The pace of progress in the PC audio market can probably be best described as glacial. Brace yourself, though, because another chunk just fell off the old iceberg. Creative has announced a new Sound Core3D audio processor that underpins a fresh lineup of sound cards. The chip itself has quad cores, but it's unclear how the audio processing workload is distributed between them.
What is clear is that this is a highly integrated solution. The Core3D incorporates analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters usually consolidated in a separate codec chip or split between multiple bits of auxiliary silicon. The DAC is a six-channel unit with a 102-dB rating (presumably, that refers to the signal-to-noise ratio), while the ADC has four channels rated for 101 db. Both support 24-bit audio streams, although Creative isn't specific about sampling rates.
In addition to integrated DAC and ADC components, the Core3D has its own headphone amplifier, a digital microphone interface, and S/PDIF connectivity. The whole thing is wrapped up in a purportedly power-efficient chip with a mere 56 pins. Two versions will be available: an HD model designed for PCs and an "embedded configuration" intended for consumer electronics devices.
Like previous Creative audio processors, the Core3D supports the EAX Advanced HD 5.0 introduced with the original X-Fi way back in 2005. The focus with this new design seems to be noise reduction and general improvements for voice communication. The chip also offers a smattering of THX TrueStudio Pro enhancements.
Creative's new hotness will be found in several audio products, including the newly announced line of Recon3D sound cards. The base model, which will be available this year, will only implement some of the features available on pricier Fatal1ty versions of the card. Professional and Champion flavors of the Fatal1ty variant are due in 2012.
I'm always excited when new PC audio products are announced, so I'm rather curious to learn more about what Creative has cooked up with the Core3D. The high level of integration suggests that this is something we could see sold on inexpensive sound cards and integrated into motherboard designs. Indeed, the Core3D press release includes a snippet of praise from someone in Gigabyte's motherboard division. We'll have to get one of the new Recon3D cards in for testing to see how it sounds.