We catch up with Asus’ Xonar team

Computex — On day three of the Computex trade show in Taipei, Taiwan, I took a break from the bustle of the show floor to sit down with a few folks from Asus’ Xonar division. Asus is one of the very few companies still building sound cards for the PC, and it claims to have sold over half a million of the things in the past five years or so. That may not sound like a huge number, but keep in mind that Asus started with a single, relatively expensive model. The Xonar lineup has slowly expanded to include more affordable offerings, cards targeted at gamers, and USB derivatives.

Of course, there are some who insist that discrete audio solutions are no longer required. Integrated audio is good enough, they say. That may be true, depending on your speakers and your standards, but Asus contends that discrete solutions will always have an advantage over motherboard implementations. To reduce noise, Asus strives to make the traces between various components, and especially the controller and DACs, as short as possible. That’s difficult to do on a motherboard loaded with slots, ports, and other integrated peripherals. Discrete solutions also offer a greater voltage range than what’s readily available on a motherboard.

There was a time when users benefitted from the additional audio processing horsepower available in stand-alone sound cards. That processing power has become less important as hardware-accelerated positional audio standards like EAX have faded away. Asus points out that increasing CPU resources have largely negated the need for hardware processing. No wonder we haven’t seen much action on the audio controller front.

That said, Asus continues to work with C-Media on new chips. The audio processor can still affect sound quality through clock jitter, which Asus and C-Media are striving to reduce. Asus also wants to put more DSP functions in hardware to make them easier to access. For example, enabling noise cancellation via a driver control panel is more complicated than simply hitting a button on a USB-attached headset.

Expect to see more USB audio devices from Asus in the future. The gap between the budget Xonar U3 and the high-end Essence One is huge, and new products are in the works to fill it.

Speaking of high-end audio, Asus made an interesting observation about one difference between its products and typical audiophile gear. Instead of offering a hard-wired listening experience, Asus believes users should be able to modify the sound by swapping OP-amps and tweaking other settings. That sounds like a very PC approach, which is only fitting.

A small collection of fresh Xonars has accumulated on my shelf and is waiting to be reviewed. Stay tuned for an in-depth look at several of Asus’ new sound cards.

Comments closed
    • Dygear
    • 7 years ago

    I have a Xonar Xense, that I love to death, but no one talks about it any more. If you could please please, please include this in your review so I get a better idea of where it stand into the current ASUS audio line up, I would be eternally grateful.

    • marraco
    • 7 years ago

    “there are some who insist that discrete audio solutions are no longer required”

    These are plain wrong. I never heard any integrated sound without noise. Integrated audio forces you to hear a noise each time you move the mouse, minimize a window, o use the hard disk.
    And I’m speaking of the most expensive motherboards of Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, etc.

      • Ifalna
      • 7 years ago

      Well no. They aren’t THAT bad anymore. But still, they sound like crap as soon as you try to use the equalizer (eg EQ in a LITTLE more bass) or if you turn up the volume.

        • marraco
        • 7 years ago

        Yes, they are THAT bad. I’m speaking of the latest Asus mothers.

    • DeadOfKnight
    • 7 years ago

    I’d like to know how Asus GX solution compares to EAX w/ Creative ALchemy

      • Kaleid
      • 7 years ago

      GX is worse.

        • DeadOfKnight
        • 7 years ago

        How worse?

        EDIT: Also, do you think the new GX 3.0 and Dolby Home Theater v4 will make up for its shortcomings?

        [url<]http://youtu.be/NuMvRvLbIKg[/url<]

          • Kaleid
          • 7 years ago

          EAX quality is worse for one thing, and also using GX 2.0 on many programs and games made the entire application to crash.

          The only acceptable EAX I’ve heard has been with Creative cards. M-Audio, Terratec, onboard (VIA+Realtek) and even Asus have all been much worse. I can understand why so many have not liked EAX, because the solutions which other companies provided were worse.

          Imagine if only one manufacturer had proper DX support, and all others simply just emulated it.

        • Krogoth
        • 7 years ago

        About the same actually.

    • rephlex
    • 7 years ago

    With my computer I use a pair of Wharfedale Diamond 9.1 speakers with a Dayton Audio DTA-100a amplifier: [url<]http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?Partnumber=300-383[/url<] This setup is pretty much perfect for my needs. Should you be interested, the Diamond 10.1 model has now replaced the 9.1 model. $349 for those speakers, $89 for the amplifier. Very hard to beat for the price. BTW, Bensam123, you are quite wrong about Aureal and Creative. I remember that era well and Aureal were a large step ahead of Creative with A3D. EAX was certainly not its equal, at least not with EAX 1.0. Unfortunately Creative really didn't seem to do much with Aureal's technology once they acquired it after their bankruptcy, a bankruptcy which Creative arguably caused with the legal battle they instigated. Aureal won that battle but ended up losing the war.

      • Bensam123
      • 7 years ago

      Aureal was bought out and absorbed by Creative. The positional 2.0 virtualization may have been better then EAX 1.0s implementation (just for 2.0). But all Aureal did was positional audio. Every version from 2.0 forward contains upgrades and improvements that don’t just pertain to exactly where a sound is coming from, but what that sound contains and how it interacts with different sounds.

      That aside, why did you make a paragraph long post in response to one of my posts without threading it too?

        • rephlex
        • 7 years ago

        Aureal utilised wavetracing technology which uses the geometry of a 3D space to trace sound waves in real-time as they are reflected and occluded by objects in the 3D environment. In addition to this Head-Related Transfer Function (HRTF) processing was used to filter sounds depending on the direction from which they arrived at the listener. Interaural time and intensity differences along with propagation effects (i.e. absorption/muffling due to sound passing through objects before being heard) were also calculated to further the illusion of realistic 3D sound.

        I consider this approach to be more than just “positional audio” which to me means simple panpotted sound effects and is the sort of thing a basic audio mixer is capable of. EAX 1.0 is not much more than this.

          • Bensam123
          • 7 years ago

          HRTF was done in software. As far as ‘passing through objects’ goes, that only relates to the number and not the material as you seem to insinuate.

          I read the same white paper you did. A3Ds DSP is just a ‘dumb’ version of what EAX was. In other words, A3D had absolutely no idea what the sound was moving through. It could be a parking garage or a listening room and it would sound the same. The reflections were done in real time by the audio processor, everything else was done in software and EAX did all of that in versions 2.0+.

          Those still all relates to the position the sound is coming from and not the composition of the sound though. IE passing through a wall and not what environment the sound was created in sounds like, tile vs conrete for instance going into a carpeted room.

          This is sorta interesting though. This is starting to edge more on what a white paper says then real world implications. I’ve only found four games that have A3D in them.

            • rephlex
            • 7 years ago

            I don’t know how Aureal implemented HRTF processing, whether it was done in their drivers using the CPU or using the soundcard hardware, but my point is that it was actually done. Creative doesn’t appear to have performed HRTF processing until EAX 3.0 which didn’t exist before the Audigy, i.e. post-Sound Blaster Live! and after Creative had acquired Aureal’s assets post-bankruptcy. I would bet that Aureal did HRTF in hardware though as there were others, such as VLSI Technologies, doing that at the time.

            As for the “passing through objects” processing Aureal did, it absolutely takes material into consideration, including the air itself. Far away but completely unoccluded sounds, i.e. straight path from origin to listener, had their high frequencies attenuated more than close-up sounds.

            Your statement that “A3Ds DSP is just a ‘dumb’ version of what EAX was”, which sums up your entire argument, is backwards and I’m unsure if EAX ever truly did catch up with A3D. EAX was used in more software than A3D, but so what? We are arguing over what was the superior solution, not the more popular.

    • XTF
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]Integrated audio is good enough, they say.[/quote<] Isn't it, except for the DAC? Why is analog out still not gone? What's stopping digital out/in from being more widely used? Patent-issues?

      • moriz
      • 7 years ago

      you still need to convert digital to analog somewhere along the way, since speakers and headphones are purely analog devices. whether you do it in your computer or outside of it is really just a matter of preference most of the time.

        • XTF
        • 7 years ago

        If it’s done in the amplifier, only one good converter is required. Otherwise every input device needs a good converter.
        A good amplifier / speaker set would be expected to come with a good converter, you’d no longer depend on the analog quality of the input device.

          • moriz
          • 7 years ago

          i’d rather do this with a good sound card. cheaper and saves space.

            • XTF
            • 7 years ago

            Why? Integrating it into amplifiers and speaker sets seems even cheaper and requires even less space. No soundcard necessary.

            • moriz
            • 7 years ago

            most AV receivers don’t have very good DACs. the ones that do are priced $500 or more, well beyond the cost of good sound cards like the xonar DX, which costs around $90. the same applies to DACs integrated into speaker sets, such as the one found on the Z-5500 and equivalents.

            AV receivers are also the size of VCRs, whereas sound cards effectively take up zero space, since they are inside the computer case.

            the only time AV receivers make sense is for home entertainment systems. there’s very little point in using them for desktop computers.

            • XTF
            • 7 years ago

            True, but isn’t that a chicken and egg problem? Nobody integrates good DACs because nobody uses digital cables.
            Can digital (non-optical) cables transport multi-channel audio without licensing issues yet?

            In an ideal world, where would you put the DAC?

            • sluggo
            • 7 years ago

            In an ideal world, the DAC would be just prior to the line stage of an amplifier or other analog processing stages. Ostensibly, there is clean power available, and converting at the last possible moment simplifies cabling and reduces the likelihood of noise insertion.

            Integrating a quality DAC into an amplifier chassis would present no technical challenges. The reason you don’t see this product is because an analog 2.1 configuration is considered “good enough” for PC audio. Living room applications permit the use of a bulky receiver, and so there you have it – two needs, two solutions.

            • XTF
            • 7 years ago

            But not good enough for everyone, hence the Asus Xonar and this discussion.
            What headphones or speaker sets do people use with the Xonar? Wouldn’t it make more sense to integrate the DAC into those sets and just use digital in/out?

            • sluggo
            • 7 years ago

            Putting a DAC into headphones or speakers requires routing power to those devices, which creates a far more expensive product. It’s being done in 2.1 speaker setups (where you already have power for the sub), but I doubt you’d ever see it for headphones.

            You have to keep the size of this market in perspective. The number of people who are willing to spend money on improved sound out of their PC is a very small percentage of the overall market. For evidence, look at Creative’s stock – with 60 million shares outstanding, they trade less than 1000 shares per day and their price has been basically flat for 10 years. PC audio has never been a great business, but I think it’s just getting worse. If I count just the chip manufacturers, board manufacturers, and speaker manufacturers that have tried and failed in this market I quickly run out of fingers and toes. And now I hear Logitech is laying folks off in Fremont. Not good.

            • moriz
            • 7 years ago

            i used AKG Q701 on my STX. the built in headphone amp worked brilliantly and the sound was amazing. i was eventually forced to trade the Q701 for my current Sennheiser HD 598 because of the former’s weight and general uncomfortable-ness.

            which is why DACs and optical/digital are not used in headphones. it will greatly add to the weight of the set, especially for headphones that require powerful amplifiers, as well as using three cables instead of one: 1 for power, 1 for digital, and 1 for analog for compatibility.

            • XTF
            • 7 years ago

            What about headphones with USB input? Sennheiser has them too and they basically have the entire soundcard integrated.

            But yeah, on headphones it might make a bit less sense to integrate the DAC.

            • cynan
            • 7 years ago

            [quote<]In an ideal world, the DAC would be just prior to the line stage of an amplifier or other analog processing stages.[/quote<] Which is exactly what happens with headphones in higher end sound cards that have built in amplifier chips (or external DAC/headphone amps). And if you really want this in a PC environment, there are niche mini desktop amplifiers you can mate with your own bookshelf or micro bookshelf Hi-Fi speakers. Such as the little [url=http://store.virtueaudio.com/product-p/vrtu-ia-vaone.2-pbf-1.htm<]Virtue Audio Amps [/url<] that really pack a punch for their size and are quite good (though you pay for it) or even smaller NuForce Amps. With the Virtue Amps you still need to add the DAC (though they are apparently coming out with ones with basic integrated USB DACs). But even without a DAC, pair one of these with a half-decent sound card and pair of desktop bookshelves and your going to get sound quality significantly better than any PC speakers. But of course at a cost. This Nufroce mini [url=http://www.nuforce.com/hp/products/dia/index.php<]DAC/stereo AMP[/url<] looks interesting at $299, but no idea if it is any good and only does 18w into 8 ohms. What you ask for is out there, but due to the increased costs that most people don't want to pay for PC sound, it will likely remain a niche market.

      • Bensam123
      • 7 years ago

      The 40 years of perfectly fine sounding stereo equipment that doesn’t want to be thrown away.

        • travbrad
        • 7 years ago

        Yep and there’s STILL a lot of great quality speakers (most monitors for example) being made that have no digital inputs. I actually think I’ve seen more average/decent quality speakers with digital inputs than really good speakers with digital inputs. A lot of the high-end stuff still only has analog.

        It may be cheaper on an individual basis to integrate an amp and/or converter in to the speaker itself, but you end up paying for an amp/DAC with every new set of speakers you buy. Each approach has its pros and cons.

          • travbrad
          • 7 years ago
      • Kaleid
      • 7 years ago

      No. Neither Realtek or VIA can match a proper X-fi card in functions, quality and stability

    • Theolendras
    • 7 years ago

    It would have been nice if Creative or any other would have pushed further. Like specialized hardware for speech recognition, audio encoding like mp3, aac even silk if they could licence it. Partnership with Nuance or Skype, mumble or whatever.

    Even if audio processing for positionnal audio and most DSP effect can now be done in software without compromising gaming experience, more intensive work like these could have justified hardware acceleration for enthusiast and gamer that could see quality improvements and latency cut down for real-time audio communications.

      • forumics
      • 7 years ago

      they could also add in hw encoding for optical out
      my computer is connected to a home hi-fi system and whenever i enable DTS encoding, my task manager shows an increase in cpu utilization.

        • Deanjo
        • 7 years ago

        That should be fairly minimal load on your CPU and shouldn’t require hw encoding. Even a single core atom can do that easily enough.

          • forumics
          • 7 years ago

          when you are running on a low end computer – a c2d in my case, even a 5% cpu usage hurts.

            • Deanjo
            • 7 years ago

            If 5% hurts then you have serious problems else where. A web browser will easily gobble that up. Guys have been doing realtime transcoding of their high def content (6 channel AAC –> ac3/dts) in xbmc for years now on atom systems which is far less powerful then a c2d. Even my old socket a sempron can do it easily.

    • My Johnson
    • 7 years ago

    Last sound card I bought was an SB Recon only because it was a recent chipset and I had a concern about drivers. Te C-media chips currently available were designed when XP was king.

      • Derfer
      • 7 years ago

      Ouch. No one should ever buy a Recon. It’s worth about $25 bucks. Has practically no analog hardware (useless for headphones/speakers) and pretends to offload Open AL when it really pawns it off on the cpu which works out to be as buggy as you’d expect. That’s just the half of it.

      There really needs to be an awareness campaign about how dreadful those cards are.

        • Deanjo
        • 7 years ago

        Actually offloading openAL to the cpu is the preferred method. The cpu’s are more then powerful enough now days to handle it easily and offers a flexibility that a vendor specific sku could never offer. There is good reason why pretty much every professional sound card out there now are nothing more then a glorified controller attached to a DAC.

          • Derfer
          • 7 years ago

          There may be something to that but that’s not how it works out in this case. Try turning on OpenAL in UT3 with a Recon and wait for the train wreck.

            • Deanjo
            • 7 years ago

            On a creative card, I’m not surprised but that more then likely has to do with creatives crappy drivers then anything else. It works fine for example on cards like my Auzentech X-Meridian.

      • marraco
      • 7 years ago

      I stopped buying anything from Creative or Sound Blaster after I bought a new Sound Blaster card, after Win Vista release date, and it never got Vista (or 7) support.

      Creative demanded me to buy another card to get driver support, even when that “new” card was just exactly the same card I had, but relabeled as a newer model.

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    Oh how I miss EAX from the hay day of computer gaming. Mm… Ravenshield still reminds me of the most delightful sound to exist in computer gaming to date. BF may try, but it still has to take on more then adding more sounds.

      • HisDivineOrder
      • 7 years ago

      Haha, EAX. EAX is reverb. Aureal was the real deal. You youngin’s and your dreams of EAX completely missed when hardware sound was truly awesome.

    • Prion
    • 7 years ago

    If clock jitter is causing audible issues then your design is just completely broken.

      • pedro
      • 7 years ago

      Jitter is the number one problem on all sound cards right up to the >$10 000 models. Once you hear jitter, or rather, hear a jitter-free signal, your expectations change. Getting rid of jitter in digital audio is analogous to pulling an image into focus. It’s especially noticeable in the bass.

    • Derfer
    • 7 years ago

    Would have been a great opportunity to confront them on the epic screech issue. Yet to see them ever acknowledged it.

    [url<]http://vip.asus.com/forum/view.aspx?SLanguage=en-us&id=20090222084608127&board_id=21&model=Xonar%20Essence%20STX&page=1[/url<]

      • yehuda
      • 7 years ago

      +1 Still unresolved for me (STX user)

      • marraco
      • 7 years ago

      Yes, I also get a high screech each time I pause a youtube video, and play it again, (Xonar DG).

      Asus tech support just gave me the middle finger. It is a driver bug, and it would be easy to fix, but Asus doesn’t care, because they already got my money.

    • LastQuestion
    • 7 years ago

    Went from onboard to a Xonar STX. Whether I jacked in directly to the mobo, or used my A40s mixamp, the sound was always just ‘okay’. With my STX, I found out my HD555s were far more capable than I’d experienced before. Especially in regard to lows and bass. Having a device which can properly drive a set of cans just can’t be overrated. Everything sounds better, especially BF3.

    If you’re using decent headphones like the HD555s or AD700s, then onboard isn’t sufficient. Do yourself a favor, get a Xonar STX. I have no regrets, even though the price was, a bit much.

      • Airmantharp
      • 7 years ago

      Same experience with my HD555’s and a recent X-Fi. Didn’t even really expect it to make a difference, but holy hell.

    • chuckula
    • 7 years ago

    Xonar DX FTW. Makes sound on Linux actually pretty nice when the hardware does the heavy lifting instead of having to kludge around with PulseAudio.

      • Theolendras
      • 7 years ago

      Is the difference in quality worth it, or it’s more about convenience ?

      • Theolendras
      • 7 years ago

      Come to think of it, I wonder what’s the state of audio acceleration in linux and EAX. Could be nice if some of the Steam catalog title coming to linux could make use of that. I already have a linux mythtv backend that could be use as a game machine on my home theather. I’m getting ahead of myself, just having a relatively hassle free credible gaming platform in linux is a huge step.

        • Deanjo
        • 7 years ago

        EAX in linux is long dead (openAL is found readily however), but getting an C-Media 8788 based card is well supported in ALSA like the Xonar’s and X-Meridians.

    • adisor19
    • 7 years ago

    I miss Aureal.

    Adi

      • chuckula
      • 7 years ago

      What do you care? You just use whatever sound card Apple gives you.

        • DancinJack
        • 7 years ago

        The hate just never stops does it?

          • Meadows
          • 7 years ago

          Chuckula’s right, though.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 7 years ago

            Well, Apple audio codecs tend to be Marvell or SigmaTel, so he’s got reason to miss Aureal. I mean, they made all the onboard audio codecs…

            ..oh, wait. 😉

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      Ten years ago called, it wants its complaint about positional audio back.

        • bcronce
        • 7 years ago

        A3D was and still is the best 3D positional audio. Too bad Creative used their legal department to screw over Aureal.

        I have never come across another 3D sound-card that allowed me to literally play a FPS game blind-folded. I routinely killed people entirely based on their foot-step sounds. It was THAT good. It was like I could see with my ears, An experience like none-other.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 7 years ago

          I never said it wasn’t good, it’s just not worth mentioning any more. Aureal folded in 2000, let’s get over it.

            • Kurotetsu
            • 7 years ago

            +1

            Aureal was killed by Creative. Creative is being killed by progress. Its now dead twice removed. It really isn’t worth complaining about at this point.

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            Reassessed.

            • Visigoth
            • 7 years ago

            Exactly. Just like people still moaning over the loss of Voodoo. Come one, we have Kepler now, which NVIDIA’s engineers (and ex-Voodoo engineers as well) invented for practical use TODAY. People need to learn to move on, living in the past will just make you older.

          • Bensam123
          • 7 years ago

          I really think you’re confusing A3D with EAX, along with a lot of other people here.

          There were only a couple games that used A3D. Games with positional audio didn’t take off till Creative started pushing EAX. Aureal was just a tech demo for the most part and based almost completely around two speakers vs good positional audio with 4.1 or 5.1

          Creative bought up Aureal and incorporated it into their tech from EAX2.0 forward, even improving upon it. Such as adding DSPs to those footsteps so you know which room they’re coming out of (steps that sound hollow like they’re on wood vs steps on conrete or tile).

          In other words, [i<]everything that is EAX is also A3D only better[/i<]. I know I'm tainting your dreams here, but it's the truth.

            • destroy.all.monsters
            • 7 years ago

            That’s not true Bensam123. They developed their own in-house tech which had minor similarities to Aureal’s but did not further the A3D tech. Most of those developers ended up at Nvidia for the short-lived Soundstorm.

            Creative bought the remains to monopolize the market – just as they did with Sensaura (which had the added benefit of killing the only developer who was supporting A3D emulation) – not to enhance their tech.

            EAX has always been about reverb and effects – and less about positional audio. Given their absorbtion of E-mu/Ensoniq that makes a lot of sense.

            Edited to add: looks like Deanjo has made some compelling arguments that make mine seem somewhat redundant. However – occulsion != A3D and A3D’s tech was not improved upon or really even used from what I have read. If you look at the features in EAX 5 most of those are barely even renamed from when they were offered by Sensaura.

            It isn’t mindless hate of Creative – it’s just the facts.

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            It doesn’t matter where A3D employees went.

            CMSS-3D would be Creatives implementation of A3D tech. A3D only pertained to 2.0 speaker/headphone setups. A3D cards never had support for 4.0 or 5.1 surround sound. If you still believe Creative simply bought Aureal and sat on their tech, you can, but their CMSS-3D is very well done and has even been complimented numerous times by TR in their Creative article reviews found on this site.

            So… if you hear something that sounds like footsteps coming from a room with a tile floor to one with a wood like finish it doesn’t pertain to positional audio at all? If someone is walking on carpet and it sounds like carpet, unless the entire environment is covered in carpet (which is what A3D is as it doesn’t have anything like it) that represents a huge audio queue.

            And you’re right, they didn’t further A3D tech, they absorbed it and went on to make even better solutions.

            Did you even look at what each subsequent version of EAX added?

            • destroy.all.monsters
            • 7 years ago

            I can’t think of a response that doesn’t sound like I’m getting into a pissing match – which (believe it or not) isn’t my intent or interest. This link covers most of the technical aspects though was written pre EAX 5.

            [url<]http://ixbtlabs.com/articles2/sound-technology/index.html[/url<] It's entirely likely CMSS-3D is repurposed Sensaura tech as I alluded to before (much of EAX 5 is just that). Their HRTF was very well thought of. If you have some evidence that they actually used A3D's tech somewhere I'm happy to see and read it. The thing is that there appears to be no factual basis in that assumption.

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            I don’t have evidence of it. But we can both acknowledge that Aureal was bought out by Creative. Which do you think is more likely. They bought up an entire bankrupt company for no reason or they actually integrated it into their tech?

            Aureal was defunct. There was no reason to buy the company besides to assimilate their tech.

            I do appreciate you not taking an offensive nature in your post, but I believe a lot of this pro Aureal stuff comes from people really hating Creative and doesn’t have a lot to do with their hardware being technically inferior if people took time to take a look at improvements Creative made.

            It very well could be that Aureal had the best 2.0 positional audio virtualization available at the time. I had a turtlebeach card before I bought a SB-Live. I know full well what one sounds like. But Creative made quite a few improvements after Aureals time.

            • destroy.all.monsters
            • 7 years ago

            It is likely that they killed it and kept it for the patents. Given that the majority of the devs did not go to Creative and that they _never implemented wavetracing in hardware or otherwise_ it’s pretty clear that they did nothing with the tech except keep it out of the hands of other card makers. It’s a typical business move that companies do all the time – buy something to kill it.

            Aureal’s tech was married to its hardware. Creative never used or implemented that tech in hardware. All of that is known. *If* it had been used it would have been implemented prior to their purchase of Sensaura.

            This isn’t about whether Creative did some decent hardware or not (E-mu/Ensoniq’s engineers were no dummies). Certainly they have a lot to be criticized for. They also, slowed down 3D audio on the PC to a standstill as a result of their monopolistic practices. That Microsoft did the same things to them they did to others is their pidgeons coming home to roost (MS also wrote the XP drivers for Aureal cards in house and tried to stop MS from doing so). Furthermore any improvements, as you call them, seem to be a direct result of purchasing Sensaura (and simultaneously locking their competitors out of Sensaura’s tech).

            What you don’t seem to grasp is how good the tech was and how much antipathy that Creative has earned. They’re the EA or Ubisoft of sound cards.

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            And how do you know they never did wave tracing in their hardware?

            How do you know that Creative couldn’t implement a version of it in their hardware?

            You have no sources or any factual basis for any of what you’re saying besides the same posts in different hardware website forums I’ve found while looking up information on this.

            Why do you say they slowed down 3D audio on the PC? How does that fit in with each revision of EAX up to 5.0?

            Other manufacturers including Asus had EAX compatible cards, with and without Creatives blessing. That is a non-argument.

            They bought Sensura and absorbed their tech. Why is that a bad thing?

            Read the responses I made to Abras. I know full well why people hate Creative, but I don’t base my objective opinion off of moral dilemmas.

            • destroy.all.monsters
            • 7 years ago

            Quite frankly because they said so. You keep spamming a particular link through out this sub thread and yet you appear never to have read mine.

            You want to be sure – go ahead and do a google search for EAX and wavetracing. Just don’t expect me to do your homework for you.

            They slowed down 3D PC audio by the mere fact that a) they bought or killed all other competition out there, b) that A3D 3.0 was on track to becoming a universal method to be used on all cards and that Sensaura was already available to anyone that wanted to license it (and EAX isn’t and wasn’t – edited to add – this is no longer true with X-FI MB2 which can be purchased by end users and licensed. However in the 1998- to whenever Sensaura was bought out it was not). Those very same monopolistic practices you claim to be aware of are exactly what killed the market (how many times have I explained this already?).

            You’re really just acting silly now. Other manufacturers did not have EAX compatible cards – it was later hacked in by outsiders (by hacking Alchemy) but by then EAX was irrelevant because Vista was here already anyway. There were no cards, to the best of my knowledge, sold with EAX that didn’t have Creative hardware (Caveat – EAX compatible is not EAX. Creative appears to have released EAX 1 and 2 into the public domain. EAX 3 and above were never licensed to others – at least during the XP days). Their intent has always been to sell their hardware. You cannot compare hacked in alchemy based EAX to open standards or traditional licensing schemes.

            Your opinion is far from objective. At this point you’re coming across more like a fanboy – exactly what your’e accusing others of.

            You want to be opinionated – that’s fine but it would behoove you to actually be familiar with the tech and the history before stating your opinion as fact.

            Some decent information and conjecture here: [url<]http://nightmaremode.net/2012/01/soundscapes-the-sound-nobody-remembers-15934/[/url<] Not nearly as good as the ixbtlabs link though.

            • Deanjo
            • 7 years ago

            [quote<]A3D cards never had support for 4.0 or 5.1 surround sound.[/quote<] Bull. The MX300 was full discreet 4 channel card. Also when using it for music it did more then simply mirror the front channels. [url<]http://hothardware.com/Reviews/Diamonds-Little-Monster-Sound-MX300/[/url<] You could also fit it with an additional daughter card for full 5.1 support [url<]http://www.sharkyextreme.com/hardware/diamond_mx300/b.shtml[/url<] Here is what it says in the 8830 datasheet. [quote<]A3D 2.0TM Engine in Hardware Widely adopted by leading game developers, A3D (Aureal 3D) replicates the 3D audio cues that listeners experience in the real world for both stationary and moving sound sources. A3D uses premier-quality head-related transfer functions (HRTFs), atmospheric absorption, and Doppler effects to create positional cues to produce an interactive, immersive audio field, while requiring only two speakers ([b<]quad speaker and other multispeaker configurations are supported, but not required).[/b<] Handling up to 16 A3D sources, the Vortex 2’s hardware A3D engine accelerates games written to the A3D standard as well as DirectSound3D games. Full-custom HRTF and atmospheric filters provide complete 16-bit, 48kHz quality. [b<]Vortex 2 additionally supports Aureal’s next-generation A3D 2.0 standard. Using Aureal WavetracingTM technology, A3D 2.0 renders real-time acoustics based on the environment’s 3D geometry. Sound reflections, occlusions, and reverb take acoustic realism to new heights as sounds echo around rooms and burst through doorways. Vortex 2 supports optimized rendering modes for headphones, 2 speakers, 4 speakers, or more[/b<].[/quote<]

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            Alright, so you found a niche card that supports quad channels? And you could buy daughter board(!) to support 5.1? Like 99% of all Aureal cards were 2.0.

            It should also be noted that Aureal went under in 98, was bought by Creative in 99. The first article you link is dated 01 and the second one mentions 99, but has no other date on it.

            Some other things you should make a note of. HRTF is done in software by the processor. Your first article you link talks about the frame rate hit by using it. The card only features positional audio on 16 voices.

            This spec seems to take place in between EAX 1.0 and 2.0, as the second website lists it being compatible with EAX games, but doesn’t mention a version.

            This is starting to look like someone needs to buy an X-Fi and whatever the best version of the Aureal chipset was and do a smackdown. Nostalgia is a very powerful thing.

            • Deanjo
            • 7 years ago

            Actually pretty much every card based on the 8830 had at least 4 channels.

            Aureal SQ2500 and 3500 had them, Turtle Beach Montego II Home Studio, Absolute Multimedia Outrageous 3D Sound, Terratec XLerate Pro, Turtle Beach Montego II Plus, Videologic SonicVortex2, Xitel Storm Platinum. The Monstersound was not the exception to the rule, it was pretty standard affair for Vortex 2’s to have 4 channels and the only way that it differentiated itself was through their MX cards expansion options. Most of the 8830’s also offered digital out as standard, on the MX-300 it was a daughter card option.

            Aureal also went under in 2000, not 1998 with Creative picking up their assets later in 2000 as to avoid paying out the settlements. Aureal cards were still readily available from many AIB vendors well into 2002 despite aureal being bankrupt.

            The reason for the raise in CPU usage was because geometry was handled in a two step process with the geometry calculations being done host side with the 8830 taking on the geometry rendering.

            I could easily do a comparison of cards at anytime as I have 40+ cards ranging from DOS era cards like the Adlib, Adlib Gold, GUS, SbPro to the high end SW1000XG, RME and M-Audios pro cards to modern 8788 cards and even a few crap creatives to others like cult status AV-710 and PCS 706.

            Heck I even have my old homemade parallel port resistive ladder sound card ready to hook up on a whim.

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            I bet you have 40 plus sound cards laying around waiting to be hooked up. It wouldn’t matter if you did though, bias is a powerful tool. It would have to be done by a third party, such as non-biased hardware website.

            So, the list of cards you gave is simply pulled from here: [url<]http://www.quantexzone.com/index.php/vortex-of-sound/vortex-2-faq/111-vortex-2-faq-spdif[/url<] Almost verbatim, except the ordering was switched up as was wording.It's impossible to find information on any of the cards you mentioned. That link I found when searching for information, which I'm sure is where you copied well informed list from. This is really starting to be a waste of my time so I'm going to concede that the Aureal cards had 4.0 and 5.1 in their later unlikely versions. If the cards were really as great as people make them out to be, there would've been plenty of reviews facing them off vs Creatives latest and greatest as the baseline. Except they weren't and they disappeared with each superior version of EAX. Unfortunately the Aureal crowd seems to hate EAX, so they pretend that Aureal was the be all, end all, of immersive audio in games.

            • Deanjo
            • 7 years ago

            Pretty much every review of the Aureal cards pitted then head to head with the live.

            As far as the list of cards go, it is also the same list found in the alsa and OSS source.

            As far as bias goes, that’s far from the case. I’ve been an avid pc audio nut since Tandy brought out their 3 voice sound capabilities and have built up quite a collection over the last 25 years.

            Btw, neither aureal nor creative brought out the first 4 channel consumer card. That honor has to go to the Adlib Gold with it’s optional surround sound daughter card.

            • Rza79
            • 7 years ago

            You’re right. Creative didn’t incorporate A3D into EAX. EAX 5.0 doesn’t even come close to A3D.

            History:
            Crystal River developed 3D sound technology for NASA that they later commercialized. Aureal acquired Crystal River and A3D was born.

            Difference with EAX:
            EAX has no clue about the 3D environment and has no link to the 3D engine. Every room has (can) to be programmed by the developer, telling EAX how the room has to sound.
            A3D on the other hand has a link to the 3D engine and calculates the sound according to your true environment. Even putting a box into that room can make it sound different.

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            A3D just does positional audio. EAX also does similar. The only articles I’ve seen that state that EAX doesn’t look at the environment relate to version 1.0 of EAX.

            I think you’re confusing something here. Developers have to tell EAX what a room is made out of so EAX can make it sound like that. That is what makes EAX sound so good. Because a tile bathroom sounds like a tile bathroom and foot steps in that tile bathroom sound like that. A carpeted room sounds like a carpeted room with slightly muffled foot steps. EAX can blend the two and make it sound like they’re walking from a carpeted room to a bathroom not only by the location of their sound, but also by [i<]what the sound sounds like[/i<] A3D could not and can't do that. All it can do is the positional aspect and that's why A3D didn't need to be told what a room is made out of, because it can't reproduce it even if it was told!

        • eitje
        • 7 years ago

        DID YOU WARN THEM?!

      • Deanjo
      • 7 years ago

      A few others I miss,

      Gravis Ultrasound, Adlib Gold, nvidia soundstorm and the Philips PCS-706.

      • Bensam123
      • 7 years ago

      I don’t understand where this comes from. It’s like people really want to say they enjoyed good video game audio, but are too snobby to say Creative did anything well so they resort to complimenting a technology that was in it’s infancy before it was acquired and improved on by Creative.

      All A3D did was positional audio, EAX did that plus much, much more.

        • Deanjo
        • 7 years ago

        Because Creative didn’t do anything well but attempt hostile takeovers and sue the competition out of existence (never winning just draining their competition’s finances by making baseless claims resulting in legal defenses that wound up killing their competition) .

        Their drivers have always sucked, their support was brutal, and they always loved to go as proprietary as they could and they outright lie about their products capabilities.

        And BTW, EAX did much less in those days then then A3D. EAX 1.0 could only do reverb effects where A3d could not only do direct but also real reflection.

          • Bensam123
          • 7 years ago

          I think you just don’t like Creative so you wont look at what actually worked.

          Everything that is EAX after EAX 1.0 is also A3D with copious amounts of improvements ontop of it.

          You’re right, their drivers suck and still do suck, their support sucked, and they most definitely kept pushing their EAX branding, but they also had and have the most amazing hardware audio hardware available for interactive and immersive environments. EAX was so far ahead of the competition that they never even caught up. Matter of a fact, what lead to a equal playing field was MS outright killing off DSound, which forced game developers to abandon it and OpenAL never caught on in the consolized market.

          Hating a company because you don’t like their practices is one thing, not giving credit to their achievements where it is due is another.

          Here is a good snippet:

          [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_Audio_Extensions#Versions_of_EAX[/url<] Aureal3D was around in v1 of EAX. EAX 2.0+ has A3D incorporated and all the other changes listed. A3D is JUST positional audio, specifically virtualization of positional audio for 2.0 speakers.

            • Deanjo
            • 7 years ago

            Sorry but A3D 2.0 was more then positional audio. It could also accurately model 60 reflections realtime (something that wasn’t debuted until EAX 3.0). It was also for 4.0 systems as well at the time. Creatives “advancements” were a direct result of sucking the other guy dry and acquiring their patent portfolio. As far as their own innovations they have done virtually nothing that didn’t come from other patent portfolios from their acquisitions of EMU, Aureal, Sensoura, etc.

            In fact they have outright lied about items like their products capabilities at times like their claim of 24/96 playback and the ability of pass thru (Yay, lets reprocess everything!). In the meanwhile you had better alternatives out there (Like the philips Thunderbird cards) but because they quite literally bought out all the competition is was a dead market. Lets not also forget their beautiful re branding of product (they beat nvidia and amd on that one).

            BTW, openAL is alive and well (and it’s commercial counterpart rapture3d) . Pretty much every iD and Unreal powered game uses it (as well as a few more engines).

            And don’t even get me going with their ‘support’ of open source drivers…

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            The white paper A3D 2.0 brings up is only about positional audio (which is I’m sure what you’re referencing but forgot to add). Those ‘reflections’ are for positional audio. There is no soft transitions or DSP processing of any kind.

            Voice processing isn’t the same as mapping ‘reflections’ either. One is an individual sound, the other relates solely to positioning of one sound.

            If we pull that apart further, that pdf also state that for those ‘mappings’ it only supports 16 streams, or in other words 16 voices. They can’t be reprocessed at all. That is below EAX 2.0 specs and coincides with what I said earlier. A3D is JUST positional audio.

            It doesn’t even support 4.1 or 5.1 surround sound.

            [url<]http://www.ixbt.com/multimedia/utils/v2_pci_super.pdf[/url<] [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_Audio_Extensions#Versions_of_EAX[/url<] Did you even look at each improvement in each version of EAX? The rest is Creative being a company, the same as other hardware companies. They still offered the best hardware for immersive audio, they patent technology they developed (EAX). As far as what they 'stole', which by stole you mean bought out from Aureal, it only pertains to virtualization of 2.0 surround sound... Such as with CMSS-3D. OpenAL support is spotty. Only a couple games support it and it doesn't always work well when it does. It's only a shell of what EAX was. Not just in terms of the implementation, but support from developers.

            • Deanjo
            • 7 years ago

            [quote<]OpenAL support is spotty. Only a couple games support it and it doesn't always work well when it does. It's only a shell of what EAX was. [/quote<] Wrong, openAL with EFX incorporates EVERYTHING that EAX offered. Also A3D 2.0 also incorporated wave tracing which included reflections off walls, occlusions by walls, Doppler effect, acoustic reverberation, and atmospheric absorption. That is DSP. [url<]http://www.datasheetarchive.com/Aureal+Semiconductor+8830-datasheet.html#[/url<]

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            Yup, I’m well aware of what OpenAL offers and it’s [i<]supposed[/i<] to do. But in practice in the way it's implemented in Windows 7 by not only the OS, but also game developers, it doesn't accomplish that. Like I said it's spotty. All you have to do is play a game in Windows 7 with OpenAL support to figure it out. A spec can be pristine, but that doesn't mean it turns out that way after it's implemented. That's what I've been getting at. As far as DSP goes. That all pertains to positional audio once again. None of it relates to what a room is made out of for instance, which can substantially change a sound. EAX supported all of that and more, especially in later versions. I will also add that HRTF (which are all the DSPs you mentioned except reflections) are done in software.

        • sluggo
        • 7 years ago

        I understand where it comes from. It comes from a time when there was real innovation in PC audio instead of what’s happened in the [i<]fifteen years[/i<] since. Going down memory lane on the video side means looking back on a series of interesting GPUs and innovative technology. The last interesting thing that happened in PC audio was A3D - the rest has been just more connectors and cleaning up the analog. None of Creative's products since have performed as well as that chip or have broken new ground. It's been crap effects laid on crap effects with a dollop of licensed tech from Dolby and DTS. edit: deleted last sentence, too much coffee

          • Bensam123
          • 7 years ago

          EAX 2.0 incorporates A3D and a host of other changes.

          [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_Audio_Extensions#Versions_of_EAX[/url<] A3D is JUST positional audio, specifically pertaining to virtualization over 2.0 speaker setups. I really don't want to call fanboi on this, but the whole 'I miss A3D' thing is just fluff. There is nothing to it and looking at all that has happened since you can see that EAX not only improved on positional audio, but delivered an infinitely superior product in the hardware and software level as far as EAX goes. Even if their drivers suck, their legal practices suck, their support sucks, the hardware and EAX implementations were great.

            • destroy.all.monsters
            • 7 years ago

            You’re wrong. See my post elsethread.

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            How did a comment like this get rated up?

      • Kaleid
      • 7 years ago

      I miss EAX.

    • Theolendras
    • 7 years ago

    Is that me or hardware acceleration is somehow coming back to Windows 8 ?

    The link is in french.
    [url<]http://www.clubic.com/windows-os/windows-8/actualite-496092-windows-8-audio-video-optimisations-drm-metro.html[/url<]

      • DeadOfKnight
      • 7 years ago

      Hardware acceleration has always been available, it’s just no longer necessary.

        • Corrado
        • 7 years ago

        From my understanding, hardware sound acceleration as removed from DirectX in either 9 or 10.

        Ripped from Wikipedia on DirectSound:

        Windows Vista/Windows 7

        Windows Vista features a completely re-written audio stack based on the Universal Audio Architecture. Because of the architectural changes in the redesigned audio stack, a direct path from DirectSound to the audio drivers does not exist.[7] DirectSound, DirectMusic and other APIs such as MME are emulated as WASAPI Session instances. DirectSound runs in emulation mode on the Microsoft software mixer. The emulator does not have hardware abstraction, so there is no hardware DirectSound acceleration, meaning hardware and software relying on DirectSound acceleration may have degraded performance. It’s likely a supposed performance hit might not be noticeable, depending on the application and actual system hardware. In the case of hardware 3D audio effects played using DirectSound3D, they will not be playable; this also breaks compatibility with EAX extensions.[8]

          • Bensam123
          • 7 years ago

          It’s available as OpenAL, just no one uses it.

          MS did kill directsound because Creative wouldn’t pay them fees for it though.

            • Corrado
            • 7 years ago

            Right. Its tough to say ‘We’re going to use DirectX for EVERYTHING… but sound, even though theres DirectX sound, just so that 3% of the market can enjoy hardware sound, which has no discernible performance benefit to us.’

      • bcronce
      • 7 years ago

      Hardware acceleration is only an issue for battery life in really low end appliances. Software has much better quality and more flexibility while only being a very small portion of the overall CPU. Development is also simplified since you don’t have to program for many types of hardware.

        • Corrado
        • 7 years ago

        Using DX and OpenAL, you don’t have to write for any type of hardware. You write to the API, and the hardware manufacturers create their drivers/hardware to the API. Thats kinda how they work, and the whole purpose of them.

          • Bensam123
          • 7 years ago

          Yup. That’s one of the big things people seem to forget about EAX is that it was a easily implementable API that made their game sound better with a little work. It’s like comparing having to program a completely ground up version of directx for every game to having directx 11 or whatever already available.

          Programmers simply don’t do it anymore since EAX hit the trash can. People don’t usually pay that much attention to audio.

          Not to mention you can’t really compare accelerating audio now days in video games to what it used to be with EAX and all the effects on top of it. If we scoot all the way back to DX7, modern processors could probably do a pretty good job of emulating all of that in software, yet it’s worlds apart from DX11.

        • Theolendras
        • 7 years ago

        It effectively seems to be mostly for battery life efficiency, but even without the same goals as the old days I think it’s kinda nice.

      • Bensam123
      • 7 years ago

      This is actually very interesting. So it means, MS intentionally killed off DXsound in order to kill Creative, which they successfully did, as well as killing off the video game industries desire to implement good sound. Now they’re bringing it back because it’s a good idea after Creative has shifted gears to the integrated market.

      I mean people can STILL buy X-Fi sound cards and this could very well trigger a resurgence in those cards, especially if EAX tech magically works again with this, but this is quite disheartening.

      I would, and I say this with the gravest intent, switch to Windows 8 if they brought back DSound and EAX worked again. I thought MS didn’t have a new DX up their sleeve to hang over my head…

        • Theolendras
        • 7 years ago

        Well I’m not sure the hardware acceleration will be exposed the same way and if it means EAX will be restored with hardware acceleration without OpenAL. Would be nice, for some game I get to play every once in a while with EAX.

          • forumics
          • 7 years ago

          i really miss EAX, remember playing counter strike and battlefield years ago and very clearly being able to hear where enemies were. even warcraft sounded much better with EAX enabled

          battlefield used to be the king when it comes to sound reproduction, i used to be able to differentiate distinctly bullets being shot at me and away from me. once EAX was removed from bf bc2 & now bf3, everything just sounds like a mp3 playing non stop. everything became rubbish background noise and the positional advantage is long lost

          nowadays people are buying high end stereo speakers when years ago people were buying high end 7.1 speaker sets. ms killed the gaming industry by removing hw acceleration and EAX!

            • Kaleid
            • 7 years ago

            Same here, although with different games (Thief 1 + 2, System Shock 2). But it needs to be added that EAX with bad cards resulted into messed up audio, and unfortunately only Creative worked well.

    • DeadOfKnight
    • 7 years ago

    A lot of companies offer sound cards. I’d like to see some of the less known names in the industry get reviewed rather than these cards which already get a lot of attention.

      • DancinJack
      • 7 years ago

      There is probably a reason only a few companies are better known. I don’t know of that many people that make sound cards anymore.

        • destroy.all.monsters
        • 7 years ago

        There’s actually at least 3 other card makers building off of C-Media’s chipsets. I’m pretty sure all of them allow you to swap out op amps.

      • cynan
      • 7 years ago

      I wouldn’t mind seeing some of the newer HT Omega cards reviewed for one..

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