AC'97 (short for Audio Codec '97) is Intel Corporation's Audio "Codec" standard developed by the Intel Architecture Labs in 1997, and used mainly in motherboards, modems, and sound cards.

Intel's use of the word "audio codec" refers to signals being encoded/decoded to/from analog audio from/to digital audio, thus actually a combined audio AD/DA-converter. This should not be confused with a codec in the sense of converting from one binary format to another, such as an audio (MP3) or video (Xvid) codec in a media player.

Audio components integrated into Intel chipsets consists of two components: an AC'97 "digital controller" (DC97), which is built into the I/O Controller Hub (ICH) of the chipset, and an AC'97 audio and modem "codecs", which is the analog component of the architecture. AC'97 defines a high-quality, 16- or 20-bit audio architecture with surround sound support for the PC that is used in the majority of today's desktop platforms. AC'97 supports 96,000 samples/second in 20-bit stereo resolution and 48,000 samples/second in 20-bit stereo for multichannel recording and playback.

Integrated audio is implemented with the AC'97 Codec on the motherboard, a Communications and Networking Riser (CNR) card, or an audio/modem riser (AMR) card.

AC '97 v2.3 [ AC'97 Component Specification] , Revision 2.3, Intel Corporation, April 2002] enables Plug and Play audio for the end user. This version provides parametric data about the analog device being used.

In 2004 AC'97 was superseded by Intel High Definition Audio (HD Audio).


The AC-Link is a digital link that connects the DC97 (the controller) with the audio "codecs." It is composed of 5 wires: the clock (12.288 MHz), a sync signal, a reset signal, and two data wires, namely sdata_out (contains the DC97 output) and sdata_in (contains the codec output). The AC-Link provides a bidirectional (one using sdata_out and the other using sdata_in), fixed bitrate (12.288 Mbit/s), serial digital stream between one controller and several audio codecs.

Each 12.288 Mbit/s stream is divided in 256 bit frames (frame frequency is 48 kHz). This is therefore a time division multiplexing (TDM) scheme.

Every frame is subdivided in 13 slots, from which slot 0 (16 bits) is used to specify which audio codec is talking to the controller. The remaining 240 bits are divided in 12 20-bit slots (slots 1-12), used as data slots.

Each data slot (48 kHz, 20 bits/sample) is used to transmit a raw PCM audio signal (960 kbit/s). Several data slots in the same frame can be combined into a single high-quality signal (maximum is 4 slots, obtaining a 96 kHz, 20 bit/sample, stereo signal).

Since AC-Link is a fixed-frequency link, all sample rate conversion should be performed in the DC97 (controller) or in the software driver.


* Audio Settings: The AC97 is shipped for Microsoft operating systems (Windows XP and Vista) with an audio settings program [ [ RealtTek AC97 application installation instructions] ] . Various versions of this program exist, for configuring the audio settings including the input and output connector configuration, Sound Effects, an Equalizer "mixer board", 3D Sound configuration, and microphone Echo Cancelation [ [ Microsoft article about using the AC97 features with Windows XP] ] . Many people are not aware of this program [ [ Tech support solving "weird sound" AC97 soundcard problem] , one of more than 20,000 similar discussions found when searching Google.] , and once pointed to this program, find that an unwanted sound effect was set active. [ [ Experts Exchange dealing with AC97 garbled sound problem] ]

* AC97 Soundcard Connector Configuration Problem: Most of the AC97 on-board sound card versions are typically shipped with three RCU connectors marked in three colors: pink, green and blue, according to PC99 Color-coding scheme. The pink connector is meant for a microphone, the green either for line-out to amplified speakers, or to a line-in wire, and the blue has an amplified signal for un-amplified or slightly amplified headphones. The audio settings program has a problem when set to Headphones or to Stereo Speakers, and will only work when configured to be set as a multi-speaker unit with 3 speakers or more. The speakers actually attached to one of the outputs (and only one output typically works), are behaving as background speakers for 3D sound effect, and for this reason will play only music and not talking, or will work only with a sound effect set on, and no sound will be heard when the sound effect is set to NONE. In many cases no solution has been found for this problem, and most technical advice sites advise to simply buy a low-cost external soundcard. [ [ Yahoo Answers one of thousands offering to replace the on-board AC97 with any other soundcard] ]

* Microsoft Update Acknowledged AC97 Soundcard Problem:Microsoft has acknowledged that in one of their automatic updates they have caused the AC97 to stop working [ [ Microsoft problem with update and AC97 soundcard] including corrective actions to take.] . This has been corrected in a subsequent version of updates, and is now treated as missing the updated driver. [ [ Microsoft article about AC97 soundcard driver] ]

Codec chips

Codec chips have an AC97 interface on one side and analog audio interface on the other. They are usually small square chips with 48 pins. They are D/A and A/D or only D/A.

* Analog Devices AD1819B, 1881A, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1980, 1981, 1985
* AKM (Asahi Kasei Microsystems) AK 4540, 4543, 4544A, 4545
* Avance Logic (now Realtek) ALC201A, ALC202/A, ALC650, ALC655, ALC658, ALC101, ALC202A, ALC250, ALC850
* Conexant Cx20468 - with a modem
* Cirrus Logic CrystalWare 4236, CrystalClear SoundFusion CS4297, CS4299
* Crystal Semiconductors CS4205, CS4202
* C-Media CMI9738, 9739, 9761, 9880
* ESS ES1988 (with a modem)
* Empia EMP202 (2 channel, 20-bit DAC and 20-bit ADC, full duplex AC'97 2.2 compatible stereo audio CODEC)
* Intersil HMP9701 (obsolete, 48 kHz fixed samplerate)
* National Semiconductor LM 4540, 43, 45, 46, 48, 49, 50
* Philips UCB 1400 (with touchscreen controller)
* Realtek ALC658, ALC655, ALC268
* SigmaTel (now IDT) C-Major STAC 9460 (D/A only), 9461, 9462, 9463, 9200, 9202, 9250, 9251, 9220, 9221, 9223, 9750
* Silicon Image Si3024 (mono only)
* TriTech Microelectronics TR28022, 28026
* Yamaha YMF 743, 752, 753
* VIA VT1612, VT1616 (VIA Six-TRAC Vinyl Audio), VT82C686
* Winbond W83971
* Wolfson Microelectronics WM9701, WM9703, WM9704, WM9705 (w/touchscreen), WM9707, WM9708, WM9709 (DAC only), WM9711, WM9712 (w/touchscreen), WM9713 (w/touchscreen), WM9714


External links

* [ Audio Codec Information at]
* [ Front Panel I/O Connectivity Design Guide] Intel Corporation, February 2005, Version 1.3

ee also

* I²S (Integrated Interchip Sound)
* Audio/modem riser (AMR)
* Advanced Communications Riser (ACR)
* Communications and Networking Riser (CNR)
* S/PDIF Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format

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