ASRock has released details of a new on-board sound technology it claims may make those who decry anything except a high-priced discrete soundcards listen twice.
Dubbed A-Style Purity Sound, because that's not complete gibberish at all
, the system is a combination of hardware and software designed to offer a higher-fidelity listening experience than the average on-board sound chip bundled into motherboards. Taking the form of a shiny box mounted to the motherboard - a metal shield to reduce the effects of electromagnetic interference on the audio quality, the company claims - the device joins a Realtek ALC1150 audio chip located under the shield to a Texas Instruments NE5532 differential amplifier for the main speaker outputs and separate NE5532 amplifier for use with headphones.
The reason for the two-amp design, ASRock explains, is to support high-impedance headphones and drive the audio output directly without the capacitors normally used for the job. The result, the company claims, is audio output with less distortion and more fine detail - although it has yet to offer anything other than subjective analysis to support this claim. One thing the company can legitimately state is that all components support a 115dB signal-to-noise ratio (SnR) in the digital-to-analogue process, a 5dB increase over most on-board audio systems.
Using the Realtek ALC1150 and bundled software, the system supports 7.1 channel output and DTS Connect, allowing PC audio to be encoded and output via S/PDIF as a DTS digital stream - albeit in 5.1-channel form only - along with simulated 7.1-channel output via DTS Neo:PC.
The Purity Sound technology joins ASRock's other A-Style technologies, including a HDMI input option for pass-through video, on-board 802.11ac Wi-Fi, a waterproof conformal coating - something that may please extreme overclockers who use liquid nitrogen or other condensation-forming cooling methods - and the company's Home Cloud storage system. Details of these latter features, however, have yet to be released.
ASRock isn't the only manufacturer looking to change the reputation of on-board audio chips, however: the company faces competition from the like of Biostar's Hi-Fi Z77X
, which packs Puro Hi-Fi Technology - a design that, like Purity Sound, includes a built-in amplifier, although one lacking the capacitor-free direct-drive functionality of ASRock's design.
ASRock has promised to include the A-Style technologies on its next-generation Intel 8-series motherboards, meaning buyers should have something to see come Intel's Haswell launch at Computex in June. More details are available on the company's microsite