Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Custom Front Panel Mod for GIGABYTE AMP-UP Audio

OP-AMP

We launched our latest audio technology, ‘AMP-UP Audio’ earlier this year at Computex 2013. One of the main features which differentiated us from the competition was the addition of an upgradable onboard operational amplifier or OP-Amp. OP-Amps are commonly found in high-end audio gear, and produce a much louder more amplified sound and a way superior audio experience generally. The OP-Amp itself is mounted on a socket which means that end-users can physically switch it out and also try different OP-Amps available on the market. Each OP-Amp offers distinct aural properties but generally speaking they make the audio clearer, punchier and more life-like.

Because the quality of front panel audio cables tend to vary from chassis to chassis, Op-Amp audio is available from the back panel audio jack only. Having said that, some users may feel that the back panel is not the most convenient in terms of access. Our buddy Janus saw this as an opportunity for another of his ‘mod jobs’. The mission this time was to make a custom front panel includes a pair of USB 3.0 ports, a front audio output for headphones, plus a USB DAC-UP port (i.e. a specialized port that is design for noise-free DAC connectivity).

Here an image of all the components and tools which Janus used for his mod job. The board used for the build was a GIGABYTE G1.Sniper A88X. The blue cable is used for the USB DAC-UP port, but if your motherboard doesn’t support this feature, it can be used as a regular USB 3 port.

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Ok, let's see how he made the actual front panel...

After selecting his chassis, Janus realized he was only going to get one shot at modding his 3.5 inch front panel, so plenty of time and preparation went into making sure he got it right.

He used Photoshop to draw a 1:1 design layout for the placement of USB 3.0 and USB DAC ports and the all important audio jack. This template made it much easier to then cut the necessary holes.

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After several hours work, the panel looks pretty professional.

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He was then able to screw the USB 3.0 cable onto the back of the panel.

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Then he added the external USB cable for the USB DAC. Here Janus added a copper riser, similar to what you would use to mount the motherboard to your chassis.

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After adding the USB ports, next came the 3.5mm audio jack. Here you can also see the front panel mounted inside the chassis.

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Here you can see how the cables were routed from the rear panel back through the chassis. This way the noise-free USB DAC is preserved so the end user has the choice of adding either a USB DAC or the onboard audio of the OP-AMP direct through the audio jack.

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For more info about GIGABYTE AMP-UP Audio, click here.

Details about the GIGABYTE G1. Sniper A88X motherboard used in this project can be found here.

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