Aureal Semiconductor

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Aureal Semiconductor Inc
Industry Audio Technologies
Founded 1995
Defunct 2000
Headquarters Fremont, California
Key people
Kenneth 'Kip' Kokinakis, President and CEO
Website down)

Aureal Semiconductor Inc. was an American electronics manufacturer, best known throughout the mid-late 1990s for their PC sound card technologies including A3D and the Vortex (a line of audio ASICs.) The company was the reincarnation of the, at the time, bankrupt Media Vision Technology. Media Vision was a developer and manufacturer of multimedia peripherals such as the Pro Audio Spectrum 16.


Aureal Creation In 1996, Crystal River Engineering (CRE) merged with MediaVision to form Aureal Semiconductor (later reduced to Aureal Inc.). MediaVision was originally a group of brilliant engineers who brought Stanford CCRMA's wavetable synthesis and 16-bit audio to the personal computer market, directly competing with Creative Lab's 8-bit SoundBlaster PC monopoly. Aureal hired William Chapin to the position of Director of Advanced Technologies, reporting to CTO Scott Foster, leading a group of scientists and engineers to develop technologies for subsequent generations of Aureal products. CRE became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aureal, continuing to produce products for non-consumer buyers. William Chapin held the second title of Chief Engineer at CRE since CRE products featured advanced technologies that would later trickle down to Aureal consumer products.

Aureal Divesture In 1997 Aureal decided to focus all of its corporate energies on the consumer entertainment markets, primarily personal computer gaming and consumer tele­vision. The Crystal River Engineering subsidiary was term­inated. Mr. Chapin negoti­ated the rights to all of the advanced technologies applicable to mission-critical markets, including WaveTracing™.

In 1998, Mr. Chapin founded the sole proprietary AuSIM Engineering Solutions, with a strong commitment from the US Navy. Until the bankruptcy of Aureal in 2000, Aureal and AuSIM worked collaboratively in the marketplace, exchanging market and sales leads (entertainment leads to Aureal; mission-critical to AuSIM). The technology, however, was firmly and forever divided in 1998. AuSIM shared no souce-code with Aureal, re-writing every piece of all technologies as a new generation of code base. As part of the deal, AuSIM maintained the CRE code base and took on support and service of all existing CRE customers.[1]

On March 5, 1998 Creative Labs sued Aureal for patent infringement. Aureal countersued because they believed Creative was guilty of patent infringement. After numerous lawsuits Aureal won a favorable ruling in December 1999,[2] which vindicated Aureal from these patent infringement claims, but the legal costs were too high and Aureal filed for bankruptcy. On September 21, 2000, Creative acquired Aureal's assets from its bankruptcy trustee for US$32 million. The purchase included patents, trademarks, other property, as well as a release to Creative from any infringement by Creative of Aureal's intellectual property including A3D. The purchase effectively eliminated Creative's only competition in the gaming audio market. It also eliminated any requirements for Creative to pay past or future royalties as well as damages for products which incorporated Aureal's technology.

Technologies and products[edit]

Aureal's 3D audio technology was originally developed by Crystal River Engineering for NASA's Virtual Environment Workstation Project (VIEW). Crystal River later commercialized the technology with a series of products including the Convolvotron and the Acoustetron. Aureal acquired Crystal River in May 1996[3] and rebranded the technology A3D.

Contrary to OEM companies (such as Creative which builds, brands and sells their own devices), Aureal was a fabless semiconductor company. This changed with their final product: the Aureal SuperQuad. However, to not anger the middlemen, Aureal did no marketing of its self-branded product.

On the software side, A3D was supported by 3DMark along with many other software titles of the late 1990s, including Half-Life, Unreal, Quake II, Jedi Knight, and SiN.

While Windows XP will recognize and work with the 8830 Vortex 2 chipset, there is an official Final Beta (v5.12.2568.0) available for download from a variety of sites which can be found via most internet search engines.

There is also a modified version of that XP driver that can provide basic audio functionality for the Windows Vista operating system. It may also function with Windows 7 beta releases as well.


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