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Separated Audio PCB

post #1 of 4
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With the release of the new Z97 motherboards and the fact that they all seem to have a separated audio PCB of some form, it got me thinking. Does the separated PCB actually affect the audio quality? With my limited knowledge of PCB's and electrical conductivity through materials, I would think it wouldn't make any difference except to look cool (now don't get me wrong, when they are backlit, they look COOL!) as if it was sooo important to stop interferance, wouldn't other components on the mobo also need it, as they are more sensitive to interference (e.g. CPU, memory, southbridge, etc) Also, wouldn't all the interference from other parts like the CPU, GPU (which is right next to it!) affect the audio chip?!

-:TLDR:-
Is the separated audio PCB totally useless??!!11!!
-:TLDR:-
 
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post #2 of 4
RF (radio frequency) interference is an issue. It' there. But whether it effects your SQ depends a lot on the quality of your audio system. With a sound card and inexpensive powered computer speakers there are more problems affecting SQ than just RF. But with a high end computer audio system RF can and does affect SQ.

If you can't hear the sound a drum sticks make when hitting the skin on a drum (not the drum beat, but the sound the stick makes when contacting the skin) RF isn't going to be a issue.
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My System
(15 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
FX6300 Black M5A99X EVO R2.0 Nvidia GTS450 Team Vulcan PC3 12800 
Hard DriveOptical DriveCoolingOS
Samsung 840 PRO Asus DRW-1608P (x2) Custom Water Cooling Win7 (Ult), Win 8.1 & Win Server 2012 R2 
MonitorKeyboardPowerCase
2 X Samsung 915N Ducky Shine III, Blue Cherry/Blue LEDs PCP&C 1kw Lian Li PC-71 (W/Window) 
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post #3 of 4
Digital anything is less susceptible to any interference. It's much harder to flip a bit (turn a 1 into a 0) than add enough to an analogue signal to be noticeable. CPU, memory, even the digital sound until it's been through the DAC is as good as unaffected by RF/EMI.

The analogue stage though, I've had motherboards where I could hear a mouse-drag as interference if I used it's onboard sound. Moving it further from other integrated circuits could help, only if it was in a bad spot though and you're not putting it closer to something worse.
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Not SLi any more
(18 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
i7 920 @ 4.0 Asus P6TD-Deluxe EVGA GTX770 SC 6GB XMS3 @1530 cas7 
Hard DriveHard DriveHard DriveOptical Drive
Intel X25-M 80GB OCZ Agility 120GB Intel X25-M 40GB LG Blue ROM DVD RW 
CoolingOSMonitorKeyboard
Water cooled w/ T-Balancer BigNG Win 7 x64 Asus PB298Q Cherry 4100L 
PowerCaseMouseMouse Pad
Corsair HX1000 MM UFO-U2 R.A.T. 7 Contagion G.L.I.D.E 9 
AudioAudio
Xonar Essence STX SR80i, DT770 or HT-R518 w/ Monitor Audio BR's 
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post #4 of 4
Yeah, most of the digital circuits can get away with much much lower SNR, counting all interference and other junk as the "noise" in SNR, not just thermal noise or whatnot.

Isolating the audio parts isn't just about moving parts away from electrically noisy components, stray interference, parasitic inductive and capacitive coupling of other PCB traces and components, etc. You also really want to make sure the return currents from all the noisy digital components elsewhere aren't going through or around the grounds used by the audio parts and affecting them. There's a lot that goes on and a bunch of potential issues.

Older generations of boards probably just didn't advertise keeping audio components together even if they did it. All these considerations are certainly nothing new.
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