1 2 Previous Next 29 Replies Latest reply on Oct 27, 2017 1:53 PM by rguevara

    NUCs not capable of 192kHz/24bit PCM audio via HDMI

    GuineaPig

      Here's a story about "specifications" (and "change of specifications") that I believe it's worth reading. If you purchased an Intel NUC in the last couple of years you may find it pretty interesting. And, whether you are aware or not, it may also apply to you. Of course, some kind of comment from someone @Intel would be very appropriate.

       

      I got my first NUC in the spring of 2014. It was a DN2820FYKH which I used exclusively to stream HiRes audio to my Onkyo receiver via Foobar 2000 (directly through the HDMI output via WASAPI). Never had a glitch, which, after all, is pretty obvious: all the NUC had to do was to decompress FLAC audio into a PCM bitstream and send it to the amplifier, which took care of everything else. Easy. So, since 2014, my library of HiDef music increased steadily, including plenty of 192kHz/24bit audio.

       

      Given the satisfaction with the above, in the spring 2016 I decided it was about time to consider a similar approach for movies and videos as well. So, given the CPU limitations of the DN2820FYKH, I decided to purchase a NUC6i3SYH which, ON PAPER, had all the capabilities of my earlier NUC, plus enough processing power to cope with most video sources (after all, if DTS-HD, Dolby TrueHD, and whatever else are simply "passed-through" to a capable receiver/amp, you just need a CPU powerful enough to take care of video decoding... right?).

       

      While such assumption concerning video was right (and, after setting the appropriate audio pass-through, video works indeed smoothly), I soon realized that my brand new "Skylake" NUC wasn't capable of playing any of my 192kHz/24bit audio files. What?!?

       

      Useless to say, as such audio files played perfectly with my old DN2820FYKH, my disappointment was huge... but as the NUC6i3SYH had just been released, I optimistically assumed that such an obvious issue would have been fixed pretty soon by some Intel update. And, please note, I perfectly remember that at that time I double checked the original "Technical Product Specification" (which I still have): and that TPS clearly stated that "LPCM, 192 kHz/24 bit, 8 channel" was supported (and both through HDMI and Mini DisplayPort). So I felt sure that, one way or the other, sooner or later, I would have been able to play such files using the new NUC.

       

      Hence, from time to time, I simply checked the Intel site to see if a new "HD Graphic Driver" (which includes the so called "Intel Display Audio") had been released, installed it, crossed my finger, and tried again.
      No way.

       

      Until last Sunday, after installing yet another driver version released on June 15 2017 (with no benefit whatsoever: just another waste of time), I decided that it was enough, and it was about time to post something on this forum. As I had browsed this forum in the past (and I was familiar with the typical follow-ups of "try changing the HDMI cable" or "maybe your receiver doesn't support that format"), I started gathering documentation and screenshots to show that everything was fine with my receiver and HDMI cables, and that 192kHz/24bit audio could be streamed perfectly not only from my old DN2820FYKH NUC but even through any other kind of PC I have (even an old i7-2600 with a Radeon HD 6450 can perfectly stream 192kHz/24bit to my amp, and both via the Intel® HD Graphics 2000 HDMI or via the Radeon HDMI!).

       

      Then, when I was just about ready to create a new thread on this forum with all such evidence, I thought that it would have been a good idea to start such a post with a "cut-out" from the "Technical Product Specification", showing what Intel had announced/promised in terms of PCM audio support via HDMI and NEVER DELIVERED... This time though, rather then refer to the original PDF that I downloaded over a year ago (when I purchased the NUC), I decided to check the latest available document on the Intel site... And, guess what?

       

      At the very beginning, on page "iv", under "Specification Changes or Clarifications", among a bunch of other things that are mostly meaningless and have no impacts whatsoever, it states:

       

      "August 2016 Spec Change • Page 23 Table 7 from 192 kHz / 24 bit to 192 kHz 16 bit"

       

      Huh?

      They fixed the 192kHz/24bit problem by simply and silently downgrading the specs...!
      How cool is that?

       

      Now, does this apply only to the NUC6i3xxx series?
      Or, in other words, would I have been in a better position if I had bought a NUC6i5xxx or better?

      No: I would have simply spent more money for the same kind of rip-off!

       

      Because such an "August 2016 Spec Change" also applies to the whole NUC6i5xxx series and even the NUC6i7KYK (which is not exactly cheap, right?).

       

      And what about the latest NUCs?

      Oh well, you won't find a "change of specifications" history in their TPS (yet), and they all promise "192kHz/24bit" exactly as last year Skylake NUCs did... but I wonder why I should ever trust Intel again on such promises: maybe by August 2017 those specs will also be "downgraded" to "192kHz/16bit", huh? Or something else that worked fine on previous NUCs won't work any longer...

       

      So, here's my 2 cents about this story:

       

      1) Intel knows very well that lots of NUCs are used as "media players" in entertainment systems, or they wouldn't be providing CIR support in every one of them.


      2) Yet, in their designs/implementations (and testing!) they seem to frequently overlook and disregard basic standards and assumptions (192kHz/24bit audio via HDMI was already supported by platforms that are now 6 or 7 years old, not to speak of all NUCs before Skylake).

       

      3) I find it quite amazing to think that, while still at the design stage, people at Intel may have screwed up a simple computation such as:


      192000 (hz) x 24 (bits) x 8 (channels)

       

      and not realize that their design didn't provide enough bandwidth to PASSTHROUGH such a bitrate (which, by the way, is far from huge by today standards: just 36,864 kbps, huh?).

       

      4) And it's even more disconcerting to think that nobody at Intel ever took care of thoroughly testing their PCM implementation through HDMI before the launch of all their Skylake NUCs (otherwise, they would have easily spotted the problem with 192kHz/24bit PCM audio and done something about it).

       

      5) It's pretty clear that we (the users) are not treated by Intel's NUC division as customers, but rather as "guinea pigs". If you have the patience to do some searching/browsing on this forum, you will find plenty of people (mostly using the NUC6i7KYK) complaining that 192kHz/24bit audio through HDMI (or whatever else) was not available, and no Intel representative ever took the pain to confirm/address the problem. They just suggested to update the bios, drivers, try a better HDMI cable, or even told them that it was probably the fault of their amp/receiver. And of course all such suggestions turned out to be a waste of time (because the problem was Intel's own design/implementation).

       

      6) It took about ONE FULL YEAR for Intel to recognize the problem with their HDMI/PCM implementation on their Skylake NUCs (6i5xxx were launched in Q3/2015, the spec revision occurred in August 2016), and, after one year, how did Intel address the problem? They just simply (and silently) "downgraded" the specs.

       

      7) I was not born yesterday, and I am well aware of all the fine prints and "specifications subject to change" stuff, but that's meant to give manufacturers freedom to update specs and features for future revisions of their product, not to downgrade the specs of something that has already been sold on false promises. If you sell me a car saying it has 4 wheels, and deliver a product that has only 3, changing the specs one year later (and downgrading the description to "3 wheels") doesn't do the trick: I'm entitled to a refund, even more so if, for nearly a year, you mislead me suggesting a should get a new pair of glasses (or in our case get a different HDMI cable or even a new amp/receiver) to see and enjoy the "fourth wheel"... And/or implicitly lead me to believe, given the obvious nature of the issue, that some kind of fix was surely going to come (and wasting my time in multiple useless updates of BIOS, drivers, and whatever).

       

      8) All in all, it seems that the whole "customer care" concept appears to be unknown to the Intel NUC division. Because once you recognize your error (as they eventually did), at least you should do whatever possible to alleviate the problem for your customers. Or not?
      In this case, once you realize you have not enough bandwidth to passthrough 8 PCM channels @ 192kHz/24bit via HDMI (as they originally stated in their TPS), at least provide support for 2 channels (stereo!) or 5.1 (six channels). But they didn't, and simply removed 24bit audio entirely from their specs.

       

      9) Please note that the kind of fix-up I just suggested above (supporting at least stereo and maybe 5.1) doesn't imply write tons of code. They already support PCM passthrough streaming (via HDMI and whatever) at different frequencies and bit depths, so all that's needed is to allow the PASSTHROUGH of any 192kHz/24bit bitstream that, because of the limited number of channels, still fits the available bandwidth, so that applications can at least stream 192kHz/24bit stereo. But it seems that for Intel NUC division their customers don't deserve not even such a partial solution to the problem. Too much work, huh? Let's simply remove any hint to 24bit audio all together from the specs: who cares... And not even an apology.

       

      10) As I already mentioned, though Intel knows very well that lots of NUCs are used in entertainment systems, they clearly don't seem to have a clue of what people assume and expect to be "standard feature" nowadays. 16bit audio is 30 years old stuff (compact disc). And all subsequent advancements in digital audio implied higher bit depths (DVDs, DVD-Audio, BluRay, etc. all assume bit depths > 16) for the very simple reason that higher bit depths provide better dynamic range and accuracy. So seeing a "change of specs" in which Intel in August 2016 tells us that its HDMI implementation supports 16bit PCM is simply laughable. And that's exactly what they have done. Period.

       

      11) Here's how the PCM support/implementation for HDMI and DigiPort is now described after the change of spec:

       

      "LPCM, 192 kHz/16 bit, 8 channel"

       

      Nothing else.
      Honestly, who cares about 16bit PCM nowadays?

       

      Dear Intel/NUC guys, 24bit audio has been around for years, and, guess what, we expect your specs to tell us something about that: what do you support in terms of 24bit audio through HDMI, DigiPort or whatever? Up to what frequency, and how many channels?
      Instead, after the screw-up, it seems that Intel/NUC guys prefer to stay clear of any further reference or commitment on the 24bit audio front, and thus they just don't write/specify anything at all...

      We just have to find out by ourselves, huh? Wow!

       

      12) So, guess what: before writing all this I spent some time experimenting with different audio files and programs and came to the conclusion that, at least on my NUC6i3SYH (and latest driver), 24bit audio is supported up to 176kHz (multichannel). So, if such conclusion is correct, there's plenty of bandwidth to support at least 192kHz/24bit stereo and even 5.1 passthrough. If only Intel cared, of course. But they don't: the fact that in their revised specs there's not even a single hint to 24bit audio through HDMI tells it all.

       

      -------------------------

       

      Now, I'm sure someone (maybe even from Intel) will tell me that the difference between 192kHz/24bit and 96kHz/24bit is not that discernible, so I should just feel lucky and be happy that the latter works and just stick with it. Yes, indeed. Even the difference between FULL HD and 4k and is not that discernible unless you are sitting pretty near to the screen... so what?


      I have an amp that accepts 192kHz/24bit and that worked perfectly with my old NUC. So I purchesed a lot of audio files in that format and I don't see why I should have any trouble playing them with a platform that "promised" to support that (as just about every single PCs does!). That's all.
      Am I wrong?

       

      Indeed, I can play those files at a lower frequencies on the NUC6i3SYH. For instance, while Foobar simply gives an error on any such files (saying that 192kHz/24bit is not supported), if I try with Kodi such files gets played anyway... But guess what: if I check what my amp receives it's a 176kHz/24bit bitstream. In other words, Kodi resamples the audio at the highest supported frequency for 24bit. This resampling, of course, doesn't certainly do any good, and performing such resampling each and every time I play the same file it's just a waste of CPU. Right?

       

      Sure, I could spend days (maybe even weeks!) performing such resampling offline, once and for all, on all my library files. Yet I would need additional storage, because I don't want to throw away the original Hi-Res files, so each and every audio file in my library would end up being duplicated in different formats (and we are speaking of Hi-Res audio: files much larger than CD). And, of course, I would also need to reorganize my entire audio library accordingly. Given I was sold a NUC that promised 192kHz/24bit support out of the box (exactly as earlier products did), and after more than a year of useless driver and bios upgrades, I'm not that happy having to waste more time like this (not speaking of adding more storage, reorganizing the library, etc.).

       

      Of course, I could put the old NUC DN2820FYKH back into use (though I now use it for different purposes in a different room). In other words, as ridiculous as it sounds, I could use the old DN2820FYKH just for audio, and the NUC6i3SYH just for video. But, guess what, all 7 HDMI inputs on my amp are already in use. And anyway it would probably be a mess having those two NUCs sitting side by side and operated by the same remote control. Right?

       

      Lastly, I could buy a new NUC... But why in the world, after this experience, should I trust anything written on an Intel NUC TPS anymore... huh?

      You tell me.

       

      Kindest regards,
      A very disappointed "Guinea Pig"

        • 1. Re: NUCs not capable of 192kHz/24bit PCM audio via HDMI
          Intel Corporation
          This message was posted on behalf of Intel Corporation

          Hello GuineaPig,

          Thank you for contacting Intel Communities.

          I apologize for this inconvenience.

          I have forwarded your feedback to the appropriate team.

          Best Regards,
          Juan V.

          • 2. Re: NUCs not capable of 192kHz/24bit PCM audio via HDMI
            Grip77

            Hi, I'm very interested in this as well.

             

            Since I have the same issue, trying to playback 24bit192kHz music through a HDMI cable on my new NUC7i3BNH.

             

            This is really disappointing INTEL, I have a 5 year old Xtremer Ultra 2 that can do this, and it's running a 2 core atom cpu...

             

            Is this a limitation or a bug, or perhaps a nice "feature"? (Yes I'm being ironic, angry and disappointed).

             

            Depending on your answer I'll be returning this unit. (Not holding my breath though.)

            • 3. Re: NUCs not capable of 192kHz/24bit PCM audio via HDMI
              Intel Corporation
              This message was posted on behalf of Intel Corporation

              Hello Grip77,

              The Intel® NUC Kit NUC7i3BNH supports 192 kHz/24 bit, 8 channel, you can review the information here (page 25, Table 8 - Audio Formats Supported by the HDMI and USB Type-C Interfaces).

              I hope this helps.

              Best Regards,
              Juan V.

              • 4. Re: NUCs not capable of 192kHz/24bit PCM audio via HDMI
                GuineaPig

                Juan: I find it rather amusing that you point Grip77 to the Technical Product Specification of his NUC after the kind of detailed story I took the pain to describe above.

                 

                Because exactly one year ago, according to your Technical Product Specifications, even ALL YOUR SkyLake NUCs (6i5SYH, 6i5SYK, 6i3SYH, 6i3SYK, 6i7KYK) were described as capable of supporting "192 kHz/24 bit, 8 channel". But as I pointed out above, the truth is that they were never capable of that.

                Worse: they didn't even allow 192 kHz/24 bit STEREO, because your driver doesn't advertise itself as being capable of 192/24 at all. Got it???

                 

                And did you ever took care of providing a fix? Or to alleviate the problem by allowing at least 192/24 stereo (and possibly even 5.1) to pass through the driver?

                NO, not at all. You guys thought that it was much easier (for you) to simply downgrade the specification to 16 bit. Which is exactly what you did (very silently of course) in August 2016 for all the above mentioned NUCs: you removed any reference to bitstreaming 24 bit audio via HDMI from you TPS, and provided specs for 16 bit only (which, nowadays, nobody cares about).

                 

                Which demonstrates two rather important things:

                1. Your TPS are not reliable sources of information.
                2. There's no commitment on your side to whatever is described in such documentation (so once you realized that the system couldn't cope with "192 kHz/24 bit, 8 channel" you simply scrapped the whole 192/24 concept from the specs, without even considering that you could at least provide 192/24 stereo, and possibly even 5.1).

                 

                So, given the above story (which certainly applies to all SkyLake NUCs), if Gripp77 tells you that he can stream 192kHz/24 bit audio using an old Atom based PC (which means that his HDMI cables and amplifier are just fine, and he knows what he is talking about), but he cannot achieve the same result with his latest KabyLake NUC, you should take this very SERIOUSLY, and investigate the matter well beyond what the TPS says.

                 

                Once you turn your own TPS into a joke (which is exactly what you did in this regard for all SkyLake NUCs) people will no longer trust them.

                So telling Grip77 that "192 kHz/24 bit, 8 channel" exists because the TPS says so is NOT enough any more.

                 

                Please make sure that whoever was in charge of this actually verified and tested such a spec for the latest NUCs, because it's absolutely clear that they NEVER did such a simple and basic test for 5 different models of SkyLake NUCs (plus related boards).

                • 5. Re: NUCs not capable of 192kHz/24bit PCM audio via HDMI
                  Grip77

                  Hi Juan,

                   

                  Thanks for the information, but that is not the issue, I've already read the specification.

                   

                  The problem is the NUC7i3BNH actually does not support those formats at all, it is not possible to send such a signal through the HDMI interface from the NUC since it restricts it to 24bit 96kHz 2channel at maximum.
                  No matter what cable or what equipment you have at the other end.

                  You can try this yourself and you will see the same result.

                   

                  So my question is, is there a fix, or is this by design?
                  Just give it a try yourself, it's easy to replicate.

                   

                  Below is a link to a free sample of a 24bit 192kHz wave file, try to play that using whatever player you prefer and look at the details of the playback, if you can prove that it plays the file at 24bit 192kHz I will eat my hat (First I will need to go out and buy one..).

                   

                  https://archive.org/download/soundkeeperrecordings-formats/sr005-01-24192.zip

                  • 6. Re: NUCs not capable of 192kHz/24bit PCM audio via HDMI
                    GuineaPig

                    Hi Grip77,

                     

                    I appreciate your support on this issue. I don't have a Kaby Lake NUC to verify myself, but given the experience I described above (and which nobody @ Intel can deny), I'll definitely trust your own assessment much more than anything written in an Intel NUC Technical Product Specification. And as I wrote since my very first post, I had some kind of feeling that such an issue may also affect the latest NUCs.

                     

                    This is definitely not "by design". The appropriate technical term for promising something a system doesn't do (and then, after some time, just downgrading the specs) is "rip off".

                     

                    So I would really appreciate if anyone reading this thread understands that here it's not just a matter of 192kHz/24 bit being supported or not. What we are talking about here is the credibility of what Intel writes and promises in its own NUCs specs. And about their approach of simply "downgrading the specs" (without even an apology) once it is clear that what they promised cannot be achieved. While, at the very least, they should try to alleviate the problem: if the system cannot handle the 8 channels @ 192kHz/24 bit you originally promised in your specs, at least give us support for stereo!

                     

                    So please, whoever read this, even if you don't give a damn about 192kHz/24 bit audio, if you have a Kaby Lake NUCs (and a 192kHz/24 bit capable receiver) just give it a try: use the links Grip77 just provided to download those sample WAVs, try to play them through your Kaby Lake NUC and see if your amp actually receive them as a 192kHz/24 bit stream.

                     

                    If not, please go to the bottom of my very first post in this thread, and click the link "I have the same question".

                    This whole situation is already crystal clear for all SkyLake NUCs, and it's about time Intel starts realizing that they cannot write something in their spec and then not be held responsible if they don't deliver.

                     

                    I would also like to add some further comments for whoever @ Intel may be reading this.

                     

                    Assuming your NUC HD graphics subsystems are capable of handling the passthrough of some basic 192/24 bitstream (such as stereo), and that you already have the related code readily available and implemented in just about every other driver/platform (including those for all earlier NUCs), and given 192/24 support (for 8 channels!) was mentioned in all your original specs, I see no reason whatsoever why at least some basic support for 192/24 PCM (such as stereo!) should not be provided ASAP.

                     

                    In other words I would like to know at the very least why you don't:

                     

                    1. Fix your driver so that once installed it advertises itself as being capable of passing through 192/24 PCM via HDMI (and other ports).
                    2. Whenever an app attempts to passthrough 192/24 for a limited number of channel (such as stereo - which I believe your HD subsystem can easily cope with) just let it through, and make myself and a bunch of other users happy.
                    3. If an app attempts to passthrough 8 channels @ 192/24 (which seems to be the only thing your system cannot cope with) just return whatever error code you deem appropriate to the calling context, and the invoking app will take care of displaying a meaningful message to the user.

                     

                    Please, don't tell me that the above would require a lot of expensive development and testing because this is something you should have already done a very long time ago, well before launching all these NUCs. And as far as generic "non regression testing" is concerned I assume (and hope) you run plenty of that anyway, given you release new drivers just about every other month.

                     

                    Also please understand that what I suggested above is not a "nice to have optional feature" which you may or may not consider for development, but it's something that it's now long overdue (surely for all SkyLake NUCs), and as such it should be at the very top of your priorities. You promised 8 channels PCM @ 192/24 via HDMI for all SkyLake NUCs more than a year ago: well, after more than a year, give us at least TWO channels of 192/24 PCM. And I really mean RIGHT NOW!

                     

                    Last but not least, please note that telling me that my comments have been passed to the appropriate "Intel team" as Juan wrote above (thus suggesting that I should keep on waiting for something that may never materialize) is not an acceptable reply at this stage. I've already waited more than a year for a feature (192/24 PCM stereo via HDMI) that nowadays is taken for granted, and that your technical literature described as being easily within the capabilities of all Skylake NUCs. Yet, as this never materialized, and I recently discovered that you just opted to "downgrade the specs", I expect to hear from you clear and simple if/how/when you will give us at least some limited (stereo!) support for 192/24 PCM audio bitstreams via HDMI and other ports.

                     

                    Because after all the time I already wasted waiting for a fix (and after countless BIOS/drivers upgrades that didn't address this issue), I believe that I deserve to know if you will or will not provide such support (at last for stereo), so in the latter case I can make up my mind on a different system/solution for my entertainment system.

                     

                    And of course, in case you won't bother to provide at least stereo 192/24 support, you can stay assured not only that I will never ever trust anything written in a NUC "Technical Product Specification" anymore, but also that I won't hesitate to alert others to do the same.

                     

                    In the meantime I'm still here waiting for a clarification...

                    • 7. Re: NUCs not capable of 192kHz/24bit PCM audio via HDMI
                      Intel Corporation
                      This message was posted on behalf of Intel Corporation

                      Hello GuineaPig/Grip77,

                       

                      I have checked on both Intel® NUCs and your statement is correct.

                       

                      I have sent this to the corresponding team.

                       

                      Best Regards,
                      Juan V.

                      • 8. Re: NUCs not capable of 192kHz/24bit PCM audio via HDMI
                        GuineaPig

                        Hello Juan,

                         

                        thank you very much for taking the time to verify the issue yourself (whatever the specs said), and then confirm it, and escalate the problem.

                         

                        I'll appreciate if you can follow up in one or two weeks, after checking with the involved "teams" to ensure that the issue is being addressed, and thus confirming us that we can expect some kind of solution in the not so distant future (at the very least support for 192/24 PCM stereo).

                         

                        And once more, please let me stress that whatever some people may think or say (or even be aware of), nowadays 192/24 audio is nothing fancy or esoteric and not even "optional". Hence exactly as the original NUC specs indicated, some 192kHz/24 bit PCM support MUST BE PROVIDED (surely stereo, and possibly 5.1 as well).

                         

                        So, if helpful, please make sure that relevant "Intel teams" understand the following.

                         

                        1. 8 channels of 192kHz/24 bit PCM were already contemplated by the very first HDMI standard (version 1.0, year 2002). And all recent encoded formats (such as DTS-HD, Dolby TrueHD, and whatever else) also imply provision for at least 6 channels of 192kHz/24 bit encoded/compressed bitstreams. So, while nowadays 96/24 is still the prevailing audio format, as 4K becomes more and more widespread, this will be superseded by 192/24.
                          It's a fact.
                        2. Because of the above, 192/24 PCM audio is becoming the common denominator for any recent audio technology, especially on PERSONAL COMPUTERS. For instance: someone may not have a receiver capable of DTS-HD (or whatever new format will be coming in the future); yet, on a PC, an application like Kodi can take care of decoding such an encoded format into a standard PCM stream and then just pass it through to the receiver. And the quality of the audio stream received by the amplifier is just perfect, because that encoded/compressed format is simply decoded to PCM, without any additional processing. So, the ability to pass through such decoded streams untouched in PCM up to 192/24 does make a difference. One thing is to decode a DTS-HD stereo stream to its native 192/24 PCM representation, an entirely different thing is also having to resample to a lower frequency because the Intel Display Audio driver doesn't advertise itself as being capable of 192/24 PCM stereo passthrough!
                        3. Most people nowadays download or stream music rather than buy CDs. And while indeed the majority of people are still pretty happy with MP3 (or equivalent quality), there's a growing trend towards Hi-Res downloads (up to 384kHz/24 bit) as you can easily verify on HDTracks.com and similar resellers. All such files are LOSSLESS compressed representations of PCM. So, once again, as more and more people gets into such lossless audio, PCM support up to the highest format supported by HDMI and similar technologies is very important.
                          And since HDMI 1.0 this happens to be 192kHz/24bit PCM.

                         

                        That's why nowadays 192kHz/24bit PCM audio support by a PC is almost taken for granted.
                        And that's why, as both myself and Grip77 pointed out, this has been available in just about every PC platform equipped with an HDMI port in the last 6 to 7 years.

                         

                        Last but not least, of course, this is also why 192kHz/24 bit PCM support has always been included in the specs of each and every NUC: it's simply a MUST.

                         

                        Because though many people may not grasp this (probably including people in those "Intel teams" that didn't care much about PCM implementation and testing for the latest NUCs), PCM support is definitely much more important than DTS-HD, Dolby TrueDigital and whatever other format may be coming in the future. Evan lacking HW support for any such format, they can still be handled via software, decoding them to linear PCM without any quality loss.

                        But this of course only applies as long as PCM passthrough is fully supported!
                        That's why PCM support is so important.

                         

                        Kindest regards,
                        AM

                        • 9. Re: NUCs not capable of 192kHz/24bit PCM audio via HDMI
                          Intel Corporation
                          This message was posted on behalf of Intel Corporation

                          Hello GuineaPig/Grip77,

                          Thank you for waiting.

                          I have consulted with the upper level of support about your inquiry and unfortunately, 192 Khz / 16 bit is the maximum audio that can be supported at this time.
                          There is no way to know about all changes to be made in the technical documentation as they happen very often.

                          Best Regards,
                          Juan V.

                          • 10. Re: NUCs not capable of 192kHz/24bit PCM audio via HDMI
                            Grip77

                            Hi,

                             

                             

                            Thanks for the answer, but I believe it would be more beneficial for us if you could tell us what the reason behind this restriction is.

                            Is it the built in soundchip, the HDMI chip or a driver?

                             

                             

                            By knowing this we could see ourselves when or if any changes to upcoming NUC's might fix this.

                            • 11. Re: NUCs not capable of 192kHz/24bit PCM audio via HDMI
                              GuineaPig

                              Juan V.

                               

                              thanks but no thanks.

                               

                              I have significant doubts that anyone would define "192kHz / 16 bit" as "maximum audio" (whatever that means). But indeed it may define the "maximum incompetence" of whoever passed along such irrelevant information (and let me be clear: I appreciate your follow-up and I do understand that this is not your fault).

                               

                              It seems that this should have been escalated directly to PRODUCT MANAGEMENT level.

                              It may seem a minor glitch to some, but as I already pointed out it's not just the issue itself, but rather its implications that are huge, because they clearly imply that:

                               

                              1. whatever is written/promised in a NUC specification cannot be relied upon;
                              2. some of your engineering/development/test teams don't seem to be doing their job accordingly, and don't even bother to inform their management of features that were never developed and tested according to specs (and not just "occasionally", but rather "systematically");
                              3. it clearly shows that NUC products are simply thrown at us as they "happen" to be, without any verification of their actual adherence to the specs, thus creating a lot of head-scratching for customers, but also for support people like you (remember when you told Grip77 that 192/24 was supported just because the specs said so?).
                              4. if such issues are never escalated to an appropriate level (product management) nothing will ever change, and the same stupid and buggy process (and resulting problems) will be repeated over and over again for subsequent models and generations of your products, exactly as it happened in this case for the last two years.

                               

                              Early SkyLake NUCs were released in the fall of 2015, and they were all said to be capable of 192kHz/24 bit PCM audio (which is nothing fancy: all earlier NUCs supported that, as well as just about every other PC on earth has been doing for years). But it's crystal clear that the related development team never bothered to support/implement/test any such capability.

                               

                              For months, when customers pointed this out, they were simply told to check/change their HDMI cables, and/or to refer to the "supported equipment list" for an amp/receiver that had been tested as "compatible". Absolute B.S.: no such testing had ever been performed, or the problem would have been obvious.

                               

                              In spring 2016, the Skull Canyon NUC was released, again with specs mentioning 192/24 PCM, and again this was never available. More customers pointed this out, and more customers were told to check their cables or that it was the fault of their amp/receiver. Once again: B.S.

                               

                              Then, in august 2016, all of a sudden and very silently, the specs for all the above NUCs were simply downgraded from 24 to 16 bits, which is meaningless.

                               

                              In the fall of 2016 the early Kaby Lake NUCs were released, such as the one Grip77 owns (or maybe I should say "owned"). Once again, according to their specs, they were capable of 192/24 PCM, and, once again, this was not the case.


                              More Kaby Lake NUCs released in early 2017: same as above.

                               

                              Given what you wrote ("192 Khz / 16 bit is the maximum audio that can be supported at this time"), I assume that by August 2017 the specs of all Kaby Lake NUCs will also be downgraded accordingly, exactly as it happened last year for the SkyLake models.

                               

                              So, it's pretty clear that if someone doesn't escalate this issue up to Product Management level, the same will also happen next year, for the subsequent generation of NUCs: specs saying something that nobody ever bothers to develop and test, a lot of head-scratching for customers and support, and finally the specs being downgraded.
                              Does this seem normal to you?

                               

                              Furthermore, let me state loud and clear that whoever said that "192 Khz / 16 bit is the maximum audio that can be supported" appears to me like a lazy, reticent, incompetent and unreliable source of information (and product management should also have a chance to assess this).

                               

                              Once and for all, let's stop talking of 16 bit audio. Nobody ever asked anything about 16 bit audio here. A higher number of bits is much more important than a higher sampling frequency. It's a little bit like resolution vs. frame rate on a TV... or, if you prefer, just think of monitor that can only display 65K colors (that's 16 bits!) compared to one that can display 16 millions colors (that's 24 bits!).

                              Anyone in pro-audio (I mean RECORDING INDUSTRY) will confirm that even 96/24 is much better and preferable than 192/16.

                               

                              So, the question here, from the very beginning, is what kind of support is actually available (now and/or in the future) for 24 bit PCM audio, which was the format originally mentioned in all the specs.
                              Did anyone tell you anything on that?

                               

                              I guess they didn't. Because they are lazy, reticent and possibly also incompetent.
                              So they simply told you to quote a spec for "16 bit" instead, as if it was the same thing.

                               

                              How is that within the Intel NUC division, that promised 192/24 PCM support for all such NUCs, whoever is in charge of this stuff is not even capable to assess and provide details of what kind of support for 24 bit PCM audio is actually there???


                              I tell you why: because they prefer not to talk of 24 bit audio at all, otherwise it would appear just obvious that they can easily support 192/24 stereo and even 5.1 surround.

                               

                              Because, as I wrote since my very first post, all the above mentioned systems appear to cope perfectly with 24 bit PCM audio up to a frequency of 176kHz (multichannel).
                              And 176/24 is definitely much more "maximum audio" than 192/16, as anyone in the recording industry will be able to confirm. And by a lot!

                              Now, given that for PCM implies very simple bitstreams without any compression (which is why it's often called LINEAR PCM) the underlying math is absolutely simple:

                               

                                   176000 (hertz) * 24 (bits) * 8 (channels) = 33,792 kilobits per second

                               

                              So: all such systems and related drivers are definitely capable of dealing with such a PCM bitrate. And by the way, as all such systems also support multiple displays (with related audio), there's surely much more headroom available when using just a single display.
                              But nevertheless, regardless of this latter consideration, let's stick with the above number: your systems can definitely handle a PCM bitstream of 33,792 kbps. OK?

                               

                              Now 192/24 stereo PCM means:

                               

                                   192000 (hertz) * 24 (bits) * 2 (channels) = 9,216 kilobit per second.

                               

                              Definitely a bitrate that your systems can very easily cope with.

                               

                              And for a typical 5.1 surround configuration:

                               

                                   192000 (hertz) * 24 (bits) * 6 (channels) = 27,648 kilobits per second.

                               

                              Which also appears to fit pretty comfortably within the above mentioned bitrate.

                               

                              I repeat: all we are talking about, on the NUC side, is the ability to pass-through a simple sequence of bits at a given rate: it's the receiver/amp responsibility to group them in 16 or 24 bit chunks and send them to the appropriate Digital-to-Analog converters. For the NUC if it's 8 or 16 or 24 bit PCM doesn't even make any significant difference, as long as the overall resulting bitrate doesn't exceed the system pass-through capabilities.

                               

                              So, whoever said that "192 Khz / 16 bit is the maximum audio that can be supported" is either reticent or, even worse, absolutely incompetent.

                              • First because he/she clearly doesn't know/understand that 176/24 (which is supported) is a whole lot better than that, and even 96/24 and 88/24 and possibly even 48/24 (which are all supported). Just ask someone in the audio/recording field, and they'll confirm.
                              • Second because as far as linear PCM is concerned the limit of your systems is defined by the maximum bitrate it can pass-through, and this upper limit appears to be well above 30,000 kpbs, which is more than enough to cope with 192/24 stereo and even 5.1 surround.
                              • Third because he/she doesn't even seem to grasp that 192/24 support is not a "nice to have feature" that some crazy customer is suggesting as an afterthought. This is something that was in the design requirements and resulting specs: all such NUCs were supposed to support 192/24 straight out of the box (as any PC with a HDMI port has being doing for years), and whoever had the responsibility to develop and test accordingly NEVER DID, not even just stereo, and without even informing product management or whoever else appropriate. Shameful.
                              • Lastly, as if the above was not already enough, this didn't just happen "accidentally" or "occasionally" for a single product/model: it happened systematically for every single "Intel Core" NUC released since fall 2015, over a span of two years, and it may just be about to happen again.

                               

                              Hence, my recommendation to you - the support people - is to escalate this to a much higher level, possibly Product Management or nearby, otherwise you can stay assured that the same reticent, lazy and incompetent people who already screwed up all this on a total of 10 different NUCs over a period of 2 years (and react as if it's not their concern, and nothing ever happened) will keep on doing exactly the same with future products.

                               

                              In the meantime, as long as the state of the art with "maximum audio" remains like this, stay sure that whenever I'll find someone in an audio/video forum asking for advice, or considering a NUC for his/her media system, I won't hesitate to tell them to look elsewhere, and I'll point them to this story.

                               

                              And, believe it or not, in certain circles word of mouth circulates and consolidates pretty quickly.

                              1 of 1 people found this helpful
                              • 12. Re: NUCs not capable of 192kHz/24bit PCM audio via HDMI
                                GuineaPig

                                Grip77,

                                 

                                just to clarify: there's no "sound chip" involved (that's for analog output, like headphone or whatever).

                                 

                                And HDMI ports are meant to support 8 channels of 192/24 PCM since version 1.0 of the standard (we are talking about year 2002).

                                 

                                The problem here is that the PEOPLE in charge of this area (and related driver) are CLEARLY IGNORANT.

                                 

                                What would you choose, a PC display capable of 120Hz refresh rate but supporting only 16 bits per pixel (resulting in 65k colors), or a PC monitor with a 60Hz refresh rate capable of 24 bits per pixel (16 millions colors)? The answer is obvious.

                                 

                                The same applies to audio: 24 bit offers much better definition (16 million different values), and no one in PRO audio would go for 16 bits, not even if @192kHz.

                                Which is the reason why, if you check the audio device properties in Windows, ALL 24 bit formats are described as "studio quality" (whatever the frequency!), because even 44.1kHz / 24 bit is much better than anything at 16 bit.

                                 

                                But it's clear that this guys don't have a clue, and they come and tell us that "maximum audio" is "192/16" as if this was some kind of achievement in 2017.

                                 

                                And probably that's the reason why they never bothered to develop/test 192/24... they think that 192/24 or 192/16 are  nearly the same (I repeat: even 44.1/24 is better than 192/16, and even the Windows audio properties UI is very explicit in this regard).

                                So, in their ignorance, these guys decided it wasn't relevant, and they didn't even inform anyone (e.g.: product management), before product launch, that they weren't going to move a single finger to support 192/24 (not even stereo).

                                 

                                That's why I have the feeling that as long as this matter doesn't reach someone knowledgeable with this stuff,  the issue will stay there.

                                And they will just go on releasing further NUCs mentioning 192/24 PCM in the specs that nobody ever cares to develop/test, exactly as they did for all "Intel Core" NUCs released in the last couple of years.

                                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                • 13. Re: NUCs not capable of 192kHz/24bit PCM audio via HDMI
                                  MrMitch

                                  Question.

                                   

                                  If you play a file created as 192Khz/24bit on a 2 speaker monitor through HDMI, does it get sampled down so it can be heard or does it not play at all? I'm not using a receiver with 8 channel audio, only a monitor with speakers through HDMI. Or headphones through the Realtek audio plug sometimes.

                                   

                                  Thanks...

                                  MrMitch

                                  • 14. Re: NUCs not capable of 192kHz/24bit PCM audio via HDMI
                                    GuineaPig

                                    Hello MrMitch,

                                     

                                    it depends on the software you are using... most programs (e.g. Foobar) display an error saying that such files cannot be played because 192/24 is not supported.

                                     

                                    Other programs (e.g. Kodi) will automatically resample the file to the highest format available (176/24)... In my case it's pretty easy to verify this by turning on the OnScreen Display of the amp, and checking what kind of PCM bitstream the amp is receiving on its HDMI input (it states 176/24, so it's clear that Kodi is resampling the audio file on the fly).

                                     

                                    The above applies regardless of the number of channels. Even a MONO WAV file that I created for testing cannot be played at 192/24.

                                     

                                    As I wrote, as all such NUCs can cope with 176/24 multichannel, it's clear that they there's plenty of bandwidth to support PCM bitstreams for 192/24 stereo (and even 5.1).

                                    But it seems these Intel guys don't give a damn about it. Though 192/24 PCM was the original spec for all such systems, they never cared to do anything at all to support it: not even just for stereo.

                                    And they just come and tell us that "unfortunately, 192 Khz / 16 bit is the maximum audio that can be supported at this time"...

                                     

                                    Fortunately, differently from such guys, programs like Kodi know very well that it's much better to resample by reducing the frequency rather than reducing the bit count...

                                    Any 24 bit format is better than 192/16 that these Intel guys define as "maximum audio"... LOL.

                                     

                                     

                                    1 of 1 people found this helpful
                                    1 2 Previous Next