[nextpage title=”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 codecFigure 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

[nextpage title=”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 codecFigure 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

[nextpage title=”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 codecFigure 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

[nextpage title=”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 codecFigure 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)

[nextpage title=”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.”

Cirrus Logic CS4382 codecFigure 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.