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VIA Mainboards Smart 5.1

6 Channel Audio, VIA mainboards, Smart 5.1, PC, VIA Arena, VIA VT1616

6 Channel Audio, VIA mainboards, Smart 5.1, PC, VIA Arena, VIA VT1616

Intelligent 6 Channel Audio

The PC platform is extending into new environments such as the home living room and the car and evolving into a multimedia consumer product. For the PC to successfully morph into an ambiguous consumer device such as a TV or stereo, several aspects of the traditional PC's design and functionality must undergo dramatic change. PCs must become smaller, aesthetically pleasing as well as easier to set up and operate. On the audio development side, VIA is doing its part to facilitate this evolution with the introduction of Smart5.1, a no-hassle, cost effective method of implementing 6 channels of surround sound audio through a standard VIA Mainboard platform. In a nutshell, Smart5.1 enables a mainboard's standard three jack game/audio port to accept the three speaker plugs that are required for 6 channel surround sound audio i.e. front left/right, rear left/right, and center/subwoofer speakers.

6 Channel Audio, VIA mainboards, Smart 5.1, PC, VIA Arena, VIA VT1616
A typical 6 channel speaker configuration in a living room environment.

 

6 Channel Audio, VIA mainboards, Smart 5.1, PC, VIA Arena, VIA VT1616
Standard motherboard three jack game/audio port

The three jacks are dedicated to Line-Out, Line-In, and Mic-In usage. The Line-Out jack is predominately used to plug in standard two channel speakers while the Line-In jack can be used to transfer data from devices such as Mini Disks to your PC. The Mic-In jack is used to plug in a microphone for online chatting or conferencing. The additional onboard audio pin header is used to plug in an external audio bracket which is the traditional method of implementing 6 channel surround sound audio.

6 Channel Audio, VIA mainboards, Smart 5.1, PC, VIA Arena, VIA VT1616
Smart5.1 three jack game/audio port configuration

The picture above shows VIA's Smart5.1 technology implemented onboard. Smart5.1 requires no additional hardware to implement 6 channel surround sound audio on a standard VIA Mainboard platform. With Smart5.1 implemented, the left jack becomes the Front left/right speaker port. The middle jack is for Rear left/right speakers and the center/subwoofer speaker plugs into the right jack.

6 Channel Audio, VIA mainboards, Smart 5.1, PC, VIA Arena, VIA VT1616
The traditional method of implementing 6 channel audio

The picture above shows the traditional method of implementing 6 channel surround sound audio by using a combination of the left Line-Out jack for Front left/right speaker and the bottom two jacks on the audio bracket for Rear left/right and center/subwoofer speakers. The downside to this method is the extra cost associated with the audio bracket and the extra complexity associated with having the three audio jacks in two separate places. The audio bracket also places serious restrictions on the design of entertainment devices, especially small form factor designs because the audio bracket needs to occupy a PCI bay at the back of a chassis.

Smart5.1 - The Technology Behind The Feature

Implementing Smart5.1 on a VIA Mainboard is made possible through a combination of hardware and software. On the hardware side, Smart5.1 circuitry has been designed into the latest VIA Mainboards that utilize the VIA VT1616 six channel audio codec onboard. The VIA VT1616 is a high performance six channel audio codec designed to meet the demands of today's PC-based multimedia entertainment applications such as WMA audio, MP3s and computer gaming.

6 Channel Audio, VIA mainboards, Smart 5.1, PC, VIA Arena, VIA VT1616
VIA VT1616 6 channel audio codec

The software that enables Smart5.1 is embedded into the VIA audio driver so when a technician, system integrator or DIY PC user is setting up a VIA Mainboard he/she will simply choose to enable Smart5.1 when proceeding through the driver installation and feature selection process. To setup a set of six channel surround sound audio speaker system becomes as seamless as plugging the three speaker plugs in the three jack game/audio port on the back of a VIA Mainboard.

Enabling Smart5.1

6 Channel Audio, VIA mainboards, Smart 5.1, PC, VIA Arena, VIA VT1616
Enabling Smart5.1 in speaker control panel

Step one in setting up Smart5.1 is to open the audio speaker control panel and select Smart5.1 Enable.

6 Channel Audio, VIA mainboards, Smart 5.1, PC, VIA Arena, VIA VT1616
Selecting 5.1 speaker setup in Windows control panel

Also select the 5.1 speaker setup under Window's Control Panel audio properties.

Availability

Smart5.1 is a recently introduced technology for VIA Mainboard thus only the latest VIA Mainboards featuring the VIA VT1616 6 channel audio codec are Smart5.1 ready. In future all VIA Mainboard products featuring VIA 6 channel audio solution will be Smart5.1 compliant. The first VIA Mainboard models to have this feature will be the P4MA Pro and EPIA M-Series.

Author Name:Shane Dennison
Published Date:02 September 2002
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