Best Motherboard for Audio
I am building up a "high end" computer to be used for audio use only and I am trying to figure out what motherboard out there would be best.
My first concern for the PC was the power supply. I am going to use an ATX linear power supply instead of the standard switch mode computer power supply.
All motherboards use switch mode DC-DC voltage regulation. But they all have different ways of doing this.
Some of the new "extreme overclocking" boards use 40 phase regulation, where some use just 2 phase regulation.
Does anyone know if the switching noise will be worse with 40 mosfets switching a lower current than 2 mosfets switching a higher level of current?
All the motherboards out there talk about regulation efficency and max amount of current. I do not care about that - I care about voltage noise and slew rate.
I can not find any measurements out there about these types of parameters for motherboards.
It all depends on whether you're looking at analogue out or spdif out, of the pc.
Analogue out of pc motherboard is ... well... hmmm... not really high end.
spdif can be better but pc motherboards don't usually isolate the digital output (as in (transformer)
You're better of getting a decent sound card for the pc.
As for processing power..
I use an Atom D510 board with an Asus sound card and spdif out (transformer coupled)
It's way overkill on processing power for the task.
Thanks, but what I am trying to find out is if anyone out there knows a source or a place to look to find out about motherboard voltage regulation and the plus and minuses of the various technologies used in the different motherboards.
Some of the new "extreme overclocking" motherboards are using some interesting technology for voltage regulation:
GIGABYTE Z77X-UP7 Motherboard
This board uses the new IR3550 chips for regulation.
No matter what interface you are going to use for your output low noise high bandwdith voltage regulation will help sound quality substantially.
I never know any hi end audio manufacturer that uses hi end motherboard like that gigabyte monster for music server. On the other hand, minimalistic mobo with atom or alix with linear supply are very popular.
Asus and Asrock are two that comes to mind that have Creative's X-FI Technology built into the board.
My friend has the Asus Crosshair IV board with it and he says it is awesome.
I believe him as we had a recording studio together and still is using our most awesome KRK nearfield monitors on it as well as some very good headphones.
I have heard his board but I didn't get to do a thorough test on it.
But what I did hear sounded nice and in some headphones to.
It sounded as good as my PCI X-FI Elite Pro card.
I had referred to him the board when he built the system because of the built in X-FI System.
He runs it into a little Beringer (Mackie look-a-like) mixer and into a Alesis RA-100 amplifier then onto the KRK 6000's.
His headphones are some highly rated wireless type and I don't remember what they were.
Toms Hardware featured an article on some boards designed for audio and HTPC use a while back but I don't remember which ones were discussed.
All computers create noise, most of which does not come from the power supply, but the actual devices switching. Using a board designed for overclocking is only going to add to the noise!
There are also the core voltages which are usually supplied by on board point of load SMPS's orif low current LDO's. The noise on a motherboard is controlled by good PDS (power delivery system) layout and decoupling and having contigous return planes for signals, which due to cost restriants are quite often not optimum for motherboards, where they try to get away with as few layers as possible.
"Using a board designed for overclocking is only going to add to the noise!"
The overclocking boards have double grounds planes that are made of thicker copper and use the highest quality and quantity of solid polymer capacitors. There are many more mosfets switching but they are all switching much less current. That is the main question I am looking to answer - will 40 phases be noiser than 2 phases? The IR3550 is the device being used in these "overclocking boards" and according to the IR data sheet they are quieter:
The switch mode is not the only source of noise and in fact quite often is not the main cause of noise, switching of multiple gates is a big cause of delta I noise, ground and power supply noise. Overclocking means higher clock rates and thus more switching and quite often even higher rise times these contribute to the noise. We do PC boards as well as boards for high reliability requirements, medical, mill, areospace, PC boards are designed down to a price, other designs not as much, so where we may use 2 ground planes on a pc, I will use up to 6 power groundplane pairs for power and more ground planes for each signallayer to have a contigous return plane for minimising EMC (noise) and etting the best signal integrity results, so boards can often have over 14-16 layers.
For SMPS design spread spectrum multi phase designs give the best EMC results, and for decoupling closely coupled power planes with planar capacitance are best, with X7R 0402 or 0201 chip caps as close to supply pins next. But still motherboards have a certain lavel of noise which dosn't realy matter for digital as it is quite tolerant of noise and as long as signal integrity is checked the PC will work quite reliably. As for analogue, well it can have an effect, the best solution is where possible isolate the analogue as much as possible from the digital section, seperate boards are best with galvonic isolation.
i agree with marce. also, you have to be careful since even modern motherboards are designed to be tolerant to several tens or even a hundred millivolts of noise (they used to tolerate even more with higher CPU and bus voltages in the past).
first of all, if you must use a linear PSU then use it with a low power motherboard (mini ITX) and atom CPU to keep the PSU demands reasonable, say 20-40watts. then use a sound card that takes care of the extra PSU regulation needed for hi-fi and preferably take the output from the spdif or, even better, the optical socket. it might also be better not to use DVDs or hardidks that take power from the motherboard PSU (motor noise) but instead use external USB devices.
Thanks for the replies.
The Motherboard will only be connected to a USB DAC. No other audio outputs are needed.
I do not intend to overclock it, I just want to know of all the motherboards out there which design will have the best voltage regulation.
I agree, none of them are that great in audio terms- but certain designs / layouts must be better than others.
Unfortunately I can not find any specifications about voltage noise or slew rate for ANY motherboards.
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