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Terratec DMX from 1999.. SPDIF Quality?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I just found this old Terratec DMX which says Advanced Audio Accelerator on the board. It comes with a 2nd pci slot card which has optical/coax ins and outs. Does anybody know this card? I want to use its digital outs with the Zhalou 2.X once it comes out.. There's also a jumper to change lineout to headphone out. The Chip is an ESS ES1970M-3D, onboard DAC seems to be AD1893JST.. There is not much info on google or elsewhere

EDIT: Seems there is no 2k/XP driver avaible since ESS never supplied those to Terratec.. Lucky i got it for free and didnt pay 250$ back then... What a joke
post #2 of 15
Thread Starter 
This card sounds quiet nice when you set the jumper to Headphone Out. I only have low impedance cans right now and it drives them to really insane levels! Also it got more/better soundstage than my onboard sound and much less background noise. Nice deal if you can find it for 10$.
Sadly the SPDIF out wont work without real drivers, which will never come..
post #3 of 15
Oh yeah, this card was notorious for really bad driver support back then. Some people even got their money back. The ESS Canyon3D must've been a capable chip, but the company apparently went downhill and never supplied full-featured reference drivers for Win2k, so Terratec (not having the resources to do driver dev't from bottom up) had a problem.

Have you checked what the headphone amp uses IC wise? If it's some kind of decent opamp that should be fine, but a LM386 as on Terratec's cheaper cards from the time (e.g. DMX XFire 1024) mostly makes a fine noise (and distortion) generator.

BTW, the AD1893 can't be the DAC, that's a sample rate converter.

Now, for your digital out problem: I'd grab something like a Hercules Fortissimo 4.
post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
When i had a look at the DMX i couldnt notice a BB nor AD opamp so i guess it was something like the LM386..

The Hercules looks nice, thanks! Does its lineout drive 32 Ohm Headphones well enough too? Or is there a better card for ~60-70€?
post #5 of 15
Originally Posted by bizkid
When i had a look at the DMX i couldnt notice a BB nor AD opamp so i guess it was something like the LM386..
I'd also look out for stuff like 45xx or 5532 opamps. That being said, I've also come across an IC that upon investigation x-ref'd to the LM386 on another sound card.

The Hercules looks nice, thanks! Does its lineout drive 32 Ohm Headphones well enough too?
No idea. It certainly won't be optimum assuming 47µ output coupling caps, as either the bass response won't be optimum or the output impedance will cause a bass hump. I wouldn't expect earth-shattering dynamics either, my Aureon Sky no longer performs ideally with 100 ohm HD590s (but is fine with oldschool 600 ohm HD540s); whether this is related to coupling caps (which could be replaced by bigger ones with higher voltage rating) or due to unbuffered 4580 opamps not being able to dish out that much current is open for discussion.

Or is there a better card for ~60-70€?
Well, there's the M-Audio Revolution 5.1, and the Terratec Aureon 7.1 Space (which, like the related but now discontinued 5.1 Sky, can be flashed to an Audiotrak Prodigy 7.1 with no major loss in functionality), with the main advantage of not having to use the not overly well-reputed generic VIA drivers. They all use 4580 opamps, with the Revo 5.1 having the best DAC (AK4358) and a used Aureon Sky probably being the best deal of the bunch (I have two ).
post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 
Just got a new Aureon Sky 5.1 for 35 bucks shipped on ebay, great deal Thanks for the tip.

I had a look at the DMX again and it uses 4558 OP amps and a PCM1725U DAC. There's 2 470uF caps in front of the line out/headphone out, all other outs sport 2 10uf caps.

The Aureon Sky sounds better, more realistic, coherent and more plasticity. However the DMX has a little better soundstage and airier sound, the sky sounds a little closed in compared to the DMX. However the DMX tends to sound thin and little shrill in the highs..
post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 
Ok another update on this odd card... Seems the DMX is pretty capable, i compared both with my K701 unamped and the DMX is clearly much better sounding with the K701. The Aureon sounds closed in, harsh in the trebles, well to sum it up = usual unamped sound. The DMX is capable to atleast allow me to enjoy the K701, though clearly not on a high level.
Soundstage is better, no closed-in feeling, no more veil, more transparent sound, no harsh highs than compared to the aureon.
post #8 of 15
bizkid: Did you try the K701 on the Aureon with the headphone amp activated or with the regular line driver stage?

Greetings from Hannover!

Manfred / lini
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
I tried both, the headphone amp doesnt change much on the aureon besides volume. Soundwise it stays the same. My low impedance K81 for some reasons sounds better on the aureon btw.

My guess: The aureon can supply a better sound due to better DACs/OPamps but it's not as good with amplifiying it compared to the DMX. So low-profile cans like the K81 sound better on the Aureon while demanding cans sound better on the DMX.
post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 
One more question, when i loop the line out of the aureon to the line in of the dmx, will i hear the aureon signal without going through an additional a/d d/a conversion in the dmx? I could use the better signal of the aureon and use the dmx as an amp I just tried that and it sounds better, better instrument sepearation and localization and better dyanmics, though i get harsh highs still. Maybe thats just the character of the Aureon..
post #11 of 15
Looks like I missed the last posts on this thread, thus a little revival...

The "headphone amp" setting on the Aureon should indeed not change much, it only changes the gain AFAIK. Seems like the +/-5V supply buffering is undersized (the card does drive 600 and 300 ohm cans fine, but at <= 150 ohms it gets critical), a little mod could make a big difference here.

Whether or not the signal has to pass through the ADC and DAC again would depend on the signal routing; I would assume that a purely analog path does indeed exist for direct monitoring.

I guess you can't test the DMX in a multi-processor environment? I'd sure like to know whether the barebones integrated ESS Win2k driver works flawlessly, as I'm still looking for a sound card (able to drive cans, at least HD540s) for a fun box with two PII-233s on a fairly rare Gigabyte i440FX board running Win2k. The oldschool EWS64XL appears to be very fussy to set up and the headphone out is reported to be fairly noisy, a 6fire is a wee bit expensive, and Aureon Sky cards aren't as common as they used to be.
post #12 of 15
Got my DMX today (finally bid on one last week). Win2k automagically recognized it as ESS Maestro2E device - after a bit of card shuffling, that is. Looks liike a 53C895 based SCSI HA does not like interrupt sharing, and the last two PCI slots on the GA-686KDX appear to share an INT# line. SCSI + DMX = no go, Win2k stops on the boot screen. So I swapped slots between the SCSI and the Millennium II, the latter doesn't even use an interrupt with the standard driver. The Matrox and the DMX get along much better. EDIT: Seems like the two lasts slots may have different interrupts in MPS mode, but could be mapped to the same one on bootup. At least the SCSI is on interrupt 36, the NIC on 40, then there's nothing (the Mstrox might go here), then the DMX in the very last PCI slot on 48. The first slot is empty for ventilation reasons (draw-in area of DIY fan duct).

ASIO4All settings: No go with hardware acceleration (surprisingly, as this worked just fine with the AWE64's WDM driver), but with 3 kernel buffers and from about 384 samples of buffer size it seems to be skipping proof (I chose 640, ASIO for Winamp uses 15 buffers). The machine is a bit obscure, a dual PII 233 (Klamath) on i440FX (yes, EDO DRAM) isn't what you see every day. Hmm, there still is an occasional crackle with EQ on. We'll see how SMP proof the drivers are, so far they're working. (I didn't even bother to connect the digital I/O daughterboard.)

Even without the headphone amplifier enabled (at least I did not notice any hiss even with HD590s), I get quite sufficient volume out of HD420SLs, actually the volume is far from fully cranked up. Let's hear what my HD540s say... Pretty nice sound, might even beat my trusty Aureons unamped. Not easy to tell though, the machine isn't the quietest.
post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
Interesting I'm actually not really happy with my Aureon Sky, it's line out is a joke when connected to my active speakers. Soundstage is soooo off, the singer stands 1m outside the middle With headphones its only noticeable if i listen very very closely. It really made me notice how difficult it is to rate soundstage through headphones. Whats a minor/no problem in headphones might be a very big one through speakers. Anyway i wonder if my card is ok or damaged
Optical out is great however and unbeatable at that price if you need it.
Maybe i'll get the Revo 5.1 with coax out so i dont need both cards in my PC.

edit: Yeah that was slightly OT
post #14 of 15
Yup, soundstaging evaluation is difficult indeed. Used to work with HD590s, but now I'm spoiled by decent-sounding supraaurals.

A look on the card: Opamps, where present, are JRC 4558. The power amp is a LM4880M. 49.152 MHz main xtal. DAC PCM1725U, as mentioned. Didn't see any dedicated ADC, might be done by STAC9704. Coupling caps are 470µ 105° (but rather small) on front out and 10µ25 on rear out. Power buffering mainly done with 10µ25. 2 sets of jumpers for line <-> headphone out switching - one to disable 4558, one to enable LM4880? Overall, a state of the art prosumer sound card of 1999. Hadn't the Win2k driver issue been, it could have blown away the SB Live!.

Edit: I thought the occasional crackling was related to PCI latency, but apparently it may not be. I'm at 512 samples and 4 kernel buffers now, let's hope that this at least works as well as WaveOut which only very occasionally produces crackling. I've increased the latency timer for the DMX to 64 clocks (via the Audiotrak PCI Latency Tool) in addition, just to be sure.

The writeup below may be a bit moot now but I didn't want to delete it either:
Gotta love crummy old PCI implementations. (PCI video on the 440FX without write combining enabled is no fun, I tell ya - and while the default Win2k driver for the Millennium II does that, the newer one from Matrox does not or not correctly. Believe it or not, this was the first PPro chipset where PCI actually worked halfway well, the preceding 450KX/GX needed a few revisions before PCI acceleration features were sufficiently bug free to be turned on by default - before, throughput was limping along at 8 MB/s, and given that PPro machines were high-end stuff at the time - we're talking 1996 here - this pretty much sucked.) Of course it's not unlikely that the ESS chip isn't entirely innocent - someone please name a first-generation PCI audio accelerator that worked really well all around.
post #15 of 15
I'd say the DMX sounds just as good as my trusty Aureons, at least I haven't been able to detect any dramatic difference. The computer still isn't the quietest anyway, though I have been able to improve this a bit (pieces of damping mat on fan bracket, Seasonic SS-300FS PSU [9,95 from Pollin]). All in all, I have what I wanted - a card to give me good sound over directly connected cans (600 ohm oldies mostly) without spending a fortune. So thanks for bringing up this model (with its reputation in terms of driver support or lack thereof, I would have discounted it right away). A pretty cool card for a pretty cool comp. (Screenshot - entirely shot, I suppose - available in the "post your desktop" thread in the Members' Lounge.)

BTW, I don't remember whether the Base1 and XFire also had this, but on the back of the card there's a silkscreened picture of a pear with "Think." underneath (you can probably guess what this alludes to). I don't know whether they'd still include this kind of fun stuff today, at that time the company was barely 4 or 5 years young...
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