Future of PC, BBCiplayer & AVI-d ADM9.1
In today's digital world the status of the home computer has evolved from an on-line shopping/gaming luxury to a lifeline work and communication tool. Hang with me a moment for an introduction to an evolution in the PC world, and what many consider an evolutionary product in the ADM9.1 (and ADM9) powered speakers from AVI-d.
We are now using our PC's in a much larger capacity as entertainment is streaming in multiple formats. This requires and will depend upon ancillaries able to enrich the experience, not detract from it. With Direct TV popularity going through the roof items such as the BBCiPlayer are becoming more popular every day. Trouble is one area is dire need of attention, our computer's audio systems.
While the computer industry has made recent improvements in the audio department, there isn't a single soundcard on the market designed primarily for music playback in Stereo. This is due to the obvious influence Gaming has had on sales and games most often feature multi-channel for surround sound. Sadly 2 or 2.1 channel Stereo sound is great for gaming and most people find surround sound systems to be an ergonomic nightmare. Where are PC's are concerned we've sacrificed the medium of music for Gaming.
When DVD playback came along this only justified any complacency since movie soundtracks are themselves encoded for surround. Thing is the speaker options out there are as bad as any pair of desktop PC speakers and surround sound done at the High End Audio level gets very costly. The visual element has never been a problem as Video-cards became powerful processors in their own right and 22" widescreen LCD's can be found under 200USD. Storage capacity has increased ten fold in the last few years dropping storage device costs substantially. Almost every PC comes with a recordable DVD/CD drive further enticing Users to download and copy.
The desire to interact online and download online media are most likely the greatest motivational factors behind PC sales. Music file downloads have eclipsed CDs music storage medium. Unfortunately most Audiophiles see the description PC-Audio as a misnomer. In fact many (myself included) have reached the point the terms "PC" and "Audio" shouldn't occupy the same space, let alone the same article. So it was ironic a solution has arrived from the world of High End Audio. Beginning several years ago a some creative minds in High End Audio began to offer some unique solutions. Companies such as Tecon Audio, Signal Path International and GLOW Audio all released integrated amplifiers designed for use with PC or portable music servers (i.e. iPod). Not only were these products unique because they each incorporated an Audiophile grade USB DAC, they all incorporated vacuum tube technology on some level. These products earned the praise of several Audiophile websites including Sixmoons, and Enjoythemusic among others.
Each manufacturer introduced their product under 1000USD and two of the above cost less then 500USD. This is considered budget for an industry where one can spend 1,000USD for a pair of speaker cables and even at that price mioghtfall inot the "budget" realm. The products mentioned above reviewed (or to be) here are not only affordable, they really sound great. All that is needed with the integrated amps mentioned above were a pair of (passive) speakers matched to the amp. This raises the total cost to around 1000USD although it can be difficult to find the right speaker. Costs are kept low by direct sales meaning you must trust the ears of Reviewers or Forum members. They also have to be demonstrating both products your interested in. My job in upcoming reviews on finding affordable High End sounding solutions for PC attracted me to the ADM9 and ADM9.1 systems.
These speakers are more deserving of the "system" label then any other I've encountered. The ADM9, ADM9.1's essentially replace a DAC, preamp, amp, speakers and what many don't even consider, cables. In my upcoming cable round-up I hope to impart the essential role of the cable on your overall sound.
AVI-d eliminates the need for cables normally found between the source (PC) and DAC, between DAC and preamp, between pre-amp and amp, between amp and speakers. Besides the USB cable from PC to speakers, the only other cable if no subwofer is used would be an interconnect from the Right speaker passing the decoded analog signal into the Left speaker. Digital processing in the Right speaker is based on the highly respected Wolfson WM8741 chipset. The ADM9 retails for around 1000USD qualifying this speaker system as budget for the Audiophile. Until I hear the speakers I can't make an assement, this is only a post after I read almost 15-reviews praising their sound.
As I stated above direct marketing lowers costs and what was once beyond our grasp is now reachable. If there is one fundamental flaw then it pertains to an online purchase with an item such as speakers. AVI-d has remedied this providing everything you need for an Audiophile solution to your PC in a pair of speakers. They offer what many spend large sums of money and years pursuing, great sound. At least that's what the critics say.
Looking forward to the full review Keith! :)
Well I've got a lot of things to do first.
You really do have to give it for ASUS for at least trying to appeal to pc users interested in truly good sounding audio.
The Xonar really is a dedicated 2 channel sound card, it uses some really high quality components. Plus that EMI shield. I think it might have some potential
While I'm close to 100% sure that any external amp, be it solid state or tube, would beat the pants off of any internal sound card. I really would like to see how close the Xonar and that HT Omega Claro Halo sound cards get to producing audiophile quality sound,
Both of them are designed to output primarily to high quality headphones.
Do you think i could convince either ASUS or HT Omega to let me do a subjective listening test on their cards, in comparison to the GLOW Amp One, My X-fi Xtreme music, and the integrated codec?
Or perhaps someone like you with far more experience in high end audio should try it out.
These cards might act as a worthy bridge between really shitty PC audio, and Really nice external amps.
In terms of price they sit right in the middle between cheapo $75 sound cards and higher priced $400 Amps like the Tecon
Seeing as your reviews will be focusing on low cost but high quality PC audio. I think you should check them out.
with help of Asus US we were able to secure a Xonar for Keith to test!
Thats fantastic! I'm looking forward to hearing from keith how it sounds.
And I'm almost fini with the DDR3 round-up had to re-test everything.
I wrote M-Audio for their powered speakers specifically for tests with this card and the included duaghter audio card (Sonar (Realtek ALC885)) not Xonar. They know how to market though, since it's probably no coincidence the two very different card names "sound" similar in name alone.
I can then compare it to the "Sonar" (not Xonar) HD Audio card (Realtek ALC885) which comes with the Foxconn Black Ops.
Th weird this is, without the card installed there's another audio driver chip on the motherboard, but until I installed the Sonar daughter card (thanks to Sunshine Dan) I was unable to access, hence activate the S/PDIF Optical and COAX outputsd for the AVI ADM9.1 powered speakers.
However a mystery remains pertaining to outputs and the Sonar duaghter card on the Block Ops. Does the audio signal pass through the Realtek chipset at anytime when the Toslink is the output because those S/DIF optical and COAX jacks are only accessable (working) whn the duaghter card is installed with HDA control panel software.
If the original digital streaming, Lossless, or direct from CD signal passed through the daughtewr card this might certainly defeat the purpose of the built-in Wolson DAC found in the ADM9.1 speakers? I thought there wqas an on-board Audio chip, but there is none, without installing the Sonar card there's no sound with this board, if the Toslink had worked without the card this would bode well for external DAC owners whether they be using the ADM9.1 speakers or some other product. It would get you one step closer to sending a pure digital signal through that Toslink to the ADM9.1's.
Essentially this link (thread) from diyAudio forums asks the same questions and it's an interesting subject if your spending any money at all on an external DAC.
Nonetheless you'll have all the answers to these questions, and more soon.
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