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Martin's PCIe Article

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Martin's PCIe Article

PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 1:53 am
by Peter C
Hi,

[Rant]

Well... there I was, waiting for the epxoy resin to dry on the first pre-productiuon model of my new quiet case.

When the latest SOS dropped through my letterbox.

So I opened it to read the wise words of the soundcard manufactures on the vexed question of PCIe.

I read, with mounting horror and amazement. This group of apprently informed technical guys seemed to have entered a collective ostrich emulation mode.

Only ESI thought that PCIe lay inside the planning horizon. Actually, it's been here for over a year.

Maybe they were all spouting the company line or had been told not to say anything to avoid giving their plans away to the competition.

Either that, or they are living in a time warp.


At present, all PCIe mobos have legacy PCI slots; but if you buy a machine now, I don't believe your next upgrade will have any PCI capability.

The PCI bus will dissapear far faster than the ISA bus did, because these days few systems have any PCI expansion cards - everything is integrated onto the mobo - so no legacy equipment to create a demand for mobos with a PCI bus. Plus PCIe is a fully agreed and undisputed international standard with all the major players pushing it.

And technically far superior.

It's not like nVidia is going to go on manufacturing nF3 chips just to satisfy the needs of the DAW industry.

So nobody - but nobody - should still be buying PCI soundcards, or indeed a PCI anything if it costs more than $10. A soundcard is an expensive investment, and typically lasts through two or three PC systems.

If you build a new DAW and use your existing soundcard, no problem. But if you are planning a totally new DAW including a new soundcard do you really want to invest in old technology?

Needs must...some people can't afford to wait, but it's getting to the ponit where my advice is this:

If you can wait, hold fire, go play tiddly-winks for a year, and wait till these cowboys decide they are in business to satisfy the needs of their customers. A radical idea, I know...


[/Rant].





Peter

Re: Martin's PCIe Article

PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 9:40 am
by cc.

The other possibility is that there never will be any PCI-e soundcards.

This is what happened with MIDI interfaces when ISA went away - they all went USB even though USB gives worse performance than ISA. No one bothered to make a PCI MIDI interface.

Not a nice thought, but certainly possible :frown:

Re: Martin's PCIe Article

PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 12:30 pm
by *INACTIVE USER*
Well, there is something I do not understand: this forum is the only one where you will find that there are problems with pci slots on pci-e motherboards for audio. All other audio/sound forums I visit never mention the problem, and when I did once in a thread, there was unbelieve all around.

As for the ostrich mode...I said it before and that is the same as CC: audio cards will go usb and firewire. Could be that they are still in the last century, audio card manufacturers are not exactly known for following pc standards at any speed. Neither would it take much to switch, they could use a bridge (like the video manufacturers did) to start. And getting native pci-e interfaces wouldn't be difficult either (as stndard cells).

Re: Martin's PCIe Article

PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 12:51 pm
by Peter C
Hi,

[rant] aside, my personal belief is that at least one of the people in Martin's article was holding out because they did not want to pre-release a product.

I still think we will see PCIe soundcards early in 2006.

Failing that, someone will produce a PCIe to PCI slot converter + bridge. That will cause merry hell with the size/positioning of the PCI slots in the back of the case; but I, for one, will modify my case design to cope.

We know that works - it costs about an extra $10 ($40 street price) to add a PCIe-PCI bridge onto an existing PCI soundcard...

And the variation in the retail price of an emu1212m is more than $40...




Peter

Re: Martin's PCIe Article

PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 12:54 pm
by Dishpan
> I still think we will see PCIe soundcards early in 2006.

Of course we will Peter, either native or with a bridge.

Re: Martin's PCIe Article

PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 1:03 pm
by Martin Walker
Hi All!

Well, I suspect that these manufacturers don't see a lot of point in investing large amounts of time and money in developing custom chips when (as Matthias Carsten of RME said) a complete solution will be available sooner or later from specialised sources.

After all, some of the companies who contributed to my feature spent several years designing their own FireWire chips, and one of them only finally launched FireWire products a few months ago as a result. Doing the same thing all over again when the number of musicians with PCI Express slots is currently so small could be financial suicide.

I fully understand your points about PCI slots disappearing, but cc. and Havoc also have a good point about PCI Express audio interfaces not being taken up at all by (possibly) a significant proportion of manufacturers. After all, if FireWire and USB 2 already do what most musicians want in the way of track and I/O count, why do a lot more work in developing a new range of products using a (for now) totally unfamiliar interface.

However, I suspect at least some of the companies are already working on PCI Express 'behind the scenes' and don't want to give any advance knowledge of their plans to competitors. We'll see :smirk:

I hope you all enjoyed reading the feature though, even if you didn't agree with some of its sentiments :D


Martin

Re: Martin's PCIe Article

PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 1:26 pm
by Peter C
Hi,

Yes I did enjoy the article... useful and interesting - all you can possibly do is report what people say.


I did want to ask about the reference to "a complete solution will be available sooner or later from specialised sources".

Surely the only customers for such a solution would be the soundcard manufacturers. It's not clear to me who these "specialised sources" are, and:
1. Why the soundcard manufacturers are not in closer communication with them - the "sooner or later bit" was somewhat laissez-faire.
2. Why the "specialised sources" were not also invited to the discussion.


The article (i.e the people) did make a clear case for the continuance of internal soudcards, but to me it seemed they ducked the issue that PCI will disappear. Saying "our PCI cards ar great, we see no reason to change" is not a response to the key question:
What are you proposing to do when PCI slots are no longer avaialble".

I'm looking at/for a PCIe to PCI bridge card...



Peter

Re: Martin's PCIe Article

PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 2:21 pm
by Gav
I would expect in theory that it would also be possible to create a firewire to PCI bridge (as in have a small rack of PCI cards connected to a PC with firewire), or even using Gigabit Ethernet. Yes it would need drivers on the PC side and some clever embedded electronics, but would be entirely possible.

But why use firewire or ethernet for that? What if the future brings us hypertransport (or some other high speed interconnect) that allows PCs to become several smaller boxes (or several connected boards in a single case)? Need ISA, or PCI or PCIE or AGP or something else - buy a bridge that connects direct to the CPU/northbridge.

PCIE is the next step of interconnects, and so far for musicians it's not looking rosy. If we didn't have USB2 and firewire then I'm sure you'd have PCIE audio interfaces already, but we have them. I would expect my next interface to be firewire, but I have PCI cards that do the job fine for now.

Re: Martin's PCIe Article

PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 5:02 pm
by Jim Y
I should think Via may well be working on PCIe audio controllers similar in capability to their current PCI Envy24 chips. M-audio, Esi and Terratec for example, rely on these to do most of the work in their PCI cards.

As an aside, I wonder what Esi used in the Maxi I/O? It's well beyond the channel count of any Envy24 that I'm aware of.

Re: Martin's PCIe Article

PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 5:08 pm
by PaulD
Hi
Since the Mac world is already PCIe only for new models, and ProTools will have to be migrated to that to sell to Mac users, then no doubt others like MOTU will develop PCIe kit (all of which presumably will have to be useable in the next generation of Intel Macs).

Re: Martin's PCIe Article

PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 5:55 pm
by *INACTIVE USER*
I didn't read the article, but I don't get the point Martin quotes from RME. AFAIK rme uses Xilinx programmable logic on their pci cards (from the pics at their site, both my cards and the way they answer to a pci query). If I look at this marketing blurb: "Royal Philips Electronics and Xilinx, Inc. demonstrated a programmable PCI Express endpoint silicon solution offered at 1/10th the cost than traditional solutions." from some internet news site then it gets weird. If you do a search on the xilinx site you get 3170 hits for "pci express". If there is one company that would be able to switch fast then it should be rme...

Re: Martin's PCIe Article

PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 6:01 pm
by Peter C
Jim Y wrote:I should think Via may well be working on PCIe audio controllers similar in capability to their current PCI Envy24 chips. M-audio, Esi and Terratec for example, rely on these to do most of the work in their PCI cards.

So VIA is the misterious "specialist supplier" then?



As an aside, I wonder what Esi used in the Maxi I/O? It's well beyond the channel count of any Envy24 that I'm aware of.


I beleive ESI make their own cores.




Peter

Re: Martin's PCIe Article

PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 6:32 pm
by Gav
Havoc wrote:I didn't read the article, but I don't get the point Martin quotes from RME. AFAIK rme uses Xilinx programmable logic on their pci cards (from the pics at their site, both my cards and the way they answer to a pci query). If I look at this marketing blurb: "Royal Philips Electronics and Xilinx, Inc. demonstrated a programmable PCI Express endpoint silicon solution offered at 1/10th the cost than traditional solutions." from some internet news site then it gets weird. If you do a search on the xilinx site you get 3170 hits for "pci express". If there is one company that would be able to switch fast then it should be rme...

I would wonder what the cost of that IP is though. Can a sound business decision be made to go with PCIE right now? How about 3 months ago? If only it were as simple as you suggest...

Re: Martin's PCIe Article

PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 8:27 pm
by *INACTIVE USER*
I would wonder what the cost of that IP is though.


Don't know, but it could be far less than you suspect. By providing the IP for a low cost, they get their chips designed into the card and bind a customer. Give a finger, take an arm.

Re: Martin's PCIe Article

PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 9:20 pm
by Peter C
Gav wrote:
Havoc wrote:... AFAIK rme uses Xilinx programmable logic on their pci cards ... "Royal Philips Electronics and Xilinx, Inc. demonstrated a programmable PCI Express endpoint silicon solution offered at 1/10th the cost than traditional solutions."

I would wonder what the cost of that IP is though. Can a sound business decision be made to go with PCIE right now? How about 3 months ago? If only it were as simple as you suggest...


Business would be simple if you could just wait til the marked demanded a product and then go develop it.

In fact, you have to take a view, and balance the risk that a market does not take off against the risk of being left behind.

The thing is though, that PCIe is not a "maybe", it's a done deal. The only question is how soon the supply of mothboards that do have a PCI bus will dry up. If the future holds any internal soudcards, or FX processors like the UAD-1, at all they will be PCIe devices. Period. Developing a PCIe soundcard would not be a leap into the unknown, it just make you first into a developing market.

Because there is already a demand. Just look at the problems with PCI bus support on nF4 mobos. Every DAW manufacturer in the know Universe would heave a sigh of relief if a PCIe soundcard turned up.



Peter