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:
- 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.
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.
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.