Realtek's 3D SoundBack beta (v0.1)

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Realtek's 3D SoundBack beta (v0.1)

Postposted on Tue Nov 11, 2008 3:28 pm

I've found something 4 months old (but nobody noticed it apparently) - Realtek jumped the "we restore your effects under Vista" bandwagon.

Here's a link:
http://www.realtek.com.tw/downloads/dow ... Down=false

I'll waste no more time on introductions, here's my preliminary analysis using World of Warcraft with maximum number of channels (64), maximum quality (it's adjustable, I have a gut feeling the maximum is 44,100 Hz) and hardware usage ticked, and the Realtek HD chip on my MSI board is going to face a vanilla Audigy with the latest ALchemy. This will be long, so brace yourselves:

-

Software:
Realtek - v2.08 (November) - 3D SoundBack beta v0.1 (software coverage unknown)
Creative - v2.18.0001 (August) - ALchemy v1.20.04
***
Windows Vista Ultimate x64 (every released update installed)
5.1 sound setup (Genius SW-5.1 1000)
Sampling rate: 48,000 Hz, 24-bit, exclusive usage turned off

World of Warcraft was recognized perfectly by both "effect restorers".
Let the battle begin!

Subjective tests:
Sound quality - very good, no differences discernible in gaming (that is, once I figured out how to get my 5.1 setup's subwoofer to work with the Realtek chip).
Speaker separation - very good, no differences discernible (!), the Realtek's output is magically made quite clear and defined using 3D SoundBack.
Effects - Realtek is missing the boat here, it just can't do all of what the Audigy can. Even WoW makes this perfectly clear.

Quantifiable tests:
Price - Realtek obviously comes out on top.
Performance - Realtek is leagues ahead, WoW performance improves by as much as 80% in certain areas. Pay attention though: this is caused by running the game in XP SP2 compatibility mode; ALchemy, you see, doesn't work out of the box with WoW, you need the game to masquerade as if it was under XP before ALchemy even decides to function. Compatibility mode, however, sometimes takes a serious CPU-toll especially when coupled with Windowed Mode (which otherwise is only a hair slower under Vista), and thus the real gains are from turning compatibility mode off actually. It's still worth mentioning that the Realtek chip requires no further tweaking from the user and your game(s) may run better.
* Also worth mentioning that it ironically uses less CPU, because the Audigy drivers under Vista seem to be periodically spiking my quadcore usage as high as 11% (Phenom X4 at 2.67 GHz with boosted HT speeds) and Process Explorer tells me this is coming from interrupts (simply put, whenever sound plays, CPU usage spikes appear). This didn't change using different BIOS settings, slots or even different motherboards.

Other - 3D SoundBack requires no administrative privileges under Vista, you won't get a UAC prompt if you try to use it. It's simple and easy to use, and works efficiently. Excellent software engineering. However, let's not forget that Creative's ALchemy allows you to use up to 128 concurrent voices (contrasting Realtek's limit of 64) and allows you to set more things, but unless you're a power user or a serious audiophile, you won't care.

Bugs:
3D SoundBack - none so far.
ALchemy - everything combined (XP SP2 compatibility mode, ALchemy turned on for WoW, and ingame sound settings maxed out) will produce bugs in WoW, where sound effect playback may end abruptly for certain sounds, or some sounds may begin to be missing altogether. Playing around with buffer count and size in ALchemy didn't seem to change any of this.

***

Verdict:
My Audigy has henceforth been demoted to an ASIO processor for my hobby with my Sennheiser headphones hooked up to it permanently (I still need the ASIO performance, clarity and fidelity of a real sound card) but for gaming and movies, I'll be using the Realtek HD chip from now on. The appearance of this application tipped the scale for me.

Discuss.

Edit: strangely, XP SP2 compatibility mode didn't improve effect support for Realtek, but it did make things worse actually; judging from speaker separation I don't think 3D SoundBack is working at all using this mode, so I'm totally back to running the game without emulated XP cheese.
Last edited by Meadows on Tue Nov 11, 2008 3:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Meadows
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Re: Realtek's 3D SoundBack beta (v0.1)

Postposted on Tue Nov 11, 2008 3:38 pm

Thanks for posting this, good find.
I'm trying out right now on some Diablo II and it sounds good.
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Re: Realtek's 3D SoundBack beta (v0.1)

Postposted on Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:59 pm

Hang on... Realtek 3D SoundBack is EAX version X compatible? Specifics?

On another note, many thanks for the "review". :D
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Re: Realtek's 3D SoundBack beta (v0.1)

Postposted on Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:05 pm

morphine wrote:Hang on... Realtek 3D SoundBack is EAX version X compatible? Specifics?

Well, EAX 2.0 is free to use, but that would make this interesting since it would mean you can't have more than 32 concurrent voices (Realtek offers 64). I'm not sure what's going on, but I'm not investigating anything any further.
As for effects, it's supposed to have a basic echo/reverb feature set and more defined speaker separation.

It's another matter that Realtek have been bad at actually carrying out EAX support in the past, and they haven't done too much better this time either, as certain effects go missing in WoW compared to the Audigy. Still, I decided I don't care what the game sounds like, since I'm listening to music all the time - performance and speaker separation were more important.

I can't really complain, you get what you pay for here *cough*.
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Re: Realtek's 3D SoundBack beta (v0.1)

Postposted on Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:35 pm

The latest Realtek Vista x64 drivers have a bug. For some reason, it had mixed-up the analog output on my rear and side channels. FYI, I am using Z-5500s which are 5.1 speakers. It was never a problem before.

Soundback utility seems to work with UT99, but does nothing for UT2004. I have lost rear output for newer games due to aforementioned bug.

Update: I found out that I had accidently left OpenAL enabled in UT2004. It now works with surround audio. For the analog output problem, it seems that it is purely an aesthetic problem. The old 5.1 spec called current rear speakers as side/surround and current side speakers as rear. The new Realtek drivers fixed the labeling problem. Oddly enough, Creative Audigy drivers have the same problem. It also seems that a few new games have not caught up to pace.
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Re: Realtek's 3D SoundBack beta (v0.1)

Postposted on Wed Nov 12, 2008 1:48 am

Quite weird, I've never had surround issues with my setup. Are you sure you're not doing it wrong? ;)
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Re: Realtek's 3D SoundBack beta (v0.1)

Postposted on Thu Nov 13, 2008 1:42 pm

Hmm. I prefer Asus' solution of putting the support into the drivers but to see another company doing something with this, especially Realtek, is quite a surprise.

The only box I have in use with a Realtek audio codec, though, is my HTPC (ALC1200) and I don't game on that. Meadows, how is the sound quality if just using stereo audio? From your post I got the impression that using the software improved overall audio quality of your onboard audio... is that the case? Analog connections to the speakers, yes?
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Re: Realtek's 3D SoundBack beta (v0.1)

Postposted on Wed Sep 02, 2009 10:20 pm

sorry to dig up an old post, but has anyone successfully used this in windows 7? i've been trying to make it work in windows 7 64bit RTM, with the game Guild Wars, but so far no luck whatsoever.
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Re: Realtek's 3D SoundBack beta (v0.1)

Postposted on Fri Sep 11, 2009 12:09 am

moriz wrote:sorry to dig up an old post, but has anyone successfully used this in windows 7? i've been trying to make it work in windows 7 64bit RTM, with the game Guild Wars, but so far no luck whatsoever.

It shouldn't need that, but have you tried Vista (or even XP) compatibility mode on the executable(s)?

Edit: it's a very old piece of driver actually, and still hasn't been updated ever since I created this thread. Shame on Realtek.
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