The days of NVIDIA's nForce 2 Chipset were glorious to say the least, with part of the success being attributed to NVIDIA's SoundStorm audio most notably on the Abit NF7-S. Unfortunately, we haven't seen SoundStorm return in the nForce 3 or nForce 4 Chipsets, but is this audio technology destined for an awakening in NVIDIA's upcoming products? Although NVIDIA's public relations department has repeatedly said SoundStorm is dead, we believe it may possibly make a return and have received un-official information that NVIDIA may introduce a new generation of APUs (Audio Processing Units) for its Chipsets with the possibility of bringing back SoundStorm Technology in one form or another. Currently the NVIDA C51 is rumored to launch September 20 of this year, what prominently makes this Chipset special is the rebirth of NVIDIA integrated graphics. Although the graphics core is only expected to perform at a maximum like a GeForce 6200 GPU, this will be the first NVIDIA Chipset since 2002 that supports such integrated graphics technology. Like the nForce 4 Intel SLI edition, the C51 will first be available for AMD's processors but it's expected NVIDIA will later release a C51 Intel variant; code-named the C60. Even though we haven't received any decisive information whether or not a revamped APU, with new NVIDIA audio technologies, could make its return as soon as the C51/C60, it's expected NVIDIA is planning on offering its new audio wares for Intel and AMD Chipsets early next year or even possibly Q4 of this year.
For those of you who don't remember, the original SoundStorm technology offered the unique ability at the time to output an AC3 or Dolby Digital 5.1 signal, which then required an appropriate digital decoder. Although we have yet to see any specific details in regards to what a second-generation SoundStorm could possibly offer to users we would expect it to be entirely re-engineered from its first generation counterpart that originally made its debut a few years back. One of the reasons we hadn't seen the nForce3/4 re-adopt this audio technology is demands from motherboard manufacturers to keep manufacturing costs down. However, if SoundStorm successfully makes its public re-appearance, it's quite possible that it will be offered through an optional audio board solution, similar to Abit's AudioMAX Technology that utilizes a daughter card setup, in order to satisfy the needs of low-cost NVIDIA partners. Whether this optional module would be an additional chip found on the motherboard's PCB, like the previously rumored SP10, or rather a removable PCI Express card, we don't know at this time but it most likely will be a optional PCI-E based add-on for conjunction with supported Chipsets.
Another aspect floating around is if NVIDIA's next-generation audio advancements will be labeled SoundStorm, or SoundStorm 2 respectively, as NVIDIA has publicly stated SoundStorm is "dead". We can almost say with certainty within the next six months or so NVIDIA will be unveiling new high-end audio solutions for its products. Whether it will rejuvenate the original SoundStorm or be redesigned in its entirety, only time will tell if an audio re-birth is imminent on NVIDIA's internal roadmap.