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Halo: PC Version - views and comments


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#41 of 78 OFFLINE   Max Leung

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Posted October 16 2003 - 03:44 AM

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Um ... my Sound Blaster Live 5.1 Gamer, as per Creative Lab's own web site and documentation, is a Dolby Digital 5.1 card with six-channel AC-3...

As pointed out by Scott, it can't do true Dolby Digital 5.1 encoding in real-time (ie. games). Also, CPU usage will go through the roof on such an old card. You're looking at 25-30% just to process the 3D audio!

The Audigy and nForce chipsets will not use more than 5-8% CPU though, leaving lots of CPU for rendering and AI.

As for quality differences from DD5.1 compared to analog outs: the nForce outputs a 640kbps DD5.1 stream (compared to 384Kbps used by most DVDs). The dynamic range is actually higher in DD5.1 than analog 44.1 KHz. But, who knows if Halo makes use of it? Posted Image
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him...a super-callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Gamesh....

#42 of 78 OFFLINE   Kieran Coghlan

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Posted October 16 2003 - 06:29 AM

That's it... I need to get an nForce mobo. I *just* got my current motherboard not too long ago, too... didn't know about nForce at the time. :-(

I hate dumping good hardware so quickly... but Halo, and Unreal 2003 in DD5.1 is SOOO tempting! If Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon were in DD5.1 too, I'd be sold for sure.
-Kieran

#43 of 78 OFFLINE   Scott L

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Posted October 16 2003 - 06:33 AM

Yea DD goes to 48kHz but doesn't most all PC audio operate on the same frequency? Only thing that's still 44.1 is music. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Also with analog output you get nifty features like HD audio. I'd like to do a DD vs analog comparison of videogames like Halo myself.

#44 of 78 OFFLINE   John_Berger

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Posted October 16 2003 - 06:44 AM

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Yea DD goes to 48kHz but doesn't most all PC audio operate on the same frequency?
It is an option that is built into the .WAV specifications. So, yes, Windows has been operating with 48 KHz capabilities for years.

Quote:
If Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon were in DD5.1 too, I'd be sold for sure.
Not to put too fine of a point on this, but Dolby Digital in a game really is not a big deal! Even my old Rainbow Six (yes, the ORIGINAL) had directional audio on my current 4.1 system and it was not Dolby Digital. I could easily differentiate between front and rear, left and right. Consider also that the game is ancient by PC game lifespans yet still has those capabilities. There are many games that take advantage of directional audio and surround speaker systems without the blessed "Dolby Digital" label, Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon included.

If you're going to jump from a 2-speaker system, you might as well go directly to Dolby Digital. It would not make sense to do otherwise. But to imply that a gaming atmosphere cannot be properly experienced because a system or game is not Dolby Digital 5.1 is a bit too much. Posted Image

That's just my two cents.

#45 of 78 OFFLINE   Scott L

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Posted October 16 2003 - 08:24 AM

John, you put what I was thiking into words perfectly. Posted Image DD isn't a magical codec that will transform audio into a realistic gaming experience. That is the hardware's job with the use of EAX, Soundstorm, Circle Surround, etc.. Getting audio from the analog outs would be the purest form imo.

Game -> EAX encoded audio -> 48kHz analog out to receiver -> 5.1 sound

or

Game -> SS encoded audio -> DD encoding -> 48kHz digital out to receiver -> DD decoding -> 5.1 sound

Dolby Digital just ads one extra compressed step for the sake of having one digital cable opposed to 6 analog cables. If you don't wanna fool with the hassle of 6 cables then more power to you, but don't think it's automatically better quality because you see the Dolby Digital 640k light on your receiver.

#46 of 78 OFFLINE   John_Berger

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Posted October 16 2003 - 08:38 AM

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Getting audio from the analog outs would be the purest form imo.
You're technically correct. Even at the highest possibly DD bitrate, there is some audio quality loss. The people who complain that CDs are actually inferior to vinyl are 100% accurate in regard to the acoustic spectrum. The same thing with games. Anything analog that is compressed digitally loses quality, regardless of the bit rate. For a 100% pure environment, analog is technically superior. Just ask anyone who works heavily with audio and sound equipment professionally.

Now, I'm not saying that a high DD bitrate will make the artifacting obvious. In fact, anything over 384 Kb 5.1 sound is generally considered to be "transparent". I'm just reinforcing the fact that DD does not provide anything that analog can't.

#47 of 78 OFFLINE   Kieran Coghlan

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Posted October 16 2003 - 08:54 AM

Well, not to put an even finer point on it, but I never said that the gaming experience was incomplete w/o dd5.1. Quote me if I did! I just said that *I* wanted it. I didn't imply that anyone else should be less than satisfied with anything less than dd5.1. Heck I only moved to surround sound on my PC about 2 months ago anyway (upgraded my HT speakers, and moved my old HT speakers to the PC! Posted Image )

Quote:
If you're going to jump from a 2-speaker system, you might as well go directly to Dolby Digital.


My thoughts exactly. But apparently you didn't notice in my above posts that I already DID move to multi-channel. I have a Yamaha receiver w/ DPL-II driving my Energy Take5+ES8 speakers. It sounds great, but there's no directionality in the surrounds... pretty much mono. I was hoping for better, given the accolades that DPL-II has received, but the surround info is pretty bland (mono) so far. It *IS* nice though to have a really awesome speaker system for my PC! The ES-8 sub rocks in my little computer room, and the port is right by my feet, so when I play barefooted, explosions startle me!

Anyway, all I have for sound decoding is the on-board Realtek ALC650 AC97 codec Chip, on my Gigabyte GA-7VAXP mobo which I bought about a year ago. I know this can put out 5.1 analog audio, but I don't know if it has any surround decoding for games or anything... It's not Creative brand, so I'm sure it doesn't have EAX. But not sure about the other things mentioned. Anyone know about this audio configuration and getting surround out for games? I don't have a problem running 5.1 analog cables from my PC to my receiver, if that's what it takes. I'd rather do that than buy a new motherboard

BTW, back on the original topic, I have a GeForce4 TI4200, an Athlon-XP 2100+/266, and 512MB of Corsair PC2700 RAM with the above mentioned mobo & audio... any predictions on how Halo will run on this system?

Thanks...
-Kieran

#48 of 78 OFFLINE   John_Berger

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Posted October 16 2003 - 09:21 AM

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I never said that the gaming experience was incomplete w/o dd5.1.
I never said that you did. It was your statement that implied that you'd only find an upgrade worthwhile if certain games supported DD 5.1 that I had concerns with.

Quote:
But apparently you didn't notice in my above posts that I already DID move to multi-channel.
At that point I was speaking in generics for anyone who might have been having the same feelings about going to a surround setup.

Quote:
I know this can put out 5.1 analog audio, but I don't know if it has any surround decoding for games or anything...
As I understand it, the surround coding is more a DirectX function which the audio card must interpret. This is why the same game can be used on any sound card any why audio card manufacturers often force the installation of DirectX. Things like EAX are proprietary of course, but EAX isn't about surround as much as it is environment.

Quote:
I was hoping for better, given the accolades that DPL-II has received, but the surround info is pretty bland (mono) so far.
That's not necessarily a fair statement, though. The only way to get DPL-II is if the audio stream to the receiver is DLP-II, and of course the game needs to be designed for it. I'm not sure which games you're specifically referring to or how your configuration is, but expecting to get DPL-II from something that does't have DPL-II encoded audio is like expecting to get five-speaker surround from a monaural recording. Posted Image

Quote:
any predictions on how Halo will run on this system?
My CPU (Athlon 1.4 GHz) is clearly weaker than yours and it runs fine in 800x600 (now that I have the -use11 flag activated) although I have the GeForce FX 5200 Ultra. I'm sure that makes some kind of difference, I doubt it's really significant. Your faster CPU speed should counteract any differences from the video card.

#49 of 78 OFFLINE   Kieran Coghlan

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Posted October 16 2003 - 10:01 AM

Thanks for your input, John. Based on your experience in 800x600, I'm going to pick up Halo and give it a shot! Posted Image

Quote:
but expecting to get DPL-II from something that does't have DPL-II encoded audio is like expecting to get five-speaker surround from a monaural recording.


I disagree with this statement. A well recorded/mixed 2-channel recording can benefit from matrix surround decoding like DPL or DPL-II, even if the engineer had no intention of it ever being played through a matrix surround decoder. In FACT, one of the PRIMARY design goals for DPL-II was to increase it's capability of decoding into surround, recordings that were NOT particularly good for matrix decoding. For example, a TRUE mono recording, split 50/50 into a 2-channel stereo CD, would collapse entirely to the center channel when played through a DPL decoder. I think even a DPL-II decoder would collapse such a recording to the center channel, although I'm not sure. However, what DPL II does better is to take a stereo recording that would collapse MOSTLY to center via DPL, and spread it better accross the front and surround speakers, without sacrificing much of the original sound stage.

I have made 2-channel digital recordings with my choir in some very accoustically active cathedrals, churches and chapels. These recordings are almost entirely without engineering (no mixing/fading or messing with the L/R balance)... pretty much exactly what was recorded by TWO mics is what is on each of the 2 (L&R) tracks. When I play these CDs through my speakers in "effects off" (pure analog stereo for the receiver) it sounds awesome, and if I sit JUST in the sweet spot of the main speakers, I can even detect out of phase sounds that seem to come from behind me (echos off the chapel walls... one place had a 7 second decay time for the echos.) However, if I turn on DPL (or DPL II) decoding, it sounds AMAZING from not just the sweet spot, but many seats... all the echos (except those from the front of the sound stage -- where the choir stood) come from the rear speakers. And this was with a pure, 2ch recording, no surround intent or mixing at all.

Neither DPL nor DPL-II require intentional surround mixing in the source recording. The nature of matrix surround decoding is to take advantage of what is naturally a part of a good stereo recording (out of phase signals) and properly place them around a surround speaker layout.

So, if a game is designed well, sounds that are supposed to be from behind you, will be out of phase with the main sounds. In a 2 speaker arrangement, this will sound like the sounds are behind you, IF you are in the sweet spot. With DPL or similar decoding, those out of phase sounds will come out of the surround mono channel. Ghost Recon DOES have out of phase surround information. When I turn on DPL, gun shots from behind me come out of the rear speakers.

Now, DPL-II claims that it can also infer directional (L&R) cues for those out of phase sounds by comparing them to the main signal. Remember their claims of providing 5.1 sound from a stereo recording? Well, with Ghost Recon, DPL-II sounds almost the same as DPL. There's a slight difference across the front sound stage, but not much, and the surrounds are close to identical from dpl to dpl-ii. Based on Dolby's claims, and the strong accolades reviewers have given DPL-II, this was a disappointment for me. However, I attribute it to the fact that video game software is not a "natural" source (unlike a choir singing in a church) so there could be some subtle sound wave phase things that dpl-ii is looking for, that aren't there in a video game sound track.
-Kieran

#50 of 78 OFFLINE   Kieran Coghlan

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Posted October 16 2003 - 10:11 AM

For a more in depth explanation, read Dolby's DPL-II page here.
-Kieran

#51 of 78 OFFLINE   Max Leung

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Posted October 16 2003 - 10:48 AM

John, your Ghost Recon and other older games supporting 4.1 is a great point. And it gets even better with the Soundstorm (and the audigy?) solutions because these games use the standard DirectSound3D API calls, and will sound even BETTER (compatibility problems aside..hehe).

Ancient games like Unreal Tournament sound great on my nforce machine: DD5.1 encoded in real-time, with the center channel activated by the Soundstorm driver.

IMHO, people will be very hard pressed to tell the difference between DD5.1 or using analog cables. Especially when you're gaming. Posted Image Sure, you "lose" information when "compressing" to digital - but what you lose doesn't matter in the slightest because the recording engineers know that the human ear has difficulty hearing anything about 18KHz anyways. Anyone feel pity for people with the "golden" ears? I sure don't! Posted Image

I think it is more important to have high quality DACs than overkill frequencies like 96Khz...I find aliasing/upsampling/downsampling problems more disturbing to my ears than anything else. Thankfully, the nForce doesn't have this problem (unlike the horrid sampling used by the Soundblaster Live...shudder).

Besides, I'd rather have my SACD/DVD-Audio player using the analog inputs of my receiver than wasting the inputs for a PC game! Posted Image
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him...a super-callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Gamesh....

#52 of 78 OFFLINE   John_Berger

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Posted October 16 2003 - 11:19 AM

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IMHO, people will be very hard pressed to tell the difference between DD5.1 or using analog cables.
Absolutely. That's why I mentioned that a high bit-rate DD 5.1 mix is generally considered to be transparent anyway.

Quote:
Especially when you're gaming.
When you're staring at the tip of an enemy rocket that is about to hit you in the face, the last thing you're going to be concerned about is, "Will the sound of my death be diminshed due to the fact that my splattering guts will have some audio compression artifacting within them due to the nature of digital compression?" Posted Image

#53 of 78 OFFLINE   John_Berger

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Posted October 16 2003 - 11:27 AM

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So, if a game is designed well, sounds that are supposed to be from behind you, will be out of phase with the main sounds.
You're still talking about the need for the audio stream to be configured in a way that the receiver will properly be able to extract some semblance of a surround sound. This is still handled more from the DirectX audio stream and is not strictly a DPL-II function particularly since I get the same thing without a DPL-II decoder. So, you're still not getting anything like a "designed for DPL-II signal" which is what you seemed to be implying.

#54 of 78 OFFLINE   Scott L

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Posted October 16 2003 - 02:39 PM

Max simply pointing out that DD isn't any better than EAX. You said you "pitied" those Soundblaster people who didn't have Dolby Digital for games, which didn't make sense to me. The Soundblaster people have better hardware and can get better sound, both in games (up to 7.1 if their setup supports it) and with music (DVD-A). Just putting down the myth that DD does wonders for games.

nForce2 is grrrreat, just not the *best* choice for games.

#55 of 78 OFFLINE   Kieran Coghlan

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Posted October 16 2003 - 03:44 PM

John,
Quote:
You're still talking about the need for the audio stream to be configured in a way that the receiver will properly be able to extract some semblance of a surround sound.
No, not really. What I was trying to say, is that a GOOD stereo source will decode via a matrix surround decoder VERY WELL regardless of any surround intent by the sound engineer, because a good stereo source NATURALLY has surround info in it.
Quote:
This is still handled more from the DirectX audio stream and is not strictly a DPL-II function particularly since I get the same thing without a DPL-II decoder.
Hmmm... not sure what you mean here, but I wasn't trying to say that a DPL-II decoder should be BETTER than any other type of decoder. I was just expecting more from DPL-II than I got, that's all. I wasn't passing judgement on the quality of any other type of surround processing for games at all.
Quote:
So, you're still not getting anything like a "designed for DPL-II signal"
I would argue that there is no such thing as a signal "designed for DPL-II" Theoretically, a sound engineer who was very knowledgeable of the way the dpl2 codec works, could intentionally mix/engineer a recording to work well with it, but I would be surprised if anyone out there is really doing this, especially since Dolby claim that the main point of DPL2 is to create a 5.1 surround environment from a "regular stereo recording".
Quote:
which is what you seemed to be implying.
Well, you're O for 2 on figuring out what I am or am not implying. Posted Image How about reading what I actually write, not what may or may not be between the lines? Posted Image If you're going to INFER something from what you read, fine, but don't pin it on me! Posted Image
-Kieran

#56 of 78 OFFLINE   Max Leung

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Posted October 17 2003 - 07:52 AM

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The Soundblaster people have better hardware and can get better sound, both in games (up to 7.1 if their setup supports it) and with music (DVD-A).

Nope I disagree completely here. I'd say they are equal at best. And what games support DVD-Audio?

And I didn't say DD is the best for games. I'd love to hear DTS-ES myself. Posted Image

From a gamer's standpoint, DD is very convenient...just one cable. No noise issues from analog connections. Works on any DD receiver. Doesn't use up 6 channel analog inputs on your receiver for your dedicated DVD-Audio/SACD DVD player. Great driver support from NVIDIA. EAX can also be enabled, NOT separate from DD as was implied (I can enable EAX on all games that support it). Audio quality would be transparent!

DVD Audio on a PC is rather hokey now I think...your PC with DVD-Audio card will make quite a racket with all the fans in it, rather defeating the purpose of audiophile sound. Unless you spare the expensive of water-cooling and even more expensive passive-cooling solutions...you might as well buy a dedicated DVD-Audio player!
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him...a super-callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Gamesh....

#57 of 78 OFFLINE   Max Leung

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Posted October 17 2003 - 09:44 AM

Whoops, weren't we talking about Halo? :b

Any thoughts on that new-fangled gun that you can use in multiplayer? The one that the Hunters use?
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him...a super-callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Gamesh....

#58 of 78 OFFLINE   Scott L

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Posted October 17 2003 - 06:11 PM

Ok so it went from pitying to equality. I'll take that. Posted Image

#59 of 78 OFFLINE   Max Leung

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Posted October 18 2003 - 10:43 AM

Well, I pity those with the Soundblaster Live! still. The CPU usage must be horrendous! Posted Image Oh and when I listen to a Soundblaster Live! upsample 44.1Khz to 48 Khz, I cringe in horror.

I don't pity the Audigy users, although I do weep for their bank accounts! Posted Image
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him...a super-callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Gamesh....

#60 of 78 OFFLINE   Jay Mitchosky

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Posted October 19 2003 - 01:35 AM

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Whoops, weren't we talking about Halo
Great idea!
"The computer had attained consciousness, only to reject it, claiming it was too unstable an operating system."


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