Another chipset that OEMs are now using for sound cards is based on the Fortemedia FM801-AU chipset. Long time motherboard manufacturer Abit chose the FM801-AU for use on its new AU10 sound card to make its entrance into the sound card market. You can also find the FM801-AU chipset in the Jaton SonicWave SR4 and SR6.
The FM801-AU uses an HSP (host-based signal processing) hardware/software architecture. The FM801-AU offers support for Direct Sound, WaveTable, and Direct 3D positional audio. Because the FM801-AU is an HSP solution, like a WinModem it requires the CPU to do part of the processing. The FM801-AU offers PCI 2.2 interface with bus master including scatter-and-gathering capabilities, Real Mode DOS Sound Blaster support, built in music synthesis for Adlib compatibility, built in sample rate converter with digital mixer, multiple speaker support, S/PDIFF digital output, Direct Input support, MPU-401 port, 64 voice software wavetable, and HSP synamic 3-D positional audio support.
Although we intended to review at least one card based on the Fortemedia FM801-AU chipset, we were unable to obtain a card for review before this article ran. I felt that it was important to include some background on the FM801-AU, but I can't offer any comment as to its performance on our benchmarks. We hope to receive a card based on the FM801-AU in a future article.
Philips ThunderBird Avenger
Philips has introduced the ThunderBird Avenger DSP and has released three sound cards using this DSP. The Acoustic Edge, Seismic Edge, and Rhythmic Edge round out the three offerings from Philips. From my understanding, the ThunderBird Avenger DSP, which is also known as the SAA7785, is available for OEMs to build sound cards upon, but to the best of our knowledge, none have materialized to date. This leaves Philips as the only one building sound cards around this chipset.
The SAA7785 ThunderBird Avenger, armed with QSound's advanced QMSS, transforms ordinary stereo games, movies and music to 5.1 speaker output. An integrated S/PDIF OUT connects to audio equipment and S/PDIF IN support provides digital connection from a CD player or other digital audio equipment. The ThunderBird Avenger supports redirection of up to 5.1 streams from PCI to USB or IEEE 1394 devices, full hardware acceleration of DirectSound, 3D audio, music synthesis and gameport functions. Philips also claims to have an industry-leading low CPU consumption using the ThunderBird Avenger. The ThunderBird Avenger offers second generation ActiMedia programmable DSP architecture. The ThunderBird Avenger supports the following standards: 2/4/5.1 speaker/headphone 3D algorithms, Qsound3Dinteractive positional 3D, QsoundMulti-Speaker System, Qsound Environment Modeling, I3D Level 2.0, EAX 1.0/2.0 Compatible and Qxpander stereo-to-3D remapping. The ThunderBird Avenger offers processing up to 512 simultaneous inputs, including 356 DirectSound streams and up to 96 concurrent CD quality 3D streams. It also offers 64 voice hardware wavetable.