Audio Encoding Performance

While the media encoding prowess of the Intel processors has been lacking at times, they have generally faired a little better on the audio side. Our audio test suite consists of Exact Audio Copy v095.b4, LAME 3.98a3, LAME MT 3.97a-MS Compiler, Windows Media Player 10, and Nero Digital Audio.

Our first task was to figure out what test CD to utilize. We needed one that contained a significant number of tracks and had over 600MB of data in order to properly stress our platforms. After rummaging around the lab and discounting the Burl Ives Greatest Christmas Hits album, we happened upon a CD that would work for our purposes as it was not working for anyone else, INXS Greatest Hits. This one time '80s glory masterpiece contains 16 tracks totaling 606MB of songs that was instantly whisked into our anxiously awaiting optical drive.

Our first test consists of utilizing Exact Audio Copy as the front end for our differing versions of LAME. We setup EAC for variable bit rate encoding, burst mode for extraction, use external program for compression, and to start the external compressor upon extraction (EAC will read the next track while LAME is working on the previous track, thus removing a potential bottleneck with the drive).

Our two versions of LAME consist of the recently released 3.98a3 and LAME MT 3.97a, which is a multi-threaded version of the LAME MP3 encoder. LAME MT was originally designed as a demonstration to show the advantages of multi-threading on the Pentium 4 with Hyper-Threading enabled. Instead of running multiple parallel threads, LAME MT generates the encoder's psycho-acoustic analysis function in a separate thread from the rest of the encoder using a simple linear pipeline and then caches it in the second thread for processing. Further details about the program and its creation can be found here. The results are presented in minutes/seconds for the encoding process, with lower numbers being better.

Audio Encoding Performance


Audio Encoding Performance


As in the media encoding section, the more CPU intensive operations seem to favor the Intel platform. We ran these tests several times with the results all being within one second of each other. If we shortened the test to 6 tracks then the AMD platform was within a couple of percent of the Intel platform. As we extended the size of our test samples the performance margin between the two platforms lengthened from a 2% advantage for the Intel platform to almost 11%. It concerned us to the point that we changed our drive image and then our board. We were rewarded with the same results. Running this same test on our 945GM based board resulted in a performance difference around 4% in favor of the Intel platform.

When utilizing LAME MT we see upwards of a 29% improvement in encoding times resulting in scores near that of our overclocked results. This once again shows the advantages programs can gain when they're written to take advantage of multiple-core processors or platforms.

Our next test consists of utilizing the INXS Greatest Hits CD and ripping all 16 tracks with Windows Media Player 10. We set WMP10 to rip the tracks in Widows Media Audio variable bit rate format and moved the slider all the way to the right resulting in a Best Quality request.

Audio Encoding Performance


The results are very close for both platforms and the only comment here is that a fast optical drive is probably more important than your choice of CPU in this benchmark.

Our last audio test - and we are sure our INXS Greatest Hits CD is ecstatic about this - utilizes Nero Digital Audio to extract all 16 tracks and convert them into an mp4 format. We changed the default quality settings to transcoder-ultra, variable bit rate, encoder quality to high, and the AAC profile to LC. We were determined to give our platforms a workout with this test.

Audio Encoding Performance


These results invoked the burning of the midnight oil along with some late night phone calls to Nero. In the end, after numerous retests and a run to Best Buy to purchase another copy of the INXS Greatest Hits CD - just to make sure CD scratches weren't causing problems - we have a situation where the AMD platform has a clear advantage at the stock settings in a program that heavily stresses the CPU subsystem. However, the Intel platform shines at the overclocked settings resulting in scores that do not follow any previous patterns in our test results.

We ran these tests over a dozen times with the same results. We noticed that on the last four tracks the Intel system would encode these files quicker than the AMD system, even though the track speed of our optical drive did not change. We thought perhaps our Opteron system was encountering some form of thermal throttling, but our temperature readings showed very little change, and adding active cooling to our OCZ memory still generated the same results.

Video Encoding Performance File Compression Performance
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  • Per Hansson - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 - link

    Hi Gary, just wanted to drop in and give you a kudos on this very nice review!

    It also makes me smile to finally see Intel catching up with AMD, this can only be good news for the customer...

    And a small heads up, there are a few Intel Core Duo Engineering sample CPU's on sale at eBay, "hint hint engineering sample=multipler unlocked"

    And also a big thanks for finally posting those capacitor shots and mentioning them, keep up the good work!

    Also I think Aopen deserves recognition for designing a mainboard with so high-quality components, Rubycon=Way to go!!!
    Reply
  • goinginstyle - Friday, May 19, 2006 - link


    quote:

    Hi Gary, just wanted to drop in and give you a kudos on this very nice review!


    Agreed....

    Reply
  • vailr - Thursday, May 04, 2006 - link

    Updated driver:
    (from: http://www.station-drivers.com/page/intechip.htm)">http://www.station-drivers.com/page/intechip.htm)
    Intel Chipset software Installation Utility
    Version 7.3.1.1013 - Windows 2000/XP 32/64bits/2003Server Multi Langues & officiel
    ftp://aiedownload.intel.com/df-support/10392/eng/i...">ftp://aiedownload.intel.com/df-support/10392/eng/i...

    Version 8.0.0.1005 Alpha
    Windows 2000/XP 32/64bits/2003Server Multi Langues & non officiel
    http://www.station-drivers.com/telechargement/inte...">http://www.station-drivers.com/telechargement/inte... Alpha.exe
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Thursday, May 04, 2006 - link

    Thank you for posting these links. :) We have a policy of utilizing the latest driver sets on a supplier's website at the time our testing starts, in this case the Intel general download page is still posting the 7.2.2.1006 driver set. However, I am using the 7.3.1 driver set on our retail board sample tonight. ;-) Reply
  • irev210 - Sunday, May 07, 2006 - link

    Hello Gary,

    Sorta funny how that other fellow has absolutely no idea what he is talking about.

    I just wanted to touch upon something that I didnt see get much attention.


    You should have mentioned in your article about how efficient the core architecture is, and how well it scales with increased frequency. The chip turns into a total monster once you get past 3ghz, and continues to perform better and better as you increase the speed. The fastest I could get on air was around 3.1ghz. I wouldnt be afraid to crank the volts to the 1.5 max on the aopen board... with a different cooler, you should hit some nice speeds. Try swapping out for a zalman 9500, or a big typhoon.

    The shortfalls, are as you mentioned the southbridge lacking raid, and the poor bios options. Vcore should let us up to 1.65-1.7, while Vdimm should let us do atleast 2.3.

    While this may not satisfy the most serious enthusiast, this board does fill a nice niche. The price is pretty high, but core duo CPU's can be had on the cheap, which makes up for it. For someone that is worried about their electric bill, and wants performance and performance per watt, this is a great alternative.

    For others who must have the fastest. This just makes them drool. This is the low end of the core architecture. Merom and Conroe to follow... we shall be stunned.

    Consdering Meroms being tested now at 3.0Ghz are faster than 3.2Ghz Yonah's... AND YOU WILL SEE Conroe EE at 3.33 w/ a 1333fsb doing 4ghz w/ 1500mhz FSB :)


    For those that dont get it yet... AMD will need a AM2 processor running at about oh 4.8Ghz to beat a 4Ghz clocked conroe :)

    Good things to come. I take no sides, im just excited about new stuff :)






    Reply
  • Marlowe - Thursday, May 04, 2006 - link

    How come a ~1 % cpu usage translates into a massiv 20 fps drop in BF2? Looks like EA have a deal with Creative :(

    A lot of world records have been beaten with this mobo already over here at XS :)
    coolaler even got SLI enabled on it ;) also running a merom in it ;)

    Your 266 FSB is very good and about normal for aircooling. Give it some cold and it will go further ;)
    Reply
  • Frumious1 - Thursday, May 04, 2006 - link

    [font color="#000000] (Damn white text. Nice comment engine AnandTech.... Need a new programmer?)

    Because RightMark is a theoretical test and not actually a real game or audio application. Also, look at the 3D/EAX scores - it's more than 1% CPU usage, but still less than 20% or whatever.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Thursday, May 04, 2006 - link

    quote:

    How come a ~1 % cpu usage translates into a massiv 20 fps drop in BF2? Looks like EA have a deal with Creative :(


    It has to do with the Realtek driver load and Creatives to some extent being split between the cores during the RightMark testing. I noted in the text that although the cpu utilization is extremely low in our Rightmark results due to the load balancing that the actual game results (percentage differences) were basically the same as our single core scores. The drop in BF2 is due to the audio algorithms being generated by the CPU rather in hardware as on the X-FI card. Our audio settings in BF2 are set to hardware, medium quality, EAX enabled, the high quality setting extracts another 6FPS but we generally have not noticed an increase in audio quality. This is one penalty you pay for on-board audio in a CPU limited game although Serious Sam II is the one exception for either solution.

    We are hoping to receive a T2700 chip from Intel shortly and will "chill" it to see what results come from it. :) Yes, we had SLI working on the board also, but that is a topic that will be buried with Jimmy Hoffa at this time. ;-)
    Reply
  • NT78stonewobble - Friday, May 05, 2006 - link

    Intriguing last 2 sentences.

    The comments section has some really good info alot of the time :).

    And kudos for bringing into the review something about the penalty for using onboard audio versus dedicated hardware.

    You're not by any chance planning on writing something about audio quality some-time? Not that im an audiophile or the like, just curious.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, May 05, 2006 - link

    quote:

    You're not by any chance planning on writing something about audio quality some-time? Not that im an audiophile or the like, just curious.


    We will expand our audio section in the next update to our motherboard review section. We are looking at several variations of the review process as we enter a very busy time of the year with AM2, Conroe, and others all launching over the next 90 days. :)
    Reply

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