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Thread: Are soundcards now obsolete?

  1. #17
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    Re: Are soundcards now obsolete?

    Lots of lower end sound cards still do 44.1>48 upsampling in hardware and even the higher end ones could never be described as 'audiophile'. If you want a great output you'll need a great DAC. Ie buy something semi pro or designed for hifi not for playing games.

    I'd a good dac fixed at 16/44.1 over a mediocre one that can do 24/96.

    Also get rid of those horrible speakers and buy something audiophile, not blingophile.

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    Re: Are soundcards now obsolete?

    I'm also looking at using a headset for VoIP purposes only. No game audio. Would I need to have a particular sound setup as to have sound being output to two different places? So if I plugged the headset in 3.5mm audio out, it wouldn't give game audio too? Thanks

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    Re: Are soundcards now obsolete?

    Quote Originally Posted by EvanJackPenn View Post
    I'm also looking at using a headset for VoIP purposes only. No game audio. Would I need to have a particular sound setup as to have sound being output to two different places? So if I plugged the headset in 3.5mm audio out, it wouldn't give game audio too? Thanks
    Keep eyes on ebay for a proper business class plantronics USB headset.

    You'll pay 30-40 quid for one 2nd hand, but much better than anything that'll plug into your 'mic in'.

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    Re: Are soundcards now obsolete?

    It's just something like this or this I want.

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    Re: Are soundcards now obsolete?

    Quote Originally Posted by kalniel View Post
    Like what, out of interest? Aside from Asus' crappy GX (eax emulation) I've not found any issues, and the drivers seem to be relatively up to date.
    DG3D-GX was pretty good when all it did was restore the EAX2 functionality the cards had in XP. Then Asus tried to get too clever for their own good and attempted to emulate Creative cards.

    When it works it's alright but when it doesn't the results can be awful. In Oblivion and Fallout 3 for example you have to chose between software audio (GX off) or the likelihood of a BSOD (GX on). A large number of legacy games just do not work properly and even now OpenAL games often have problems (forcing you into software mode). Hardware based OpenAL only works when DS3D-GX is turned on.

    Turning DS3D GX off is not a solution. It's a workaround and you usually forced to put up with a vastly reduced / inferior audio simulation if you choose to turn it off.
    Last edited by Uriel; 30-08-2011 at 08:42 PM.

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    Re: Are soundcards now obsolete?

    Quote Originally Posted by Uriel View Post
    Turning DS3D GX off is not a solution. It's a workaround and you usually forced to put up with a vastly reduced / inferior audio simulation if you choose to turn it off.
    Doesn't appear to be at all inferior to me to have GX off - the only benefit of it is when emulating EAX calls, which aren't used in modern games anyway. GX is still software emulation anyway.

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    Re: Are soundcards now obsolete?

    I'll put it this way. I was happy with Xonar until I did A/B comparisons with X-Fi in a number of different games.

    Hardware acceleration / processing of game audio is still widely used in OpenAL and FMOD games. In these X-Fis are often an audible improvement over Xonar. When Xonar emulation of X-Fi works it can be excellent. The trouble is it often does't work properly. There are frequently missing, broken or inferior effects. What's worst is where it introduces instability.

    Now this is the kicker - when you turn off DS3D-GX, you are turning off effects that even onboard audio codecs can manage.

    Thankfully we're getting more games with competent software audio engines. Alternatives are springing up. The Blueripple audio software that shipped with Dirt2 is excellent for environmental and positional effects. The game audio there is OpenAL based and blueripple does a great job of using the CPU to do the sound processing. With a fast quad core CPU, Blueripple is on par with an XFi, if not better (it scales down on lesser hardware). It can cope with things like elevation effects that the vast majority of game audio just does not do.

    That's the way forward IMO. With competent software based audio simulation, there is little need for dedicated sound hardware processing. The trouble is - most software game audio is just not that good. It's generally little better than what we were getting on the Xbox back in 2003. Positioning is generally done by volume planning. On a 5.1 system it sounds little different but with headphone or speaker based HRTF systems, there's a world of difference. For those of us that use such systems a lot of game audio is massively frustrating. It's like buying the latest games and finding they only run on DirectX 7 or 8 and the screenshots just looked good because the shadows and light-maps were pre-rendered..

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    Re: Are soundcards now obsolete?

    Quote Originally Posted by Uriel View Post
    I'll put it this way. I was happy with Xonar until I did A/B comparisons with X-Fi in a number of different games.

    Hardware acceleration / processing of game audio is still widely used in OpenAL and FMOD games. In these X-Fis are often an audible improvement over Xonar. When Xonar emulation of X-Fi works it can be excellent. The trouble is it often does't work properly. There are frequently missing, broken or inferior effects. What's worst is where it introduces instability.

    Now this is the kicker - when you turn off DS3D-GX, you are turning off effects that even onboard audio codecs can manage.
    I don't believe you are. You are only turning off EAX emulation.

    I likewise did A/B comparisons with an SB card (audigy 2 ZS) in a number of different games. There were no missing effects at all, only differences in tonality. I can easily understand a preference for the texture and twinkly details of the SB cards*, but the xonar is so much better for music.

    *and indeed, that was my conclusion in my review of the Xonar Sense - Creative are better for games.
    Last edited by kalniel; 30-08-2011 at 09:08 PM.

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    Re: Are soundcards now obsolete?

    There is a lot less difference between an Audigy 2 ZS and a Xonar and than with X-Fi and Xonar for gaming.

    Audigy 2 (and X-Fi Xtreme Audio) lacks MacroFX, Elevation Filter, CMSS-3D Headphone and CMSS-3D Virtual, which apply to all games with a hardware based sound engine.

    Practically the only advantage of Audigy 2 ZS compared to Xonar is slightly better EAX and legacy DirectSound3D compatibility. I'm not that bothered about EAX. It's a set of tools and it's only ever as good as the way it's used in game. I've heard both brilliant and terrible examples. Like pixel shaders it can be realistic or it can get over-used and a bit of an echo-fest.

    - before I get away from legacy DirectSound3D compatibility I'll mention that I've never failed to get Alchemy to work for an old game on X-Fi (with a spot of tweaking - and the odd patch). DS3D-GX often just doesn't work.

    For the record, I've owned an Audigy 2, two versions of X-Fi Xtreme Music, an Auzentech X-Fi Prelude, a Xonar D2, various generic soundcards and various onboard audio solutions. If it was just down to music and video my favourite by a long way would have been the Xonar D2.

    I also much prefer Xonar's Dolby Headphone to X-Fi's CMSS-3D headphone (aside from the inherent processing differences between the cards). I liked it so much that I now use an external receiver. Most of my gaming used CMSS-3D virtual in 4.0 mode, encoded to DTS connect and converted to Dolby Headphone. Why 4.0? X-Fi's 3D effects (e.g elevation filter) only work up to 4.0. For 5.1 and above the positioning is done by simple volume panning. It's 2D only - unless the game's audio engine does something clever with elevation.

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    Re: Are soundcards now obsolete?

    Audigy 2 (and X-Fi Xtreme Audio) lacks MacroFX, Elevation Filter, CMSS-3D Headphone and CMSS-3D Virtual, which apply to all games with a hardware based sound engine.
    Now you're talking about post-process effects related entirely to sound positional tricks - Creative's version of Dolby headphone if you will. GX is not needed to enable the equivalent on the Xonar cards.

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    Re: Are soundcards now obsolete?

    You're partly right. CMSS-3D Headphone and CMSS-3D Virtual can indeed simulate virtual speakers in a room around a listener in a similar way to Dolby Headphone and Dolby Virtual Speaker. They can do a lot more than that though.

    In a game with fully hardware based audio, they can simulate the game environment instead - 360 degrees with elevation cues. There's a LFE channel available but it's basically virtual 3d infinity point 1 (rather than 5.1 or 7.1), mapped to the headphones or speakers as you desire.

    What do you mean by post-processing tricks? After all, what you hear in a 3d game isn't just recorded samples: it's a simulated environment. Most of the things I mentioned enhance the simulation.

    MacroFx simulates sound very close to the listener. If you were using speakers it could simulate your first person character using headphones, a telephone or the sound of their voice.

    Elevation filter simulates how far above or below your character a sound is.

    ZoomFX (which I didn't mention earlier) simulates how large an object is (think gunshot vs passing train at close range

    Xonar can produce some of these effects (certainly MacroFX - not sure about the others) in OpenAL and DirectSound3D games only if DS3D-GX is enabled. The game audio may allow other effects depending on implementation when it's off.Dolby Headphone is, as you say, post processing.
    Last edited by Uriel; 31-08-2011 at 04:18 AM.

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    Re: Are soundcards now obsolete?

    Going back to the original question - software is becoming available that has the potential to make soundcards obsolete for gaming enhancement but I don't think there is a single suitable software product that currently replaces the features I would want in a gaming soundcard - yet.

    In terms of fidelity - motherboard audio rarely approaches the pure quality of even the cheaper aftermarket soundcards. Better soundcards are almost always a significant improvement on motherboard audio when paired with hi-fi equipment.

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    Re: Are soundcards now obsolete?

    Quote Originally Posted by Uriel View Post
    Going back to the original question - software is becoming available that has the potential to make soundcards obsolete for gaming enhancement but I don't think there is a single suitable software product that currently replaces the features I would want in a gaming soundcard - yet.

    In terms of fidelity - motherboard audio rarely approaches the pure quality of even the cheaper aftermarket soundcards. Better soundcards are almost always a significant improvement on motherboard audio when paired with hi-fi equipment.
    Haha thanks, that was what I was looking for. Is there any particular soundcard <£50 you would recommend?

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    Re: Are soundcards now obsolete?

    Quote Originally Posted by EvanJackPenn View Post
    I'm looking at building my self a pretty high spec (~£1000) gaming rig soon. However, my build doesn't incorporate a soundcard - it just uses integrated. I don't want it to be let down on poor sound quality.

    ....

    I am quite a bit of an audiophile. I had also read that classical music is the way to tell what sound is superior. I listen to an awful lot of classical (being an intrumentalist myself) and I have quite an ear.


    ...
    Interesting thread, and some interesting views.

    My perspective, and it's very much a personal view, is that "gaming PC", or for that matter just about any PC, and "audiophile" rarely belong in the same sentence.

    Personally, if I want to listen, and I mean listen to music, I do it via a CD, a decent amp and, depending on time of day, either a decent set of speakers or a very good set of headphones. But that's a different activity to having music on in the background, which is different again to a soundtrack in a game.

    For soundtrack while I'm pottering on the PC, I may use half-decent (if ancient) PC speakers. If I want reasonable music while I'm doing something, I feed that through an amp or speakers, or just bung on a CD, and if I actually want what I'd call an "audiophile" experience, I definitely go the CD/amp route every time, and turn the PC off, 'cos quiet as it is, it's too loud when I really want to listen .... though it also depends a bit on the subject matter - Andreas Vollenweider <> Bruckner.

    So I guess it all depends on what you (and I) mean by "audiophile".

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    Re: Are soundcards now obsolete?

    You can mix the two of them if you chose too.

    I have a 'gaming' pc but with a semi decent audio card (its an older hda xplosion) that outputs, through an optical cable, to a Yamaha A2 DSP amp. I then have some semi decent speakers wired up (B&W Fronts, Kef Reference Centre, M S Subwoofer ). The cheaper speakers are wired up for rear surrounds as I turn these off for music playing. My housemate, who is an audio engineer, is impressed with the sound. Granted it doesn't compare to his lounge setup with a set of £2k floor standing speakers but I sometimes struggle to tell the difference at normal listening volumes.

    As others have said, it all depends on what you want. I went for a single system to do both but its locked to a single room and does take up a lot of space. I was lucky enough to get various parts of my setup over the course of 18 months and for deals on price (I offered my IT services for my Dad's B&W speakers for example).

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    Re: Are soundcards now obsolete?

    Quote Originally Posted by EvanJackPenn View Post
    Haha thanks, that was what I was looking for. Is there any particular soundcard <£50 you would recommend?
    This is the only X-Fi under £50 I'd recommend: the OEM SB0770. It's basically a pci version of the X-Fi titanium. Look for SB0770 on eBay and you'll see that it's much cheaper than any other fully featured X-Fi (other cards are marketed as X-Fi without actually having X-Fi hardware - make sure to avoid them).

    One reason it's cheaper than the other X-Fis is it lacks the Dolby and DTS licences you need to encode realtime 5.1 over optical in games etc (films etc will work anyway). The licence can be bought very cheaply directly from Creative's US webstore: http://buy.soundblaster.com/_creativ...egory=Software Having bought them you will be able to enable Dolby Digital Live or DTS Connect in the X-Fi's control panel.

    That's my recommendation to pair with your current Z5500 speakers.

    As it has digital out you can potentially use it as a 'transport' with a DAC or receiver if you want to upgrade audio equipment later.

    Bear in mind, that this is a tailored recommendation for this user's needs. For those looking for higher quality analogue sound or headphone use I tend to recommend particular cards from the Asus Xonar range or sometimes DACs for those not interested in gaming audio.
    Last edited by Uriel; 03-09-2011 at 09:26 AM.

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