Audio Codec Comparison Table
By Gabriel Torres on April 9, 2012


Introduction

Audio codec is a small chip measuring 0.25 x 0.25 inches (7 x 7 mm) located on the motherboard in charge of the analog audio functions. Knowing the specs of a codec will permit you to compare the audio quality of different motherboards, allowing you to choose the right product for your needs.

For further details on audio codecs, including an explanation of the specs we are publishing, please read our tutorial “How On-Board Audio Works.”

We will separate the codecs according to the manufacturer.

Analog Devices (ADI/SoundMax)

Analog Devices are also known as ADI or SoundMax, and their codecs use names starting with “AD.” In Figure 1, you can see an example of an Analog Devices codec.

Analog Devices AD1988B codec
click to enlarge
Figure 1: Analog Devices AD1988B codec

Model

Channels

Input Resolution

Output Resolution

Input Max. Sampling Rate

Output Max. Sampling Rate

Input SNR

Output SNR

AD1819B

2

16-bit

16-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

87 dB

90 dB

AD1881A

2

16-bit

16-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

87 dB

90 dB

AD1882

5.1

24-bit

24-bit

96 kHz

96 kHz

90 dB

95 dB

AD1884

4

24-bit

24-bit

192 kHz

192 kHz

85 dB

90 dB

AD1885

2

16-bit

16-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

87 dB

90 dB

AD1886A

2

16-bit

16-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

87 dB

90 dB

AD1887

2

16-bit

16-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

87 dB

90 dB

AD1888

5.1

16-bit

20-bit

96 kHz

96 kHz

80 dB

90 dB

AD1980

5.1

16-bit

20-bit

96 kHz

96 kHz

82 dB

90 dB

AD1981A

2

16-bit

20-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

85 dB

90 dB

AD1981B

2

16-bit

20-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

85 dB

90 dB

AD1981BL

2

16-bit

20-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

83 dB

90 dB

AD1981BW

2

16-bit

20-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

85 dB

90 dB

AD1981HD

2

20-bit

24-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

85 dB

80 to 85 dB

AD1983

2

20-bit

24-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

85 dB

80 to 85 dB

AD1984

4

24-bit

24-bit

192 kHz

192 kHz

90 dB

96 dB

AD1985

5.1

20-bit

20-bit

96 kHz

96 kHz

85 dB

80 to 90 dB

AD1986

5.1

20-bit

20-bit

96 kHz

96 kHz

85 dB

80 to 90 dB

AD1986A

5.1

20-bit

20-bit

96 kHz

96 kHz

85 dB

80 to 90 dB

AD1987

7.1

24-bit

24-bit

96 kHz

192 kHz

90 dB

95 dB

AD1988A

7.1

24-bit

24-bit

192 kHz

192 kHz

90 dB

95 dB

AD1988B

7.1

24-bit

24-bit

192 kHz

192 kHz

92 dB

101 dB

Realtek (ALC, Avance Logic)

Realtek is probably today’s most popular audio codec manufacturer. Old codecs from Realtek can be found marked as “Avance Logic,” and both old and new codecs use model names starting with “ALC.” In Figure 2, you can see an example of a Realtek codec.

Realtek ALC888S codec
click to enlarge
Figure 2: Realtek ALC888S codec

Model

Channels

Input Resolution

Output Resolution

Input Max. Sampling Rate

Output Max. Sampling Rate

Input SNR

Output SNR

ALC101

2

16-bit

16-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

70 dB

75 dB

ALC202

2

18-bit

20-bit

48 kHz

96 kHz

85 dB

90 dB

ALC203

2

18-bit

20-bit

48 kHz

96 kHz

90 dB

100 dB

ALC250

2

18-bit

20-bit

48 kHz

96 kHz

92 dB

100 dB

ALC260

2

20-bit

24-bit

96 kHz

192 kHz

90 dB

95 dB

ALC262

4

20-bit

24-bit

96 kHz

192 kHz

90 dB

100 dB

ALC268

4

20-bit

24-bit

96 kHz

192 kHz

90 dB

95 dB

ALC269

4

24-bit

24-bit

96 kHz

192 kHz

98 dB

98 dB

ALC650

5.1

18-bit

20-bit

48 kHz

96 kHz

85 dB

90 dB

ALC655

5.1

16-bit

16-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

86 dB

86 dB

ALC658

5.1

18-bit

20-bit

48 kHz

96 kHz

92 dB

96 dB

ALC662

5.1

20-bit

24-bit

96 kHz

96 kHz

90 dB

98 dB

ALC850

7.1

16-bit

16-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

86 dB

92 dB

ALC861

7.1

16-bit

24-bit

96 kHz

96 kHz

82 dB

90 dB

ALC861-VD-GR

7.1

24-bit

24-bit

96 kHz

96 kHz

85 dB

95 dB

ALC880

7.1

20-bit

24-bit

96 kHz

192 kHz

85 dB

100 dB

ALC880D

7.1

20-bit

24-bit

96 KHz

192 KHz

85 dB

100 dB

ALC882

7.1+2

20-bit

24-bit

96 kHz

192 kHz

90 dB

101 dB

ALC883

7.1+2

24-bit

24-bit

96 kHz

192 kHz

85 dB

95 dB

ALC885

7.1+2

24-bit

24-bit

192 kHz

192 kHz

101 dB

106 dB

ALC887

7.1

24-bit

24-bit

192 KHz

192 KHz

90 dB

97 dB

ALC888

7.1+2

24-bit

24-bit

96 kHz

192 kHz

90 dB

97 dB

ALC888S

7.1+2

20-bit

24-bit

96 kHz

192 kHz

90 dB

97 dB

ALC888DD

7.1+2

24-bit

24-bit

96 kHz

192 kHz

90 dB

97 dB

ALC888S-VC

7.1+2

24-bit

24-bit

192 KHz

192 KHz

90 dB

97 dB

ALC888-VC2-GR

7.1+2

24-bit

24-bit

192 KHz

192 KHz

90 dB

97 dB

ALC888S-VD

7.1+2

24-bit

24-bit

192 KHz

192 KHz

90 dB

97 dB

ALC889

7.1+2

24-bit

24-bit

192 kHz

192 kHz

104 dB

108 dB

ALC892

7.1+2

24-bit

24-bit

192 KHz

192 KHz

90 dB

97 dB

ALC898

7.1+2

24-bit

24-bit

192 kHz

192 kHz

104 dB

110 dB

C-Media (CMI)

C-Media used to be very popular, especially on low-end motherboards, and they manufactured both codecs and complete audio controllers. Audio controllers usually need an external codec to do the analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversions, but C-Media’s low-end audio controllers have a codec embedded inside the chip, which is why we will include them in the table below. Because of that, we included a column called “type” to let you know if the chip is just a codec requiring an external controller (e.g., connected to the south bridge chip) or if it is a complete controller with an embedded codec (usually connected to the PCI bus). Chips from C-Media use names starting with the letters “CMI,” as you can see on the example shown in Figure 3.

C-Media CMI9739A codec
click to enlarge
Figure 3: C-Media CMI9739A codec

Model

Type

Channels

Input Resolution

Output Resolution

Input  Max. Sampling Rate

Output Max. Sampling Rate

Input SNR

Output SNR

CMI8738-LX, CMI8738MX

Controller

5.1

16-bit

16-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

80 dB

80 dB

CMI8738-SX

Controller

4

16-bit

16-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

80 dB

80 dB

CMI8768

Controller

7.1

16-bit

24-bit

48 kHz

96 kHz

86 dB

101 dB

CMI9738

Codec

4

20-bit

20-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

72 dB

82 dB

CMI9739

Codec

5.1

20-bit

20-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

NA

NA

CMI9761

Codec

5.1

20-bit

24-bit

48 kHz

96 kHz

90 dB

92 dB

VIA (VT)

VIA manufactures both codecs and complete audio controllers. Their controllers (Envy24 series and Tremor) require an external codec, and usually, the motherboard manufacturer that chooses to use a VIA external controller also picks a VIA codec. Since VIA audio controllers got some popularity in the past, we are including their main specs on a separate table. VIA uses names starting with “VT” for their codecs.

VIA Envy24PT controller and VIA VT1618 codec
click to enlarge
Figure 4: VIA Envy24PT controller (on the right) using a VIA VT1618 codec (on the left)

Model

Channels

Input Resolution

Output Resolution

Input  Max. Sampling Rate

Output Max. Sampling Rate

Input SNR

Output SNR

VT1612A

2

20-bit

20-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

93 dB

88 dB

VT1613

2

18-bit

18-bit

48 kHz

96 kHz

85 dB

82 dB

VT1616

5.1

20-bit

20-bit

48 kHz

48 kHz

85 dB

85 dB

VT1617

5.1

20-bit

20-bit

48 kHz

96 kHz

85 dB

95 dB

VT1618

7.1

20-bit

20-bit

48 kHz

96 kHz

86 dB

83 dB

VT1702S

4

24-bit

24-bit

192 KHz

192 KHz

98 dB

100 dB

VT1705

5.1

24-bit

24-bit

192 KHz 

192 KHz

93 dB

100 dB

VT1705CE

5.1

24-bit

24-bit

192 KHz

192 KHz

93 dB

100 dB

VT1708

7.1

24-bit

24-bit

192 kHz

192 kHz

97 dB

93 dB

VT1708A

7.1

24-bit

24-bit

192 kHz

192 kHz

97 dB

93 dB

VT1708B

7.1

24-bit

24-bit

192 kHz

192 kHz

98 dB

95 dB

VT1708S

7.1

24-bit

24-bit

192 KHz

192 KHz

90 dB

100 dB

VT1718S

7.1+2

24-bit

24-bit

192 kHz

192 kHz

90 dB

100 dB

VT1802P

4

24-bit

24-bit

192 kHz

192 kHz

98 dB

100 dB

VT1812S

4

24-bit

24-bit

192 kHz

192 kHz

98 dB

100 dB

VT1818S

7.1

24-bit

24-bit

192 KHz

192 KHz

98 dB

100 dB

VT1819S

7.1

24-bit

24-bit

192 KHz

192 KHz

98 dB

100 dB

VT1828S

7.1+2

24-bit

24-bit

192 KHz

192 KHz

100 dB

110 dB

VT2020

7.1+2

24-bit

24-bit

192 KHz

192 KHz

NA

110 dB

VT2021

7.1+2

24-bit

24-bit

192 KHz

192 KHz

100 dB

110 dB


Model

Channels

Input Resolution

Output Resolution

Input  Max. Sampling Rate

Output Max. Sampling Rate

Envy24

7.1

24-bit

24-bit

96 kHz

96 kHz

Envy24HT

7.1

24-bit

24-bit

192 kHz

192 kHz

Envy24HT-S

7.1

16-bit (AC97)
24-bit (I2S)

16-bit (AC97)
24-bit (I2S)

48 kHz (AC97)
192 kHz (I2S)

48 kHz (AC97)
192 kHz (I2S)

Envy24GT

5.1

16-bit (AC97)
24-bit (I2S)

16-bit (AC97)
24-bit (I2S)

96 kHz

96 kHz

Envy24MT

2

24-bit

24-bit

192 kHz

192 kHz

Envy24PT

7.1

16-bit (AC97)
24-bit (I2S)

16-bit (AC97)
24-bit (I2S)

48 kHz (AC97)
192 kHz (I2S)

48 kHz (AC97)
192 kHz (I2S)

Tremor

5.1

16-bit (AC97)
24-bit (I2S)

16-bit (AC97)
24-bit (I2S)

48 kHz (AC97)
192 kHz (I2S)

48 kHz (AC97)
192 kHz (I2S)

Other Manufacturers

There are some other audio codec manufacturers, but codecs from them are rarely seen on motherboards. A good example is Cirrus Logic, a company that manufactures very high-end codecs used mainly by home theater receivers. One of their codecs, CS4382, was used on a few very high-end motherboards from MSI (K8N Diamond Plus and K9N Diamond Plus, for example), providing a state-of-the-art audio quality for these products (signal-to-noise ratio of 114 dB). In the past, they also provided low-end audio codecs and controllers using the brand “Crystal.” Cirrus Logic and Crystal products start with the letters “CS,” and you can see a list of their codecs by clicking here.

Cirrus Logic CS4382 codec
click to enlarge
Figure 5: Cirrus Logic CS4382 codec and Creative Labs controller on an MSI K9N Diamond Plus motherboard

Another popular controller/codec manufacturer from the past was ESS, which had chips starting with the letters “ES.”

Another brand that you can see around is IDT. A list of their codecs can be found here.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Audio-Codec-Comparison-Table/520


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