DMX 6fire PCB Design
The PCB of DMX 6fire, just like that of Aureon, is made of black glass-cloth textolite.
The card is based on a multi-channel audio controller Envy24 (ICE1712) that can work with top-end I2S converters, S/PDIF-transmitters and audio codecs. The controller itself features an integrated digital high-resolution mixer that can process up to 20 channels. The audio controller also communicates with the PCI bus and performs audio streams routing. ICE1712 works in pair with a digital audio transmitter from Cirrus Logic aka CS8427, operating with up to 96kHz sampling frequencies and 24 bit capacity. Its dynamic range is 106dB. An AC’97 codec, based on AK4524 chip from AKM Semiconductor, sends the sound to analog outputs. Low-noise operational amplifiers are placed right before the analog sockets.
If we are not mistaken, we saw the ICE1712 and CS8427 bunch as well as codecs from AKM, in professional Hoontech ST Audio DSP 24 card, with only one difference: the transmitter functions were distributed there between two chips from the same Cirrus Logic (CS8427 was also used in professional Echo MIA cards). On the hardware level DMX 6fire resembles TerraTec EWX 24/96. But having put so much excellent stuff into DMX 6fire, TerraTec somehow didn’t care to implement virtual audio channels in the driver, as we can see in most professional sound cards. At the same time, multi-client functions for simultaneous work with several audio applications are all there. So, we were puzzled with the actual market target of this sound card: is it intended for professional use or for amateurs? We guess the feature this card boasts are still not enough to solve professional tasks properly, while for gaming applications the features are even more than enough.
DMX 6fire carries three connectors for extension modules. The cable of the commutation module from the shipment package connects to one of them. The module covered with a solid metal case has only interface elements, and no additional codecs.
At the front panel of the module there are MIDI-input and output ports, two digital optical connectors, two coaxial connectors, 6.3mm microphone and headphones jacks and three pairs of analog RCA connectors for independent audio sources. Above the headphones and microphone jacks, there are volume controls. There is also an overload indicator. Three more LEDs above optical, coaxial and analog connectors light up when the corresponding connectors are selected in the Control Panel.
Testing Environment and Performance
We used the following testbed configuration:
- Chaintech 6ATA4 (VIA Apollo Pro133) mainboard;
- Intel Pentium III 1000MHz CPU;
- 512MB PC133 SDRAM by Hyundai;
- SiS Xabre 400 64MB graphics card;
- Quantum Fireball AS40 HDD;
- Creative PC-DVD Encore 12x DVD-ROM;
- Creative MegaWorks 510D and Inspire 6700 loudspeaker systems;
- Windows XP Pro SP1.