Intel not shipping the best drivers for its Easton mobo

It's all a mystery to us

One of the few criticisms in our review of Intel's otherwise tasty D815EEA Easton mobo was the rather rudimentary audio capabilities of the board unless it was equipped with the optional SoundBlaster audio chip.

It turns out that the Analog Devices AD1885 CODEC that we criticised was operating with both hands and feet tied behind its back, because Chipzilla, in its infinite wisdom, had decided to ship rather basic drivers rather than the spiffy SoundMAX 2.0 version which offers software emulation of just about every feature of a SoundBlaster Live!

Massachusetts-based Analog Devices pointed us at the latest version of their drivers and after downloading them, the change in audio performance was nothing short of remarkable.

The AD1885 provides stereo analogue I/O to the PC's speakers, headphones and microphone devices, and includes high-fidelity analogue/digital and sample rate converters, as well as power amplifiers and programmable-gain blocks. Coupled with Staccato Systems Synthcore wavetable capabilities and Sensaura's 3D audio, SoundMAX 2.0 is simply streets ahead of the bog standard drivers shipped by Intel.

The drivers feature 128 GM voices, nine drum kits and two SFX kits, user-adjustable CPU Load, dozens of different reverb presets, chorus and 44.1kHz sampling. You also get two or four speaker surround sound (particularly impressive using headphones).

We asked Intel why they weren't shipping these rather tasty drivers and effectively forcing buyers to fork out the extra cash for the optional SoundBlaster silicon when, in our humble estimation, the Soundmax 2 drivers are so good that the SB chip is surplus to requirements.

Perhaps Intel has a warehouse full of SB chips it needs to use up?

According to Dave Babicz of Analog Devices, Intel - and other mobo manufacturers - are planning to move over to the full soft audio package at some point in the future.

Intel was, as usual, somewhat less forthcoming, saying that any planned change in Easton drivers falls into the 'future products' category, and that naturally means they ain't saying nothing. ®

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