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Dolby Digital versus Pro Logic 2, Xbox experiement

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Jonathan Dagmar, Jan 4, 2004.

  1. Jonathan Dagmar

    Jonathan Dagmar Supporting Actor

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    Disclaimer: This is not a scientific experiment, and likely only applies to video games, movies are a different animal.


    I recently hooked up my new Xbox using both a Optical audio cable, for Dolby Digital surround, as well as standard analog cables for use with Pro Logic 2.

    The results surprised me:

    1.) I found the surround effect to be BETTER when using PL2. Through the optical cable, the sound was certainly directional, too directoinal for my tastes. When playing Knights of the Old Republic, an onscreen character would pass behind my when talking, and the sound would abbrubtly chnage from the front to the rear speaker. Very artificial. This same effect was noticed with gunfire, footsteps, and so on. I attribute this to the on the fly encoding, but I could be wrong. In any event, I found the excessivelly directional sound to be distracting.

    2.) WHen switiching to Pro Logic 2, sound effects became much more smooth. Front to back pans were no longer as abrupt, but rather travelled more smoothly and gradually from speaker to speaker. Even though it was not truly discrete audio anymore, it certainly sounded like it was. One thing to mention was that the audio was somewhat quieter and muffled, compared to the Digital signal. I think this could be simply because I had the analog audio cables routed through my TV, rather than directly into the reciever, and because the quality of the cables provided with the Xbox isnt great to begin with.

    One area where he true dolby digital sound was superior was in ambient effects, which were clearer and more precise.


    In the end I decided to use the analog connection for the time being until I buy a second optical cable (the one I used was borrowed from my DVD player), and I am surprisingly content.
     
  2. John S

    John S Producer

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    beware, the effort and surround audio production from one Xbox title to another can be drastic.


    Try it with several titles, and I am sure some of them will be the total opposite for you.


    I am not a gamer, but my friends that are, sure talk a lot back and forth about which ones have great surround and which ones are weak in general.
     
  3. Jonathan Dagmar

    Jonathan Dagmar Supporting Actor

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    After trying it with a few more games, my opinion remains the same. I certainly notice a huge variation between games, but the basic expericne of overly directional audio that lacks subtelty when using the digital connection remains nearly universal. Needless to say I am disapointed, I don't like the idea of a lesser connection, and matrix surround sounding better than discrete digital, but it does.

    I want to stress that this is my own personal opinion, nothing more.
     
  4. Jason GT

    Jason GT Second Unit

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    Jonathan:

    If you are distressed about DD vs DPL and DPL sounding better (doesn't sound like it though [​IMG] ), play with your speaker setup in terms of positioning and leveling. The bleeding through different channels due to DPL is softening the directional effects. A well integrated and set up digital system should not lead to jarring pans.
     
  5. Jonathan Dagmar

    Jonathan Dagmar Supporting Actor

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    I think you mis-understand, Jason. I have carefully set up my speakers and calibrated them and such. I never experience jarring pans when viewing 90% of movies. Occasionally there is an older movie with a poorly done 5.1 remix that will exhibit some less than smooth panning, but that's it.

    The jarring pans are exclusive the the Xbox software for the most part.

    I am also aware of why the Prol Logic 2 is sounding better (chanell bleed, etc) just a little surprised that it does. The truth is, those authoring the soundtrack for the games should be taking into acount the wayb our ears work when programming the sound. FOr instance, when something passes from in front of us to behind us, we do not hear it in front one moment, and in back the next, the sound does in fact "bleed" from front to back.

    So what is resposible for the overly directionl pans? Is it the limitation of the Xbox on the fly encoding? Or is it simply a result of game makers being less skilled in sound design than the people who mix out movies?
     
  6. AaronJB

    AaronJB Second Unit

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    Halo certainly is still one of the finest XBOX 5.1 tracks I know of.

    Ghost Recon: Island Thunder is also excellent, as is Medal of Honor: Frontline (not so much Rising Sun)

    Max Payne 2 isn't half bad, either, in terms of audio.
     
  7. V JACKSON

    V JACKSON Agent

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    I agree that Halo is one the best games for Dolby Digital.
    Since the X-Box creates Dolby Digital "on the fly" with any Dolby Digital encoded game, and DPL2 creates 5.1 artificially, I find it hard to beleive that DPL2 is as acurate with the placement of surround effects as compared to the X-box generated DD effects. Just my opinion.
     
  8. Jonathan Dagmar

    Jonathan Dagmar Supporting Actor

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    Everyone is entitled to their opinion. However I must make it clear that my experience was that PL2 managed to place the sound effects in the same general direction as the pure Dolby Digital signal. It was not as precise, that is, there was some chanell "bleed", but to my ears the resulting sound was more natural.

    If you listen to a well recorded Dolby Digital or DTS movie track, very rarely does a sound effect come from only 1 speaker, they are almost always sent to 1, 2 or even three speaker, with the balance favouring one speaker in particular. This make the sound directional, but also makes is difficult to localize the sound to your speaker. The DD sound on most XBOX games lacks this subelty, and more often than not sound effect come from 1 speaker only.
     
  9. BenK

    BenK Stunt Coordinator

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    I have very good results with the Xbox in game Dolby Digital output. The panning and encoding I've experienced are excellent with sound in between speakers depending on where the character is positioned. I havent tried DPII but I have no plans to downgrade my audio.
     

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