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Calling All Audiophiles
June 16th 2003, 21:04 CEST by G-Man

From the beginning gaming has been the driver for development of specialized home computer hardware. The need for better graphics led to the development of MGA, CGA, EGA, VGA, SVGA, XGA, chip-based shading (Goraud etc.), and finally chip-based 3D video cards. And since their introduction, 3D video cards have evolved from primitive polygon pumping iron to sophisticated parts capable of complex texturing and lighting calculations. Granted there will ultimately be a limit to the number of polygons required for realistic environmental simulations, and arguably the introduction of features like full-scene anti-aliasing are efforts by graphics chip developers to push that limit farther away in time, but the number of unexplored areas in graphics technology (e.g. virtual reality etc.) ensures that the future of video cards will remain vital for many years to come.

Meanwhile, sound cards were also developed to enhance the richness of gaming experiences on home computers. Originally limited to simple 1-bit beeps, sound cards have evolved to take advantage of PCM sound, MIDI samples, DSPs of increasing sophistication and power, and ultimately multi-channel 3D positional sound. Modern sound cards can output fully digital eight channel sound in compliance with the DTS-ES Discrete and THX-EX 7.1 standards. Recent improvements in sound card technology (and home theater technology) have been limited to increasing the number of channels and speakers and increasing fidelity and frequency range. But given the inherent limitations of the human ear such advances become increasingly ineffectual, and arguably that point may be soon upon us. Beyond adding support for top and bottom channels (followed by top-left, top-center, top-right, etc ad nauseum) what more can sound card developers do to enhance our auditory experiences? If you know of any future advances in sound card technology, let me know, because I would love to hear them.
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#1 by yotsuya
2003-06-16 21:05:37
Soundblaster 4 lyf, yo.

"YES!!  You see people, THAT'S why he's the Vice-President of A/V Services here at Respawn Games.  Yotsuya ALWAYS unleashes the fucking fury!" - Warren Marshall
#2 by Creole Ned
2003-06-16 21:09:38
<long rant against Creative here>

More later when I have time.

"I don't bemoan the great paste" - LPMiller
"i'm just pump gas." - Leslie Nassar
#3 by CheesyPoof
2003-06-16 21:12:41
Aureal was doing good things, too bad they couldn't make a go of it.  Creative isn't going to do shit.
#4 by Duality
2003-06-16 21:12:42
Dualipuff@yahoo.com http://stratoscape.ath.cx/
I would like to know if there are any ways of making 2 speaker / headphone audio sound better than it currently does, or if this is it.

I cannot afford the luxury of anything better than a pair of desktop speakers because every time I try, I get wretched interference from the radio transmission tower behind my house (broadcasts 5 separate frequencies).  But it is really disappointing to hear about how great games can sound with a digital decoder 5 bajillion.1 surround with all of the doodads and whatrot, and I'm forced to listen to it through two egg-shaped speakers that can't do too well on the high end or low end of producing sound.

The headphones are usually pretty nice though.  And perhaps its just me, but it seemed like I could actually hear positional audio on 2 channel setup with EAX than with whatever the Santa Cruz supports.  I'm pretty certain its supposed to support hardware accelerated audio, but fuck me if I can tell if its working or not.
#5 by UncleJeet
2003-06-16 21:14:51
People actually still care about sound cards these days?

Sheesh, I remember getting my first Sound Blaster and getting all giddy over hearing Prince of Persia's clanging sword and The Secret of Monkey Island's glorious calypso music.  I remember having endless fun with .voc files and Dr. Sbaitso and that wacky parrot.

I remember being jealous of my friend's Gravis Ultrasound.  I remember thinging modplayers ruled the cosmos, and was amazed that my computer could make purty electronica musak.

The point, though, is that I remember these things.  They do not still excite me today.  Well, ok Monkey Island's music still tickles my adventure bones, but other than that - bleh.

Sound cards got as good as they could for me the day we got CD quality audio and EAX.  (And fuckall to Aureal.  I have a Diamond card with Aureal 2 or whatever - worst, most annoying piece of shit ever.  Really, once you have crystal clear audio with environmental effects - what more is there?  Yeah, the positional audio portion of things is a neat gimmick, but it doesn't really do much for me.  I admit that, when it was new, I bought the whole speaker setup.  Eventually, though, I realized how stupid I was being as everything always sounded better with headphones anyway.

Anyway, why talk about sound cards now?  Who cares?  Is there some new type of hearing that is going to come along that makes new sound cards necessary?

Please take the conversational exit ramp as soon as possible.  Thanks.

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#6 by Shadarr
2003-06-16 21:21:19
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
I have two speakers, and onboard sound.  Upgrading to the latest and greatest is so far down my to-do list that it might not even get done if I won the lottery.
#7 by Phayyde
2003-06-16 21:26:05
Don't push signal through the sound card in a standard PC unless you just don't care about quality.  The flux noise from a fan alone (not to mention the rest of the machine) can fux0r your signal.

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#8 by Bailey
2003-06-16 21:28:50
I find myself preferring headsets over speakers, as there's less chance of neighbors complaining over the explosions and screams of the dying. As long as they support positional sound, we've come as far as is needed.

I guess the real question is as to why I can't wake up with the gin already in me.
#9 by Darkseid-D
2003-06-16 21:38:04
rogerboal@hotmail.com
Creative deserves to burn for what they did to Aureal, to whit, spurious law suits against Aureal which basically bankrupted them, leading to Creative picking up the patents and ip.  

A3d 2.0 is still vastly superior to EAX in terms of 3d positioning, if you ever get a chance play Half Life in A3d mode, then try it in EAX. A3d will give you crisp `textured` sound (run on metal grates you get a nice clang etc), grenades are pinpointable from the 'ting ting', mods like TFC are -much- more playable when you have properly positionable sound, especially when youre on defence.

As for where they can take sound cards, on the home consumer level, we're already seeing Dolby 5.1, and in some circumstances 6.1. Optical/digital in/out is already a reality, mp3 hardware support, on the fly mix downs.  Professional level cards are a whole different ball game however, more sophisticated in sound reproduction, better suited to driving large banks of midi equipment and handling multi track recording.  There may be a convergance of home use and semi pro use, but to be honest, theres not much more that `general` use requires.

Unlike Video cards where theres always the next faster revision or latest coding technique, soundcards are stagnant. Whether this is from lack of ideas, unwillingness to progress or in fact theres nowhere else really to take the cards, well, we shall see.

Do not go gently into that good night.
Old age should burn and rage at the close of day.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
#10 by Dethstryk
2003-06-16 21:38:37
jemartin@tcainternet.com
When I am playing a Barry White MP3, I expect my soundcard to directly link to my soul and enhance orgasms.

"And I'm saying without a relationship with God and those strong convictions HE put in me I wouldn't be a 42 year old who hasn't had sex with anyone today."
#11 by Dethstryk
2003-06-16 21:39:27
jemartin@tcainternet.com
Oh, and what Ds said. Consumer-level soundcards aren't really that impressive at all, when compared to the real shit.

"And I'm saying without a relationship with God and those strong convictions HE put in me I wouldn't be a 42 year old who hasn't had sex with anyone today."
#12 by G-Man
2003-06-16 22:10:45
UncleJeet in #5 said:
Is there some new type of hearing that is going to come along that makes new sound cards necessary?
Darkseid-D in #9 said:
Unlike Video cards where theres always the next faster revision or latest coding technique, soundcards are stagnant. Whether this is from lack of ideas, unwillingness to progress or in fact theres nowhere else really to take the cards, well, we shall see.
Well that's sort of my point. What are these companies going to do now? Will Creative put themselves out of business by perfecting the sound card? There was a similar period of relative stagnation around the time the Soundblaster AWE 64 Gold was top of the line - that is, until the SBLive 5.1 was released and became a top seller.
#13 by Warren Marshall
2003-06-16 22:22:12
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
What will they do?  Preinstall loads of shitty software that you neither want or need.  And the install footprint gets larger every year.

#14 by Your Friend
2003-06-16 22:32:03
Most people listen to 96kbps MP3s and play a few games on their computers with a couple of cheap Yamaha speakers.

With that in mind, soundcards at the consumer level are "done".  

Creative, et al, will keep trying to jam in bullet point features just like Microsoft does with Word, and for some users these features may even have a use, but most people would be perfectly happy with the integrated sound on their circa 1998 motherboard and will never hear the difference, no matter how many geeks/audiophiles tell them it is there.

Re: "full-scene anti-aliasing are efforts by graphics chip developers to push that limit farther away in time"

Untrue, and not even logical.  Even if you could push an unlimited number of polygons, you'd want FSAA... In fact if you had tons of small polygons with most polys representing a mere pixel or two of screen space you'd want FSAA more than ever, assuming you were still running at a resolution that modern and affordable computer monitors are capable of.   FSAA is simply a decent way of dealing with the limited resolution of monitors -- so blame the monitor manufacturers, not the videocard designers.

Anyway, videocards are a long, long way from any kind of "doneness" and there is no indication anyone is holding anything back right now, especially given the ATI & NVidia war going on.

"Take Two needs to STFU imo." - G30rg3 Br0uzz4rd
#15 by UncleJeet
2003-06-16 22:32:37
I've never really been much of an audiophile, anyway.  I've always left that to the pathetic sort of person that I enjoy making fun of.  Honestly, people going to the megastore and sampling speakers get blown away by their amazing clarity and blehblehcrap.  So they buy them, but before they hook them up at home, they buy bazillion dollar Monster Cable or something similar to connect them.  For, you know, their discerning ear.

What's interesting, though, is that if they'd taken the time to look behind the speaker, or along the wall of the sampling room - they might have noticed the standard zip cord used to wire everything....including that speaker that so impressed them with it's clarity and blehblehcrap.

I dunno, maybe I just can't get past the frustration I've carried with me all my life over my schools never having an A/V Club like I always saw on tv.  The kids always looked like they'd be so much fun to smack around.  *sigh*

It's the same with anything, though.  Computer freaks that keep their cases colder than their freezers.  Car geeks that keep putting stupid gigantic pipes on silly little graduation present Civics.  Disney geeks that keep increasing the spending budget when they do to Disneyworld because it just has to keep getting better every single time....

Um, ok - everything except that last bit.  Bitchlips.

I'm fighting terrorism by playing violent video games!
#16 by Darkseid-D
2003-06-16 22:34:23
rogerboal@hotmail.com
I wonder, somewhat cynically, if we'll see 'sonic anti aliasing', you know, to 'smooth' out the quality of the sound.


+Bitter Barb

Oh, wait, tis called EAX, smooth and reverb everything to sound like muddy shit

Do not go gently into that good night.
Old age should burn and rage at the close of day.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
#17 by Your Friend
2003-06-16 22:50:10

I wonder, somewhat cynically, if we'll see 'sonic anti aliasing', you know, to 'smooth' out the quality of the sound.


Yeah, it's called a lowpass filter.   Don't call it a comeback, they been here for years.

"Take Two needs to STFU imo." - G30rg3 Br0uzz4rd
#18 by PainKilleR-[CE]
2003-06-16 23:18:27
painkill3r@cox.net
The best sound card I've ever owned is a Diamond MX300, which is Aureal Vortex 2 based. Then Creative layed into them with a crippling lawsuit. Now I can only use it if I want to go back to Windows 98, where the drivers that came with the card will work.

Unfortunately, even with the sorely needed front-panel connections of the last 2 sound blaster cards I've owned, the cards are nowhere near accomplishing the same sound quality, even at the most basic levels, that the Aureal-based card had. Not to mention that the Win2k/XP support seems to be only slightly better than the crappy beta drivers I had for the Diamond card under 2k (as in you don't get nasty distortion on every note in the Sound Blaster drivers).

Rides the Metal Monster
Breathing smoke and fire
Closing in with vengeance soaring high
#19 by None-1a
2003-06-16 23:25:46
#14 by Your Friend
Untrue, and not even logical.  Even if you could push an unlimited number of polygons, you'd want FSAA... In fact if you had tons of small polygons with most polys representing a mere pixel or two of screen space you'd want FSAA more than ever, assuming you were still running at a resolution that modern and affordable computer monitors are capable of.


By that time I really hope fsaa has been dead for a very long time. It's about time we move on to selective aa rather then full screen (which will do a hell of a lot more to correct aliasing then fsaa).
#20 by jafd
2003-06-17 00:43:01
All I want to be able to do is to aim accurately with my eyes closed.

"You do not truly know someone until you fight them."
#21 by Darkseid-D
2003-06-17 00:43:54
rogerboal@hotmail.com
The Diamond MX300 was a bloody great card, had one myself, then silly me had to upgrade to windows 2000, and shock, thanks to creatives shitfuckery, no a3d support in 2k.

Bought the european SB Live Drive, what a pile of shite by comparison (and only 3x the cost)

Do not go gently into that good night.
Old age should burn and rage at the close of day.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
#22 by jafd
2003-06-17 00:46:36
It's amusing to me that they'll work hard on all these innovations that require 5-7 separate speakers, plus a subwoofer. It's as though there is some kind of agenda.

"You do not truly know someone until you fight them."
#23 by Shadarr
2003-06-17 00:54:59
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
They were probably trying for the Doom-style "killer app" that would cause everyone to buy surround systems and also their games, but as it turned out not enough people care about sound.
#24 by jafd
2003-06-17 01:01:32
I already have a "surround system." It's called "headphones."

"You do not truly know someone until you fight them."
#25 by JMCDaveL
2003-06-17 01:17:59
C-media 4 Life yo!

--jmc
#26 by bago
2003-06-17 01:43:43
manga_Rando@hotmail.com
Dual outputs for DJ type stuff.

And a center channel that doesn't buzz when I am using the 3d card

24-32 bit processing.

#27 by G-Man
2003-06-17 01:52:51
bago in #26 said:
Dual outputs for DJ type stuff.
So all the cool kids can make their mash-ups and what-not?
#28 by Dethstryk
2003-06-17 02:16:52
jemartin@tcainternet.com
bago: Are you sure that non-consumer cards don't already offer what you want?

"And I'm saying without a relationship with God and those strong convictions HE put in me I wouldn't be a 42 year old who hasn't had sex with anyone today."
#29 by Dumdeedum
2003-06-17 03:56:56
http://www.dumdeedum.com
jafd
All I want to be able to do is to aim accurately with my eyes closed.

It'd actually be interesting to play a game where all feedback was aural, something like each player floating through "space" emitting a sound, then you have to try to target and shoot them or whatever.  Sure blind people would win all the time but it could be fun.

Do I get a badge for such wanton idea-manning?

#30 by lwf
2003-06-17 04:12:02
DOA MARCO POLO XXX-TREME

...so I'm balls deep in this guy's ass, and he turns around and asks for a kiss, what a FAG!
#31 by Bailey
2003-06-17 04:30:23
You can hear the tits!

I guess the real question is as to why I can't wake up with the gin already in me.
#32 by "cme"
2003-06-17 06:24:13
courtney@evansinc.com
aliasing actually exists as a phenomenon in digital audio. it's difficult to hear at 44khz/16bit, but it's there. 96/24 is better. 192/24 is pretty much alias-free, unless you're a dog or something.

possible sound card advancement: hardware accelerated acoustic modeling (reflection, damping, propagation, etc) to do the things thief did in software, and beyond, like modeling changes to a creature's breathing and vocal sounds based on how the creature is damaged, leaking windpipe, etc.

sound cards are nowhere near able to offer a truly 'real' experience. they're as far off as video is from being 'real'. people are so used to listening to shitty audio on shitty television speakers, etc., that they don't really conceive of a level of aural realism beyond what they're accustomed to - which is not much.
#33 by jafd
2003-06-17 06:26:26
I can conceive of it, I just can't pay for it -- yet.

"You do not truly know someone until you fight them."
#34 by bago
2003-06-17 06:27:43
manga_Rando@hotmail.com
Yeah, there are some, but a soundcard is low priority for me at the moment. Which is hwy it's in the 'I Want' category, which seems to be the theme here.

#35 by yotsuya
2003-06-17 06:29:23
Bago's I Want List:

#1. Another partner to join the foursome
#2. Some choice hills to snowboard
#3. Kittens
#4. Leather Chaps
.
.
.
#350125. A new soundcard

"YES!!  You see people, THAT'S why he's the Vice-President of A/V Services here at Respawn Games.  Yotsuya ALWAYS unleashes the fucking fury!" - Warren Marshall
#36 by jafd
2003-06-17 06:32:21
It's going to take a totally balls-out revolution in aural technology for me to buy another separate soundcard peripherial(sic) for a computer ever again. There are motherboards with integrated sound that far surpass any reasonable use I have in that department. Why bother dropping the coin for one now?

"You do not truly know someone until you fight them."
#37 by yotsuya
2003-06-17 06:33:42
I would rather get a soundcard that allows me to mix my own video soundtracks than one that puts JC Denton 3 steps behind me.

"YES!!  You see people, THAT'S why he's the Vice-President of A/V Services here at Respawn Games.  Yotsuya ALWAYS unleashes the fucking fury!" - Warren Marshall
#38 by "cme"
2003-06-17 06:34:25
courtney@evansinc.com
on the consumer level, right now?

absolutely no reason whatsoever.
#39 by "cme"
2003-06-17 06:35:33
courtney@evansinc.com
#37, then buy a hammerfall and be done with it.
#40 by yotsuya
2003-06-17 06:49:37
What's a hammerfall, oh anonymous one?

"YES!!  You see people, THAT'S why he's the Vice-President of A/V Services here at Respawn Games.  Yotsuya ALWAYS unleashes the fucking fury!" - Warren Marshall
#41 by G-Man
2003-06-17 07:18:10
They are RME's high-end soundcard brand. The line ranges from $300 to $600.
#42 by Mank
2003-06-17 08:27:11
I still hear stories about people having problems with online games due to sound card issues affecting performance in terms of framerate and whatnot. And I'd venture to guess it's probably driver related, but soundcards are STILL a major point of contention among gamers....so some improvement is still needed where compatibility is concerned it seems.

"A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep."
#43 by Darkseid-D
2003-06-17 08:32:24
rogerboal@hotmail.com
I hate to bang on and on and on about it, Santa Cruz - Turtle Beach (aka Videologic Sonic Fury), you put it in, it works, no problems, no huge bloated suite of apps, tho the driver package is 18mbs its much like Nvidias' unified driver for Geforces. Had zero issues with the card on via, amd, nvidia and intel chipsets, works great in 9x, 2k and xp (Nt4.0 is hit and miss depending on your service pack).  Has Eax & A3d and D3d support and being able to aim by sound alone? Well when I was big on counter strike I could accurately pitch grenades to where people were by footstep or reload sounds.

So either its a good guard with nice 3d reproduction or I have an uncanny knack of being able to grenade people I cant see from just audio cues (it works in BF1942, Tribes, Quake3, Total Combat and sometimes in Ut2003).

Do not go gently into that good night.
Old age should burn and rage at the close of day.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
#44 by Dethstryk
2003-06-17 09:47:41
jemartin@tcainternet.com
The Santa Cruz is the top of the line consumer-level card, period. Since I can't afford the big shit yet, I also use it in my studio computer.

"And I'm saying without a relationship with God and those strong convictions HE put in me I wouldn't be a 42 year old who hasn't had sex with anyone today."
#45 by bago
2003-06-17 10:07:11
manga_Rando@hotmail.com
Actually it goes something along the lines of ...

Contract at MS at a reasonable rate

Hard Drive

Burning Man Tickets

Socks, shoes

Toys

#46 by Your Friend
2003-06-17 10:11:59
Burning Man is gay hippie stuff.

"Take Two needs to STFU imo." - G30rg3 Br0uzz4rd
#47 by Dethstryk
2003-06-17 10:20:29
jemartin@tcainternet.com
Dude, all it takes is a match and you can see whatever this burning man thing is.

sunny days have funny ways of quieting the roar
#48 by CheesyPoof
2003-06-17 16:04:38
Why contract?  Go full time.
#49 by mrbloo
2003-06-17 16:20:01
mrbloo2000@hotmail.com
Contracting brings in the fat loot, Cheesy.  I earn between two to three times contracting what I did working full-time.  Working for six months and taking six months off is easily possible.  Admittedly the market for contractors was better a few years ago (they're the first against the wall when things go bad), but it's starting to pick up again. *crosses fingers and does a dance to restart the gravy train*

#50 by OmegaFoRCe
2003-06-17 17:06:57
I hear ya mrbloo.. I've been performing network installations over the past few months on a contractual basis.. Fast, easy cash with minimal hours and an ever increasing amount of clients -- always good for the rolodex :)

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