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Glossary talk:Sound card

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SirYodaJedi (talkcontribs)

Explain midi, link to VirtualMIDISynth, link to CoolSoft MIDIMapper, explain setup for use with games.

Reply to "Todo: General Midi tutorial"
Mirh (talkcontribs)

Add-on boards
Asus Xonar (except ROG and USB)

Auzentech (oh, and if you were struggling just to find official drivers, they are still available here)

CMedia (others)

Creative
See my post about daniel_k
You may also be interested in PAX drivers and in kX Project (the only Live! and Audigy driver with proper x64 and >2GB RAM support).
Check this if having any problem

HT Omega Claro

Onkyo Wavio SE-300PCIE

Razer Barracuda AC-1


Integrated chips
Now, things starts to be a bit messy here (and no, I'm not just talking about lower quality DACs). We may distinguish between two kind of custom drivers:

  1. Simply "unlocked" ones, that makes otherwise high-end-only features (like DDLive or DTS) available on all the products
  2. X-Fi modded. Like the last one, but you get the entire SB X-Fi MB suite too. Contrarily to popular beliefs, these actually reduce sound quality, though just ALchemy alone would be worth the effort.

Analog Devices (Conexant) SoundMAX

Gigabyte G1 motherboards
These use a real CA20K2 DSP, refer to Creative above

Realtek
Some of these drivers are claimed to address bugs in EAX accuracy

VIA Technologies

Everything else not previously covered (like SigmaTel-->IDT-->Tempo Semiconductor) might find something here


USB headset
Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000

Reply to "Custom drivers"
Mirh (talkcontribs)

The following are qualitative tests. This is different from looking to sound quality/accuracy.
They are just supposed to quickly point out whether EAX game setting can be enabled or not with X version.

ALchemy and 3Dsoundback can't be set to show the exact supported version, neither will work with OpenAL games

EDIT: indirectsound now logs queried EAX versions. Some games does not check EAX 4/5 if EAX3 is not there (as indeed happen with this dll hack), but most of other times this should be enough
These were the previous methods

  1. EAX1: indirectsound has a setting to toggle EAX 1 and 2
  2. EAX2: same
  3. EAX3: Check below. AdvancedHD logo/designation starts here. 64 simultaneous voices are the highlight and potentially suggest at least this version
  4. EAX4: These are pretty difficult to distinguish. Xonar GX's OverwritePolicy seems the only easy way to determine
  5. EAX5: May be assumed if game supports more than 128 voices. Again, Xonar GX is the only easy switch

Having said that, please take note that if you have X version (but game supports up to or only X -1) no one can guarantee it will work (e.g. this happened to me with DSGX and EAX 4 with splinter cell: double agent)
On the other hand even if in-game setting can already be enabled with X version, nothing stop additional effects to be applied with X +1 without further notice.

And this is where quantitative analysis comes into play.
Quantitative means that audio output is accurately measured and compared.

Indirectsound has fake EAX support, thus it can't be used. And Asus GX's cannot be scientifically recorded.. so things get really tougher
  1. EAX1: VMware XP virtual machines uses an Ensoniq ES1371/ES1373 virtual audio device (aka Creative PCI128). Remember to install drivers.
  2. EAX2: Under Windows XP(bugged implementations aside) the majority of sound chips should reach this specification, just make sure to check support with previous method
  3. EAX3: I think that original Audigy series is the only one that ever had EAX 3 without EAX 4..
  4. EAX4: Besides hacked drivers, story is similar, with Audigy 2 and 4 series though. ALchemy may be used, as long as exact EAX version has already been determined (but OAL games..)
  5. EAX5: There's so few games using this that.. it's not such a big deal. Though if really questioned a X-Fi would be needed.
Reply to "Checking EAX feature level"
Mirh (talkcontribs)

Frankly, I was going to be brief and just mention a modded driver for every manufacturer but then, Creative part was becoming really long, so I decided to split it.
Then I figured out even that split was becoming too big, so this post while just tell one of my usual stories of the past

So.. we could say that 80% of the driver hacking scene is (was?) done by a single person: mr. Daniel Kawakami (aka daniel_k)
Everything started in 2007 when Creative released ALchemy for their X-fi series... leaving Audigy and Live! users high and dry. And here is where the father of all the tweaks's career started.
He soon tried to improve even cards' own drivers, patching odd bugs and fixing Vista compatibility issues. But what then?
Creative released ALchemy for older soundcards too.. but to a condition: you had to pay for the "legacy" support. Therefore his work entered into competition with Creative all of a sudden.
So.. they kindly threatened him and he simply decided to leave. Ok, actually the wayback machine hasn't the whole story, and he never really left 100%
A nice summary of his works is given in his vent e-mail to wired (and some older file names can be checked here)

After some time though he came back (wikipedia claims there was an agreement but I couldn't find other reference)
Ok, let's just list his massive firms:

EDIT: bugs in newer OpenAL/drivers implementation seem to exist

Reply to "Creative v. guy"
Mirh (talkcontribs)

Yes, I know this sounds pretty rude.
Though I'm really pissed off by all theirs contradictions that wasted tons of my time, and I wanted to let off steam

Let's start from the beginning. They seemed pretty sympathetic towards users initially.
In 1999 they announced support for I3DL2 open standard. Furthermore they announced their new EAX version.
If previous bulletins weren't enough to stress this, the support of these specifications for every PCI sound card was further underlined in these FAQ

.......
.....
...

Then what... ?

Well, they became the de facto monopolists of the gamer audio market.
Every good intentions vanished.. and the new EAX version just saw the light of day 2 years after. And it was as proprietary and exclusive as possible.
Not to mention that Interactive Audio Special Interest Group got stood up

And later things just went worse. The new Audigy series was practically a rebrand of Live! series, but firewire port and improved DACs.
I mean, improved DACs are a quite nice addition.. though the DSP (despite being called 10K2) was still the good old 10K1
To add insult to injury even their marketing department was "messing up"

EDIT: hacked SbLive! drivers found!
EDIT2: new mess! Age of empires 3 is claimed to not even use DS3D... but here it supports EAX and it would even need ALchemy..
EDIT3: Creative's audio processors datasheets are available here
EDIT4: surprise, different revisions of the original live! existed
EDIT5: suprise²: newer is not always better
EDIT6: they are using sens_oal.dll for some cards. What of a irony.
EDIT7: ALchemy is freaking hardcoded and it might even misbehave on newer Core3D (Recon and Z) cards

Reply to "Creative's BS"
Mirh (talkcontribs)

Adapted from my request to CarvedInside, developer of the UNi Xonar Drivers


All started by reading on wikipedia that C-media based chips used to support Sensaura audio extension and 3D algorithms thanks to an agreement.
As usual, the more bossing and evil company ever existed in the PC audio world could not fail to spoil this. And so Creative Technology bought Sensaura back in 2003.
Anyway C-media license keep going on, but it couldn’t last forever. And in September 2008 it ended.

As soon as they could (judging by how stringent they had been in the announcement) all Sensaura technologies were removed from drivers. (cool pdf inbound: all the 3D audio rendering engine was Sensaura based..)
Now as rule, I wouldn’t be really worried, given that the greatest audio API (i.e. A3D) of the century is already dead and gone for more than a decade… but a review really stressed how Sensaura tech made a great difference in the overall gaming experience and surround accuracy of Xear3D.

So.. I was wondering.. Mr. CarvedInside.. wouldn’t be possible to add it back to the drivers? I already spent 3 hours probing the net for older drivers.
And I’m not talking about my Xonar DX drivers, but -hopefully- the c-media ones you use to work with. Let me post some links.
http://web.archive.org/web/20071019230809/http://www.cmedia.com.tw/forums/viewtopic.php?t=863&postdays=0&postorder
http://web.archive.org/web/20071019230809/http://www.cmedia.com.tw/forums/viewtopic.php?t=863&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=60&sid#4118
http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.cmediadrivers.info/*
ftp://www.club-3d.com/Theatron/ (This includes Club3D c-media based sound cards.. but I couldn’t find accurate sources about their use use of CMI8788 chip)

Then, I think I ended. I would just like to link some goodies I found.
They seems to be the only precise articles describing the licensed technologies I could found. (C-media should have supported every Sensaura specs afaik).
Unfortunately they are either in Russian or in Polish. English editors seems to have been very skinny on the argument

“Sensaura CRL3D HRTF 3D positional sound enhancement with multi-drive” engine was used until the aforementioned end of contract. Funnily it was introduced in 1999.

Last but not least I finally discovered why when I install sound card drivers (including yours) I have this apparently meaningless pcm file (.\Customapp\GX30\3D_Helicopter.wav)
It seems it was one of the various asset cmedia took from Sensaura and it was originally inside a tech demo named Play3D (download). No explanation for its stay up to our days though.

Thanks for your time!


P.S. In the meantime I found out a damn good english round-up.
And I'd like to point out another thing: Before (2007) | After (2014)
Something is definitively missing.

EDIT: and guess who's half-assing monopolizing what again

Reply to "Sensaura technology"
Mirh (talkcontribs)

First DirectSound3D Game EXtensions debuted 3 months after Xonar D2 release (their first soundcard) and its only purpose was to restore DS3D in Vista, along with common EAX 2.0 support.

GX 2.0 was silently added on the end of February 2008 drivers 8.17.30 and 8.17.31. This introduced the much discussed EAX 5 emulation mode, which was widely featured a week later with the launch of the Xonar DX(which I own :3)
(EAX 3 and 4 can also be supported btw).
As side note.. Asus claims this "also incorporates Dolby Home Theater Technologies", even though these were already previously available (and the diagrams are the same)

Various emulation-translation accuracy tests showed little to none differences when compared to X-fi cards (even though there are still lots of people which believe differently)

Then by the end of 2008 with RC drivers 8.17.47 GX version was bumped to 2.5. Besides the questionable improvements in reverberation quality a much lower CPU footprint was objectively observed.
With subsequent driver releases asus mainly took care of bug fixing and hopefully all of them have been fixed by now.
Personally I hadn't none of the issues early adopters experienced 7 years ago.. (but maybe it's all merit of UNi xonar drivers instead..)

Finally, in the middle of 2012 Asus decided it was time to move on from the evergreen CMI8788 to the blazingly new CM8888DHT. And it did with its new Xonar Phoebus.. This introduced the new GX 3.0 which I couldn't find anything about. Hence I guess it could just be a marketing gimmick It actually has improved stablity and a new server-client
(and then there's this weird thing where WoW shows benefit from DS3D restoration without winXP compatibility)
Driver installer is signed by A-Volute, so I believe some of their technology is used

EDIT: albeit there's a Cm_Oal dll dated 13/12/2007 coming with Asus (and Auzentech/HT) drivers, it's suspiciously "smaller" than the other OpenAL native implementations.
It's reported to not work, but my quite unfunded theory is that it just does only when GX is enabled (and Xear3D?)

Reply to "Asus GX revisions"
Mirh (talkcontribs)

In the beginning Creative created the EMU10K1 chip.
Unfortunately they forgot to build a card around, so even though they started to announce "a completely new concept in PC audio".. nothing happened at that time. Hype was preserved with bimonthly updates.
Finally on the 6 August, 1998 the already showcased soundblaster Live! saw the light of stores, with first EAX compatible games scheduled for "that fall".
Not everybody knows that every PCI SoundBlaster card was made supporting EAX. And that included even boards prior to Live!, such as Ensoniq AudioPCI cards (which had been acquired by Creative by then), with a program called "EAX upgrade"

In the same year, EAX 2.0 was also introduced.
Microsoft eventually decided to license all the previously mentioned stuff to include it in the upcoming directX 8

Relentlessly after just 5 months the shiny new third revision was at the starting line.
Omitting the fact that they promoted its support for older boards (which didn't happen)..... There won't be any further news for more than 2 years.
In the end, after 881 days, EAX 3.0 EAX ADVANCED HD was revealed, a week before Audigy boards debut and this was the first time forward compatibility was ruled out.
First EAH games were released after another year though (even if that claim is challenged by some less famous games)

Contrarily to wikipedia assertions EAX 4.0 did not come out with the Audigy 2. Instead, that became an exclusive of the even newer Audigy 2 ZS, with the first game to ship being Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

Finally, latest -forever- revision, EAX 5 was suggested on May 12, 2005 at the reveal of the Xtreme Fidelity audio processor, but I believe the right date for the debut should be set on August 2, 2005 (and indeed the following day it started to be featured on the Creative website)

And that was the story (with more to come!)


Just for additional reference here are the EAX reference websites for the past nearly twenty years
1997-1999
1999-2000
2000-2005
2005-2008
2008-2010..nuthing! thanks to our friend, Adobe Flash. Some news were still posted here in the good old html though
2010-2013 (the list wasn't update in this time frame)

Reply to "EAX timeline"
Mirh (talkcontribs)

Ok, now that I have your attention the thing is major.
Realtek has(had?) broken environmental audio extensions.

Nowadays it's not all that matter.... though this got me thinking: there must be more.
Especially if you consider that an ALC889 music-wise is almost on par with claimed damn better equipment
That's the "flagship" chip of the taiwanese producer, and maybe OEMs don't always use it to save as much money as they can (and this may be why people with lower end integrated chips feel so much differences)

Though, in games the gap seems way big and contrarily to music field I have yet to meet anyone that can't hear a tangible improvement with dedicated solutions.
Placebo effect could even be another explanation, who knows..

Thanks for reading, as always ;)
EDIT: is situation the same even under OpenAL?
And remember I don't bite if somebody want to release its findings

Reply to "Audio is not all the same after all"
Mirh (talkcontribs)
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