ears deserve better.

      • Saribro
      • 12 years ago

      Yeah, now we’re only left with -worse- for on-board audio. This is obviously a much needed improvement for the market…

      • Jon
      • 12 years ago

      It’s ‘riddance’ and I can’t tell any difference between onboard sound and my Audigy2 ZS. It’s the same deal to me. I use Sennheiser HD 555’s too. That’s what makes it sound so good. I often look at these ipods (which have EXCELLENT audio) and wonder what chip they use in them.

        • srg86
        • 12 years ago

        as mp3 players go, ipods don’t have great sound quality.

        • Meadows
        • 12 years ago

        You’re nothing more than one of the many tone-deaf people who listen to lots of music. You couldn’t tell the difference between a jingle bell and a cow bell either, I’m sure. After all, it’s all the same, bells, bells.

          • albundy
          • 12 years ago

          pffffffff, hahahaha, LOL! was gonna say the same, but tried to remain respectful of their opinion. I’ve been looking at half decent speaker setups with real sound systems here: ยง[<http://www.hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=730506<]ยง After you take a look at these setups, your ears might thank you.

          • Jon
          • 12 years ago

          Tone deaf? Are you stupid? My goodness you are clueless. How can you make such a wildly in-accurate assumption? I don’t listen to lots of music, or music that would damage my hearing. I have particularly sensitive hearing and can hear more frequencies than the average person. I’ve been tested for this because certain frequencies give me headaches.

          I would go so far to say that my hearing is better than yours and honestly when I’m listening to Chopin or other ‘cow bells’ through onboard sound or an add-in card, there is no difference.

          But you know, I can’t believe it, you go out of your way to make fun, poke and berate people, completely unnecessarily. I’ve seen you do this before with other people around here. You have issues.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 12 years ago

    It is too bad, the couple of times I used integrated on Asus boards with ADI solutions there was decent sound quality, better than Realtek. Non-integrated is the way to go though, I picked up a Xonar DX based on the review here. Maybe C-Media will move in to the integrated space, if they aren’t already? Otherwise, fear the crab :-/

    Reading closely I guess it’s not as bad as it sounds at first, they’ll continue to ship current products which are pretty capable. Perhaps there just wasn’t much more advancement to be made.

      • Flying Fox
      • 12 years ago

      I’m not that optimistic.

      q[

      • d2brothe
      • 12 years ago

      Ironic you’d say that…that we’re moving away from integrated….we’ve been moving towards it for so long.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 12 years ago

        I’m not sure where I said ‘b[

    • Flying Fox
    • 12 years ago

    Cheapness and mediocrity prevails once again. It is a sad day.

    Together with crappy TN panels the sheep mass really don’t know better. ๐Ÿ™

      • flip-mode
      • 12 years ago

      Or don’t give a darn. Try getting my dad and millions like him to spend more when a TN panel and even the worst audio solution are perfectly acceptable to him.

        • nerdrage
        • 12 years ago

        It’s the Walmart mentality. So now, realistically, your choices for sound are:

        Realtek – cheap and crappy
        CMedia – a little better than Realtek?
        Creative – nice hardware, but pricey, sometimes iffy support
        Xonar – ???? new kid on the block
        Intel HD + Sigmatel codec – very clean output on my work PC, haven’t tried games though

          • MadManOriginal
          • 12 years ago

          True, it’s the race to the bottom where price trumps everything including quality.

          • Meadows
          • 12 years ago

          Xonar’s not a new kid on the block, dear child – it’s based on the latest product of _[

          • crabjokeman
          • 12 years ago

          High quality sound cards based on the CMI-8788 “Oxygen” chipset are available as well as the Envy24(HT) chipset. With MS dropping support for DirectSound, there’s no reason to buy Creative products anymore. Quit buying things that say “Soundblaster” on them and Creative will go away, along with their frivolous lawsuits and uncanny ability to stifle innovation in the PC Audio market.

          EDIT: example of a high-quality sound card: ยง[<http://www.bgears.com/b-enspirer.html<]ยง

      • A_Pickle
      • 12 years ago

      I have a TN panel… and I really like it…

        • srg86
        • 12 years ago

        I have to say……As long as I make sure my TN panel is facing me, I have no complaints with it.

          • A_Pickle
          • 12 years ago

          Same here. It’s really hard to accomplish that, though. I really like looking at it… from different angles. So annoying… ugh…

      • Cuhulin
      • 12 years ago

      I think it is both unfair and downright foolish to refer to honest, hardworking consumers as “the sheep mass.”

      Some people just have other priorities for their money.

        • A_Pickle
        • 12 years ago

        Agreed. Frankly, a TN panel does a good job for a lot lower a price than S-IPS or S-PVA panels. It doesn’t have great black levels when viewing them from an angle, but I don’t perceive THAT much of a difference when viewing a full-on S-IPS or S-PVA panel, and I certainly don’t perceive $500 worth of a difference, which is the amount extra it would’ve cost me to get a same size/resolution panel that wasn’t TN.

        I don’t notice banding on this monitor, at all. It fakes 8-bit color brilliantly, and I’m happy to have only paid $550 for it. I don’t really mind. Sorry, guys.

          • Flying Fox
          • 12 years ago

          The cheapest 24″ LCD monitor (must be a TN) is $340 on newegg.

          The DoubleSight 24″ S-PVA monitor is $500. Not $500 worth of difference.

            • Kurotetsu
            • 12 years ago

            Its actually even worse than that.

            The Westinghouse L2410NM, the cheapest 24″ MVA (which appears to be slightly better than S-PVA, based on past reviews I’ve read) panel on Newegg, is the same price as the cheapest 24″ TN on Newegg. And that’s with VGA, HDMI, Component, and S-Video inputs. The cheapest 24″ TN on Newegg only has a VGA and a DVI-D input.

            Really, all this says is that TN is ‘good enough’ (I hate that phrase) TO A POINT. If you’re jonesing for a 24″ or above, there’s little incentive for settling for a TN. At least as far as Newegg is concerned.

            Under 24″ is really where TN gives the most price benefit (and even then, the difference is anywhere near $500).

            EDIT:

            Ack, my mistake. The Westinghouse is 399.99, not 339.99. Still, a difference of $60 is really nothing to brag about as far as monitors are concerned. In fact, the difference actually falls to around $38 when you consider the Westinghouse has free shipping.

            • A_Pickle
            • 12 years ago

            I have a 28″ monitor. I paid $650.00 for my 28″ Hanns-G in September of 2007. I don’t regret the purchase, and I think the lowest I’ve seen a like-sized non-TN panel is $700. Now, given that opportunity when I was making my purchase? Yeah — I’d have taken the non-TN. But when I was buying, a 28″ non-TN was usually past $1,000, typically $1,100 or more.

            Not worth it, in my mind — especially when my Hanns-G looks fantastic. I’m not positive that it’s a TN, though, maybe it isn’t…

        • MadManOriginal
        • 12 years ago

        It is fair however when people don’t research major purchases enough to even know what the difference options are – that’s more or less of the definition of ‘ignorant’ or sheep-like. When they do see what a non-TN monitor looks like they are often surprised. The problem with the race to the bottom isn’t that cheaper technologies are available at lower prices, it’s that it drives what were formerly just a little more costly ones in to the stratosphere or out of availability altogether because of production volume.

        Everyone is different of course, even supposedly good S-PVA panels drive me nuts with their horizontal color/contrast shifting and inconsistency.

        • indeego
        • 12 years ago

        I think it is both unfair and downright foolish to refer to consumers as “honest, hardworkingg{.}g”

          • eitje
          • 12 years ago

          I think it’s both unfair and downright foolish.

      • Krogoth
      • 12 years ago

      Because, you know people have other priorities and do not value things the same as you?

      TN panels work well enough for majority of the market. If you need something better there are solutions out there for you. I grew up on a freaking Monochrome, tan-shaded CRT monitor. TN panels are a world of a difference from that. I know that IPS, VPS are techincally superior solutions, but are still no match for a quality CRT. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Audio quality for computer systems matters even less as most digital content do not take advantage of a quality discrete audio solution + speakers. If you are a serious audiophile, the last thing you would use is a computer for quality audio output.

        • NeXus 6
        • 12 years ago

        TN panels are fine if you don’t mind the terrible viewing angles. If you can get past that major annoyance then go for one. But looking at one dead on, the top of the screen is always darker than the rest of the screen. Even if you’re a gamer this can be annoying.

        Discrete audio is still much better sounding over integrated with a good set of speakers. Assuming most gamers have a good set, discrete audio is the way to go. There are very expensive discrete sound cards used in PCs for audio production, broadcasting, etc.

          • Krogoth
          • 12 years ago

          Both of my TN panels have sufficiently good viewing angles. Samsung 173v and 940B. They only use significant contrast at 45″ or greater from center viewing angle.

      • Kurotetsu
      • 12 years ago

      While I understand your view, I think it came off as overly harsh. It IS a shame that the best technology typically doesn’t get the attention it deserves, but its just a matter of course that most people don’t need, or can’t afford, the best.

      Really, I don’t think its fair to lay blame on the average consumer. It doesn’t make sense for people who don’t NEED what an IPS monitor or an excellent audio solution has to offer to lay down the extra money needed to get one. As well, and this is in response to #19, most people don’t really need to do in-depth research. They just want something that works. If it works, and its cheap, all the better.

      If you MUST blame someone. Blame the idiots who SHOULD be doing the research and who CAN spend the money on a higher standard of quality, but deliberately choose not to. One particular group that does this often is the stereotypical ‘idiot gamer’ who sacrifices quality for the sake of ‘performance’ that, 9 times out of 10, they can’t even perceive without artificial benchmarks telling them what to think. These are the people with skewed priorities who think that a $2,000 Core 2 Extreme quad core, a bunch of Geforce 8800 Ultras in Quad-SLI, or DDR50-10,000,000 RAM takes precedence over the monitor or the audio solution, which is typically the last things on their list, despite the fact that its what you’ll be looking at and listening to 100% of the time you’re using a computer. These are the people who worship TN panels because of its 1 or 2ms response time despite that that number is usually NOT the response time that matters. They stay away from *IPS because it has ’16ms’ printed on the box, despite that in ACTUAL USE the response time is less than a frame.

      In the point of this rant:

      Don’t blame Mr. Average Joe for not buying something he doesn’t need.

      Blame Mr. L33t Extr3m3 for not settling for a higher standard for completely artificial reasons.

        • Flying Fox
        • 12 years ago

        q[

          • Kurotetsu
          • 12 years ago

          The problem is, ‘average consumer’ and ‘motherboard’ don’t work together.

          The average consumer is going to be buying Gateway, Dell or HP systems from Best Buy or Circuit City. What motherboard the system uses, and especially what onboard audio chip it uses, is not a question they’ll be asking at all.

          If by ‘average consumer’ you mean the type of person who reads this website, they’ll much more likely to buy a discrete sound card and not bother with onboard at all.

          I get what you’re saying. In place of the average consumer actively choosing the better component, have the manufacturer push higher quality components into that sector for them (at least I think thats what you’re getting at). But…if the typical buyer isn’t going to care either way (because it won’t effect their use much), why should the maker?

          • Krogoth
          • 12 years ago

          It is not usually the fault of codec, it mostly a problem with motherboard implementation.

          EAX only works well with Creative products. Outside of that it is half-baked. I doubt it is Realtek’s fault, since Creative most likely withholds some key parts for their hardware only.

          With probably something like this in EAX-capable games.

          If Creative hardware is detected = true.
          then
          Quality level: high
          else
          Quality level: low

            • Meadows
            • 12 years ago

            You got it wrong (again).
            EAX 2.0 is an open standard (opened up by Creative ages ago) and pretty much every discrete sound card can do it thereafter, even ones that are dirt cheap. In theory, even onboard sound should be capable of it. In practice, they don’t bother that much.

            • Krogoth
            • 12 years ago

            They can do it, but why none of them can even come close to matching quality on Creative products?

            Knowing good, old Creative something tells that me there is fishy business going on. However, nobody really cares since most gamers could care less about audio fidelity.

            Audiophiles who are also hardcore gamers are a vanishing small niche.

            • Meadows
            • 12 years ago

            Everything is a vanishing niche, nothing is perfect, the industries are collapsing, the world is coming to a screeching halt any day now – right, are you on any antidepressants by chance? You should be.

            Gamers could care less, true – ergo, they do care (moral: watch your language). And reviews of games will be quick to mention if sound is shoddy in general. It’s not like a game today could get away with 22,050 kHz sound resolution and 8 concurrent sounds like in the old days, people have expectations, it’s just that developers often do them in software nowadays (see: Crysis – it even has software occlusion and stuff).

            • Krogoth
            • 12 years ago

            Sorry, those gamers are a tiny, silent minority that are shrinking and being marginalized.

            In past ten years with PC gaming, I always see the constant emphasis on improving eye candy. PC Audio pretty much became good enough for majority of the market with cheap hardware that matched the original SB16 in audio quality.

            Creative is partly at fault, however not every gamer has or willing to spend $$$$ on a hi-fi speaker setup/headphones that can easily point out the difference between 22Khz, 8 concurrent sound sources and 48Khz, 64 concurrent sound sources.

            The result is that lossy source formats have not only become acceptable, but the norm for game developers and their sound engineers. Kid gamer sure isn’t going to know the difference on his cheapo 2.1 speakers.

            Doom 3 was the last game that I have play which had any significant focus on audio quality and before that it was Half-Life I. Audio quality for everything else has been mediocre at best.

            • NeXus 6
            • 12 years ago

            My past and brief experience with integrated audio was buggy software and drivers, games crashing and lockups, and generally poor sound even on a 2.1 audio setup. This includes both C-Media and Realtek. CPU usage is generally lower with discrete sound cards (read the reviews here at TR), so for gamers it’s better over integrated.

            • Krogoth
            • 12 years ago

            Maybe it was like that in the past, but my DFI 975X’s Realtek Codec never gave me any problems with my headphones.

      • ludi
      • 12 years ago

      You’re off the deep-end on this one. There is nothing wrong with TN panels for those people who want lots of screen space at a low cost and don’t mind general quality trade-offs to get it. The only legitimate complaint against TN panels is that manufacturers don’t plainly label what their products are using, making it difficult for users with superior needs and/or budgets to comparison shop.

      And BTW, please note that I /[

        • ludi
        • 12 years ago

        On reflection, that opening line borders on harsh. I really do bristle when I hear intelligent people go off on rants about the “sheep” when what they really mean is, “If only more people had my expensive tastes and would subsidize my expensive purchases…”

          • Flying Fox
          • 12 years ago

          How about “if more people demand better quality stuff /[

            • ludi
            • 12 years ago

            Better quality than what? At some point you ARE going to pay more than the next best option BECAUSE it is more expensive to manufacture, and if the difference in quality isn’t enough to justify the difference in price for the average consumer, then guess what happens next.

            In my case, it means I used a 19″ TN monitor for a while, then upgraded to a 22″ TN when a too-good-to-refuse rebate offer came along. I don’t divest vast sums of money into my computer hobby and never have; moreover I also use my computer in a brightly lit environment most of the time, so I don’t really care about the poor black ratios — yes, I can see them just fine. I truly don’t care enough to pay more.

            Meanwhile, you DO care, which is perfectly within your rights…but you want me to pay $50 more for something I don’t need, so that you can $50 less for something you do? Forget it — I say that you pay for it yourself.

    • ChangWang
    • 12 years ago

    Dangit man… And they have some of the better integrated codecs i’ve heard on current boards

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