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MSI Z97 Gaming 9 ACK (Intel Z97) Motherboard Review

By: Steven Bassiri | Socket LGA 1150/1151 in Motherboards | Posted: May 14, 2015 2:12 pm
TweakTown Rating: 95%Manufacturer: MSI

Circuit Analysis Continued




A CMedia CM6631A HD audio processor features 120dB SNR at 192KHz/32-bit. It also provides ASIO capabilities for those who like to record and make music, and features bit-perfect protocols. The CM6631A requires some flash and a PMC 1Mbit chip is provided for this purpose. For extra power, MSI provides a switch so you can chose if the audio gets power from a separate power input or from the motherboard, I believe that a little IC labeled 451331 deals with power management for the amplifiers and other circuitry in the CMedia circuit. The CM6631A is an audio processor and only deals with digital signals; meaning it requires discrete DACs and ADCs. For the digital to analog converter (DAC; headphone port), MSI uses the Wolfson WM8741 which provides 128dB SNR at 192kHz/24-bit. For the analog to digital converter (ADC; mic port), MSI uses the Cirrus Logic CS5346 which provides 103 dB SNR at 192kHz/24-bit.


To amplify all the signals for the CMedia audio, MSI uses three amplifiers. Two smaller LM4562 and a single larger TPA6120 are used; all three are very high quality. Everything in this system maintains the high standards of the CM6631A and its high fidelity properties. Twenty one Nichicon Gold series audio capacitors of different sizes are used for the CMedia audio, and a special anti-popcorn noise relay is used to eliminate the startup pop from the speakers. You will hear this relay switch a lot when powering up the system, it might even frighten those who don't know what a relay sounds like. This is one of the best audio systems I have seen on a motherboard.




MSI is utilizing 4x USB 3.0 ports from the PCH, four of which are routed to the front panel headers, leaving none for the backpanel IO. The ASMedia 1042AE takes one or two PCI-E lanes and outputs two USB 3.0 ports. Those two are routed to dual ASM1074 USB 3.0 1-to-4 hubs for the 8 USB 3.0 on the backpanel.




The ASMedia ASM1061 is used for the bottom two SATA6G ports for extra SATA. Since the M.2 port shares bandwidth with two Intel SATA ports, an ASM1480 is required to switch the bandwidth. MSI includes four ASM1464 which are USB 3.0 re-drivers meant to increase signal strength for the front panel USB 3.0 headers.




Two Winbond 64Mbit (8MB) BIOS ROMs are used and a switch is provided to switch to either BIOS. The nuvoTon NCT6792D is the SuperIO which does all the voltage, temperature, and fan control and monitoring. It also provides the PS/2 port on the backpanel.




A NXP PTN3360 level shifter provides the HDMI output. Six ASM1480 are used to distribute the PCI-E lanes for 2-way SLI or 3-way CrossFireX.

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