ALSA's snd-oxygen For C-Media CMI8788 APUs
We discovered back in September when running the Razer Barracuda AC-1 with ALSA 1.0.15 that this sound card was quite problematic with the initial CMI8788 ALSA driver. However, last month we reported that the driver was being rewritten from scratch with a much brighter outlook. We have retested the Barracuda AC-1 with its C-Media CMI8788 Oxygen APU using the latest snd-oxygen driver, which also works with other high-end sound cards such as the ASUS Xonar and Auzentech X-Meridian.
Since previewing the Razer Barracuda AC-1 Gaming Sound Card in late 2006, we have been impressed by the hardware while the Linux support up until a few months ago has been non-existent (unless using the Open Sound System). With the previous driver we had experienced nothing but garbled sounds on this C-Media Oxygen HD CMI8788 APU, but that has all changed with the new snd-oxygen driver. The developer of this ALSA driver, Clemens Ladisch, has stated on the ALSA Wiki that the CMI8788 driver is currently 98% complete, but other areas such as supporting usb-audio and MIDI synthesis is less complete. What's stated to be working on all sound cards using this Oxygen HD APU is analog playback and analog recording, but front panel output is one missing feature.
The last snd-oxygen Wiki update was on November 29 when a new beta driver was released, which added controls for SPDIF output. For this article we had used this beta driver release on the Razer Barracuda AC-1. We had used Ubuntu 7.10 with the rest of the ALSA components being built from the v1.0.15 source.
When turning to this new snd-oxygen driver, we were immediately pleased. No longer did the Barracuda AC-1 just output various noises, but the audio actually played correctly. We had tested the Barracuda AC-1 while playing Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, watching a video within GNOME's Totem, and listening to a CD from Rhythmbox. The sound in these different areas had worked great when attached to a 2.1 speaker system.
We had experienced no distortions or anything else to cause complaints. However, there still is work ahead with implementing front panel output and the rest on Clemens Ladisch's TODO list. We would anticipate that in time for ALSA 1.0.16 that these issues are worked out. The driver isn't perfect, yet, but we would go as far as saying it's already in a much better standing at this point than what is available to Creative X-Fi owners running Linux. The Creative X-Fi driver is binary-only, is only supported on 64-bit platforms right now, and is quite buggy -- not to mention that this beta driver is years late. The Creative X-Fi experience on Linux is far from being stellar and we would choose the ALSA snd-oxygen driver with a C-Media Oxygen HD CMI8788 already. Other sound cards using the CMI8788 include the Asound A-8788, ASUS Xonar D2, ASUS Xonar D2X, AuzenTech X-Meridian, Bgears b-Enspirer, Club3D Theatron DTS, HT Omega Claro, and the Sondigo Inferno.
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