How to change a Soundblaster Live! card to Live! 5.1


Short summary

Through device ID reprogramming we can trick drivers to think Live is live 5.1, then front will be on SPDIF#0, rear on SPDIF#3 and central and subwoofer on SPDIF#1.

Preface

This article is roughly translated from a Russian site iXBT

This article is addressed, first of all, to those who want to squeeze out the maximum of possibilities of a computer. The discussion will deal with adding the acoustic systems of 5.1 to the four-channel models of SoundBlaster Live!.

3 years have passed since the company Creative let out their famous sound card Sound Blaster Live! based on the digital audioproccessor EMU10K1. This chip was developed by a section of Creative - by E-MU, more known as the producer of professional musical equipment (sound modules, electronic key-actuated tools, samplers, etc.). As a result of applying the audioproccessor EMU10K, qualitative AC'97-codecs and a competently redesigned printed-circuit board in 1998, the users got sound cards not only with lot of multimedia, play and musical possibilities, but also with a completely worthy sounding. Signal processor EMU10K came out successful. In Sound Blaster Live!, as it was renewed already two times, appeared new interesting functions, but the heart of the card remained as before - with the digital audioproccessor EMU10K. About the same testifies the use of this microcircuit in the professional sound card E-MU Audio Production Studio (E-MU APS) and some samplers from the same company. I think the potential of this chip is still not realized to the end.

A little of the history

We analyze the history of the appearance of Sound Blaster Live! cards and the model dependent features.

The first generation of Sound Blaster Live! were put on the wide market in the fall of 1998. Sound Blaster Live! (model CT4620) were intruduced as well as the price reduced version Sound Blaster Live! Value (model CT4670). These two model of card strongly differed from each other in appearance. The complete version included 4 metallic mini-jacks and a 40-contact pin-header Audio Extension (AUD_EXT) for connection of digital input-outputs and other optional devices supplied in the complete set. Live!Drive I did not enter into the complete set of delivery, but it became accessible later. The Value card did not have the pin-header for Audio Extension. It's place were occupied by the 12-contact pin-header SPDIF_EXT, on which only some signals of Audio Extension were present (namely input and outputs of the digital interface S/PDIF). In contrast to the complete version of the card, the Value were produced with plastic mini-jacks.

The second generation of Sound Blaster Live! appeared in the fall of 1999. Maybe all new generations of Live! become accessible precisely at this time of the year. I will bet, that autumn 2001 will not become an exception. The family of the cards in the second generation consist of Sound Blaster Live! Platinum, Sound Blaster Live! X-Gamer, Sound Blaster Live! MP3+, Sound Blaster Live! Player and a number of OEM-versions (Value-versions). The box versions of Platinum, X-Gamer, MP3+ and Player were executed on the basis of the model CT4760. From the complete version of the card in the first generation (CT4620), model CT4760 differed in terms of the absence of connection I2S, in terms of the slightly improved separation and the presence of an additional stereo-minijack with digital-out.


Digital-out on the yellow stereo-minijack connector

Platinum was completed with Live! Drive II. On the remaining cards there is distinguished only by program, guarantee and market for the sale (X -Gamer and MP3+ were intended only for America). The OEM-versions of cards were partly created on the basis of model CT4830 and they were characterized by from the retail-versions by the many-colored plastic mini-jacks, but sometimes also by the microcircuits with codecs. On some versions of CT4830, the connector CD_DIGITAL, was not mounted. There were such exotic cards, as Sound Blaster PCI 512, supplied to large brands such as Compaq and Dell.

The third generation of Sound Blaster Live! were put on the market in autumn 2000. The family consist of the same cards as the second generation but were added the numbers "5.1". The number "5.1" reflect a basic difference in these cards from those preceding - support of six-channel acoustic systems. All members of the family were executed on the base of model SB0060. They differed from the members of the second generation by the many-colored plastic mini-jacks and in terms of the additional support of the central channel and the subwoofer channel, realized by means of the nonstandard four-contact digital/analog-out mini-jack. Here can be arranged either 3 digital outputs in the size S/PDIF (front, rear, center/sub), or the analog outputs of the central channel and subwoofer. Additional channels appeared due to the use of a four-channel AC'97-codec (STAC9708) instead of the previous two-channel (STAC9721 in CT1297"). Platinum 5.1 was completed by the upgraded version of Live!Drive IR with support for the remote control panel.

Additional possibilities of the cards in family Live! 5.1

The most essential differences from the foregoing family appeared only in the third generation Sound Blaster live! 5.1 cards, that were being completed by special version Live!Ware. In the new version of Live!Ware the following possibilities were added:

  • The valuable support of 5.1- systems (2 frontal channels, 2 rear channels, a central channel and the subwoofer channel)
  • The possibility of moving the low-frequency component from all channels to the channel subwoofer "Bass Redirect".
  • The possibility of interception and decoding of AC3-signal, connected to the digital output S/PDIF - function "AC-3 decode"
  • The possibility of separate volume control of the central channel and the subwoofer channel.

The most interesting of those functions, is the built-in driver of decoding AC3-flow directed to S/PDIF-Out (DigitalOut). As an example this releases a DVD-player program from decoding AC3-flow by its own forces. It is also not nessecary for the DVD-player program to know the current configuration of the sound systems connected to the card (2.0, 4.0 or 5.1). All parameters are established in the Surround Mixer program in the complete set of Live!Ware.

Unfortunately all these possibilities cannot operate on the models of the sound family of the foregoing generations, just by installing Live!Ware and updated drivers including the 5.1-cards. Another issue is that Live!Ware and drivers for the old cards has not been renewed since spring year 2000. The company Creative at present only focus on their 5.1-cards.

What can owners of Live! from previous generations do ?

If all cards are based on one and the same audio processor EMU10K1, then why buy new model based on the same chip?
Indeed the limitation of possibilities on this card is purely software. The possiblilties is detected at boot-time, specific for each model of Live!. They are stored in a small 8-pins microcircuit (EEPROM 93c46). This microcircuit is an electrically eraseable programmed IC with sequential access and organization of data in 64 bits X 16 with a total capacity of 128 bytes. On the Live! card this microcircuit is located between the chip EMU10K1 and the back end of card, as shown by red circle in the figure.

In this microcircuit all information is stored necessary for the function of the PCI-device, including the identifiers of producer, class and the sub-class of the device. The Live!Ware software distinguishes the models of Live! cards according to the information stored precisely in this microcircuit.

In order "to deceive" Live!Ware, and to ensure the support of 5.1-systems on the old models of Live!, it is necessary to reprogram this microcircuit. Unfortunately it will be necessary to unsolder it from the card (at least, the method of incurcuit programming is not known so far). It may be possible to avoid to unsolder and program the EEPROM by using WPCRSET, but I haven't tried it myself.

Below is shown the content of EEPROM 93c46 in the Sound Blaster Live! CT4830 OEM.

Let us try to decipher it. I was greatly helped by the utility WPCREDIT, which makes it possible to examine the parameters of PCI-devices installed in the system. Live! has two devices, an AudioController and an Input unit (Joystick).

  • 00h: (word of 16 bits). Designation is unknown. Must be equally 0003h.
  • 02h: (byte of 8 bits). Sub class of device. It is equal to 01h (Audiokontroller).
  • 03h: (byte of 8 bits). Base class of device. It is equal to 04h (Multimedia-controller).
  • 04h: (word of 16 bits). Subsystem vendor ID. It is equal to 1102h (Creative).
  • 06h: (word of 16 bits). Subsystem ID. For CT4830 OEM it is equal to 8027h (Audiokontroller).
  • 08h: (byte of 8 bits). Parameter of device PCI "Minimum Grant". Must be equal to 02h.
  • 09h: (byte of 8 bits). Parameter of device PCI "Maximum latency". Must be equal to 14h.
  • 0ah: (word of 16 bits). Designation is unknown. Must be equally 0000h.
  • 0ch: (byte of 8 bits). Sub class of device. It is equal to 80h (Other controller).
  • 0dh: (byte of 8 bits). Base class of device. It is equal to 09h (input unit).
  • 0eh: (word of 16 bits). Subsystem vendor ID. It is equal To 1102h (Creative).
  • 10h: (word of 16 bits). Subsystem ID. For all Live! it is equal to 0020h (Input unit).
  • 12h: (18 bytes). Designation is unknown. All is equal 00h.
  • 24h: (76 bytes). Designation is unknown. All is equal ffh.

Obviously, not all information about the device is stored in the EEPROM. A part of the information is programmed directly in the EMU10K1. Such information is Vendor ID (identifier of producer, 1102h is Creative), Device ID (identifier of device, 0002h for Audiocontroller, 7002h for the input unit), Revision (revision of chip, in my CT4830 OEM it is equal to 06h for both devices).

By experiments it was shown that the Live! models distinguish between themselves only by the Subsystem ID, which relates to the basic Audiocontroller. Below is given the correspondence of the models and the Subsystem ID taken from the INF-files and how the different versions of drivers for Live! is selected.

Value versions:

CT4670 - SBLive! Value  (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_00201102)
CT4780 - SBLive! Value  (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_80221102)
CT4830 - SBLive! Value  (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_80261102)
CT4831 - SBLive! Value  (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_80311102)
CT4832 - SBLive! Value  (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_80271102)
CT4850 - SBLive! Value  (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_80511102)
CT4870 - SBLive! Value  (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_80281102)
CT4871 - SBLive! Value  (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_80321102)
SB0060 - SBlive! Value  (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_80611102)
SB0101 - SBlive! Value  (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_80691102)

Complete versions:

CT4620 - SBLive!        (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_00211102)
CT4760 - SBLive!        (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_80401102)
SB0103 - SBLive! series (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_806A1102)
SB0105 - SBlive! series (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_806B1102)

Live! cards, integrated on the motherboard:

SBLive motherboard      (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_002F1102)
SBLive motherboard      (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_80251102)
SBLive motherboard      (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_80631102)

OEM-version:

CT4790 - SB PCI512      (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_80231102)

E-MU Audio Production Studio:

EMU APS                 (PCI\VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_40011102)

In order to find the identifier code of the subsystem of your Live! card, You do not need to unsolder the EEPROM. It is sufficient to use the utility WPCREDIT or to see the value of the keys in the list in the registry (HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Enum\PCI for Windows 2000 and HKLM\Enum\PCI for Windows 9x). Us interests the key, which begins from VEN_1102&DEV_0002&SUBSYS_xxxxxxx. According to the number SUBSYS (which consists of Subsystem ID and Subsystem vendor ID, equal to 1102h, To Creative) and with the help of the above given table it is possible to accurately determine the available model of Live!. For example, my card CT4830 OEM has Subsystem ID 8027h, which corresponds to model CT4832, but not CT4830, as it is indicated on the label of the card.

To ensure the support of 5.1-systems on the "old" Live!, it is necessary to change Subsystem ID (word of 16 bits) by replacing the word in 06h in the EEPROM on the Live!, by Subsystem ID of the model, which supports this configuration (for example, SB0060, Subsystem ID it is equal to 8061h).

The modification of the EEPROM

Several words about mounting/demounting and programming of the microcircuit. First, ascertain that you unsolder precisely the microcircuit EEPROM (see photo above). Microcircuits can be marked differently. Instead of the inscription 93c46 there can be absolutely incomprehensible designation of the type ISSI 847 46GR (as on my copy of CT4830). Desirable is to determine the producer and then get the appropriate datasheet. Below are given the pin-out of different versions of the microcircuit.

In my case the marking is ISSI 847 46GR and is deciphered as follows: Producer ISSI, microcircuit of the type of 93c46, pin-out "GR". Thus "correct" pin-out is shown in figure to the right. Most likely you have the same. However to be safe study the datasheet for your type of microcircuit.

Following step - dismounting of the microcircuit. If you do not have special equipment for the dismounting of SMD microcircuits, it is possible to use an usual soldering iron with the suitable width of the head (to equal width of the microcircuit). Drop a little rasin flux in the place of soldering (for a more rapid warming up and the melting of solder), then touch it by the soldering iron, lift all four pins of the microcircuit from one side and after a sufficient warming up. They will raise themselves above the print (It is not necessary to apply special efforts or forces). Microcircuit is unsoldered analogously from other side. After the dismounting of the microcircuit remove excess solder from the contact areas on the printet circuit board and remove the residues of flux with the help of a cotton, moistened by alcohol.

The next tasks is readout, modification and replacement of bits by means of programming the microcircuit. For this purpose it is better to use a common programmer, but if you don't have one, then I can propose two alternative solutions.

The first alternative solution consists in the use of a programmer from the very extended 10-megabit net-card with the chip Realtek RTL8029x. On this card there is also mounted the microcircuit EEPROM 93c46 (most likely in the DIP-version, see pin-out in the figure to the left), in which the MAC-address and other information about the configuration of card is stored. There is a utility for readout and programming of this microcircuit. This utility works in the medium DOS and automatically find the available chip RTL8029x on the card. For the accomplishment of our objective it is necessary to unsolder the microcircuit 93c46 from the net card and replace it by the microcircuit For live!. The main thing is to be carefull about the pin-out. The net card will lose the possibility to be used according to its straight purpose in this period (functionality naturally, but it will completely be restored with the return of the "native" microcircuit 93c46). However the task of programming will work. Explanations how to use the program can be obtained by executing it without any keys.

The second alternative solution consists in programming the microcircuit 93c46 by using the LPT-port of your computer. For this it is possible to use a dedicated utility. Explanations are contained in the archive together with the program. I must admit that I did not check the program.

Thus, let us assume you managed to set up a programmer for changing the EEPROM To Live! (don't forget to make this before programming). It is necessary to correct the counted word (2 bytes) on displacing 06h (the Subsystem ID) of the required model To Live!, in our case - to 8061h for the 5.1-model SB0060. To change from CT4830 OEM it is only necessary to change one byte (it is highlighted red in the figure). After programming the microcircuit 93c46, the success of the operation can be verified by rereading the 93c46. As an example I prepared tested data for the models CT4830, CT4760, SB0060 (The first two data-sets are given in the original version, not changed and is given simply for the information).

Final stage - installation of the microcircuit EEPROM with the changed data back to the Live! print. Mount the microcircuit so that the pins will match the contacts on both sides. Check that the pins is seperated without soldering thin between them. For an improvement in quality and increase in the velocity of soldering I recommend to use rasin flux, which at the end can be removed by the cotton, moistened in alcohol. The modification to Live! 5.1 can now be considered as finalized.

For activating the new possibilities on the card, it is necessary to install Live!Ware and the drivers for the "new" card. The version of Live!Ware 3.0 for the 5.1-cards is only containing AudioHQ and SurroundMixer and can be downloaded from a site dedicated to the sound cards from Creative.

Using the new possibilities

After installation of Live!Ware 3.0 for the 5.1-cards the possibility to select 5.1 speakers appears in SurroundMixer. See Diagram for details.

By selecting the option "Advanced" you will have the possibility to control loudness of the additional channels (center and subwoofers), as well as the conditions of AC3-decoding.

Now the logical question arises:
But how can I use all this, there is no additional plugs for the center channel and the subwoofer channel on the card ?
Answer:
It is very simple, all six channels are present from the three outputs S/PDIF.

Front stereo-channel exists on SPDIFO#0, rear - on SPDIFO#3, center and the subwoofer channel - on SPDIFO#1. At the output SPDIFO#2 is obtained the mixture of front and rear stereos-channel. These signals is possible to get from the header AUD_EXT (second generation of cards) or SPDIF_EXT (first generation of cards). Below is shown the pin-out of the corresponding pins (information it is taken from the reference system To live!Ware).



5.1 Sound connection on the digital interface

No additional contrivances is required, to connect speaker systems which have multichannel digital input, to Live! 5.1 since all digital signals in the size S/PDIF already is located on the Live! board. It is only necessary to derive at the appropriate outside connectors. For example, to connect speaker systems from Cambridge SoundWorks DTT2500/DT3500 it is necessary to prepare the 9-contact mini-DIN interface, analogous to that given in the figure.

Simply connect the contacts of the mini-DIN pins with the appropriate contacts AUD_EXT or SPDIF_EXT. Pin-out of the mini-DIN is given below.



A small observation. S/PDIF-outputs on Live! have a TTL-signal level of approximately 2,0 - 2,5 V, while many devices are designed for a level of S/PDIF-signal at 0,5 V. And although a statements from Creative, similar connections do not present any danger for the devices. Have in mind as for normal operation, the level will possibly be required of output and input of S/PDIF (This is not bad for the inputlevel of sound at DTT2500/3500).

Connections of 5.1-sound to the usual analog outputs

This connection presents somewhat greater complexity, since to the "old" Live! cards there is no additional analog outputs for the connection of center/subwoofer. As you already probably guessed, it is necessary to convert the existing one on the Live! S/PDIF signal from digital into analog. The closest solution to use is an additional sound card, which has S/PDIF-input. Thus, the corresponding S/PDIF-output on Live! is necessary to connect to the S/PDIF-input of the additional sound card. It will be present after tuning the mixer. In this case the signals for front and rear columns will be removed From Live! (outputs FrontOut and RearOut), and the center and subwoofer channels are analog outputs at the additional soundcard.

For the purpose of checking the system described above, the author used a relative cheap sound card based on the chip Yamaha YMF754 (Xwave 6000) with S/PDIF-inputs. The experiments were carried out under Windows 2000 Professional SP2. After the installation of the drivers and software for both cards, Live! was selected as "Preferred Device" in the section of sounds & Multimedia in Control Panel. Everywhere the option "Use only preferred devices" was selected also. All this was made for increasing the stability of the cooperation of between the two sound cards. Output SPDIFO#1 (contacts AUD_EXT.19 (signal) and AUD_EXT.20 (ground)) on Live! was connected with the appropriate contacts of S/PDIF-input on the Xwave 6000 card. In the mixer the additional sound card was switched on DigitalIN, the digital input. PowerDVD 3.0 was then installed (with AC3 passthrough). As source of sound, S/PDIF was selected in the installationprogram of PowerDVD and in setup of SurroundMixer - source of AC3-decoding. As a result the system demonstrated steady playback of DVD-disks with the use of all 5.1-channels and decoding of AC3-flow by the means of the drivers to the Live! board.

Of course this did not succeed without problems. After the installation of an additional sound card, Xwave 6000 categorically rejected to be started by SurroundMixer (was carried out the inadmissible operation). In this case the standard mixer in Windows worked excellently for both cards. Therefore it was necessary to setup the 5.1-card to decode AC3-flow in the SurrondMixer, before the installation of the additional of card.

Conclusions

By means of a simple (for the person, who manages a soldering iron) modification of the old Live! models, is is possible to get 5.1 multimedia sound from the card. To what extent is this approach justified ? Is it not simpler to purchase a "present" Live 5.1 ? Sufficiently of questions. Let us estimate pluses and minuses by our method.

Pluses

  • The saving of money (not necessary to pay for a "new" Live!).
  • New possibilities, connected with the application by use of an inexpensive additional sound card (for example, instrument room support for XG MIDI, additional analog and digital input-outputs, etc.).

Minuses

  • Risk to damage the microcircuit or to damage the sound card during soldering operations.
  • Need for acquisition of an additional sound card.
  • Problems with compatability, which appear during the use two sound cards.

As seen, main disadvantages with our method is connected with the connection of speaker systems on the analog interface. Therefore the modfications of the Live! sound card to Live 5.1 primary can be recommended to people, which are gathered to acquire speaker system Cambridge SoundWorks DTT 2500/3500 for their connection to the digital interface and already having the old generation af Live! sound cards.

Certainly, those who doesn't have thus old Live!, but want a 5.1 card, would be recommended to immediately buy Live 5.1. But as long as the company Creative will adhere to the policy of "not upgrading software with new possibilities for old cards", this method will focus on itself and attract users of the old models of Live! cards.

Attention! Before you use a soldering iron, thoroughly think if this is worthwhile to do. Use the information, given in the data of the article to your fear and risk. Neither author nor editorial staff of the site (or translator) bear by any means responsibility for any possible consequence from its use.


Translated from Russian to English by
Keld Damsbo(keld@damsbo.com)
Published on www.damsbo.com 3. August 2001