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sound card makes a difference?

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February 27, 2006 1:07:52 AM

do u guys think adding a sound card is going to make any difference when gaming? I mean a noticeable difference... I know it takes some charge off the processor but how big of a charge? specs below
February 27, 2006 4:00:31 AM

Well, Creative's sound cards do little to take the load off CPU's, and since Creative's marketing machine has pretty much taken all the more powerfull hardware off the market, you're not going to see a huge performance difference.

Except in EAX 2.0, which is Creative's standard and supported by Creative's hardware. Modern sound cards (including Creative's) put a horrible load on the CPU compared to yesterday's stuff, and Creative's only saving grace is that EAX 2.0 doesn't add huge CPU load with their cards.

It's all a scam created by Creative of course.
February 27, 2006 11:21:53 PM

so I keep my onboard sound and forget bout it... it's gonna be the same performance?
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February 27, 2006 11:48:16 PM

Close enough, except for EAX decoding which will be done in software.
February 28, 2006 3:12:07 AM

EAX is actually something Creative soundcards do to alter the input audio source of games. It's a proprietary sound "exaggerator" algorithm for games. As such, there is nothing to be "decoded;" its just a wave-form altering process like CMSS.
February 28, 2006 4:04:29 AM

Oh, so EAX doesn't add 3D positional audio? Well then, WTF DOES Creative call their proprietary 3D positional auido?
February 28, 2006 4:38:14 AM

Quote:
Oh, so EAX doesn't add 3D positional audio? Well then, WTF DOES Creative call their proprietary 3D positional auido?


Depends how you define "3D" positional audio.

Audio by nature is "3 dimensional."

A loudspeaker by nature will playback its source and attempt to mimick a wide soundstage with dispersion techniques based on baffle shape. It can create a "greater sense of 3D."

On the software side, directivity comes in the source of sound cues. Basic progamming includes "where" point sources are, and a competent loudspeaker will relay this.

EAX as originally defined by Creative does two primary things. 1) It exaggerates room effects, such as echoes and reflections. This is what audio mixers in movies call "hyper-realism"; by exaggerating transients. Not something for discerning music listening obviously; the overcompensation for certain frequencies will sound horrible on a stereo recording. 2) Transition sounds: mixes room effects between room boundaries to emphasize the sense of "transitioning." It's possible boundary cues are already preprogrammed by the software programmers; in that case the effect would be exaggerated even more.

This is EAX in a nutshell, although we will never know what else it does because 1) it's a marketing term, so it would lose its mystique if we knew everything it did 2) Wards off competitors if they don't know everything it does (or what it doesn't do).

It's kind of hard to answer your question as it's a little nebulous. What do you define as the "proprietary" 3D positional audio?

You might be thinking of CMSS, which takes stereo sources and outputs them into "matrixed" surround sound like Pro Logic II does, by sending the transients to the rears, and collapsing the right/left channels into the center.
February 28, 2006 5:08:41 AM

Are you being hard to get along with on purpose? The key word in "3D positional audio" of course is "positional". And you know what I'm refering to is directional sound via multichannel configuration, but not using Dolby Digital encoding. Things like A3D 2.0. In a four-speaker configuration this would mean the right rear speaker plays a sound when the object making the sound in a 3D environment, ie game, is to the right and rear of the player. Something obviously has to process that sound, to determine which speakers to play, at what volume level.
February 28, 2006 5:24:25 AM

Quote:
Are you being hard to get along with on purpose? The key word in "3D positional audio" of course is "positional". And you know what I'm refering to is directional sound via multichannel configuration, but not using Dolby Digital encoding. Things like A3D 2.0. In a four-speaker configuration this would mean the right rear speaker plays a sound when the object making the sound in a 3D environment, ie game, is to the right and rear of the player. Something obviously has to process that sound, to determine which speakers to play, at what volume level.


Yes--you not-so subtly made demands and cursed. That is why I was patronizing. Cause-and-effect. But it doesn't have to go any further; the ball is in your court. If you really don't want to talk to me that's fine--just ignore me.

Point source sounds and effects are different things. A3D was an effects engine. Point sources are preprogrammed. A3D deal was wavetracing which added extra reflections.

Lets think for a second; how is the sound card connected to the PC? The sound card does not have direct access to cached data, rather the CPU does, and the post-processed data is then again changed by a sound cards effects engine. If you disabled EAX (which you can for many games), you'd get the similar results with an onboard card. If "point source" processing was the job of Creative proprietary 3D sound processing, then onboard surround sound wouldn't exist at all.

It is true that many EAX-effects are pre-programmed (or predicted if you will). For example, the original Half Life called for software reverb if EAX was enabled. Since A3D was incapable of emulating this, all you had was the original point source data, with A3D wavetracing on top, but the predicated EAX effects were not in play if EAX was enabled. Exaggerated reflections are quite a nice thing for single player shooters as they do make the environment seem more "haunting."
February 28, 2006 6:18:00 AM

In my experience, sound cards can have a noticable effect on game performance. Though however with current processing power of CPU's this difference has become smaller. Creative's, for example (and there are others), sound cards tend to process sound in the hardware and are less likely to use codecs to process sound information compared to motherboard integrated sound cards which commonly use codecs to process sound. Hence stand-alone cards of decent quality will use less CPU time than integrated solutions. The effect this will have on game playing might depend upon the surround speaker mode selection for example.

I have also noticed that onboard solutions tend will give a low hiss when speaker volumes are increased, my stand-alone cards (decent quality type) display this behaviour to a lesser extent.
February 28, 2006 5:23:13 PM

Quote:
do u guys think adding a sound card is going to make any difference when gaming? I mean a noticeable difference... I know it takes some charge off the processor but how big of a charge? specs below


Charliev, I wouldn't listen to anything astrallite has to say on teh matter. He hates Creative with a passion and will do everything to skip and dance around your question.

You wanted to know if a Sound Card would make a difference in games over an onboard card... right?

To get a rough idea of wether or not a Sound card makes a difference let's ask someone who knows something about the subject (myself, Hanners and the people over at Elite Bastards).
Elite Bastards HDA XPlosion 7.1 DTS Sound Card review

The review I just linked was done up by Hanners. There's a simple benchmark in this review that quickly sums up Gaming audio performance in a title know as Unreal Tournament 2004.

Test setup
- 2x Leadtek GeForce 6600GT (SLI)
- AMD Athlon 64 3500+
- 1GB PC3200 DDR-RAM
- Asus A8N-SLI nForce 4 SLI motherboard (Socket 939, PCI Express)
- 37GB Western Digital Raptor
- Pioneer 16x DVD-ROM
- 480W power supply
- Creative Labs Inspire 5.1 Digital 5700 speakers
- HDA Digital X Mystique 7.1 Gold sound card

- Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2
- DirectX 9.0c

All tests were run against the following two audio devices:

- Realtek AC'97 on-board solution (ALC850) from A8N-SLI motherboard
- HDA X-Mystique 7.1
- Creative Labs SoundBlaster Audigy

Below is a list of all the tests and applications used for benchmarking:

- Unreal Tournament 2004 v3355 (Custom timedemo, 640x480)



As you can clearly see the REaltek AC97 is representative of onboard sound performance while the other cards are add-in cards. the test was done using a Standard Sound Blaster Audigy (not Audigy2 or X-Fi). And right away the performance difference is staggering.

Performance with no Audio is at 69 Frames per second.. not too shabby now take a look when Direct3D Sound is enabled and then EAX 2.0.

Notice the dive in performance of all the solutions. Well the Audigy is still pushing over 62FPS while the nearest competitor (another add in board) is pushing 53FPS... that's ALMOST 10FPS and only a sound card!
Now look at the onboard sound... pushing 49FPS... there's a difference of 13FPS between onboard and a simple Audigy card. The Audigy2 and X-Fi are both more powerful and if used would have shown an even greater performance difference.

Again never listen to haters who spend there day in the Tom's Hardware Sound Card forum spewing Anti-Creative propaganda. Ask the peeps who know there stuff... yes the gamer's. ;) 
February 28, 2006 6:29:51 PM

Thanks for this reply, ElMo ... I've often wondered how much of an FPS improvement an Audigy can give you over onboard solution , and this is the first time I've actually seen a benchmark - nice!

I also agree w/Skirt -- onboard solutions tend have a higher noise floor (perhaps due to their close proximity/integration with the mobo electronics) and you can hear this hiss more as a result. Drives me crazy, personally.

Lastly, although I was cackling at astrallite's dance moves, and although he may be a "creative hater" (I dunno, first time I've seen a post of his), he is giving some useful information about sound processing as it's done in modern games. No, he didn't answer charliyv's post, but it is interesting to know what the mystical EAX does to sounds in games, and how a programmer might take advantage of it, is it not?
February 28, 2006 7:03:48 PM

also there is compatability... I have had creative cards from original soundblaster 'til now (am buying an x-fi) and have also had cards using the aureal chipset when they were still around. Also used onboard ac97 chips. NONE have had the solid stability of the creative drivers. I have had issues with all others:

Aureal crashed UT'99 many times until I switched to creative.

AC97 has horrible background noise issues with mobo components, and has crashed many games (battle for middle earth the only one comming to mind right now)

Never had a crash related to creative drivers. ever.

True, all other dedicated chip competitors are now dead. I always thought aureal sounded better, but never had the stability. Drivers were hard to code for. Creative bought them out and incorporated some of that tech and now creative sounds the best of any option. IMHO

Not sure if performance (measured in fps) will be readily aparent, but objective sound quality performance is better, and stability is not a contest. Get one and you will see. (oops... i mean hear)
February 28, 2006 7:43:16 PM

I have a Creative and its quite nice. But what about Turtle Beach. They seem good.
February 28, 2006 7:52:55 PM

Turtle Beach does not make their own chips, they use others. You would have to check on the particular card to know. That Aureal card I had was a Turtle Beach. Good company from what I can tell, but I dont think they use creative chips.

Be careful about other add-in cards as most (all?) cards that are not creative do not have dedicated sound processors. They use essentially the same chips that are in mobos, just in a seperate board. That removes sound interference prbs but not performance as still uses cpu more. MSI (think it is them) uses soundblaster chips in some of their mobos, so stability is not a prb, but sound interference can still be an issue... is still dedicated proc though which is good.

Either way, seperate board w/ dedicated proc is best way to go IMO and far as I know creative is the only consumer level product that has dedicated proc for sound. (please, let me know if i'm wrong...) prosumer level cards are out there for more $$.
February 28, 2006 8:24:30 PM

Actually Creative did not buy Aureal.
Creative bankrupted Aureal with frivilous lawsuits. One right after the other. Until they were bankrupt and could no longer fight them in court.
Creative then bought all of the intelectual property of Aureal through the bankruptcy sell off of all of their assets.

This is why so many people dislike Creative. It is their buisness practice to drive all other competitors in the soundcard sector out of buisness.

The Aureal chip and software was originally developed for the flight simulators for NASA.

IMHO Aureal was a much better card than anything Creative had on the market. Much better 3-D positional audio. Not the delay-reverb-echo effects of EAX(which sounds terrible).
I know nothing about the technology involved. But being a soundman, Sound Technition for the past 30 years my ears are very trained at very subtle sound differences. And to be honest the sound of EAX is a varying amounts of ECHO- DELAY- REVERB and a small amount of Distortion Pedal added to the tracks after they have been split into 2.1,4.1,5.1,6.1,7.1 channels. To be hones I could be wrong but this is what my ears are telling me I'm hearing and I trust them.
February 28, 2006 8:38:30 PM

That is what I said... whether they bought them through takeover or bankrupting them, they still own what is left. I'm not championing their tactics, just stating a fact. Also said that while I like the current dedicated sound chips, Aureal WAS better. I also have worked in sound. The main reason Aureal did not get the support (according to what I read back in their day) was because it was too complicated to write for their drivers. Creative was easier (read: stable) to write to.

regardless, it just does not matter now. Only really one company option for dedicated sound at consumer level. No need to hate, especially if the current product is actually good, which it is. All is fair in love and war.

If you are audiophile, you should give that x-fi a listen. (check out the reviews here on tom's too) The quality is freakin' amazing compared to anything else.
February 28, 2006 8:42:46 PM

Quote:
so I keep my onboard sound and forget bout it... it's gonna be the same performance?

Any soundcard should improve performance, but don't bother buying into the ultra high end soundcards because the performance difference is usually small.
February 28, 2006 11:47:41 PM

Quote:
Charliev, I wouldn't listen to anything astrallite has to say on teh matter. He hates Creative with a passion and will do everything to skip and dance around your question.


Elmo,

I'm *so* glad you joined this conversation. The last time you called me a Creative hater/industry insider because I defeated you on all accounts of your misinformation. I *told* you very civily that I had nothing against you, that I was *not* working against Creative, but very politely told you I was merely clearly up misinformed concepts *you* were spreading because this is the job of "old hands"; to help inform the inexperienced. I did not make any nasty jabs, KNOWING you were intentionally deflection attention from your misformation by throwing out the "your a Creative hater" red herring. I also said if you disliked what I had to say, we should part ways. Apparently you can't leave the dead alone, jumping at the opportunity add your *take* to my opinion that has nothing to do with the conversation, so you can sate your soiled pride because you were SO WRONG in the last thread. Congrats; I clap for you Elmo. You couldn't say anything because you were wrong, now you try to hide behind a mob. Whatever makes you happy.

If *you* not understanding concepts like EAX, Crystalizer, or MIPs processing alotments makes *me* a Creative hater, I laugh at your casuation argument. So if I told you a BMW M3 *isnt* a 500hp car, apparently I'm a BMW hater too? Only a ten-year old would accept your paltry arguments. You seem to conveniently forget I've never *once* said the X-Fi was a bad card, or to *not* buy it. I own one. Of course if anyone connects me correcting your stupidity with hating Creative products, there's not much I can do about that. Of course, if you are thirteen years old, I apologize right now. I shouldn't be even entertaining this argument, because I know you aren't even reading the full post before you respond.

Skip around and dance around your question? *You* are the one who is silent with no comeback after I explain everyone of your misinformed beliefs. Comeback when you have credible information besides your 10-year old *hater* comebacks.

(1)When I explained what the MIPs were for, you told me *I* had no idea what was going on. When I linked you to the source of the breakdown, *you* stopped responding.
(2) When I explained what the Crystalizer was, *you're* response was "it's much more than that!..." backed by no data.
(3)When *you* said the Crystalizer sounds so much better with more revealing speakers, *I* provided data that showed the opposite.

Here's your problem--you assertions that *I* dodge around the question is exactly what *you* do. The core of *your* arguments is to just say "I" don't know what I'm taking about, and is a constant challenge for me to *prove* my arguments, while your argument is always *a given*. After I clearly disprove your argument, because it was based on nothing more than your preconceived notions to start with, your last resort is to call me a hater to deflect attention

Learn a useful comeback that's backed by *data* or *authoritative information* besides "ummm...wait...you are a hater! That's right!...A hater..." after each of your assertions is shot down.

I say again, if you don't like the truth, close your ears. If you wanna lie, well there are some people that will listen to you and join the mob bash, and some who will read the qualifying data to make an informed opinion.


EDIT:
Quote:
Notice the dive in performance of all the solutions. Well the Audigy is still pushing over 62FPS while the nearest competitor (another add in board) is pushing 53FPS... that's ALMOST 10FPS and only a sound card!
Now look at the onboard sound... pushing 49FPS... there's a difference of 13FPS between onboard and a simple Audigy card. The Audigy2 and X-Fi are both more powerful and if used would have shown an even greater performance difference.


Why are you comparing an Audigy with a card that is encoding 7-surround channels to Dolby Digital Live in real time? Do you realize how much overhead that requires? In what way is the X-Mystique "the next closest competitor" in your opinion?
March 1, 2006 12:33:30 AM

What about me, you think I'm a hater?

Why does Creative charge so much for poorly designed products? Because they can. Why doesn't anyone challenge Creative with better products? Because Creative won't let them.

Like the Chinese selling cheap goods to the U.S., then spending their profits on balistic missels aimed at the U.S., Creative has spent millions of dollars to effectively seal better technology, to prevent enthusiasts from buying better products.

That they've sued people for distributing driver updates/patches on Aureal products is indicative of a company that dispises its customers.

It used to be that people saw 14% CPU usage on a sound card products and said "It's not for me". Now they see it and say "Ah well, it's better than 20% from a codec".

Our best hope is that companies like VIA and C-Media continue to develope their high-end audio processors to give Creative competition. And as much as VIA has abused the chipset industry, I have no qualms about buying their audio products.

Of course, as soon as any company gets over on Creative, Creative will use legal manuvers to eliminate them, hence, it may be many years before any of them is strong enough to take on Creative.

This again puts the ball in VIA's court, VIA is also known for their anti-competitive practices, questionable ethics, and market abuse. I hope to see a great "Hitler vs Stallin" style battle between these companies.
March 1, 2006 12:37:18 AM

I'd love to see more competition in the soundcard market.
March 1, 2006 12:57:23 AM

I would also like to see more competition, but frankly most companies are into more of a "me too" philosophy rather than a "I'll one-up ya" take. consider Nvidia. That soundstorm chip from the nforce2 they had was freakin cool. Rumors were that they had engineering samples of a stand alone card with it, then they said the market could not sustain them.

Did creative do that? nope, in fact it is because the codec based chips are flat cheaper which puts pressure on sound card makers to compete on price instead of quality. (in the consumer market that is)

Creative is not the boogieman waiting to eat all that they see. They are capitalists. That means free competition "good" or "bad". They are not the only company to use legislative/judicial tactics to undermine a competitor. (intel, microsoft, nvidia, ati, amd anyone?)

If we want more competition on the processor based sound then we must vote with our wallets. Yes, that means dont buy the codec based cards. For some of you that presents the unfortunate option of buying creative. Dont mean that as a slam, but just like some liek ati over all others, some just dont like creative.

If we only buy dedicated sound, then competitors (like nvidia/via or whoever) would see that the market would support more of them and those companies would not feel they need to just liscence a codec to be cheap and competitive.

Of course all of that is just MHO, and you can take it for what it is... simple wishful thinking. Until that wish becomes reality I will enjoy my x-fi. ;) 
March 1, 2006 4:59:20 AM

well guys thank for ur replies... IMHO, and till today my pc runs any game very smooth at high settings WITH my onboard sound. Eventough Im gonna get a sound card... a cheap one just to have a separate sound processor...5.1, dolby dts 7.1 whatever .. is the same for me because I always use headphones (seinnheisser's 465)! and to be honest Im not into sound at all! although it was nice to see that sound benchmark..!
March 1, 2006 6:20:18 AM

Sorry it turned out like this; I did get a little carried away. Good luck however with your gaming and music listening.
March 1, 2006 1:02:22 PM

ya man, hope you get what you want. Not to sound like I'm reiterating something already said, but according to the tests here at toms if you are primariy a headphone listener that x-fi actually would be the best choice...

either way, enjoy the gaming!
December 14, 2007 3:25:42 AM

Hope this isn't too off topic, but I loved my Aureal SQ 2500 so much that I have been trying for quite a while now to find an Aureal SQ 3500... would anyone know a person/website I could buy one from? if so please send me an email at jamesgresley@gmail.com

Thanks

Jim
January 5, 2008 9:35:51 PM

Wow, old thread from the grave. Aureal was bought out by Creative a long time ago. I'm not even certain the drivers would work properly at this point. Besides--the SQ3500 was never manufactured in the first place.
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