Exploring EAX with onboard audio

ANALOG DEVICES RECENTLY published a document challenging reviewers not only to benchmark the CPU utilization of integrated audio solutions, but also to explore how well those implementations handle EAX positional 3D audio. According to the document, most motherboards don’t handle EAX properly, despite the fact that they claim to support the standard. Analog Devices diplomatically avoids naming names, but with the vast majority of integrated audio solutions powered by Realtek codecs, the writing’s on the wall.

The question, of course, is whether it’s true. Analog Devices’ whitepaper cites tests conducted in Creative’s, er, labs, but we’re not happy until we can explore an issue with our own systems in an environment we can control. So, we’ve rounded up a couple of nearly identical motherboards with Analog Devices and Realtek codecs to see how they handle EAX positional 3D audio, with conclusive results.

Much ado about EAX
EAX, otherwise known as Environmental Audio eXtensions, is a positional 3D audio standard with roots in Creative’s SoundBlaster Live. The standard tags in-game sounds with information about their position in the world, allowing for more realistic interactions with the player. Through EAX, positional audio is mapped to the appropriate speakers in a multi-channel setup, giving the player a sense of direction associated with each sound. EAX can also modify in-game sounds to take into account obstructions like walls and pillars, and the occlusion effect of different materials, such as wood and glass, between the player and a given sound.

The most recent incarnation of EAX is EAX Advanced HD 5.0, which can be found on Creative’s latest X-Fi audio cards. You don’t need a fancy audio card to enjoy EAX effects, though. Creative made EAX 2.0 a public spec—ostensibly to push its own 3D audio technology as the standard for positional audio in games—allowing other sound card and codec manufacturers to support it.

EAX 2.0 was originally handled in hardware by the SoundBlaster Live’s EMU10K1 audio chip. On motherboards, EAX 2.0’s positional audio calculations are now most often handled in software by the onboard audio codec’s driver. In fact, core logic chipset makers have largely washed their hands of 3D audio support, deferring to codec makers, whose sound drivers do the heavy lifting via Microsoft’s standard High Definition Audio bus.


Realtek’s ALC882D audio codec

Codec chips from Analog Devices and Realtek currently dominate the scene for integrated motherboard audio, and the latter is far and away more popular than the former. Fear the crab, baby.

Back in the day, it was nearly impossible to find a motherboard that didn’t use Realtek’s ALC650 codec. The company has done an admirable job of maintaining its strong market share since, becoming the de facto standard for eight-channel AC’97 codecs and now for the new wave of high-definition “Azalia” audio chips.


Analog Devices’ AD1988B audio codec

Analog Devices’ codecs haven’t been nearly as popular among motherboard makers as those from Realtek, but that may be starting to change. Asus recently switched from Realtek to Analog Devices codecs for its high-end motherboards, and since they sent us a copy of Analog Devices’ EAX whitepaper, we suspect it had something to do with their decision to buck the crab.

 

Our testing methods
To put each codec’s EAX implementation to the test, we assembled a couple of similar nForce 590 SLI motherboards from Asus and Foxconn, one with Analog Devices AD1988B codec, the other with Realtek’s ALC882D. Both chips claim to support EAX 2.0, and each was configured with the latest version of its drivers. Nvidia actually used to provide its own 3D audio drivers for nForce chipsets, but the company is now relying solely on codec makers for 3D audio support and has removed the 3D audio drivers from its ForceWare driver package.

We used the following test systems.

Processor Athlon 64 X2 5000+ 2.6GHz
System bus HyperTransport 16-bit/1GHz
Motherboard Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe Wireless Edition Foxconn C51XEM2AA-8EKRS2H
Bios revision 603 612W1P20
North bridge nForce 590 SLI SPP nForce 590 SLI SPP
South bridge nForce 590 SLI MCP nForce 590 SLI MCP
Chipset drivers ForceWare 9.35 ForceWare 9.35
Memory size 2GB (2 DIMMs) 2GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair TWIN2X2048-6400PRO DDR2 SDRAM at 742MHz
CAS latency (CL) 5 5
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 5 5
RAS precharge (tRP) 5 5
Cycle time (tRAS) 12 12
Command rate 1T 1T
Audio codec Integrated nForce 590 SLI MCP/AD1988B with 5.10.1.4530 drivers Integrated nForce 590 SLI/ALC882D with Realtek HD 1.47 drivers
Graphics GeForce 7900 GTX 512MB PCI-E with ForceWare 91.31 drivers
Hard drive Western Digital Caviar RE2 400GB
OS Windows XP Professional
OS updates Service Pack 2

Our test systems were hooked up to 5.1-channel Logitech Z680 speakers using each motherboard’s analog audio outputs. The audio drivers were set to use 5.1-channel output.

Thanks to Corsair for providing us with memory for our testing. 2GB of RAM seems to be the new standard for most folks, and Corsair hooked us up with some of its 1GB DIMMs for testing.

Also, all of our test systems were powered by OCZ GameXStream 700W power supply units. Thanks to OCZ for providing these units for our use in testing.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1280×1024 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate.

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

 

RightMark 3D Sound
We regularly cover the CPU utilization of integrated audio solutions in our chipset and motherboard reviews, so this time, we’ve narrowed our focus to positional audio accuracy. RightMark 3D Sound has a handy positioning accuracy test that lets one arbitrarily define a sound’s spatial position to see how each audio implementation handles it.

When dealing only with simple positional audio, we didn’t observe any differences between the Analog Devices and Realtek codecs. Each appeared to reproduce audio faithfully based on its position relative to the listener, taking both direction and distance into account.

Next, we fired up RightMark 3D Sound’s occlusion test, which lets the user observe how sounds interact with a pair of occlusion fields.


RightMark 3D Sound’s occlusion test

In the occlusion test, the Analog Devices codec smoothly muffled sounds between the listener and the occlusion fields. The Realtek codec did not, however. It behaved as if the occlusion didn’t exist, failing to modify sounds in a discernable way regardless of whether they were in front of or behind the occlusion field.


RightMark 3D Sound’s obstruction test

Moving to RightMark’s obstruction test, we observed similar behavior from the Realtek codec. It acted as if the obstructions simply weren’t there, while the Analog Devices codec modified sounds as they passed behind each obstruction. The difference between the two codecs couldn’t have been starker.

RightMark 3D Sound’s synthetic tests do a good job of highlighting the Realtek codec’s failure to support EAX occlusions and obstructions correctly, but do those features really matter? To find out, we fired up a couple of popular games that support EAX.

Battlefield 2
Battlefield 2 was configured with the game’s high-quality hardware audio option. We played through a 16-player game on the Strike at Karkand level.

We fired up Battlefield 2 on our Analog Devices-equipped system first, and didn’t encounter any problems with 3D audio. Sounds came from the appropriate directions, faded with distance, and were accurately affected by buildings, fences, and other in-game objects.

The Realtek codec, on the other hand, was a disaster. Sounds seemed to be coming from the right direction, but there were entirely too many at once. Further investigation revealed that in-game objects had little to no impact on in-game audio; tanks located on the other side of buildings—or even the other side of the map—were as loud as they were driving right next to you.

Battlefield 2 occludes sounds over distance to take air absorption into effect, but the Realtek codec didn’t seem to be taking that into account at all. Even when out in the open and free from obstructions, sounds didn’t correctly fade over distance.

This apparent lack of proper obstruction and occlusion support effectively made Battlefield 2 unplayable with EAX 3D audio on our Realtek-equipped system. You literally hear every sound on the battlefield as if it’s right next to you, plunging the player into aureal chaos.

F.E.A.R.
Battlefield 2 is a chaotic multiplayer game with loads of in-game audio, so we scaled things back a little for another test, playing through early levels in single-player FEAR. The game was set to use hardware mixing and EAX 2.0 effects.

Again, we launched the game with our Analog Devices system first, and we failed to encounter any problems along the way. Bracing ourselves for the unplayable chaos we experienced in Battlefield 2, we ran the game on our Realtek-equipped system, and were pleasantly surprised to find a much more subdued environment. Obstructions and occlusions didn’t appear to be working correctly—we’d hear sounds through walls and windows that we didn’t with our Analog Devices system—but that didn’t affect the gameplay to a great degree.

Of course, FEAR is a very different game than Battlefield 2. Plodding through a largely linear single-player level doesn’t produce a lot of simultaneous sounds in different locations, especially if audio is triggered by scripts based on the player’s physical location.

 

Conclusions
There are clearly problems with the EAX implementation of Realtek’s HD Audio codec and its associated drivers. Despite the fact that Realtek claims to support EAX 2.0, obstructions and occlusions apparently haven’t been implemented correctly, if at all. For some games, that’s not a serious problem. For instance, FEAR plays fine, even if the audio isn’t exactly right. However, the lack of proper occlusion and obstruction support makes Battlefield 2 unplayable with EAX effects enabled.

We observed these problems on a Foxconn motherboard with an ALC882D codec, but any motherboard that uses a Realtek codec for High Definition Audio is likely to be affected. After all, Realtek handles 3D audio in the driver, which is shared among all of its HD Audio codecs. (Realtek’s AC97 audio drivers may have similar problems, but we haven’t tested those.) Fortunately, Analog Devices appears to be doing EAX right, but that doesn’t help if you already have a board based on a Realtek codec.

So we have a problem. If Realtek wants to tout EAX 2.0 support, that support needs to be complete and functional. Game developers need to be assured that if they devote the effort to supporting EAX, their users will experience the game as intended. As it stands, those efforts will be wasted on motherboards with Realtek integrated audio. Fixing the problem should be possible through a software update, and that needs to happen as soon as possible if Realtek wants to continue claiming support for EAX 2.0. 

Comments closed
    • format_C
    • 13 years ago

    New AC’97 (A3.95) drivers:
    y[

    • Willard
    • 13 years ago

    Anybody seen
    “Tech Report, Why Have You Abandoned Us So?”
    Ars OpenForum 3.0b > Ars OpenForum 3.0b > Audio/Visual Club
    New Topic by Hat Monster

    I’d be curious to know if his flaming (it’s well past a critique) has any basis in reality.

    • GeForce6200
    • 13 years ago

    I had the problem of sounds being heard all the way across the battlefield in BF2. Is there a way to fix this? Should i get new sound card? Now its a AC97, on nforce4.

      • crazybus
      • 13 years ago

      disable EAX?

    • Jigar
    • 13 years ago

    Forget about the onboard audio crap, if you really like to listen songs and like to play games,Creative audio cards are good choice.. (i am not in a mood to talk about the driver conflict and nforce 4 issue here)

    • Firestarter
    • 13 years ago

    in the 3d games that i’ve played extensively (Quake series, Battlefield series), i’ve never bothered to play with EAX. for me, even with the Audigy2 ZS, EAX just never sounded right. if i’m not mistaken, both Quake3 and the Battlefield series use the Miles fast 2D positional audio, which works just fine for me with my headphones.

    • crazybus
    • 13 years ago

    Well, Dolby Digital Live allows you to have surround sound in games over s/pdif, bypassing the typically crappy dacs on motherboards. EAX 2 works fine on my nforce2 ftw

    edit: supposed to be a reply to 76

      • evermore
      • 13 years ago

      The audio processor still has to generate the audio to send to the receiver or the DAC, so having digital outputs has nothing to do with whether you get proper EAX (it only determines that you’re likely to get cleaner output since the receiver can do the conversion much better than a cheap DAC). The DAC is doing exactly the same thing the receiver is doing, taking a digital stream with the audio data encoded in it, reading the data that tells it what signal to send over each output line, and doing it.

      With Soundstorm it’s a quite nice hardware audio controller, with other onboard sound it’s done in software with the AC’97 or Azalia capability, and that’s what analyzes the audio in the game to determine what channel needs what signal, and is responsible for proper occlusion and the like. So it goes back to the difference between a good implementation of the controller and a bad one, and Soundstorm happens to be a hardware controller, Realtek is a “software controller” performing the same tasks with drivers. Soundstorm could have just as easily been crappy if the designers hadn’t worked so hard, it’s all in the coding.

    • jacobinos
    • 13 years ago

    Hi, I have an A8N-SLI with a Realtek ALC850, I can confirm that battfield 2 does have the EAX problem, where you would hear all the various sounds together when one uses the realtek drivers even with the latest driver 3.94.
    I tried the nvidia 4.65 driver with BF 2, the sounds are as the should be, and not a whole orchestra of sounds, but sound quality is inferior and can not use SPDIF but only analog, hope there is a quickfix for this problem from Realtek .

    • sigher
    • 13 years ago

    So did anybody actually talk to realtek people about these issues? they seem to be blissfully unaware of the rest of the world being peeved about their failed EAX support

    • Forge
    • 13 years ago

    There’s a reason that all my old Intel-branded mobos have nice little AD chips doing the audio. AD just seems to take things more seriously, while Realtek has the lowest overall price. It’s just too bad that most of the really serious contenders in the audio spaces have been pushed out or dropped out (Aureal, Nvidia, others), while the mainstream has been continually dominated by the less capable (Creative, Realtek). It’s not that the current stuff is junk, mind you, but I’ll take my Envy24 card over anything in Creative’s lineup for any workload that isn’t 100% gaming, and it was about one eighth the price of the Creative card it fully replaced.

    Stagnation is always bad for all industries, and PC audio has been developmentally retarded for years. I hope AD and Realtek can make generic HDA into a true competitor for Creative’s near-monopoly, but I’m not holding my breath.

    • albundy
    • 13 years ago

    onboard audio? maybe if i didn’t have ears. until then sb x-fi is the only card for my rig. even my mom’s Aureal Superquad Digital still sounds freakin good.

      • crazybus
      • 13 years ago

      soundstorm running through s/pdif sounds pretty good.

    • Freon
    • 13 years ago

    I never knew any of them supported EAX 2.0. I guess I never paid attention.

    This is a good sign. Just getting reviewers to cover the subject brings it to light and starts to pressure some honest competition in the field.

    I’d much rather have a “good enough” onboard solution that bother with a dedicated card.

    • swaaye
    • 13 years ago

    I’d suggest just picking up a card from Creative. At least they have a vested interest in having EAX and 3D audio actually work. A friend of mine picked up a pair of Audigy 2 ZS cards for $17/ea off eBay a few months back. Can’t go wrong with that.

    Kinda tricky thing is that a lot of those cards on eBay are OEM versions and so the retail driver CDs won’t work without mods. Driverheaven forum has helpful threads.

    §[< http://hosted.filefront.com/BadBoyforum<]§ Download the actual install CDs if you don't get one. Instructions on Driverheaven forum if you need to modify them. Of course, if you know who the card was made for, you can just get drivers from them (Dell, Gateway, whatever).

    • moose103
    • 13 years ago

    I experienced the same problem on my Shuttle SN95 with ALC650.
    I think every sound on the entire map was played at distortion levels.
    The only way to play was with software audio.

    Soundstorm on my NF2 was much better.

    • Afty
    • 13 years ago

    How do these onboard EAX implementations compare to a Creative card, such as a Live or an Audigy?

    • MadManOriginal
    • 13 years ago

    What’s the difference between EAX 2.0 and the later versions?

    • bdwilcox
    • 13 years ago

    Shouldn’t you have tested different motherboards, BIOSes, and Realtek driver versions before coming to the conclusion that Realtek’s EAX implementation is broken? I think we all have had quirky driver versions that work great on one system but not so well on a similar system.

    This is not to say that I think Realtek’s EAX implementation works great…

    BTW, I never turn on EAX in games because it always seems to result in flakey behavior, bizarre slowdowns, and inexplicable crashes in games no matter what sound card or driver version I use.

    • Shinare
    • 13 years ago

    Is there a P965/ICH8R motherboard that supports EAX with the AD codec?

    • nexxcat
    • 13 years ago

    Just a quick question: how do the two drivers compare when comparing CPU utilisations?

    Thanks.

      • GodsMadClown
      • 13 years ago

      This is a good job. OpenAL is a non-proprietary API, which means that competition *might* be able to break Creative’s stranglehold on the market.

        • swaaye
        • 13 years ago

        Creative is the primary company behind OpenAL. Only Creative cards support OpenAL natively. Of course, only Creative makes cards that truly take 3D audio seriously anyway.

        NVIDIA APU had OpenAL support too. Buggy as it was. NV gave up on audio acceleration years ago though.

          • GodsMadClown
          • 13 years ago

          I would have thought that, being released under the LGPL, other hardware manufacturers would have leapt to OpenAL’s support. Anyone, what’s the deal? Cmedia, Realtek, Analog Devices… They all seem to have marginal support for this API spec, either in software or hardware. Is the standard not as open at it seems, or are there simply genuine technical reasons that competition to Creative is not taking place?

      • murfn
      • 13 years ago

      You could implement DirectSound on top of OpenAL. Should be easy. And OpenAL (by CL) supports EAX.

    • axeman
    • 13 years ago

    I tested rightmark out on my Geforce6100 board, with a Realtek ALC655 chip, same results. I notice there are newer drivers than I have on Realtek’s site, posted Oct 30th, so I’ll try those and see if it’s fixed. I doubt it. I do a bit of casual gaming, but never online, and no FPS for me anymore so I don’t care about the lack of EAX working, but this is pretty curious. I wonder if they did this from sheer laziness, or to keep CPU usage artificially low?

      • just brew it!
      • 13 years ago

      q[

        • d2brothe
        • 13 years ago

        heh…ur both wrong…its a feature to allow you to cheat in games, you can hear the other team comming a mile away :P….

          • Entroper
          • 13 years ago

          But you can’t tell if the other guy is a mile away or right next to you.

            • d2brothe
            • 13 years ago

            Tru dat….but it was only a joke anyway, I don’t have EAX support…or at the very least EAX = crashing so I don’t use it anyway.

      • axeman
      • 13 years ago

      Latest Realtek AC97 drivers, version 3.94, with ALC655 codec, still broken just FYI.

        • swaaye
        • 13 years ago

        Realtek updates drivers something like twice a month or so.

          • brsett
          • 13 years ago

          There are new drivers posted today! Why so many updates I wonder?

            • sigher
            • 13 years ago

            Read the readme and find out.

    • just brew it!
    • 13 years ago

    I suppose the conclusion reached by this article (Realtek bites) shouldn’t be a huge surprise, but it is nice to see it confirmed through controlled testing, rather than just hearsay.

    For the most part, the state of onboard audio is still pretty sad. In the past ~6 years, it has gone from being mind-bogglingly atrocious, to being merely bad or (on the minority of motherboards that “get it mostly right”) at least tolerable.

    Part of this is attributable to the constraints imposed by trying to build a high-quality audio solution on a motherboard in the first place; limited board real estate and the constraints of a 4-layer layout make it more difficult to implement a high fidelity audio solution. Add to this the highly cost-sensitive nature of the motherboard business, and it is easy to see how poorly implemented onboard audio solutions using Realtek codecs have come to dominate the onboard audio market.

    nVidia (Soundstorm) and VIA (ICEnsemble/Envy) both had an opportunity to usher in a new era of improved onboard audio. Both of them dropped the ball.

    Maybe Asus’ move to ditch Realtek for Analog Devices will provide the push the industry needs to finally get its act together on onboard audio. Whether that ultimately means an industry-wide shift to Analog Devices codecs, or if it prods Realtek to get their act together, users should ultimately benefit.

    • Taddeusz
    • 13 years ago

    I’ve used almost every CL sound card from the original Sound Blaster. The only ones I skipped were the AWE cards. I went from an SB16 to a Live and it was a world of difference. I haven’t bought an X-fi yet though.

    It doesn’t really surprise me that the crab has messed up positional audio that badly. I’m sure only a minority of the people who use on-board audio actually play games. Most are business users that don’t care how their little beeps and chirps sound.

    Any gamer who at all cares how things sound will have a discreet sound card. Most likely CL despite everyone’s preponderance to badmouth them. Not that they are totally undeserving of some of the criticism.

    I’m glad this is being exposed for the budget conscious gamers among us but I don’t necessarily expect Realtek to respond very quickly to it considering the market their product is aimed at.

    • murfn
    • 13 years ago

    Some sound-bytes would have been great. I don’t think I have ever heard proper EAX. Would be nice to hear what I am missing.

      • liquidsquid
      • 13 years ago

      And how would you do that through your Realtek motherboard? Think for a minute… where are you going to play these sound bits and what hardware/drivers.

        • Freon
        • 13 years ago

        You can record MP3 encoded 5.1 AC3 audio that has already been processed. You record the final output. It may not make much sense without video. Wonder if FRAPS supports 5.1 audio recording…

          • murfn
          • 13 years ago

          That is roughly what I was thinking. If its stereo, simply connect audio-out to the audio-in on another PC and capture. Then give us a screenshot of the scene with an imaginative explanation of what is going on, and let us listen to the sound.

    • Chrispy_
    • 13 years ago

    I wonder how Realtek EAX performance compares to SBLive! performance.

    I haven’t bothered changing my SBLive! since 1997 or whenever it was – I use the almighty “stereo” setting in games for my pair of old wooden speakers (yes, real wood – not MDF) and most games sound just fine to me with EAX.

    HL2: Episode1 (which I played from start to end last night) had particularly impressive environmental effects using my decade-old sound card.

    • barich
    • 13 years ago

    The thing I’ve always liked about Realtek is that they provide the latest drivers on their web site for every chip that they make.

    Other companies, such as Broadcom and Atheros for WiFi, and Analog Devices for audio, refer you to the device manufacturer, such as D-Link or Asus, for drivers. They use some lame excuse about the product being customized for each individual application. This is unfortunate because device manufacturers frequently lag behind the chip manufacturer on driver updates. D-Link, for example, is still providing Atheros drivers from 2003/2004 on some of its wireless cards despite Atheros releasing regular reference drivers.

    Of course, if the reference drivers don’t do what they say they do, I suppose that’s no longer much of an advantage.

    • Vrock
    • 13 years ago

    Fear the crab, indeed.

    This is an excellent article…I love it when T/R does more than benchmarks for speed. It keeps these companies honest. Reminds me of the old quack3 investigation.

    • Bensam123
    • 13 years ago

    Yea… people who have never heard a independent solution will never be able to tell they’re even having this problem.

    This in itself poses a problem. Have you ever played a game and couldn’t figure out how this person always hears you? This is more of a hack for a game then anything else. When you can clearly hear people in other rooms as if there wasnt a wall next to you or across the map. It can lead to audio chaos, but I believe if this is all you’ve ever heard you’ll be able to sort it all out and it would pose more of a advantage then a card that correctly simulates sounds.

      • Entroper
      • 13 years ago

      Thanks for that one. I had no idea nVidia had drivers for the Realtek chip, and was wondering why my sound had been sucking lately (had recently updated drivers when something broke them).

        • format_C
        • 13 years ago

        No problem! 🙂
        Just make sure to uninstall the Realtek driver *[

      • unmake
      • 13 years ago

      I’ve got these installed on my NF3/ALC655 board, and they appear to not support occlusion either.. (noticed while playing GTA:SA).

        • sigher
        • 13 years ago

        They do for me in the rightmark test, it’s free so you might want to get them and try it.

          • unmake
          • 13 years ago

          My bad – I ought to have said obstructions don’t work.

    • sigher
    • 13 years ago

    I tested my onboard realtek myself with rightmark and I find occlusion works fine, obstruction does NOT work, and how come my occlusion works? because I have a nforce4 board and use nvidia’s audio drivers.
    Therefore to say the codec are bad seems nonsense, especially if the article first points out the 3d stuff is all done in software with the onboard solutions, clearly the fault lies with the drivers and not the codecs, at least regarding occlusion, but since it’s done in software I assume obstruction is fixable also.
    I wish a site like the techreport was at least capable to think for itself and make the distinction between the chips and the software, as it is they are just enhancing a fuzzy webstory.
    Of course a real audiocard remain a better solution, assuming it has drivers that work, and then we are suddenly reminded of creative driverissues and creative’s long history of incompatibilities with certain motherboard chipsets, I guess the whole computer audio area is still needing more effort.

    • Spotpuff
    • 13 years ago

    I wish motherboard companies put more emphasis on quality components for integrated solutions. Integration can be good, but not when cost is the only consideration.

    Intel EXTREME Graphics. Yeah, extremely shitty.

      • d2brothe
      • 13 years ago

      I think the primary reason for integrating hardware on a motherboard is cost though.

    • Perezoso
    • 13 years ago

    Off-topic: I don’t give a rat’s ass about EAX because I’m not a gamer. But last time I installed a Realtek audio driver for ALC883 it was a memory hog (~25MB). Are SoundMAX drivers any better?

    • Fractux
    • 13 years ago

    There has probably been no real fuss brought up because I’m sure that those individuals who do play games on their systems using the on-board sound may not even know/realize that there’s something wrong with what they are hearing (or they didn’t change the audio setting in their games to use EAX? It’s a possibility. I knew a fellow who played through Half-Life in software mode after I had given him my old tnt2 ultra. He said he didn’t see a difference with the new card, until I showed him where the settings were).

    Alternatively, those that find something wrong probably attribute it to the “low quality” of on-board sound, and they go and buy a dedicated sound card.

    For those who use on-board sound for just listening to various audio/visual formats, they would never even use EAX enhancements.

    For hardware sites not picking up on this, it’s probably because most sites are given the newest and best hardware to review, and the comprehensive reviews of the best on-board sound just don’t seem like they would attract the readers, or be worth the effort.

    Sure, once in a while you will get a comprehensive review of on-board sound and it’s interesting to see. But when it comes to buying a board for a client, it’s usually stability, performance, and cost that are the key factors I’m interested in.

    • SpotTheCat
    • 13 years ago

    I prefer my headphones when playing a shooter. I feel like some games have much better 3d sound with headphones than with my 5.1 setup.

    Does anybody remember that acronym for the technology that emulates what sounds your ears would hear from sources not in front of you?

      • Toasty
      • 13 years ago

      Yes, it was EAX. Or you could mean A3D…

      • Buub
      • 13 years ago

      y[

        • eitje
        • 13 years ago

        zing!

          • Buub
          • 13 years ago

          I’m glad someone got it… 😉

      • murfn
      • 13 years ago

      HRTF – head-related transfer function.

    • Zenith
    • 13 years ago

    I wonder how Soundstorm handled EAX… *Runs for his life*

      • Stranger
      • 13 years ago

      Bring back sound storm!!!!!

    • UberGerbil
    • 13 years ago

    So if the support is so poor, and shows up so clearly in Battlefield 2 (and presumably elsewhere), why hasn’t there been a big stink made about this before now? Do most gamers turn these options off in a quest for higher framerates?

    Also, in this case you probably want to list what you’re using for audio output: 2 speakers? 4.1? 6.1? Or perhaps headphones? (And how do the two implementations compare when using headphones?)

      • Dissonance
      • 13 years ago

      5.1 audio for both codecs, configured through their drivers.

      • Stranger
      • 13 years ago

      I think audio is a very relative thing. it doesn’t sound bad untill theres something better to compare it with.

        • Dissonance
        • 13 years ago

        The Realtek codec is more than just relatively bad in Battlefield 2. It’s awful, and you don’t need to hear things sounding right to pick up on it.

          • brsett
          • 13 years ago

          Yeah, its awful. Its also off by default. I have an alc850, I gave it a try, and yes you hear the tanks no matter where you are standing. So I just turned it back off (I believe the screen says it only works for creative products anyway).

        • albundy
        • 13 years ago

        you mean like steak vs. grool.

      • Vrock
      • 13 years ago

      I don’t use EAX, because I don’t like it. I have a Live! 5.1 and it just doesn’t do anything for me.

      A3D 2.0 positional and effect support was vastly superior to EAX to my ears. EAX makes everything sound like you’re underwater or in a cave.

        • Bensam123
        • 13 years ago

        Get a card that properly supports it. I believe a Live card only supports EAX not any of the newer EAX versions.

        I remember using EAX back in the day when I had a Live, it didn’t do anything for me either. Then I got a Audigy, Audigy 2 and now a X-Fi. It has improved infinitely over the years.

        The 5.1 simulated through a pair of headphones or 2.1 speakers with the X-Fi is almost to the point where it sounds exactly like a actual 5.1 setup. You won’t get that with any other card besides the X-Fi.

      • sigher
      • 13 years ago

      Most people have such poor interest in audio, or such poor hearing, that they don’t even notice everything on youtube is mono for instance, and they don’t care, of course when someone reports realtek codecs are bad whole throngs suddenly claim to hear every nuance and claim they are soooo affected by it, sigh.

        • Saribro
        • 13 years ago

        I’ve tested around with different cards, they were different, but I can’t say any was better. Changing headsets/speakers usually helps much better if you don’t need all the fancy-pancy features and gimmicks.

    • SpotTheCat
    • 13 years ago

    so that’s like… almost everybody here.

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