We guess there is no one around here who thinks the progress in the IT field is too slow. But the rapid development of high technologies creates certain problems for us (when it comes to making an upgrade) as well as for manufacturers because they have to update their production equipment. It’s now not just difficult to keep pace with the fashion, but downright costly. Moreover, it is one thing when you spend your hard-earned money on an ultra-mega-super-copper processor, which immediately tells on the overall system performance, and quite another thing when you purchase a questionable pleasure of improving the sound part of your PC.
In fact, while the future of CPUs is quite clear (just take a look at the roadmaps of the few manufacturers), it is very hard to guess which way the sound cards development will take. In the last ten-twelve years audio cards have developed from simple one-octave four-bit wheezers into complex multi-channel devices featuring their own signal processors. It may seem today that the sound cards have reached the utmost of their potential, but it is only the tip of the iceberg that we see. More discoveries lie ahead.
Sound Solutions from VIA Technologies
It’s not necessary to shoot well to win in a shooting competition. It’s enough to put your stake on one who has already learned this art and your name will be soon written into the history book. This is the easiest and simplest way to achieve your goal.
Once upon a time there was IC Ensemble Company, which came into being in 1998. In the next year already, the company rolled out its multi-channel audio-controller aka ICE 1712 Envy24 that immediately found its way into many professional Value sound cards (like Hoontech ST Audio DSP 24, Midiman Audiophile 2496, TerraTec EWX 24/96 and others). Collaboration of VIA and IC Ensemble yielded VIA’s new product series featuring integrated up-to-date audio technologies – they showcased VT82C686A South Bridge at CeBit ’99. After the ensuing success, it became clear that VIA had some plans for IC Ensemble. This came true in November 2000 when VIA bought that company up. As a result, VIA acquired a daughter company specializing in development of top-end signal audio processors and mixed semiconductors and also made a claim to be “pushing up PC sound quality level”. The Envy24 trademark became the banner of VIA’s camp. Moreover, VIA chose the right marketing policy in PC sound solutions area and made this trademark popular in the SOHO market. We might say that VIA, formerly unknown in the audio cards marketplace, won this “shooting competition”.
Last year the company released new improved versions of the Envy24 audio-controller. The first variant, Envy24HT, was intended for PCI audio cards, the second, Envy24PT, for integration into mainboards. It should be mentioned that ICE 1724, which from now on will be marked as VT1724 (hereinafter we will refer to this chip as VT1724), differs very slightly from ICE 1712: you can’t find any differences in the flowcharts of the two controllers. The main innovations are the support of eight-channel systems and ability to work in 192kHz / 24-bit mode.
Soon after the Envy24HT announcement, two companies expressed their desire to use it in their products. They were TerraTec and M-Audio (formerly known as Midiman). The both are well known as manufacturers of top-end audio cards and have successfully co-operated with VIA. Today we are going to review the major of audio card series from TerraTec – Aureon 7.1 Space, which was announced in the end of 2002.
TerraTec has long grown from a local German company producing audio cards into one of the leading European manufacturers of various multimedia products. Still, the production of top-end audio cards and development of accompanying technologies, like EWS Technology and 4G Sound, remain the priority field of TerraTec activities. Some time ago, the company turned to the consumer multimedia sector and released audio cards targeted at the mass user.