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Do you miss out on gaming audio if you don't use X-Fi or similar?

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March 26, 2011 3:13:18 PM

I'm working on connecting my gaming rig to my home cinema equipment for a better gaming experience. There's 15m cabling involved, and it won't be a permanent setup (the cable will run straight through the living room when I'm gaming), so for expenses and convenience I don't want to use more cables than necessary. My graphics card, Nvidia GTX480, seems to have an internal sound chip, and outputting sound via HDMI works seemingly fine. However, I do have a Creative X-Fi Platinum in my rig that I have used up till now (and will continue using when not connected to the home cinema).

Will I miss out on sound effects or similar in games if I only use the HDMI cable for audio, instead of connecting the sound card to the receiver directly?

I'm not worried about performance - with two GTX480's and an oveclocked i7 920, my gaming experience won't be notably affected by the performance drops. However, lack of sound effects may indeed have an impact on gaming experience. I expect to lose the EAX on older games, but newer games don't generally use EAX, right? Will I lose sound effects or similar in games using e.g. OpenAL if the sound processing is done by the graphics card, and not my dedicated sound card?

To summarize: Will I in any way miss out on gaming audio experience if I do not use a dedicated soundcard like X-Fi?
a b 4 Gaming
March 26, 2011 4:11:17 PM

no not really.
i have an x-fi extreme gamer in my pc but i kept rolling over the cable to my headsets and breaking them. so i bought a set of logitech G930's and in all honesty i havent missed the x-fi card at all.
March 28, 2011 3:41:06 AM

MiSP said:
I'm working on connecting my gaming rig to my home cinema equipment for a better gaming experience. There's 15m cabling involved, and it won't be a permanent setup (the cable will run straight through the living room when I'm gaming), so for expenses and convenience I don't want to use more cables than necessary. My graphics card, Nvidia GTX480, seems to have an internal sound chip, and outputting sound via HDMI works seemingly fine. However, I do have a Creative X-Fi Platinum in my rig that I have used up till now (and will continue using when not connected to the home cinema).

Will I miss out on sound effects or similar in games if I only use the HDMI cable for audio, instead of connecting the sound card to the receiver directly?

I'm not worried about performance - with two GTX480's and an oveclocked i7 920, my gaming experience won't be notably affected by the performance drops. However, lack of sound effects may indeed have an impact on gaming experience. I expect to lose the EAX on older games, but newer games don't generally use EAX, right? Will I lose sound effects or similar in games using e.g. OpenAL if the sound processing is done by the graphics card, and not my dedicated sound card?

To summarize: Will I in any way miss out on gaming audio experience if I do not use a dedicated soundcard like X-Fi?


If you had your X-Fi jacked to your surround speakers for gaming, you could have been getting true in-game surround (if you managed to defeat all the SB "enhancements"). Once you abandon your dedicated PC speakers, though, you run into trouble. In order to get true in-game surround that way, you need a card that encodes the game sound with DDL or DTS Direct. Your X-Fi does not, and neither does the 480. And even if you get a sound card that does, you won't get it through the 480 because it takes the sound from the bus. Your best bet is a card with encoding and either optical or coax to the receiver. OK, I lied---there is another way, but only if you have one of those rare receivers that has discrete audio input jacks for every speaker, in which case you just jack things up like you had it before. Spaghetti!

I suppose the 480 would send stereo over HDMI during a game. The X-Fi would send some simulated enhanced surround enhancement through the SPDIF. You might find that you like that. What do I know?

EAX, SB's attempt to hamstring the competition, is dead. Open AL is superseding it, but the game has to be written for it, obviously. There are cards that emulate it (even some SB cards, believe it or not). (I hate SB, by the way.) And, yes, of course you will lose EAX if you don't use card that does it.
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March 28, 2011 7:09:35 AM

I do have a receiver with discrete channels. However, the sound sent over HDMI is in fact multiple channel discrete surround, uncompressed PCM signals. I've already tested that, and it works great. :) 

About EAX - for all I knew, perhaps it could be simulated in software.
March 28, 2011 10:21:50 AM

Quote:
I have too agree with HeXIT. But its been a big differences in opinion in this forum about this.

Are you talking about the EAX part or the surround part here? Because the receiver does indeed receive discrete surround channels.
March 28, 2011 11:14:59 AM

Quote:
what? Why must the 480 encode it when its already in digital form and the DAC of the receiver is going to be used?


You might be right. I'm having trouble finding out exactly what the codec in the 480 does. Try it and see.
a b 4 Gaming
March 28, 2011 12:19:03 PM

Quote:
To summarize: Will I in any way miss out on gaming audio experience if I do not use a dedicated soundcard like X-Fi?


No.

The only extra "gaming" enhancements an X-fi card gave was via EAX, which has been depriciated since 2006.

Secondly, you do NOT need to use optical + DDL/DTS-C to get "real" surround, and frankly, I have no idea who started that roumer...And considering how bad Dolby Digital/DTS formats are compared to uncompressed lossless PCM, I'd just rather stick with 5.1/7.1 analog, thanks. [And thats before taking into account analogs advantages over digital when it comes to audio...]

Quote:
what? Why must the 480 encode it when its already in digital form and the DAC of the receiver is going to be used?


It doesn't, just send to unencoded surround audio over; no reason to convert to a lossy format like Dolby Digital or DTS when using HDMI...
March 30, 2011 4:10:47 PM

To be sure (there seems to be problems with surround in some games, e.g. Mass Effect, if you don't have a dedicated sound card), and since my home theater system after all isn't exactly low-end, I purchased an Auzentech X-Fi Home Theater HD, which solves my problem: HDMI video from the graphics card to the sound card, and HDMI out from there with both video and proper sound. Thanks for the feedback! :) 
a b 4 Gaming
March 30, 2011 7:29:26 PM

^^ Mass Effect has problems because by default, the .ini file sets a very low generic sound setting [32 voices, when onboard can easily handle 64; that by itself fixes a LOT of problems]. Most of Mass Effects sound problems can be fixed via easy ini tweaks.
a b 4 Gaming
March 31, 2011 12:35:36 PM

Quote:
the sound gets incorporated into the game engines


Partially, but all the audio engines go through windows internal sound interface. Most are going the OpenAL route, though a few are starting to use XAudio for better cross-platform development with the 360...

Quote:
So any enhancement made to the sound are being done by software not the hardware anymore.


Also wrong, OpenAL and ASIO is still hardware accelerated.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technical_features_new_to_...

Hence, why Creative was able to re-enable EAX effects, by routing the EAX calls [really Directsound extensions] through an OpenAL wrapper, thus allowing EAX effects to be hardware accelerated again. Not very efficent though, hence why EAX is basically dead as is. [Creative is still trying to push EFX though...]
a b 4 Gaming
March 31, 2011 5:46:54 PM

Quote:
I said new windows api windows vista ain't new and its sound api is different from 7.


Its the same Kernal, and same API. Audio was practically untouched from what it was in Vista.
March 31, 2011 8:53:09 PM

which is gay....
a b 4 Gaming
March 31, 2011 9:31:43 PM

i can tell the difference in sound between my old audigy 4 and onboard sound. the audigy is much better and you can actually hear more going on in games.
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