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Automatic room correction results
DailyTech examines the audio stack in Windows Vista

Microsoft’s long-awaited Windows Vista operating system has plenty of underlying changes. One of the major changes to Windows Vista is a brand new audio stack dubbed Universal Audio Architecture (UAA). UAA completely revamps the way Windows Vista communicates with audio devices and offers a basic audio driver for all UAA compliant devices. Microsoft also introduced early UAA functionality in Windows XP when high definition audio (Intel Azalia) was released a couple years ago. Current UAA compliant audio devices include integrated high definition audio, USB audio and IEEE 1394 AV/C devices.

Basic UAA drivers integrated in Windows Vista are not as feature-less as one would imagine. The basic functionality of UAA-class drivers includes support for 24-bit/96 KHz audio playback and recording across two-channels and six-channel audio support. An early white paper on UAA touts the following benefits:
  • Simpler installation of audio peripherals. The operating system can detect and configure a UAA-compliant audio device when it is connected to the system, without requiring the user to find and load a driver.
  • Performance advantages. UAA class drivers are designed to consume a minimum amount of CPU time during streaming and to take advantage of increased bandwidth in hardware that support data rates comparable to high-end consumer electronics.
  • Glitch-resilient audio. UAA class drivers are designed to follow the planned Vista API real-time coding guidelines for glitch-resilient audio.
  • Security for protected content. UAA class drivers support current and planned content protection technologies in Windows.
Microsoft’s basic UAA driver in Windows Vista provides the above-mentioned features. The default UAA driver automatically installs for USB, IEEE 1394 and integrated high definition audio devices. During the device initialization process the UAA driver works with the Microsoft Bus Driver to figure out the capabilities of the installed codec. From there the audio driver makes the supported features, such as the amount of inputs and outputs, available to the operating system.

DailyTech was able to speak to Sandra Perry, product line manager, Integrated Audio Group, Analog Devices, Inc, regarding the new UAA. "Although it hasn't gotten much publicity, Microsoft made many changes in the audio stack for Vista, and increased the performance requirements for the audio sub-system. This required significant new driver development, but the end result will be the ability to provide a higher quality motherboard audio. Analog Devices looks forward to giving customers an enhanced audio experience under Vista” said Perry.

The new Universal Audio Architecture makes things harder for hardware DSP manufacturers to produce drivers though. As UAA provides basic software-rendered audio functionality, sound cards that have hardware acceleration will require completely new drivers. This includes sound cards such as the Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy and X-Fi line of sound cards. When sound card or motherboard manufacturers provide hardware DSPs on sound cards or motherboards, the device must support the UAA class driver for basic functionality.

This is where things become different for hardware DSP manufacturers. Hardware DSP equipped sound cards require a separate driver for the hardware DSP features itself. Windows Vista treats the hardware DSP as an independent device, separate from basic audio output functionality. Creative Labs opted not to partake in creating the UAA specification and was unable to create drivers capable of taking advantage of the hardware DSPs in its Sound Blaster Audigy and X-Fi line. Nevertheless, Creative Labs managed to dodge UAA hardware DSP driver requirement with its ALchemy Project.

It is a bit of a touchy subject, but UAA supports audio content protection schemes. This should allow PC systems to playback protected audio content such as DVD Audio discs. Unfortunately, Realtek is the only provider of hardware content protected high definition audio solutions.

Basic driver aside, the default UAA driver provides a few features not found in drivers released by audio device and codec manufacturers. New features in the UAA driver include bass management, speaker fill, automatic room correction, virtual surround sound, phantom surround, headphone virtualization, loudness equalization and support for microphone arrays.

Bass management is unavailable with the basic Windows Vista UAA driver but the option is available for codec and sound card manufacturers to implement. As with A/V receivers, the Windows-level bass management allows users two options – forward or reverse bass manage. In forward bass management mode Windows can output a full-range signal to large front speakers and a subwoofer or a filtered signal to small speakers and a subwoofer.

In reverse bass management mode, where the PC lacks a subwoofer, Windows will distribute the subwoofer (LFE) signal accordingly to each channel. While most PC speakers and A/V receivers have built in crossovers or bass management, Windows Vista’s bass management will be particular useful in upcoming AMD Live! and Intel Viiv systems – especially those with integrated audio amplifiers such as the AMD Live! Home Cinema systems.

Speaker fill is simply another name for up converting a traditional stereo audio source to output to multiple speakers. Audio purists will scoff, but those that enjoy up converted multi-channel audio will appreciate this feature -- especially users with multi-channel speakers that lack built-in up converting algorithms. Every company has its own methods of up converting stereo sources, Microsoft has opted to use channel manipulation and delays to create a multi-channel audio effect. DailyTech attempted to test out the speaker fill option with Realtek ALC882-based high definition audio codec without luck.

Automatic room correction is a new addition that will become a vital part of AMD Live! Home Cinema systems. As the AMD Live! Home Cinema systems feature integrated amplifiers, automatic room correction will calibrate the speakers so all sound will reach a sweet spot at the same time. A microphone is required to take advantage of automatic room correction features. Using a standard microphone, Windows Vista outputs generated sounds to determine the distance each speaker is away from the sweet spot. From there, time delays and volume levels of each speaker are calculated and adjusted accordingly.

Systems that connect to stereo receivers or speakers via standard red/white analog cables can take advantage of the new virtual surround features. Multi-channel sources are down-mixed into a stereo signal with virtual surround. The down-mixed signal is Dolby Pro Logic compatible, a feature most multi-channel receivers support.

Speaker phantoming is available for users that lack six-channel surround sound speakers. Using speaker phantoming, users with 4.1 speaker systems can enjoy a virtualized center channel for a virtualized 5.1 experience.

Headphone virtualization is a feature targeted towards headphone users that want virtualized surround sound. Microsoft’s headphone virtualization implementation takes advantage of Head Related Transfer Functions (HRTF) technology to enable virtual surround sound through stereo headphones. Headphone virtualization can be enabled when headphones are plugged into the headphone jack.

Lastly on the audio output enhancements is the loudness equalization feature. This feature aims to fix volume level inconsistency between different content sources. Microsoft aims to fix volume level inconsistencies using an equalization technique that simulates human hearing and dynamically adjust gain levels accordingly.

On the new audio input features side of things is native support for microphone arrays. Microsoft caters this feature towards VoIP users for greater voice clarity. With native microphone array support, system manufacturers can integrate microphone arrays in monitors, laptops and other devices.

In addition to the microphone array support, Windows Vista UAA supports the following features:
  • Improved acoustic echo cancellation
  • Microphone array support
  • Stationary noise suppressor
  • Automatic gain control
  • Wideband quality of sound capturing and processing
As with all new operating systems, it will take a while before manufacturers will implement all new audio features in its drivers and hardware. Nevertheless, with the new Universal Audio Architecture Microsoft has raised the bar of basic audio devices.


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Perspective
By Reflex on 1/30/2007 12:11:55 PM , Rating: 5
Lets keep some perspective here. Creative sound cards represent less than 3% of the market of PC's. Add-in cards in general are in less than 5% of all computers today. Given that, MS's decision to essentially raise the bar for the 95% of PC's that do not have specialty add-in cards is a good thing for an overwhelming majority of users. Features that were once considered high end, like 24/96 are now the baseline.

This spec does not prevent hardware accelleration either. What this does is move certain portions of the audio stack into software, the baseline portions that are part of the class driver. However, as with all class drivers, the vender can specify functionality above and beyond what UAA specs out, and they are free to implement that via the framework provided. Many drivers on your system today are class drivers that work identically, for instance mouse drivers, Mass-Storage devices and non-iPod music players(MTP). These devices typically utilize the class driver for basic functionality, and the vender provides extensions for any features beyond that.

This change vastly improves sound for 95% of the PC owning public. Initially it provides little for the 5% with certain add-on cards, however given time that will change. Within two years this won't even be a debate, but like all transitions it will initially cause pain.




RE: Perspective
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: -1
RE: Perspective
By Reflex on 1/30/2007 12:55:37 PM , Rating: 5
UAA can be extended, but you have to first embrace the new model. That means that everything your familiar with can come back, it will simply take time to do it via the new framework. Furthermore, by not exposing the OS to kernel mode sound drivers you prevent blue screens from poorly written Creative and other third party drivers.

This spec was decided with the input of nearly every sound chip maker that supports Windows. The only notable exception was Creative Labs, which got off the UAA bus back in 2003. It is not Microsoft's fault that they chose not to work with everyone else in the market to guarantee that their sound cards did not require hacks to be fully functional on Vista. EAX could work on Vista via UAA with some work, it would simply have to be implemented as an extension to UAA. Thanks to the feet dragging, that is now likely a year or two off.


RE: Perspective
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: 0
RE: Perspective
By saratoga on 1/30/2007 8:46:39 PM , Rating: 1
Creative and sound quality in the same sentence. Amazing.


RE: Perspective
By guwd1 on 1/31/2007 1:42:45 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Creative and sound quality in the same sentence. Amazing.

I wish I knew how to rate you down, but I just recently registred an account here so I'm newbish at that stuff (Not the same thing as new to this site, been comming here once a day for a looong time).

Ok so maybe it shouldn't be sound quality but rather good sound experience. And (assumably) they're bad at making drivers. But they do have (had? M$ taking over?) monopoly in a way because there is no competing product with a good 3D sound-solution of it's own (that has managed to market it well). And I'm not talking about "surround sound" as in 5.1, 7.1 ect.
If you really want good sound quality you probably shouldn't be looking at a PC anyway.


RE: Perspective
By saratoga on 1/31/2007 4:24:42 PM , Rating: 2
Plenty of PC cards have great sound quality. Look at the pro lines. Actually, I was a little unfair, Creative does make some nice pro stuff, though they don't market it to consumers.

quote:
Ok so maybe it shouldn't be sound quality but rather good sound experience.


So basically, if the post had said something else, my reply would have been wrong! Great!

I think my point stands. Claiming creative was driving sound quality is pretty silly. Their only really good cards sound quality wise are ones they bought out. Their home grown cards like the Live and Audigy have been quite terrible in quality, and the Xfi is the first one I'd seriously consider for music listening, the rest having been poor to average (note that I never mentioned hardware acceleration in my reply).


RE: Perspective
By guwd1 on 2/1/2007 9:25:05 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
So basically, if the post had said something else, my reply would have been wrong! Great!

I was simply saying that he might have meant what I said. Again...
"Claiming creative was driving sound quality is pretty silly"
I'm saying I don't think this is what he was trying to convey.
The big reason I didn't like your post is because it expressed your view of things in a way that implied that michael was stupid. You shouldn't have done it that way!

Otherwise a think I can agree with your above post.


RE: Perspective
By Oregonian2 on 1/30/2007 1:16:14 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure how much it'll improve the sound quality coming out of the half-inch speaker that's in my work-computer, the only one it's got. :-) On the other hand, my home-PC's motherboard Realtek sound chip connects to an Energy surround sound system (P965-DQ6 Gigabyte MB) and I'm not sure that I'd notice a difference, but an improvement there would be fine even if I can't really tell. Haven't seemed to need a plug-in audio board since the MB ones started to meet my low standards (about 5.1 mode support came in as standard).

Can't imagine anyone running Vista (w/Aero interface and all) would be bent out of shape for a tiny bit of CPU being applied to audio.


RE: Perspective
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: -1
RE: Perspective
By Reflex on 1/30/2007 1:42:44 PM , Rating: 2
But its not going away for most of the market. Only about 3% of the sound cards out there are Creative solutions, and they have their own hacks/workarounds. There will be some patches issued, and some degraded sound in older games, but in general everything being written now is being written with UAA and its extensibility in mind.


RE: Perspective
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: -1
RE: Perspective
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: -1
RE: Perspective
By Reflex on 1/30/2007 2:29:03 PM , Rating: 2
Any hit in performance is negligible. You are mixing two arguments here, arguing about gamign and then arguing about sound quality. First off, no one who cares about sound quality is running Creative gaming sound cards, the two are mutually exclusive. Creative is popular with gamers because of EAX, they are not popular with audiophiles however.

Secondly, in gaming we won't be 1-2 years without a solution. For those gamers running Creative you get OpenAL and their hack solution. For those not running Creative, the new spec will work for most features, and updated drivers will likely enable the rest. Remember, the only company behind in supporting UAA is Creative, everyone else has had 3+ years and their drivers will be updated quite a bit over the next year to enable features and squash bugs.

The only people really harmed by this are those who run Creative cards. And even that have workarounds. Its not the end of the world, and in the long run it'll be good for everyone.


RE: Perspective
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: -1
RE: Perspective
By Hare on 1/30/2007 4:42:58 PM , Rating: 2
You obviously have NO idea what it takes to get good sound. Why don't you google what the term OPAMP means. It has nothing to do with software and everything to do with quality! If you are talking about digital audio (PCM) well this new driver model won't change a thing. Maybe make it easier for the card manufacturers to get bitperfect audio without forced resampling to 48Khz. I won't even bother reading all your >50 messages since you don't seem to have a clue.

This is absolutely GREAT for musicians (you suggested terrible). This does wonders to latency, just like Apples framework "CoreAudio" and ultimately enables the creation of more stable and better drivers.

Just because the driver model doesn't yet fully support onboard DSPs doesn't mean that this is final or would even affect more than ~5% of all people.

Oh yeah, I have an M-audio soundcard and have spent a high 4-figure number on my hometheatre and I'm looking forward to this new framework!


RE: Perspective
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: -1
RE: Perspective
By saratoga on 1/30/2007 8:51:09 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
op amp is an operational amplifier, it can do what its told.


English please.

quote:
I wont even bother with your arguments because you know nothing about how this audio stack works or what it does.


Says the poster who thinks MS makes sound cards.

Everything you've posted so far has been pretty clueless, so please forgive us for not taking your posts on faith.


RE: Perspective
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: -1
RE: Perspective
By guwd1 on 1/31/2007 2:02:37 PM , Rating: 1
michal1980, I think most of what you write is correct and true, and regarding quality other folks are correct too. Trying to look at your posts from a third perspective in all of this 'mess' I didn't find any contradicions anywhere really betwean the Audiophile-folks, and you. It seems it's just different interpertations of the posts causing missunderstanding between the two camps. Missunderstandings are, after all, common among different minded people. (not sure this means what I want it to mean, I'm not native english-speaking).
However, whith regard to saratoga, please rather point me to a post where he actually contributed with usefull info or personal insight. Seems to me he's just beeing agressive, posting short comments where he makes fun of other people.


RE: Perspective
By saratoga on 1/31/2007 4:08:55 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I never said MS made sound cards. point to me where I said that?


quote:

if not all on-board solutions.

Including this one from M$.


English grammer dude. Might want to learn it.

quote:
I said M$ now rendered sound cards worthless, and nothing more then Digital to Analog convertors.


I think Creative would disagree.

quote:
all the processing is done by windows, and the hardware does nothing. Read up about the new stack and you'll find out.


You realize the new stack is optional right? Thats why hardware acceleration continues to work on Creative cards via OpenAL.

Maybe you should do a bit more reading. There are many APIs in Windows, and driver writers are free to invent their own too. MS's stack now limits hardware acceleration. But its not the only game in town.

quote:
I was reading about this for months now, even before D-tech decided to do a MS press release about it.


Why don't you seem to know jack shit about it then? I shouldn't have to explain Windows APIs to you if you've been reading through the literature. Hell, Creative's own marketing presentations cover this crap better then you seem to understand.


RE: Perspective
By guwd1 on 2/1/2007 9:37:49 AM , Rating: 2
I would like to read more about the stack so anyone feel like giving useful links to me? Thx.


RE: Perspective
By guwd1 on 2/1/2007 10:07:56 AM , Rating: 2
quote:


if not all on-board solutions.

Including this one from M$.

quote:

English grammer dude. Might want to learn it.


Actually, I'm not sure that he has done a grammatical mistake, it's more of an unwise choice. Unless I'm mistaken...

I think it implies that "this one from M$" is a "solution" -as stated in the previous sentence. On the other hand it only insinuates, albeit strongly, that the second "solution" as in "this one from M$" is "on-board" same as the first one. So unless I'm simply wrong it's simply a mather of interpretation.

But basically it's just that your response: "English please"/"grammar" seems a lot like bashing to me... Any person with understanding on the subject should be able to understand what he's saying even if there are minor mistakes here and there, you're just pretending you can't because you disagree with him. You're purposely missinterpreting in an attempt to twist his arguments to your advantage. It's like saying: "Look, I can missinterpret your post THIS much if I want to == You're saying things that doesn't make sense AND are silly, you suck."

If this isn't what your trying to say AT ALL... then this would be a good time to clearify because that's how I (and probably others) are perceiving many (not all) of your posts.


RE: Perspective
By Spivonious on 1/30/2007 2:14:16 PM , Rating: 2
Audio recording apps need hardware processing because the delay of software completely screws up any attempt. I know it's strange, but I actually agree with michael1980. :)


RE: Perspective
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: -1
RE: Perspective
By Hare on 1/30/2007 4:44:56 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
but then I plugged in my audigy 2. Its like night at day. things you didn't hear in games are all of a sudden there.
That's only because of the propriety EAX. It has nothing to do with the actual hardware.

Audigy 2 is technically a lousy card compared to real soundcards from Esi Juli@, EMU or M-audio.


RE: Perspective
By dluther on 1/31/2007 9:02:34 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Audigy 2 is technically a lousy card compared to real soundcards from Esi Juli@, EMU or M-audio.


Creative Labs bought EMU systems in 1993 to gain access to their DSP capabilities in high-end music production. The "SoundBlaster Live!" cards used the EMU10K1 DSP core, and the Audigy line used the EMU10K2 DSP core. The Audigy 2 series uses a reworked EMU10K2 core (sometimes called the EMU10K2.5), and the "X-Fi" line uses a new 130 nm EMU20K1 core.

What this is a long way of saying is, the EMU cards *are* the Creative cards. Or more correctly rather, the new Creative cards *are* EMU cards.



RE: Perspective
By guwd1 on 2/1/2007 10:22:31 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
That's only because of the propriety EAX.

Correct, but if you had to do EAX on the cpu...
quote:
It has nothing to do with the actual hardware.

...instead of doing it in sound hardware, it would slow things down. That's what we are (or atleast I'm) trying to say and I'm sure you agree to that.


RE: Perspective
By saratoga on 1/30/2007 8:57:56 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
its hard to. to agree with me, even though i'm ussually right most of the time ;-)


If you'd bother to read when people correct you, you'd be right even more.

quote:
people are Underestimating the amount of power it actually takes to process sound correctly.


Process how? Do you mean mix, resample, level? Thats absolutely negligible. Can be done in real time on an ARM7TDMI at 30MHz. Do you mean positional audio? That can be slower.

Your statement is so vague it doesn't even mean anything.

quote:
The point is not to have 100fps peak, its to make sure your min does not go below say 60fps. and thats when you'll love the fact you have a sound card, so you get that extra 10-20% power for everything else.


Get with the times. Now that multicore is here, audio processing basically happens for free anyway. Anyway, the difference isn't 10-20% in real world stuff anyway. The BF2 benchmarks I've seen are more like 3-5%, and future games will be even less thanks to Vista.



RE: Perspective
By guwd1 on 2/1/2007 10:46:50 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Process how? Do you mean mix, resample , level? Thats absolutely negligible. Can be done in real time on an ARM7TDMI at 30MHz.

quote:
Not for the fun of it, but rather for DSP functions like the resampler. Resampling can be very slow

Somthing's wrong with either of these two sentences, and it ain't the last one.
There is no limit to possible resampling "quality"/"preciseness" but it requires more calculatins the better you want it to be.

quote:
Your statement is so vague it doesn't even mean anything.

It's not cristal-clear, but if one reads all his previous posts it shouldn't be too hard to guess.
quote:
And its been shown before that its been more then a fraction of cpu power to process sound. yes maybe when your playing an mp3, but when doing positional 3d audio, the chunk will be bigger.

(Guess who I'm quoting)
quote:
Do you mean positional audio? That can be slower.

You seem to come to the conclusion that he most likely meant positional audio. Think I've made my point.


RE: Perspective
By saratoga on 2/2/2007 7:04:50 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Somthing's wrong with either of these two sentences, and it ain't the last one.


Actually, I believe they're both right. Note the "can" in the second one.

quote:

There is no limit to possible resampling "quality"/"preciseness" but it requires more calculatins the better you want it to be.


Yup. And for good resampling you want to interpolate/decimate with FIR/IIR. This is the slowest kind. But its still not that slow. You can do it in real time on the embedded platform I just mentioned. If you're interested, I can link the code to do it.

Basically, slow means different things to different people. It means a lot to people in embedded since they tend to have limited CPU time, but very little to PC developers since getting 90dB of SNR out of even a 44.1 to 48k resample is not very slow at all. The highest quality SRC takes less then 1% of CPU time of one core on a Core 2 PC. Not very slow at all IMO. Though if you've just got a 100MHz ARM, its very slow.

quote:
(Guess who I'm quoting)


His reply to a different thread. Great. I can't imagine why I didn't see it.

quote:
You seem to come to the conclusion that he most likely meant positional audio. Think I've made my point.


I think its reasonable to only consider posts someone makes in a given thread. I'm sorry, but I simply don't have the motivation to read through everything hes written in different replies to tease out his meaning. Instead, I think its perfectly reasonable to criticize arguments that are vague as written. If you have a point, you should be able to concisely state it in a single post, not distribute it across 10 different replies to 10 different people.

Regardless, i think my objection to nebulous statements like "process sound correctly" is relevant. Saying "processing EAX correctly" would have been quicker to type AND perfectly clear.

Why be vague for no reason? IMO the reason people do this is because they're afraid of saying anything too specific and being called out for it.


RE: Perspective
By guwd1 on 2/10/2007 1:08:31 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Actually, I believe they're both right. Note the "can" in the second one.

True, there is a can in both sentances.
Anyway, Creative says their SRC is better than a FIR of rating 100. And yet they put ~7000mips on the task, despite some kind of "optimization" to make it less heavy to compute. AND they claim it would take more mips to do the processing on a regular cpu. You might very well be right but that seems wierd to me. Are you sure the algoritms you're talking about are both high quality and real-time AND that your not thinking about resampling only one audiostream at a time?? We want the ability to resample dozens simultaniously.


RE: Perspective
By guwd1 on 2/10/2007 1:57:55 PM , Rating: 2
(the link of specs you asked for earlier is this one:)
http://www.soundblaster.com/products/x-fi/technolo...


RE: Perspective
By Anh Huynh on 1/30/2007 4:59:39 PM , Rating: 2
Hardware processing introduces one more factor of latency into the process. The standard audio solutions in Macs are high definition audio codecs. Professional studio sound cards from M-Audio, ESI, Teratec are all software based sound cards because last I checked, the VIA/ICEnsemble Envy24 series is pure software.


RE: Perspective
By saratoga on 1/30/2007 9:03:04 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Audio recording apps need hardware processing because the delay of software completely screws up any attempt.


Depends what you mean by processing. Mostly it needs ASIO and good low latency drivers. Hardware features are largely peripheral, though support for multiple sampling rates is important.

That doesn't really have anything to do with whats being discussed here, since ASIO was never a part of DS, and it still exists in Vista.


RE: Perspective
By guwd1 on 1/31/2007 1:24:11 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
And while they made sound better for 95% of pc users. Those 95% DID NOT CARE BEFORE, because if they cared they would have gotten a sound card.


Lets hope that the incresed audio quality for "95%" will get Average Joe used to better quality audio, causing an increased demand for high end soundcards/sound-solutions... lets hope. because if not I can't help but hate vista: I rater spend more money on audio than graphics.

I know that's probably just me, but atleast you cant blame me for hating vista in such a scenario. And I really dont care if it's done in hardware or software but as things currently stand I seriously doubt that really high-end 3D soundprocessing can be done in just software without a performance hit that is big enough to be described as irritating at the least. So obviosly I wouldn't like that, but as long as I get superb sound I would atleast be satisfied.

So basically I'll stick with XP/2003 for most part and only use vista for office / games-that-will-be-vista-only.


PC Speaker
By FightingChance on 1/30/2007 10:39:10 AM , Rating: 2
Audio has been poorly defined and implemented in the PC world for many years; here's to hoping that this architecture and standards support brings some proper quality sound to us.

A part of that is consumer education, as well - as it is, audio connectivity and quality details are usually out of the grasp of the layman.




RE: PC Speaker
By thebrown13 on 1/30/07, Rating: 0
RE: PC Speaker
By thebrown13 on 1/30/07, Rating: 0
RE: PC Speaker
By TomZ on 1/30/2007 11:01:03 AM , Rating: 1
I don't see how this changes the Hardware Abstraction Layer. That part of the architecture remains unchanged. Device drivers are written that follow standardized APIs and provide known services to upper layers. Now we just have smarter upper layers, that's all.


RE: PC Speaker
By Phynaz on 1/30/2007 11:48:20 AM , Rating: 2
Actually he's right. HAL has left the building.


RE: PC Speaker
By Anh Huynh on 1/30/2007 11:56:01 AM , Rating: 2
HAL didn't leave the building, they just took him out back and shot him. I don't think we'll be seeing HAL again anytime soon....


RE: PC Speaker
By thebrown13 on 1/30/07, Rating: 0
RE: PC Speaker
By saratoga on 1/30/2007 9:00:50 PM , Rating: 2
The HAL is still there. Its an integral part of the entire Windows system, no Windows PC can boot without it since all drivers depend on it. What happened is MS changed the interface to the HAL so that it now works differently (which is why Vista uses different drivers then XP, which used different drivers for most things then 98).


RE: PC Speaker
By Anh Huynh on 1/30/2007 10:03:26 PM , Rating: 2
So they took HAL out back, shot him and made him better....like Robocop.


RE: PC Speaker
By guwd1 on 2/1/2007 11:34:16 AM , Rating: 2
I would like a link to a MS document regarding this but I havn't found it yet.

"The problems are apparently the result of the software giant's decision to remove the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) for DirectSound and DirectSound3D ."
"Without the HAL, DirectSound on Vista will be rendered in software with no advanced functionality such as EAX.
However, Creative has pointed out that the audio changes in Vista do not affect OpenAL."
"Games that enable support for OpenAL will continue to run just as they do on Windows XP with hardware accelerated audio and effects.
The problem is that, while OpenAL has arguably replaced DirectSound3D, particularly in many modern PC games such as Doom 3, there are hundreds of older PC games that support DirectSound3D and EAX technology, all of which will sound empty and lifeless on Vista.
According to Creative, the good news is that its ALchemy Project allows users to run DirectSound3D games on Vista with full hardware accelerated 3D Audio and EAX support.
This is done by translating DirectSound calls into OpenAL, but only if users have a high-end Creative sound card."

http://www.itnews.com.au/newsstory.aspx?CIaNID=447...

"The boot loader checks the integrity of the kernel, the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL), and the boot-start drivers."//Microsoft Technet

I think the above, assuming it's correctness, summarize things fine. HAL lives, sort of, but some parts are missing/replaced with "something else".


RE: PC Speaker
By saratoga on 2/2/2007 7:07:57 PM , Rating: 2
The HAL is basically whatever sits above the hardware and below the usermode software. So the HAL is always there unless MS re-releases DOS. What happened is they removed the DS part of the HAL and replaced it with UUA.

Creative is pissed since they'd been riding on DS for a long time.


optical/spdif
By Scabies on 1/30/2007 10:41:28 AM , Rating: 3
all I want is realtime 5.1 encoding, so I can play GRAW or Source stuff over optical/coaxial. do that, and I'll buy in.




RE: optical/spdif
By DanaGoyette on 1/30/2007 12:16:07 PM , Rating: 2
Got Auzentech X-Meridian?
http://www.elitebastards.com/cms/index.php?option=...
Oh, and they say that the analog quality is so great that it renders the DDL / DTS Connect functionality completely unnecessary for some speakers (Z-680 is the example they give).

/me is annoyed to be stuck with a Cardbus Audigy. Creative needs to learn that Cardbus != PCMCIA -- the former is ISA-based, the latter is PCI-based.


RE: optical/spdif
By Sxotty on 1/30/2007 4:51:36 PM , Rating: 2
The strange thing here is Creative has not done anything remotely well *creative* recently. If they had I might care, but you have simply charged for the same thing over and over. If they had made a sound card that did more than just add reverb years ago then right now sound cards might actually be more complex and take more than 1-2% of the CPU cycle to emulate...


RE: optical/spdif
By guwd1 on 2/1/2007 2:01:01 PM , Rating: 2
Here it goes again, the "1-2%"... people please. Besides you say emulate, trying to do that would be horrible! Sure SB16 support you can emulate rather easy, but you're probably just refering to mixing ect in software. But still, we've heard those "1-2%" too many times now. Maybe when you play ONE sound-file in winamp, with practically NO-effects applied to it. Not when playing those 64+ sounds in games with effects applied to each, thats no-no! And btw the X-fi is 67x more powerfull than the SB Live! cards. I wouldn't call a 67x improvement in 7years nothing.


RE: optical/spdif
By Hare on 2/2/2007 2:17:49 PM , Rating: 2
It's 2007. My Abit AB9 can do DD live... Maybe you should upgrade your motherboard.


Irritating...
By Enoch2001 on 1/30/2007 12:06:03 PM , Rating: 2
This "review" is no different than all of the other crappy reviews on Vista audio on the NET: there is NO MENTION OF WHAT BENEFIT THIS IS TO MUSICIANS .

What about low latency? What about ASIO - is it even functional or needed anymore?

If the whole point to doing this was to place Vista (Windows) on a level playing field to OSX (Core Audio anyone?), then please - when people review the audio stack at least go over more than just the HTPC crap.

*rolls eyes*




RE: Irritating...
By kerpwnt on 1/30/2007 1:05:19 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. MS needs to do something for Musicians. I have a roommate who spends his days reading music theory books and messing around in Cubase. He's got an E-MU and refuses to move to vista unless he will have proper support for his sound card. Maybe there will be some work-around for you guys through OpenAL?

I, on the other hand, spend most of my PC time playing games. Games that are still single-threaded pieces of software. Even though many of us are jumping into the multi-core world, our games are still primarily single-threaded. In a single core processor, audio processing could take as much as 15-20%. That is a noticeable chunk of performance. If Vista isn't smart enough to put that load on one of our other cores, our games will still suffer from the same performance hit. As software developers learn to better exploit multi-core CPUs, who is to say we won't need that little extra bit anyway?


RE: Irritating...
By KernD on 1/30/2007 1:13:03 PM , Rating: 2
Ho please don't mention Core Audio...
If microsoft wan't to get on a level playing field to OSX on audio they would have to go down... way down...

Where I work we used to make alot of PC games port to MAC and one of the worst thing for performance was the crapy and badly documented Core Audio, it suports no hardware acceleration at all, it meant that you were wasting plenty of processing power just mixing all the damn channels together, and let me tell you that's not just 1 or 2% when there is alot of action in a game there can be more than 64 sounds playing at once, and I mean 3d sounds so each sound has volumes for each mix bin. The audio thread keeps interupting other process to do it's mixing, it's realy horrible.

Just for example even on a PC with hardware acceleration when you profile with vTune you see that the audio threads can take alot of precious processing time, just sending sound samples to the sound cars, wich have no memory to keep sound buffers by the way, except for some versions of the X-Fi, they just rely on PCI bus transfer rate.


RE: Irritating...
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: -1
RE: Irritating...
By guwd1 on 2/1/2007 1:39:34 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
But hell there the only ones left.

Exactly. I'm by no means a creative fan. I'm a "good sound realism in games"-fan. Where is the competing products... that's right, havn't heard of any. Does this mean there aint any? Probably, but if it doesn't; some marketing MD should get their ass kicked asap! Thank good for OpenAL then! It's like the light in the dark vista tunnel.
Btw. is it true that Creative made the audio for xbox/xbox360? Anyone know more about this?


RE: Irritating...
By Symmetriad on 1/30/2007 1:52:08 PM , Rating: 2
Seriously, this is just another reason for me to cling to XP for dear life for as long as possible. If this ends up messing with MIDI input or recording, I'm never touching Vista at all.

And once XP is out of the picture (which, thankfully, will be another several years), where the hell do I go from there? I can't stand OSX and Linux is pretty much a wasteland when it comes to anything pro audio.


RE: Irritating...
By EODetroit on 1/30/2007 3:50:18 PM , Rating: 2
Ditto. It will be a long time before I downgrade to Windows Vista. I simply won't buy it until there's a must-have app that requires it. I think that won't happen for a long long time.


once again, the comments are uneducated
By hellokeith on 1/30/2007 2:02:26 PM , Rating: 2
I sincerely hope people don't make purchasing decisions based on the comments of DailyTech articles. We rag the DT guys alot about spelling, grammar, and diction, but those errors are slight in comparison to the egregious misinformation found in the average comment.

If you would like to know the truth about audio in Vista, please visit this link, where Amir (a VP at Microsoft) answers questions directly:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=71...




RE: once again, the comments are uneducated
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: -1
RE: once again, the comments are uneducated
By laok on 1/30/2007 3:56:07 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
He doesn't care about gaming, and from his responses to my questions there M$ really didnt care about gaming


M$ does not care about gaming or wants to kill gaming on pc because it has Xbox.

Seriously, as M$ extends to other businesses, there is big cocern (well, at least myself) that M$ may use its monoply on OS to kill competitions.


By Reflex on 1/30/2007 8:42:05 PM , Rating: 3
And none of this has to do with the fact that the questions being raised in this thread are being answered by people capable of answering them. This is much ado about nothing, and as pointed out a serious benefit for the 'low end' sound solution while providing a framework for even better high end solutions.


And another thing...
doesn't sound good for gaming
By Jerricho24 on 1/31/2007 8:49:47 AM , Rating: 2
I know a lot of peeps don't game and I asume if you are an audiophile you wouldn't use a pc for music.
Most of the peeps I know that have a HTPC didn't buy the films and serials they horde. so this media lisence protection won't be a feature they are looking for in thier OS. That sort of leaves music creation and I'm thinking if your serius about that, you have some expencive hardware that doesn't sound like it will be any better off with Vista eather, well not for a while anyway(though I could be wrong)
what I am sure of is gaming will take a serius performance hit across the board under Vista, atleast in DX9 games that feature EAX...... oh ffs "updates are compleat I must restart my computer" sorry I will finish this later, I didnt quite get to my queries and some points i was trying to form!




By ughtas on 1/31/2007 10:10:47 AM , Rating: 2
At the point I type this, I didn't see any comments about how this means the MS has even more control over Digital Rights. I pretty much figure this will soon mean that your custom software won't even be able to squeak if you don't follow the DRM path that Microsoft pitches.

I can see it now --- teenagers watching pirated (silent) movies with a grainy, black and white picture... jerky motion... and a big 3D animated color logo in the bottom with a wild rock track emulating a no-name band at Woodstock on a summer day pounding out lyrics like "Microsoft provides the best in technology at the lowest total cost of ownership(tm)(r)(c) 2010, you must send us $299US at once!"




wow alot of lame people here
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: -1
RE: wow alot of lame people here
By TomZ on 1/30/2007 7:46:30 PM , Rating: 1
Ratings mean nothing. Don't take it personally. I think it is great to see someone make posts that are controversial and thought-provoking.


RE: wow alot of lame people here
By Dactyl on 1/30/2007 7:56:51 PM , Rating: 2
It takes 3 people to bring you to -1...

so either your fan club is larger than you thought, or the community at large hates you (or maybe I'm saying the same thing twice)


RE: wow alot of lame people here
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: -1
RE: wow alot of lame people here
By frobizzle on 1/30/2007 10:21:06 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
so either your fan club is larger than you thought, or the community at large hates you (or maybe I'm saying the same thing twice)


I just took a sip of coffee before reading this and ended up snorting coffee out my nose!! LMAO!!


to sum up
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: -1
RE: to sum up
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: 0
RE: to sum up
By blackseed on 1/30/2007 11:45:35 AM , Rating: 2
ummm...correction.

All your sound are being to us.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Your_Base_Are_Bel...


RE: to sum up
By Micronite on 1/30/2007 1:28:14 PM , Rating: 5
ummm...correction.

All your sound are belong to us.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Your_Base_Are_Bel...


RE: to sum up
By blackseed on 1/30/2007 4:15:12 PM , Rating: 2
umm...you modified my line! :)

Good catch.


RE: to sum up
By redmondherring on 2/2/2007 10:56:14 AM , Rating: 3
Umm..

All your bass are belong to us!


RE: to sum up
By thebrown13 on 1/30/07, Rating: 0
RE: to sum up
By Scabies on 1/30/2007 10:49:35 AM , Rating: 2
so does virusscan, system moniter, and auto-defrag.
Believe me, a small fraction is always welcome


RE: to sum up
By TomZ on 1/30/07, Rating: 0
RE: to sum up
By Zurtex on 1/30/2007 7:08:28 PM , Rating: 2
I run high end mathematical programs on my computer, 1 - 2% of CPU can mean 1 - 2 hours of saved time.

Just because it doesn't affect you doesn't mean you have to be naive about other people.


RE: to sum up
By TomZ on 1/30/2007 7:42:32 PM , Rating: 1
So an average calculation takes 100 hours and consumes 100% CPU? I'm not sure the PC is exactly the ideal tool for that job. Anyway, I think your situation is very rare, not typical. I was generalizing the typical case.


RE: to sum up
By saratoga on 1/30/2007 8:44:17 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
I run high end mathematical programs on my computer


That used hardware accelerated sound? That seems really, really unlikely.

quote:
1 - 2% of CPU can mean 1 - 2 hours of saved time.


But not for anything you did.

quote:
Just because it doesn't affect you doesn't mean you have to be naive about other people.


It doesn't effect you either though, at least not for the example you gave. How about this:

"Just because I have no idea what I'm talking about, doesn't stop me from making crappy posts complaining about audio". Better then your first try IMO.



RE: to sum up
By Zurtex on 1/31/2007 3:11:26 PM , Rating: 2
There's no need to be vicious.

I'm a student, I run a single computer, I don't have money for more. I use my computers for gaming, home entertainment, high definition content, downloading server, office use and high end mathematical content.

Unfortunately, some times I require the windows platform for my mathematics, mainly because my peers aren't versed in different Operating Systems and I'm required to run their programs. Taking 100 hours on 100% cpu usage is really nothing when you get involved in mathematical programs.

Somehow I'm not offended by your statement, you're the one who feels it is needed to randomly attack someone's post with having no clue of their situation, I'd please like to ask people again to stop being so naive and think everyone uses a computer exactly the same as them.


RE: to sum up
By saratoga on 1/31/2007 4:19:19 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I'm a student, I run a single computer, I don't have money for more. I use my computers for gaming, home entertainment, high definition content, downloading server, office use and high end mathematical content.


Ok, but you said "mathematical programs", not "home entertainment" or "high definition content". Mathematical programs are not affected by this.

quote:
Somehow I'm not offended by your statement, you're the one who feels it is needed to randomly attack someone's post with having no clue of their situation, I'd please like to ask people again to stop being so naive and think everyone uses a computer exactly the same as them.


I attacked your post because it was dishonest. Claiming that X is effected when really Y is bullshit. Thats a pretty damn good reason to attack something.

You may have a legitimate complaint, but you sure as hell didn't post one. If you want to defend this point, start by making a valid arguement instead of hiding behind some nebulous scientific computing app.


RE: to sum up
By guwd1 on 2/1/2007 4:05:21 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Mathematical programs are not affected by this.

Given they dosn't use sound that would be true.
But lets say he likes to run winamp at the same time. Probably not. But I think his real point is that every percentage is important, generally speaking. So it would be great if this software sound thing could be turned off, allowing you to use hardware acceleration if you like. "That's a security risk..."(likely Microsoft argument), so is bungee-jumping. More freedome of choice please.


RE: to sum up
By saratoga on 2/2/2007 6:34:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Given they dosn't use sound that would be true.
But lets say he likes to run winamp at the same time. Probably not. But I think his real point is that every percentage is important, generally speaking.


Then how is he justified claiming this will hurt his app? that was really my point. Its dishonest to claim that things are a problem when you know they're not. It doesn't matter if you have good intentions, misinformation is still bad.

quote:
So it would be great if this software sound thing could be turned off, allowing you to use hardware acceleration if you like. "That's a security risk..."(likely Microsoft argument), so is bungee-jumping. More freedome of choice please.


And in fact you can. Read up on Creative's alchemy project. It does just that.


RE: to sum up
By guwd1 on 2/8/2007 4:46:46 AM , Rating: 2
I know about ALchemy. So obviously we are both expressing ourselfs vague here, non of our post are correct. "Software sound thing...// turned off" is vague. But ALchemy doesn't turn anything off, I know that (and you know that). It's a "substitute"(if I my call it that) for the missing sound-HAL layer, "wrapping DirectSound in OpenAL". Anyway there's lots of issues with it, it's not fully working and I still think microsoft has done a bad thing effectivly dropping (advanced) sound support for older titles (<-backward compability complain).

New titles will indeed work just fine and won't require the ALchemy stuff at all. It will just work. All you need is OpenAL drivers installed, and OpenAL is indeed great : full EAX[1-5] support (and more), Open-source, cross-platform(!), under constant development (aka. improving), major developer support , ect. (I think I covered the most important advantages).

The second thing I hate about Vista is its DRM crap! But that's a different subject I would say. (afaik it can even be turned of for sound by terminating a app (I think, my knowledge of this is very limited), although I also think this is a bug and will as such be dealt with soon by M$.

"Windows Vista will be ushering in a new age for PC gaming, with great new graphics, physics and CPU support. When combined with OpenAL and the widespread developer support it is receiving, gamers will also be hearing some of the best audio ever on Windows Vista."//OpenAL.org


RE: to sum up
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: 0
RE: to sum up
By TomZ on 1/30/2007 11:05:25 AM , Rating: 1
Who cares? Most everyone has more CPU "power" available anyway, what with fast processors, dual cores, etc. I think that it is worth it to do that in the CPU and have less expensive hardware with complicated co-processors. After all, sound processing is not very CPU-intensive, unlike video.

But I am also of the opinion that physics processors are stupid. After all, by the time that physics processors come of age, we'll all have quad-core processors and much more capable video processors. There's plenty of extra processing power between the two in order to crunch the physics calculations. What's the benefit of having your main CPU basically "idle" because you offloaded everything to coprocessors? Seems like a waste to me.


RE: to sum up
By michal1980 on 1/30/07, Rating: 0
RE: to sum up
By thebrown13 on 1/30/07, Rating: 0
RE: to sum up
By Janooo on 1/30/2007 5:34:29 PM , Rating: 2
The sound didn't draw much because it was done by a sound card.
Now it will take more resources; CPU and memory bandwidth as well.


RE: to sum up
By saratoga on 1/30/2007 8:45:29 PM , Rating: 2
"Sound" is still done by the sound hardware, unless you think Vista lets you play sound without a jack.


RE: to sum up
By guwd1 on 1/31/2007 12:41:50 PM , Rating: 2
no, actually sound comes from the speakers... real point beeing you doesn't seem to know what you're talking about.

"unless you think Vista lets you play sound without a jack"
I'm sure thats what he thought. Absolutely.


RE: to sum up
By saratoga on 1/31/2007 4:11:28 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
"Sound" is still done by the sound hardware,


quote:
no, actually sound comes from the speakers...


Haha ... what? So speakers aren't hardware?

quote:
real point beeing you doesn't seem to know what you're talking about.


Speakers == software. Thanks for the informative post. Keep up the good work dooder.

quote:
"unless you think Vista lets you play sound without a jack"


Honestly, I don't think theres a way to read that post that makes any more sense. Feel free to take a crack at decoding it though.


RE: to sum up
By guwd1 on 2/1/2007 3:49:59 AM , Rating: 2
Well since you keep comming up with creative ways to interpret other people's post I guess it takes a lot of imaginative power to decode the purpose of your own ones too. Who knows, maybe you're a creative genious ahead of your time, so no one else can understand why you posted the original message in the first place. After all it contributed greatly to the original discussion, supposedly.
And simply becuse I'm too short tempered when it comes to dealing with people like you, I end up posting this kind of crap too. It's all very sad... What? I should stop responding to this crap? Yeah, I suppose so, given that I know I shouldn't. Guess you could call me an idiot... Well your going to have to live with the fact that this world is full of idiots. We do make a great team now don't we?


RE: to sum up
By saratoga on 2/2/2007 7:12:06 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Well since you keep comming up with creative ways to interpret other people's post I guess it takes a lot of imaginative power to decode the purpose of your own ones too. Who knows, maybe you're a creative genious ahead of your time, so no one else can understand why you posted the original message in the first place. After all it contributed greatly to the original discussion, supposedly.


You were trying to be clever and failed. Get over it. This is the internet, not real life. You shouldn't be getting emotional over posts about sound cards. Seriously. Its not worth it.

quote:
And simply becuse I'm too short tempered when it comes to dealing with people like you, I end up posting this kind of crap too. It's all very sad... What? I should stop responding to this crap? Yeah, I suppose so, given that I know I shouldn't. Guess you could call me an idiot... Well your going to have to live with the fact that this world is full of idiots. We do make a great team now don't we?


I don't think you're an idiot. Michael is, but mostly because he takes his posts so seriously but can't bother to look things up when he should.


RE: to sum up
By guwd1 on 2/10/2007 7:28:31 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
You shouldn't be getting emotional over posts about sound cards. Seriously. Its not worth it.

It wasn't a soundcard issue, it was an attitude issue... last part probably true though. Anyway it's a lot better to burst out my irritation in a harmless little post than to let it affect the people in my surroundings I think. Any one can put their feelings aside and pretend they don't give a damn, but if you do so alot it's not good for you. One can try to change, but must always remember who they are, not who they like to be. ->You can't ignore your feelings just because you don't like feeling them. Man I'm way of subject here...


RE: to sum up
By guwd1 on 1/31/2007 1:05:34 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Who cares? Most everyone has more CPU "power" available anyway

Probably... but aside from the fact that high quality surround sound calculation takes more processingpower than some people here think maby you should ask yourself why people turn of services to get that little extra. Or why they by that high-end memmory for twice the price. Or why they overclock... ect. Besides a couple of years from now when software has become ever more demanding you won't have extra CPU "power" at your desposal unless you've upgraded your hardware.

Saying, stuff like that is just beeing ignorant, same as "I'm rich anyway, I don't care what it cost's me." The not-so-rich people usually hate it when a rich dude says something like that.


RE: to sum up
By saratoga on 2/2/2007 7:19:27 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Probably... but aside from the fact that high quality surround sound calculation takes more processingpower than some people here think maby you should ask yourself why people turn of services to get that little extra.


Well people turn off services because they don't understand how computers work and they think it will make a difference.

quote:
Or why they by that high-end memmory for twice the price. Or why they overclock... ect. Besides a couple of years from now when software has become ever more demanding you won't have extra CPU "power" at your desposal unless you've upgraded your hardware.


Its more complicated then that. The industry is moving towards massively parallel cores because they're cheap. This means we'll need massively parallel software applications, and one application that is very parallel is audio processing. In the long term, there are going to be more cores then people know what to do with because its very hard to parallelize a lot of things games do. 2 or 4 cores isn't that hard. But lets say you have SMT and 16 cores. Got 32 compute bound threads with little IPC? probably not.

IMO the best thing that could happen would be for sound CPU consumption to explode, since it's basically all free. If Quake 5 or Far Cry 3 can use 100% of 2 CPU cores just on audio, I'll be excited. With that kind of power, they'll be able to do some really fun things with audio. And it'll actually keep my shinny new 8 core CPU slightly busy.

quote:
Saying, stuff like that is just beeing ignorant, same as "I'm rich anyway, I don't care what it cost's me." The not-so-rich people usually hate it when a rich dude says something like that.


This has nothing to do with wealth. Soon even Celerons are going to have multiple cores. I'd rather developers find a way for games to use them. IMO its short sited to assume that hardware acceleration will always matter. It certainly did in the era of single threaded games and single cored CPUs, but that era ending, and the future will be very different. MS realizes this, which is why Vista moved in a different direction then Creative wanted with respect to acceleration. They see that theres no point in helping develop hardware accelerators, so they're telling Creative to do it themselves.


RE: to sum up
By kilkennycat on 1/30/2007 11:09:25 AM , Rating: 2
...........so what, when you have 4 CPU cores to play with. I assume that M$$ sound-processing in Vista is multithreaded.


RE: to sum up
By guwd1 on 1/31/2007 10:00:41 AM , Rating: 2
"In case you didn't know, processing sound takes a tiny fraction of your CPU."
Unless you didn't know: Take the X-Fi: it has a processing power roughly equivalen to 2.4Ghz P4. I know the P4 isn't the most efficint cpu, but that would still be alot more than what you call "a tiny fraction" of your cpu-power IF you utilized all of it. That you do not in any average case but still, point is you could, and shold, aka. if game developers implemented best they could in the future, and evolution usually goes forward. I could easily max out the Audigy2 cards capability (much slower, but still). I am ofcourse assuming Creative didn't make the large expensive X-fi die just for the fun of it.


RE: to sum up
By saratoga on 1/31/2007 4:33:24 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Unless you didn't know: Take the X-Fi: it has a processing power roughly equivalen to 2.4Ghz P4. I know the P4 isn't the most efficint cpu, but that would still be alot more than what you call "a tiny fraction" of your cpu-power


Peak throughput of P4 @ 2.4GHz:

38400 MIPS.

Peak throughput of Xfi DSP:

10,000 MIPS (IIRC, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, its been a while since I looked at the specs.

So they're off by a factor of 4 by my math.

But anyway, that kind of math makes the Xfi look really good, and its pretty unfair to the P4. The xfi is almost (entirely?) integrer, and its a DSP. So yeah, a VLIW DSP will have very high MIPS, but that doesn't mean its a fast CPU.

More importantly, most of those MIPS are tied to the Xfi's resampler. Creative's docs only claim 1100 MIPS available for general processing. Which is more like a 70MHz P4 :)

quote:
That you do not in any average case but still, point is you could, and shold, aka. if game developers implemented best they could in the future, and evolution usually goes forward. I could easily max out the Audigy2 cards capability (much slower, but still). I am ofcourse assuming Creative didn't make the large expensive X-fi die just for the fun of it.


Not for the fun of it, but rather for DSP functions like the resampler. Resampling can be very slow, however the ideal case is that you simply do not do it. IMO saying the xfi is fast because it has a hardware resampler is kind of silly. Having no resampler at all would be even better, which is what pro cards do.



RE: to sum up
By guwd1 on 2/1/2007 8:42:46 AM , Rating: 2
Well it seems I was wrong about the MIPS, although I'm sure creative said that somewhere (probably the 533FSB P4 btw.)

The fact that it's a DSP, it's not very relevant to my point as I wasn't trying to brag about the X-fi's capabilities in my previous post, what is relevant is the delivered performance. We wouldn't want the cpu to do the gpu's jobb, because the gpu is much much more optimized for what it does; we don't want the cpu to do soundprocessing, same reason. I was just trying to state what cpu power you would need if you replaced the optimized-for-soundprocessing soundcard with a not-optimized-for-soundprocessing cpu. I'll return to this subject soon.

Regarding the SRC...


"The general audio community as a whole has seen sample rate conversion as a necessary evil that should only be used when absolutely necessary."//Creative

Absolutely, and, why shouldn't we, it's NOT a good thing, but...

"X-Fi audio processor features an SRC engine that is so precise that any audio resolution is converted to any other resolution at near transparency with 136db SNR (THD+N) // this is significantly higher quality than even the best available DACs today can reproduce, in essence the DACs would generate more noise during normal operation than our new SRC will add to the signal!"//Creative

So basically the "SRC-effect" as in "not wanted/not pro" is a near non existant issue on the X-Fi because the SRC is THAT powerfull.

"A significant portion of the audio processing unit was devoted to this resampling engine."//wikipedia
Just as you said: most of the mips come from the SRC.

"X-Fi's resampling engine produces a near-lossless-quality result, far exceeding any known audio card DSP available at the time of release."//wikipedia

So atleast it's a good SRC right! :P So IF you need to resample, this is very good stuff.
I still recognize it's not pro, but then again they go on to say:

"Despite the transparent sample-rate conversion qualities of X-Fi we recognized that there would still be applications that don't require sample rate conversion of any kind and therefore the flexible routing architecture of X-Fi allows the sample rate conversion to be bypassed when not needed."//Creative

And no, the X-fi aint aimed at the pro market anyway so it isn't pro gear. It's concidered good entry-level equipment for musicians. Or so they say, myself I'm not a musician.

quote:
The xfi is almost (entirely?) integrer

Ehh... nope. try the opposite. "The effects engine in previous generations of audio processors was only limited to fixed-point data types...//...The [x-fi] DSP also supports fixed point computation..."//extract from Creative.
It's mainly floating point with lots of floting point instructions, for example for complex multiply.

quote:
So they're off by a factor of 4

Well I've found the source now, and the wheren't off simply because they wheren't counting raw mips. They estimated the amount of mips a normal cpu would require to compute the same soundprocessing, less then optimal algorithms would have to be used and they estimated it would require approx. x3 the amount of raw mips for the cpu: thus arriving at the number ~"30000+mips". But that's in 1998... so I included full text to avoid misunderstandings:

"Note 1 - Raw Data Path MIPs
Defined as the number of adds and multiples times the execution frequency that can be applied to the signal data. This does not include any operations that a typical processor must also perform to manage the signal data in or through the processor.

Note 2 - Typical Processor MIPs
Defined as an estimate of the processing requirements of a typical processor in 1998 when the Live! was launched. The estimate is of a typical processor from 1998 programmed to perform the same algorithms or functions in the Live!, Audigy or X-Fi chip. These processors have certain inefficiencies found when programming a variety of algorithms. The inefficiencies are typically 3x that of Raw Data path MIPS in a dedicated audio chip such as the Live!, Audigy or X-Fi."
//Creative

Here's the mips from Creative:
X-Fi Raw Data Path MIPs
SRC 7310
Filter 200
Mixer 1210
Tank 440
DSP 1180

So more than 1100 it is, unless you where refering to the DSP only perhaps. "[Our DSP] can perform 1,200 MIPs or 1,200 MFLOPs (not counting any address calculations or data moving)."//Creative

"When properly performed, the computational errors involved in sample rate conversion are much smaller than the dither noise of the original signal, and is thus completely transparent to the listener."
"The expressed goal of the X-Fi sample rate converters is to provide audio quality limited only by the inherent analog noise of the analog-to-digital converters, while using many series and parallel sample rate converters."//Creative

Also their crystalizer runs on the SRC part. And scince "95%"* of the users uses built in soundcards and not overly expensive computer surround systems, or often merely standard stereo speakers, the crystalizer makes sense because "on equipment that poorly reproduces audio anyway, the improvement [when using crystalizer] can be substantial."//wikipedia.
Note: (creatives exaggerated claims aside)

*95% is the figure proposed in a comment, (further down is it?)


RE: to sum up
By saratoga on 2/2/2007 6:50:33 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Well it seems I was wrong about the MIPS, although I'm sure creative said that somewhere (probably the 533FSB P4 btw.)


FWIW the MIPS count is the same no matter the FSB. So a 1Hz and a 1GHz FSB chip have the same MIPS. Which is why I said its unfair to the P4 to compare MIPS :)

quote:
The fact that it's a DSP, it's not very relevant to my point as I wasn't trying to brag about the X-fi's capabilities in my previous post, what is relevant is the delivered performance. We wouldn't want the cpu to do the gpu's jobb, because the gpu is much much more optimized for what it does; we don't want the cpu to do soundprocessing, same reason. I was just trying to state what cpu power you would need if you replaced the optimized-for-soundprocessing soundcard with a not-optimized-for-soundprocessing cpu. I'll return to this subject soon.


But thats the thing. A general purpose CPU like the P4 will DESTROY a DSP for this sort of thing, on a MIPS per MIPS basis. Theres no contest. VLIW is cheap, but inefficient in terms of raw performance (but very efficient in terms of transistors). The only real advantage the DSP has is support for things like circular buffers (which is really nice for certain dsp kernels), but thats not going to make a huge difference. The P4 can brute force those problems easily with OOOE + branch prediction.

Its like comparing a 2GHz P4 against a 2GHz Core 2. The number looks the same, but the Core 2 wins by a landslide. Not that DSPs are bad, actually, I really love how they work. But in terms of raw performance, their advantage is the high MIPS they get, not their efficiency. If you can get those same MIPS out of a CPU core, the DSP will have no hope of keeping up.

quote:
Ehh... nope. try the opposite. "The effects engine in previous generations of audio processors was only limited to fixed-point data types...//...The [x-fi] DSP also supports fixed point computation..."//extract from Creative.


Fixed point is still integer. So unless you've got that quote wrong, it sounds like it doesn't support floating point. Could you link the source? I'd love to read it.

quote:
So more than 1100 it is, unless you where refering to the DSP only perhaps. "[Our DSP] can perform 1,200 MIPs or 1,200 MFLOPs (not counting any address calculations or data moving)."//Creative


Do they actually say MFLOPS? If so, maybe the above source was wrong and there is FP. Very interesting. What kind of precision are we talking about? Full IEEE or something less?

Anyway, my reading of that is that only the DSP functions are available, while the remaining MIPS are not available to the user aside from their dedicated functions. It sounds like they're things from things like filter taps and hardware mixers. Otherwise why would they break up the diagram like that? If this was all done in software, there should be XXX MIPS for everything, and they could be reallocated as needed on the fly (IE better performance when the SRC was off, etc). But it doesn't sound like thats the case.

quote:
"When properly performed, the computational errors involved in sample rate conversion are much smaller than the dither noise of the original signal, and is thus completely transparent to the listener."


Of course. In fact, I use a resampler myself, and don't mind. My point was that its unfair to count MIPS that are dedicated to the resampler, simply because anyone who doesn't resample doesn't get to use them. To put this another way, I could get a card that supports 44.1KHz audio, and get "7310 MIPS" of hardware acceleration just because my DAC supports my sample rate :)


RE: to sum up
By guwd1 on 2/7/2007 3:52:20 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The [x-fi] DSP also supports fixed point computation

The emphasis in this sentence is on also => mainly flotingpoint, but fixed point as well. As for source, it's somewhere on the soundblaster.com page, under X-Fi, under specs or something... anyway it's an easy find so there shouldn't be a problem.

quote:
A general purpose CPU like the P4 will DESTROY a DSP for this sort of thing, on a MIPS per MIPS basis


Just the opposite of what Creative claims (in this particular case). But it's their claim, not mine. All I can do is trust or distrust them. IMHO I think the general idea is belivable, although the numbers is probably exaggerated. Hardware optimized for specific purpose must per definition be better suited. And I'm assuming the X-fi is optimized for this to a big extent (given it's floatingpoint and all).


RE: to sum up
By guwd1 on 2/7/2007 3:56:29 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Of course. In fact, I use a resampler myself, and don't mind. My point was that its unfair to count MIPS that are dedicated to the resampler, simply because anyone who doesn't resample doesn't get to use them.


Ah, but then it should also be equally fair to count those mips for all the people that actually make good use of the resampler. Obvious fact, but just making sure this side of things ain't forgoten. The two opposites are equally true so to say.


RE: to sum up
By guwd1 on 1/31/2007 12:54:39 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
So now ALL sound cards made for vista will support things only on add-on cards previously. Also games will be programmed to include this now all-inclusive support.


Great, why not set a standard for graphics as well, ...and while we're at it we'll just throw out support for high-end graphics-cards. If all was done in software PC's wouldnt need to exist. We would all be running Xbox and PS => equal hardware and capabilities for everyone... lets face it: It's not going to happen becase customization is what PC's are about. For everything else it's probably cheaper and easier to go for console.


RE: to sum up
By saratoga on 2/2/2007 7:25:26 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Great, why not set a standard for graphics as well


Like Direct X? IMO MS's leadership of the 3D acceleration industry has done wonders for game development.

quote:
lets face it: It's not going to happen becase customization is what PC's are about. For everything else it's probably cheaper and easier to go for console.


But standardization helps customization. Look at soundcards. There is no standard, only what Creative sells. You have no options. Creative or nothing.

Compare that to GPUs, we have DX and OGL. And because of the free standards, we have hardware from companies like Nvidia and ATI that revolutionize graphics every year or 2. Compare that to EAX. We get slightly better reverb and echos every 3-4 years. Not exactly exciting compared to the revolutionary changes in DX9, 9c and 10.

Think what GPUs would be like if the world had stuck with glide as the audio market stuck with EAX. IMO nothing has quite been right since A3D got killed.


RE: to sum up
By guwd1 on 2/7/2007 3:59:06 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Great, why not set a standard for graphics as well, ...and while we're at it we'll just throw out support for high-end graphics-cards.

Once again the emphasis is on the last part of the sentence, theres no objection to standards, although I agree that might be unclear here.


RE: to sum up
By on 1/30/2007 2:10:35 PM , Rating: 3
And the ENTIRE point of all of this being the last reason given:

"Security for protected content. UAA class drivers support current and planned content protection technologies in Windows."

Read this!:

http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut00...vista_cost....

Microsoft's response (and the user response to their response):

http://windowsvistablog.com/blogs/wi...d-answers.a...

And the response to Microsoft's response by the author of the original report:

http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/vista_c...


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