Print 45 comment(s) - last by Wwhat.. on Oct 5 at 5:49 PM

Rightmark's occlusion demonstration shows Realtek chipsets do not output any change in environmental sound effects in EAX mode
SoundMAX returns ready to take on Realtek

Analog Devices and Creative Labs have made claims that Realtek’s high definition audio solutions do not render EAX or EAX2 audio -- at least not very well. While Realtek’s audio drivers have the proper driver flags to enable EAX and EAX2 in supported games, the listening experience presents a different story. Listening tests demonstrated by Analog Devices and Creative Labs show that Realtek’s high definition audio solutions render EAX and EAX2 incorrectly, removing the 3D positional audio aspects and immersion of EAX and EAX2 completely.

DailyTech met up with Analog Devices today for a listening demo at Analog’s suite. The audible differences are quite noticeable with the Analog Devices solution having immersive audio accuracy with reverb effects that help pinpoint the direction audio is coming from. Channel separation with the audio positioning was particularly noticeable as well. Realtek’s high definition audio solution on the other hand produced a muffled sound with very little channel separation and differentiation. Sound came from all over the place.

Analog Devices and Creative Labs believe this to be a problem for gamers that use onboard audio and not getting the full EAX/EAX2 experience. There’s also an issue with some motherboard reviews that use Rightmark 3D Sound for CPU utilization tests and award the onboard audio solution with the lowest utilization the superior solution when the onboard audio solution isn’t fully rendering EAX/EAX2 audio. Analog Devices and Creative Labs testing show the Realtek high definition onboard audio showing very little CPU utilization in Rightmark 3D Sound’s EAX2 CPU utilization test because it’s not applying any EAX2 effects.

Testing methodologies is outlined by George Thorn, Digital Media Relations, Technical Marketing, Creative Labs Inc, in Analog Devices’ Benchmarking Integrated Audio: Why CPU Usage Alone No longer Predicts User Experience. The testing methods and results are as follows:

We use two types of tests in our internal work. The first is an automated parameter test that checks to make sure that all parameters support the correct range of values. Out-of-range values should fail with an appropriate error code reported. The second type of test is a manual listening test to make sure each EAX parameter works correctly and changes the audio in an expected manner. While we have found that the SoundMAX product executes EAX 2.0 calls correctly, the same cannot be said for other popular motherboard audio subsystems that we have tested, even though they claim to support EAX 2.0 within their feature set.

Currently Realtek is the only known high definition codec manufacturer to render EAX and EAX2 incorrectly as IDT/Sigmatel does not support EAX or EAX2. It is unknown if previous C-Media audio solutions produced before it was acquired by Realtek produce similar results. Analog Devices and Creative Labs made no mention if add-in sound cards such as the recent Dolby Digital Live equipped C-Media CMI8768+ or CMI8778 are affected. Various manufacturers including ASUS, Universal abit, DFI, Gigabyte, MSI and others use Realtek audio solutions.

Apple also uses a Realtek high definition audio codec in its Mac Pro workstations too. This is strange as the rest of Apple’s product lineup including the Mac mini, iMac, MacBook and MacBook Pro integrate Sigmatel audio codecs. Nevertheless Apple does not integrate EAX or EAX2 support and is unaffected by these allegations.

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Who really cares..
By bozilla on 9/27/2006 5:18:48 AM , Rating: 4
To be honest most people who use on-board audio don't really care about EAX. Anyone who wants surround sound with proper positional audio buys a dedicated card anyway.

Since dawn of time we always knew that integrated, whether it's graphics or audio means sacrifice. I mean anyone who uses it knows that they won't get super studio/effects quality from integrated solution.

I do agree that if they claim they have EAX capability to the fullest, they should be put in the hot spot, but otherwise who cares about it really (you pretty much get it for free with motherboard).

RE: Who really cares..
By Heron Kusanagi on 9/27/2006 8:11:07 AM , Rating: 2
This sure sounds like fun. I mean, the article did mention about how Realtek is claiming to support EAX...

Also, there could be some guys that want to try out EAX? Don't be too quick to rule out them...

RE: Who really cares..
By JNo on 9/27/2006 9:12:36 AM , Rating: 3
I care! I agree that *most* people know that integrated audio isn't as good as dedicated but I have to take issue with you - if the product specification says it should render EAX 1 & 2, then it bloody well should correctly and if not they should fix it or get sued! I know the DACs might not be as good etc or that it might strain the cpu more but that is no excuse for not performing to advertised specs

RE: Who really cares..
By Basilisk on 9/27/2006 9:20:56 AM , Rating: 3
I care. I'm assembling a small, near-silent system with intended capabilities for HTPC, HD-OTA capture & playback, and gaming. "Small" meant a m-ATX board, so there's a real struggle for its two PCI slots.

Granted, m-ATX doesn't allow an all-out SLI "gaming monster", but the box was expected to handle most games with poise. I'd trade processing cycles (the price of Realtek) for a PCI slot as a more powerful CPU takes no more space!

I'm still assembling it and hadn't transferred the 5.1 speakers to it yet; now... guess I'll hold off on the HD-OTA card and move the CL board over... not what I'd intended. Oh well, glad someone saw the problem and maybe Realtek will improve future products.

RE: Who really cares..
By phusg on 9/27/2006 9:42:03 AM , Rating: 3
Don't make me come over there and hit you with my motherboard! ;-)

RE: Who really cares..
By Pete84 on 9/27/2006 12:18:27 PM , Rating: 2
I'm still using an ancient 1.8GHz Athlon just because the MB has Soundstorm and I can send it via digital-coax to my receiver. Wicked thing, that.

The drivers are a bit . . . odd though.

RE: Who really cares..
By BZDTemp on 10/3/2006 4:14:10 AM , Rating: 2
Time to upgrade:

I have one and I'm very happy with it. Only EAX 1.0 of course but that's also the case for Soundstorm AFAIK.

RE: Who really cares..
By heffeque on 10/1/2006 9:28:38 AM , Rating: 2
My Soundstorm sounds great too! :-D Good thing that it's EAX support works A-OK ^_^

In defense of EAX
By Hydrofirex on 9/28/2006 9:48:57 AM , Rating: 1
Here's my thing: I hate creative. As something of an audiophile I resent the restrictions they place on the digital pass-through of "protected" content. This basically means that you can't use digital coaxial or optical connections through a creative card while watching a DVD or even, I believe, listening to MP3's you've purchased online. Further, to get around this they try and charge you another 100 bucks for what is basically a box that takes an analog signal and reprocesses it into a digital one. The whole point of using a digital connection is to avoid just that! So, they're little more than allowing you to use a connection without any of the benefits. Maybe it's just that I think DRM is creeping too far, and is becoming more of a hassle to consumers than a protection to anyone - or, maybe I just don't like being told what I can and cannot do with something that I purchase.

Here's the rub though: EAX sounds better in games - period. Especially in games like FEAR - I can't tell you how many times I've heard footsteps behind me only to turn around and catch a gun-wielding soldier trying to flank me. You don't get that just anywhere - even with Dolby Digital. As much as I wish we could just use a more generic and accepted standard, and as much as I hate creative and agree that they leverage the technology to scam people, games should have a specific 3D positional standard. I believe this because of the different audio experience I expect from a game as opposed to a movie or music.


RE: In defense of EAX
By Wwhat on 9/28/2006 5:05:17 PM , Rating: 2
You certainly don't need EAX for positional audio and there are already alternative standards available and in use.

RE: In defense of EAX
By hibbs on 9/29/2006 1:15:34 PM , Rating: 2
You hate Creative (even thought they invented EAX which you agree makes games a better experience). OK, whatever. But don't blame them for the DRM over SPDIF thing at least. This is something that the content owners, with the backing of the DMCA, have mandated. Creative and other companies are legally obliged to enforce.

RE: In defense of EAX
By mindless1 on 9/29/2006 4:09:29 PM , Rating: 4
No, a content owner cannot mandate your hardware.
They can ASK a 3rd party to implement a restriction and that's all.

There is a difference between circumventing DRM and ignoring it. The former is active and the latter, passive.

They are not legally obligated to "enforce" anything, but thanks for spreading urban myth.

RE: In defense of EAX
By FITCamaro on 9/30/2006 4:34:48 PM , Rating: 1
Uh yeah they are. DVDs are fully capable of being output in 720p or 1080i. Have they ever been though even with component outputs? No. Why? HDCP. These supposed "upconvert" DVD players are nothing more than having the HDMI output which allows the higher resolution output since its an all digital connection.

Could any company build a DVD player that has the ability to output a DVD in 720p or 1080i over the component outputs? No. Why? Because then the movie companies would come down on them.

Hardware manufacturers are required to follow the rules of the movie companies or risk legal battles for allowing people to easily make DVD quality copies of movies.

RE: In defense of EAX
By shank15217 on 9/30/2006 5:43:50 PM , Rating: 2
You are quite misinformed. Even with the xbox 360 you can upsample dvds to 720p or 1080i over component out. Infact if you have a 1920x1200 rez lcd hooked up to your computer your software will scale the video to 1080p. Content companies do not enforce low resolution output over component and dvi because (ding ding ding) they cant. Analog formats do not support DRM encoded output and dvi-d was intended as the digital equivalent to 15-pin vga. You are confusing dvd with the newer bru-ray and hd-dvd standard which can force hardware to downsample video to 480p over component out to be considered "compliant". Currently however most newly released blu-ray media do not enforce this standard probably as a good will gesture to get current owners of perfectly good tvs that do not have hdmi connectors to buy the players and the media. If downsampling will ever be enforced it would be after hd-dvd and blu-ray standards have finally becoming mainstream.

who cares
By Xorp on 9/27/2006 12:46:03 PM , Rating: 2
I really wish game devs would stop using EAX, it such a crappy standard. The whole thing is a scam by Creative to get people to upgrade their soundcards more often. It's really doesn't do much of anything. The old EAX's were insanely bad standard. EAX2 actually made the sound worse. They have cleaned up their act recently and EAX4 is usable, but game devs should really move towards only supporting Dolby Digital 5.1, a industry standard.

RE: who cares
By Spivonious on 9/27/2006 2:53:09 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah...because Dolby Digital 5.1 sounds great on a 2 speaker setup. I hate it when I'm trying to watch a movie and all the sound effects and music drown out the voices because I don't have a center channel.

RE: who cares
By mgambrell on 9/27/2006 6:09:50 PM , Rating: 2
Thats the fault of your receiver/speakers. Anything that takes a dolby digital input and can drive 2 speakers should be capable of rendering it to two speakers. that should go without saying.

I dont know what those things do with the rear channels, but its trivial to mix the center and bass across the 2 speakers

RE: who cares
By hibbs on 9/29/2006 12:52:53 PM , Rating: 2
Dolby Digital and EAX are completely different things!!

Dolby Digital does NOT allow game devs to create realtime interactive environment effects, and EAX does not have anything to do with perceptual coding or compression. Dolby Digital has no API associated with it that would allow a game developer to do anything useful with it whatsoever. Go and do your homework.

Lawsuits Incoming!!!
By giantpandaman2 on 9/27/2006 6:14:48 PM , Rating: 2
Bet you a lawyer is getting geared up as we speak.


RE: Lawsuits Incoming!!!
By feelingshorter on 9/29/2006 2:59:30 AM , Rating: 2
I hope so! If they say there is EAX there better be EAX! There is a huge difference between a lady spilling hot coffe on her lap (on purpose) at McDonalds and this.

I have MSI mobo, onboard sound, with SB Live. Only problem is that you need a psu with a +5v, which few, even high end ones have.

RE: Lawsuits Incoming!!!
By PrinceGaz on 10/1/2006 11:45:23 AM , Rating: 2
What has the PSU got to do with the SB Live?

I don't know of any special voltage requirements for it, but +5V is available on every PSU ever made; it along with +12V and +3.3V are essential otherwise your PC won't work. Now if you're talking about -5V then that's a different story as it is considered obsolete and has been for a few years, but afaik the SBLive does not require a -5V line.

RE: Lawsuits Incoming!!!
By trabpukcip on 10/1/2006 11:22:39 PM , Rating: 2
This MSI board has an SB Live onboard and yes it would be -5v that he would be refering to, it does require it.

I stand corrected
By fliguy84 on 9/27/2006 5:32:51 AM , Rating: 3
$10 SB Live 5.1 Digital > Realtek Onboard

RE: I stand corrected
By Webgod on 9/27/2006 10:39:27 AM , Rating: 2
Unless your nForce 4 motherboard kills the Sound Blaster Live PCI card when you plug it in! I'm not making this up although I haven't seen it firsthand. I understand anything older than and Audigy will get killed.

RE: I stand corrected
By Wwhat on 9/28/2006 5:02:39 PM , Rating: 2
Always take off the power when plugging in cards is the moral then eh.

Screw EAX, gimme back my A3D!
By BigT383 on 9/29/2006 4:27:39 PM , Rating: 3
First they took away A3D, then they took away Soundstorm. I'd buy an X-Fi except that I hate creative because their drivers have been horrible ever since the Live! came out.

RE: Screw EAX, gimme back my A3D!
By QueBert on 10/2/2006 10:45:56 AM , Rating: 3
A3D was sweet, I use to love to play SOF because of it. Sad Creative has too much muscle and Aureal couldn't compete What I do know is I've owned both a A3D card and *now* an EAX card. The Aureal sounded better for position audio, period! I can't get technical, and I don't care about paper stats on EAX vs A3D. Also, I'm not an audiophile, but I know what my ears told me.

screw Creative, I hope Razers sound card turns out as good as their mice. Better SNR then Creative, EAX support, and probably better drivers :)

Realtek did that?
By Egglick on 9/27/2006 12:20:13 PM , Rating: 1
This is no surprise. Most Realtek products are cheap garbage that don't conform to standards. They use half-assed hacks and software drivers so they can use cheaper chips in their hardware. This results in higher CPU usage and lowered performance. Their networking chips are a prime example.

And since when did Realtek buy out C-Media??

RE: Realtek did that?
By Anh Huynh on 9/28/2006 12:09:06 AM , Rating: 2
Last year apparently. IDT also bought Sigmatel's PC Audio division too.

RE: Realtek did that?
By mindless1 on 9/29/2006 4:13:50 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, Realtek is building what the industry buys, so the next time you see someone buying a medium to low end motherboard or sound card, blame them- because if everyone wanted more expensive gear, that's what Realtek would do to stay afloat.

Their network chips work fine, are a very cost effective way to provide a feature. If you are pretending that they should have the same PERFORMANCE LEVEL as something that costs 10X as much, that would be silly. Nobody forces you to buy a Realtek chip so there's no problem, it's essentially a free feature you can ignore if you like.

By FightingChance on 9/27/2006 10:27:57 AM , Rating: 4
The common held belief that all onboard audio is junk needs to be re-examined. There are some fine onboard solutions now that Intel's raised the bar past AC97. And Dolby Digital Live and DTS Connect will finally bring PC Gaming audio much closer to their console cousins and out of Creative's proprietary grip.

When was the last game that used EAX2? EAX3 and EAXHD, which aren't licensed out, have been in use for years. I would think EAX compatability in non-Creative sound cards would simply be a non-issue; in fact this story sounds like the smaller ADI trying to wrestle away some OEM business from Realtek.

EAX and positional audio
By Chastity on 10/3/2006 2:06:05 PM , Rating: 2
I'd like to clarify a few things here:

1) Positional audio is rendered not under EAX, but DirectSound3D audio. EAX is an extension of DirectSound3D for rendering environments and occlusions. How effective a soundcard's driver is in rendering this info is determined by the rendering engine, which is typically Sensaura or QSound. Case in point: nForce users using Soundstorm use the Sensaura engine.

Realtek would need to update whatever rendering engine they use to fix this, which is probably being caused by not updating their license to distribute the current builds. Or in the case of Sensaura, switching over to a new engine.

2) DD/DTS Live does not equal 3D gaming. This only allows discrete multichannel surround via compressed SPDIF. You would still need a rendering engine to generate the discrete channels. As noted, the channel data is compressed, either 640kbps for Dolby Digital Live, or 1550kbps for DTS.

3) Analog out vs SPDIF - most soundcards and onboard solutions have mediocre DACs and thus using the DACs on your receivers would generate a more pleasing sound. However, some cards do have good analog output. The Mystique, using the C-Media chip, even tho supporting DD Live, has a very good analog output stage. The X-Fi Elite Pro has an excellent output stage since they fixed their bass management issues with HT receivers, so hooking it via the 7.1 inputs for DVD-A/SACD on your receiver will not offer a lesser experience than say via SPDIF. In fact, you get great sound and it's uncompressed.

A3D lovers will appreciate that the new X-Fi headphone 3D algorithms are based on the A3D ones, as Creative has finally used some of that intellectual property they "aquired".

Creative really needs to get their improvements out in a more timely manner, however.

4) DRM playback: Creative needed to comply with the RIAA to get licensed to do DVD-A playback on the driver level.


RE: EAX and positional audio
By Wwhat on 10/5/2006 5:49:56 PM , Rating: 2
Very informative and to the point, thanks.

All onboard cards are junk!
By daniyarm on 9/27/2006 12:16:24 PM , Rating: 2
Anybody who says that onboard sound performs similar to something like SB X-Fi hasn't heard them side by side. Play a few games with the onboard sound and then play the same games with X-Fi right after. Battlefield 2 is an excellent example. Unless you are deaf, you will notice a huge difference in sound quality and also in the number of sounds the card can reproduce simultaneously. And especially if you add something like Ventrilo.

By Wwhat on 10/3/2006 1:06:36 PM , Rating: 2
The title is 'realtek codec don't encode correctly' but it's the drivers that are the issue and not the codecs.
I use the nforce4 supplied nvidia audiodriver and it seems to put sound in 3d space fine using a realtek codec.

I didn't try the realtek drivers but would not surprise they work fine too btw, I'm a bit distrustful about these claims before I test it myself

By rqle on 9/27/06, Rating: -1
RE: Audiophile
By Crysalis99 on 9/27/2006 8:56:21 AM , Rating: 2
Get Auzentech's XM Mystique, Xplosion or the new Meridian thats coming out. Use Doly Digital Live or DTS connect and then come back here and say that again...

Granted youll get more of an effect through movies/music but even with games you can get the full effect *sometimes*...

RE: Audiophile
By therealnickdanger on 9/27/2006 9:23:55 AM , Rating: 3
The Xplosion is amazing. There is no reason to ever buy Creative crap again... I liked my Audigy 4 Pro, but Creative's insistence on supporting EAX over DD/DTS is annoying. Obviously they have no problems selling cards, so why should they change?

RE: Audiophile
By Spivonious on 9/27/2006 2:50:28 PM , Rating: 2
EAX is a 3D positioning effect for stereo sources.

DD has no positioning, it simply has separate channels.

DTS is not widely supported by games and doesn't do that great of a job on movies IMO.

RE: Audiophile
By Lakku on 9/27/2006 7:31:33 PM , Rating: 2
DTS is much better then DD for music and movies.

RE: Audiophile
By ArneBjarne on 9/29/2006 12:17:38 PM , Rating: 2
EAX is a 3D positioning effect for stereo sources.


DD has no positioning, it simply has separate channels.

I guess, DD is codec, EAX is not. What is so silly about Creative is that they claim to have cards that do such a fantastic job of rendering multichannel sound mixes, but they give you no way of getting the mix out of the card in digital form.

DTS is not widely supported by games and doesn't do that great of a job on movies IMO.

Games do not need to support DTS, any 5.1 source can be DTS encoeded (6.1 for DTS-ES discrete). As for movies, DTS has a higher bitrate both in the case of the theatrical versions(SRD vs. DTS) and consumer versions (DD vs. DTS). Most people tend to agree that this theoretical advantage is often realised on concrete releases.

RE: Audiophile
By hibbs on 9/29/2006 12:47:08 PM , Rating: 2
finally someone able to correct some of the mass of misinformation being posted here!

I'll just add my 2c...

Creative DO offer a way to take your multichannel digital - it's an accessory unit called the DTS-610. Not as cheap as providing a realtime encoder with the card, but more efficient since it doesn't bog down the host CPU..and it uses a DTS based algorithm which IMO is superior to the Dolby Digital Live algorithm. It has the secondary advantage of allowing you to play DRMd content across the digital connection.

BUT...why would you really want to take that amazing SNR (118dB on the Elite Pro!) and munge it up with a compression algorithm?? The DACs in the X-Fi are likely to be far superior to the ones in your receiver in any case. The only stupid thing is the 3.5mm connector.

Oh, and to the other comment that someone else made about shutting off the digital out with DRM content, this is something they are REQUIRED to do by the content providers - it's not their choice to do this.


RE: Audiophile
By ArneBjarne on 9/30/2006 12:56:00 AM , Rating: 2
Well actually DTS-610 is the worst of both worlds.

It takes the anlogue output from the soundcard, converts it back to digital and then DTS encodes. If you want to get a digital signal why on earth would you want to put i through DA-AD conversion first.

But hopefully someone will wake up soon and use HDMI to give us the best of both worlds instead, uncompressed/lossless compresed multichannel digital out.

RE: Audiophile
By Jedi2155 on 10/2/2006 8:07:33 PM , Rating: 2
There are also those old Digital speakers from Cambridge Soundworks/Creative.

I have the old DTT3500 myself and I am getting a pure digital signal directly from my Audigy 2 (complete with EAX/Positional Audio). I was planning to upgrade to an X-Fi, but I am hoping for them to fix their PCI-E issues and release a version on that before I jump on the X-Fi bandwagon.

RE: Audiophile
By Odeen on 10/2/2006 8:10:05 AM , Rating: 2
Two words: Bass management.

Two more words: Delays and levels.

Also, because the sole 5.1 / 6.1 / 7.1 input on the receiver is taken by a SACD/DVD-A player.

The nice thing about a digital connection is that your receiver can figure out the best way to send it out to your particular speaker system and its arrangement.

If a particular speaker is a foot futher away than others, add a decibel, and 1ms of delay. With a receiver getting a digital signal, it can do that with no problem. However, receivers don't do that with the 5.1 analog in - they just amplify it and send it out.

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