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A hardware sound accelerator

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July 25, 2006 4:07:54 PM

I don't want to burden my CPU by using the on-board Audio chipset when playing Battlefield 2. As you might be awared that both Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2 are consuming extra CPU resources by software sound algorithm.

Currently, I have a SB Live! 24bits installed. But the frame rate is still being held back by the card. I have 2 cards in mind - Audigy 2 ZS and X-Fi. Which one is a true hardware solution which I can deploy to process audio without penalty? Thanks for your information in advance.
a c 82 à CPUs
July 25, 2006 4:21:18 PM

Quote:
I don't want to burden my CPU by using the on-board Audio chipset when playing Battlefield 2. As you might be awared that both Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2 are consuming extra CPU resources by software sound algorithm.

Currently, I have a SB Live! 24bits installed. But the frame rate is still being held back by the card. I have 2 cards in mind - Audigy 2 ZS and X-Fi. Which one is a true hardware solution which I can deploy to process audio without penalty? Thanks for your information in advance.


I went from onboard sound to XIFI music extreme and noticed no difference other than it sounds better, BF2 specifically.

How do you know that the soundcard is throttling your performance? Turn the settings down low and see what happens does it make it better? smoother?

I'm not entirely happy with the Xi-Fi as a solution as it cannot access USB mic's and hence I have my old mic for BF2 and my normal USB mic for everything else skype etc.

Xi Fi does sound nice and with surround headphones it is great in BF2.
July 25, 2006 4:26:40 PM

I have an X-Fi and it's amazing, even with a reasonably crappy headset. I haven't tried my Boston Acoustics with it yet, but I'm probably going to buy a new set of speakers anyway...mmm, EAX 5.0 deliciousness...
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July 25, 2006 4:48:36 PM

So neither the Audigy 2 ZS nor the X-Fi reduces CPU overhead when playing BF2?

I heard that both cards have onboard processor and RAM used for independently processing so that CPU overhead can be reduced significantly.
July 25, 2006 4:51:21 PM

I went from running the on-board sound and a AudioTrak Maya 5.1 sound card to a X-Fi XtremeMusic. I got a 3-5 FPS increase in BF2 when I installed the card and turned on the options. To off load the sound to the soundcard, you have to have the OpenAL driver from Creative installed and make sure you have the sound in BF2 set to X-Fi Hardware setting (I cant place the menu in my head but there is 3 options I believe, Software, Hardware, and X-Fi) You can run any of the 3 options with the X-Fi card but to get the performance increase, you have to have the X-Fi option in-game selected.

On a side note, I am not 100% sure that you can have the option selected if you dont have the Sound Card Mode Selector not on Gaming.

I leave my card in Gaming mode unless I have a very specific job to do that needs one of the other two.

From what I have noticed, outside of gaming mode, no game can access any EAX setting higher then 2.0. With gaming mode on, you have EAX 5.0 available.

I have not noticed FPS increase in any other game but the sound quality definitly improved in games like Spliter Cell: Chaos Theory.
a c 82 à CPUs
July 25, 2006 4:53:22 PM

both cards do have hardware acceleration, but the impact of it is very small except at the very high quality settings.

I.e. software deceleration is also very small and the CPU overhead is not very high, i think that on 3-d mark going from on board to Xi-Fi gained me 2-3fps in sound tests. I've tried this on a number of systems over the years and its generally been similar.

Whats the rest of the system that you are using?

If you want Xi-Fi for the sound 'quality' then get it, if you want it for more fps don't get it.

Also remember the connectivity issues in BF2 (and I assume other games)
July 25, 2006 4:54:03 PM

If your CPU doesn't have to do an extra task, it will improve performance. But you can't ask by how many FPS it will improve. It depends on your hardware configuration. And it's all subjective.

I would say go with the X-Fi. It supports more technologies that will emerge as time passes and new applications (games, for instance) that will take advantage of them. I think BF2 sounds and runs really well with an X-Fi.

Go for the X-Fi XtremeMusic. You'll thank yourself later.
a c 82 à CPUs
July 25, 2006 5:00:52 PM

I'd like to see the full system specs, as it may that there is little to gain other than nicer sound. There could be so many other things bottlenecking his performance.
July 25, 2006 5:02:25 PM

You do understand that even a Pentium 166 with AC 97 can play audio of the highest quality, don't you? Unless your game is encoded in Dolby 5.1 Surround sound, the cpu usage to run the audio is minuscule. I'm sure that extra $100 for a dedicated audio card is money well spent to gain that extra 2%. :roll:
July 26, 2006 4:46:31 AM

My system spec is quite Pentium based:

Pentium D 805 (Clock=2.66GHz/FSB=533)
Asus P5P800 SE (LGA-775 socket)
1GB Super_Talent DDR400(200MHz) (1 stick)
Leadtek GeForce 6800XT (AGP/128MB)
Excelstor 80GB (7,200rpm/2MB cache)
Lite-on CD-RW (52x48x52)
SB Live! 24bits

Normally, I play at Medium settings with Medium quality of Audio. This system including the CPU and the Motherboard is quite new. I bought them 1 week ago. So naturally, I will try out the High settings. And as I did, I find lowering the Audio quality to Low helps. At least frame rates increase by 10 fps.

Then I thought and recalled I read from somewhere before talking about reducing CPU overhead by using "genuine" Audio Accelerator. I know they are not cheap like my SB Live! 24bts, but I think it worths of it.

So you reckon Audigy 2 ZS is the right card for this system of mine. What is the primary difference between Audigy 2 and Audigy 2 ZS? I heard that the former is not a real accelerator and will eat up CPU resources just like other sounds card do.
July 26, 2006 5:35:29 AM

X-FI:
Technical Specs
24-bit Analog-to-Digital conversion of analog inputs: 96kHz sampling rate
24-bit Digital-to-Analog conversion of digital sources: 96khz to analog 7.1 speaker output
24-bit Digital-to-Analog conversion of stereo digital sources: 192kHz to stereo output
16-bit to 24-bit recording sampling rates: 8, 11.025, 16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, 48 and 96kHz
ASIO 2.0 support: 16-bit/44.1kHz, 16-bit/48kHz, 24-bit/44.1kHz, 24-bit/48kHz and 24-bit/96kHz with direct monitoring
Enhanced SoundFont support: Up to 24-bit resolution
X-RAM: 64MB
Audio Performance (Rated Output @ 2Vrms, Typical Value)
Signal-to-Noise Ratio (20kHz Low-pass filter, A-Weighted): Stereo Output: 116dB
Front and Rear Channels: 116dB
Center, Subwoofer and Side Channels: 116dB
Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise at 1kHz (20kHz Low-pass filter): 0.0008%
Frequency Response (-3dB, 24-bit/96kHz input ): <10Hz to 46kHz
Frequency Response (-3dB, 24-bit/192kHz input): <10Hz to 88kHz (Stereo only)
Connectivity
FlexiJack: 3-in-1 function (Digital I/O1 / Line In / Microphone) via 3.50mm mini jack
Line level out (Front / Rear / Side / Center / Subwoofer): 3.50mm mini jacks
AUX_IN line-level analog input: 4-pin Molex connector on card
One AD_Link (26 pin) connector: For linking to the X-Fi I/O Console
I/O Console Connectivity
Coaxial SPDIF input and output: Two RCA jacks
Shared Auxiliary input / Phono input: RCA stereo jacks
Optical SPDIF input and output: Two optical connectors
MIDI input and output: Two standard MIDI female connectors
Headphone output and volume control: 6.35 mm (1/4-inch) stereo jack
Shared line-level analog Line/Microphone input: 6.35 mm (1/4-inch) stereo jack
Shared line-level analog Line/Hi-Z input: 6.35 mm (1/4-inch) stereo jack
DIN jack: Connect to Creative analog speaker systems with the wired remote control or Audio Control Pod that comes with the speakers
One AD_LINK connector: Links to the audio card

1 Supports SPDIF Out compressed ac3 signal or PCM for Stereo Digital Speaker. Also supports SPDIF In with Creative Digital I/O Module (sold separately).


Audigy 2 ZS:
High Definition Audio Quality for Playback and Recording

24-bit Digital-to-Analog conversion during playback with sampling rates of 8, 11.025, 16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, 48 and 96kHz in 7.1 mode and up to 192kHz in stereo mode
24-bit Analog-to-Digital conversion during recording in 8, 16 or 24-bit at sampling rates of 8, 11.025, 16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, 48 and 96kHz
SPDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface) input at up to 24-bit/96kHz quality
SPDIF output up to 24-bit at 48 or 96kHz
ASIO drivers for low latency(≤2ms) multi-track playback and recording at 16-bit/48kHz
Sound Blaster® Audigy™ 2 ZS On-Board Connectors

Line level out (Front / Rear / Center / Subwoofer / Rear Center)
Digital Out for 5.1 support(6-channel SPDIF output to Creative digital speakers
Line in
Microphone in
FireWire® (IEEE® 1394)
Telephone Answering Device in
Analog / Digital CD Audio in
15-pin MIDI / Joystick port extension header
Internal IEEE® 1394 header to Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Internal Drive (Upgrade Option)
AD_EXT extension header to the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Internal Drive (Upgrade Option)





You´ll not here much of a difference if you run your X-Fi card without any settings turned on. Turn on CMSS (I think it´s called that) if you have atleast 4 speakers and also 24-bit crystalizer. It sounds so much better and yes if you have good speakers you don´t have to change the EQ...

I myself have Soundblaster X-Fi Elite Pro and it sounds so much better than my old Audigy 2. The Audigy card didn´t get the sound so nice like the X-Fi can...
July 26, 2006 7:41:44 AM

Its your video card holding you back the most, not your cpu. Overclocking your cpu a bit it will make a bigger difference than getting a sound card.
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