AC97

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Description

AC’97, which is an abbreviation of Audio Codec ’97, and is also known as MC’97 (which is short for Modem Codec ’97), is an audio codec standard developed in 1997 by Intel Architecture Labs. The standard is used in modems, motherboards and sound cards. The chipsets include as digital controller and audio and modem codecs.

Features

The digital controller is built into the I/O controller hub of the chipset, while the modem and audio codecs are the analogue components of the architecture. AC’97 is the definition of a very high quality 16 or 20 bit audio architecture which includes surround sound support and is for use on the user’s personal computer. Supported is a 96 KHz sampling rate, at 20 bit stereo resolution, and 48 KHz sampling rate at the same resolution for recording and playback on a multitude of channels. AC’97 Audio Codec defines at most six channels of analogue audio output.

The AC Link is a digital link which connects the DC97 controller to the audio codecs. Composed of five wires – the clock, a sync signal, a reset signal and two data wires – it provides the user with a bidirectional fixed bitrate digital stream between one controller and an array of audio codecs. Every stream is divided into 256 bit frames, at a frame frequency of 48 KHz, and as a result, there is a time division multiplexing scheme in place. Each of the frames is subdivided into 13 slots, with slot zero being used to specify which audio codec is speaking to the controller.
The other 240 bits are divided into 12 twenty-bit slots, named slots 1 to 12, which are used as data slots. Every one of those data slots is used to transmit a raw PCM signal, while several data slots in the same frame can combine to make a single high quality signal. It is recommended that all sample rate conversion be conducted in the DC97 or in the software driver.

Comparison

In comparison to one of its main rivals, Azalia (HD Audio), AC’97 encodes and decodes up to 96 KHz at 20 bit resolution for stereo, and up to 48 KHz at the same resolution for six channels. Azalia takes this up to 192 KHz at 32 bit resolution for up to 8 channels, which puts Azalia at a slight advantage over AC’97 in this department. However there are areas in which AC’97 also overcomes Azalia, and I believe both are quite evenly matched overall.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I think that AC’97 is a very good software program developed by a world renowned developer, which is still at the forefront of its market.

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