NVIDIA RSX to power Playstation 3 audio?

Dave at Beyond3D has pointed out some slides now online from Sony’s presentations at GDC that include some juicy details about the Playstation 3 and the chips that power it. Among the slides is a high-level block diagram of a PS3 system that shows many of the system components connected as one would expect. But right there among them is an arrow shooting out of the side of the NVIDIA-supplied RSX graphics processor with a label that will raise some eyebrows: “8 Ch. Audio”. This suggests none too subtly that the RSX will provide the PlayStation 3’s audio capabilities as well as its graphics.


I would be more inclined to dismiss this possibility outright had I not been sitting in a room with NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang when the Playstation 3 deal was announced. That very morning, Huang said NVIDIA would create another SoundStorm, referring to the popular but ill-fated hardware-accelerated audio processor in NVIDIA’s early nForce chipsets. My account of that conversation read, in part:

Huang told the assembled press types, “We’re gonna build SoundStorm 2. It’s gonna be awesome.” He was less clear on what form the next SoundStorm would take, saying that NVIDIA was still trying to figure out how to deliver SoundStorm as a product. Huang said, cryptically, that the new SoundStorm “will come in a way that you won’t expect.”

In the same Q&A session, Huang spoke about NVIDIA’s history with the NV1 “media processor” chip, which had built-in sound as well as graphics. He disputed that notion that NVIDIA is primarily a “graphics company,” and then suggested that the GPU is going to evolve and expand beyond graphics to include other kinds of digital media.

The wording of this statement made one wonder whether NVIDIA might be providing the audio capabilities for the PS3. This slide from Sony’s GDC presentation would seem to suggest that it’s so.


Of course, we don’t know what sort of audio capabilities the RSX may include and whether they will rise above the basic AC’97 or Azalia (HD Audio) interfaces NVIDIA has already designed for its nForce chipsets. If this is the “SoundStorm 2” Huang promised, one would expect true hardware DSPs and 3D positional audio capabilities from it. One of the more tantalizing prospects, given that the audio capabilities are located on a GPU, is the possibility that RSX might use its pixel shader processors to manipulate audio streams. That’s just wild speculation on my part, though. We’ve asked NVIDIA for comment on all of these issues, but we have yet to hear back.


Beyond the apparent revelation about RSX audio, these slides also offer some insight into the RSX’s graphics capabilities. One slide lists basic specifications, and claims the RSX GPU is “NV47 based.” Beyond3D notes that NV47 was a code-name for G70, the GPU better known as the GeForce 7800. We’ve expected the RSX to be based on the GeForce 7 series graphics architecture, but this is confirmation, with additional detail. The slide says RSX will be capable of 24 texture lookups and 384 FLOPS per clock, suggesting the RSX probably has the same 24-pixel-shader configuration as the desktop G70 and G71 GPUs from NVIDIA. However, the RSX will communicate with its 256MB of dedicated memory over a 128-bit memory bus, half the width of the memory interface for the desktop G70 and G71 chips. The 22.4GB/s of bandwidth this memory config yields should be sufficient, since the PS3 will “only” have to drive HDTV-class displays.

Comments closed
    • LSDX
    • 13 years ago

    Most people don’t care about the audio part of their PC. They are happy with the onboard sound, they don’t mind connecting 3 cables to get surround sound. Creative, nvidia and other can only target gamers with their products (most musicians still don’t consider soundblaster as high end cards).

    I liked my nforce2 mobo, and I might consider going for an other solution giving me DDL, be it a PCI soundcard (maybe the X-plosion), or a mobo, or even an PCIe videoboards with integrated audio. But it won’t be a mass market for some time.

    Maybe HDMI cables can change this for the videocard solution in a year or two. But then I don’t like this HDMI anti-consummer stuff, that forces me to replace my newly bought LCD, and makes me think twice about buying a new TV set (do I need to have HDMI 1.1, 1.2 or 1.3 equipment to get video+audio over the cable??)

    Technically i’m pretty sure nvidia is capable of producing such a solution, and what is more, the 2$ DD Licence won’t be a major factor for those super high priced videoboards at over 500$, not like for those sub-100$ mobo.

    • mkygod
    • 13 years ago

    Videocards with builtin sound looks to be inevitable. When Directx10 cards come rolling in next year, there will be quite a few that have HDMI connectors. And HDMI also happens to support audio output.

    And having a small connector like HDMI will also take less bracket real estate to leave room for other video connectors.

    • lemonhead
    • 13 years ago

    /[

      • Krogoth
      • 13 years ago

      The real problem was that motherboard guys did not want to pay $2 or so for DD license per chip. Soundstorm was popular due to being a viable alterative to Creative and AC97. Azaila seems to practically supplanted Soundstorm without DD license fee, snice it lacks DD encoding.

      • mirkin
      • 13 years ago

      It died b/c the OEMs rejected it – otherwise it was just like every other integrated sound solution, on the mobo you bought.
      MSI is integrating Sound Blasters … still

        • Namarrgon
        • 13 years ago

        nForce2 was THE mobo to have for the Athlon XP, in no small part due to Soundstorm.

        #1 reason why it was dropped, not because OEMs or customers didn’t like it, but because it required access to RAM to do its DSP thing. nForce2 had a memory controller in the northbridge so the MCP could easily go through that. Since Athlon64 started doing that itself, nForce3 had no memory controller of its own anymore, and adding that (plus RAM) just for Soundstorm pushed the cost up too much (and OEMs/customers didn’t like that).

        nForce4 for Intel would have an easier time of it, maybe.

          • tu2thepoo
          • 13 years ago

          The problem with your argument is that most Nforce2 boards didn’t ship with the MCP-T southbridge.

          So… most people bought Nforce2 boards that lacked soundstorm, and so it couldn’t have played “no small part” in the chipset’s success. Certainly it was a nice feature (and gained lots of mindshare with hardware geeks), and I liked how it worked on my Abit NF7-S. But it only appeared on the high-end retail boards – which comprised a relatively small part of the market.

          You only have to look at how boards with the MCP-T southbridge dried up towards the end of the Nforce2’s lifetime to see that it wasn’t a huge seller. Abit themselves basically dropped the NF7-S design towards the end and shipped the NF7-2S which lacked Soundstorm. The deluxe ASUS Nforce2 boards also stopped shipping with Soundstorm towards the end.

            • lemonhead
            • 13 years ago

            I agree, it was neat, but that doesn’t sell boards, if the people demand/buy it, they will sell it. My new Nforce4 ultra board still has a parallel and serial port. I use it for my ancient laser printer and my monitor has a serial out for PC control.

    • squeezee
    • 13 years ago

    Considering the speed of a typical DRAM is only 3.2GB/s, 25.6 is still very high for the processor alone. The more interesting part is the rather pokey speed of 22.4 GB/s for the VRAM, the 7800 is 38GB/s, 7900 is 51GB/s with 22.4 being closer to that of a 7600. I’d imagine this is a cost issue of course since those cards are priced as much as the whole ps3.

    The RSX has access to main memory through the processor, I wonder if the RSX can access both system and vram simultaniously to achieve a higher peak throughput.

    • Bensam123
    • 13 years ago

    You know what happens when a specialized chip starts doing more then it is supposed to?

    It becomes a CPU.

    • Stranger
    • 13 years ago

    What I found interesting was the fact that the memory bandwidth to the cell processor was only 25 GB/s I thouhgt it was going to be closer to 100 GB/s

    • Ricardo Dawkins
    • 13 years ago

    man….why ppl here care about a vaporware console with an outdated GFX card ?

    like #4 say…Cell was announced as the do-it-all CPU for consoles…so Sony is so crazy to barely use this Cell CPU doing just gameplay..ummm ? 😮 give me a break! Lets talk back when PS3 is out. if EVER !!!!

      • Ardrid
      • 13 years ago

      Yeah, vaporware…right. Sounds like a troll to me.

        • Ricardo Dawkins
        • 13 years ago

        delayed ’til November at the least..so lets see… “Vaporware” again

          • Rousterfar
          • 13 years ago

          Delayed from Spring 2006 to Fall 2006 equels vaporware to you? Wow, I would hate to see what you would call a product that is delayed a whole year.

      • Rousterfar
      • 13 years ago

      You are saying that a company that has the highest selling console in history (the PS2) is not going to release the next system? That it’s only vaporware? Troll much?

    • DaveBaumann
    • 13 years ago

    Scott, another possability is that “RSX” encompasses the entire graphics subsystem and is not just a single graphics chip. I’m told that Sony will actually be looking to use a Silicon Image display output device for their TMDS/HDMI output, and with HDMI in use the sound sound needs to be synced and sent with the display output.

      • Damage
      • 13 years ago

      Interesting. I asked NVIDIA specifically about whether the audio logic was on the GPU. We’ll see what they/Sony have to say (if anything.)

        • Lord.Blue
        • 13 years ago

        This make a lot of sense, seeing that the PS3 looks to be utilizing HDMI 1.3 spec, which includes 8 channel DTS/Dolby Digital level sound. Plus as the soundstorm chip previously supported Dolby, then it stands to reason that it would continue to do so.

        There could be more than a few snags in this, however, as HDMI 1.1 ports are not fully compatable with an HDMI 1.3 signal.

        We’ll see more as things develop.

    • Pettytheft
    • 13 years ago

    I remember when they first talked about how Cell could do anything from audio to graphics.

      • Decelerate
      • 13 years ago

      Maybe it can, but just won’t.

        • Rousterfar
        • 13 years ago

        Agreed, just because it can does not mean it will or should. Doing this would actually free up resources in Cell for other tasks.

          • willyolio
          • 13 years ago

          i thought most processors could do anything, it was just a matter of efficiency.

    • Forge
    • 13 years ago

    I would be first in line for a GeForce 7900 GTX with Soundstorm 2 inside.

    • Decelerate
    • 13 years ago

    What happens if both sound and graphics require the same ressources?

    I kinda like modularity when it comes to important stuff.

      • maxxcool
      • 13 years ago

      i would suspect that the bandwidht of a 8x pci express card or a 16x lane card will have uber amounts of space for additional proccessing.

      i would suspect that hardware acceleration will be done on chip, but all other work would be software codec based output.

        • Decelerate
        • 13 years ago

        I meant ressources as in pixel shaders (assuming that’s what it’s using)

        Software-based codec huh….

          • Bensam123
          • 13 years ago

          I would ask what happens to your sound when you’re getting horrible frame rates in a game cause your video card is older. Does that dictate, stuttering, mismatched sound, crack/poping, or just missing sound?

          For that matter, they’re going to start doing physics on a video card. What happens when your cards already maxed out and you add more work to it? w00t for 10fps. Now I have a reason to upgrade to SLI! I’ll buy another video card to just do physics…. instead… of a… physics card….

          I don’t know about you guys but unless they’re adding more chips to a video card to do seperate tasks this won’t cut it. They make seperate chips for a reason and there is also a reason why your CPU doesn’t function as a graphics card or a audio processer.

          If they are adding more chips I would ask why you would want to buy a combo card that has to be entirely replaced when one thing gets outdated over seperate components?

    • 5150
    • 13 years ago

    Soundstorm FTW!

    Finally I can replace my Abit AN7 and step up to 64-bit!

      • Shobai
      • 13 years ago

      not just yet…

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