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The forgotten component - What's up with computer audio? - Final Thoughts

Last month during QuakeCon it became clearly apparent that computer audio has become somewhat of a forgotten component in the computer industry when talking to gamers and listening to companies at the gaming event. We'll present some benchmark numbers of five different sound solutions as well as provide commentary along the way on our thoughts of computer audio solutions and what should be done to improve things using nVidia's SoundStorm APU as an example.

| Editorials in Audio, Sound & Speakers | Posted: Sep 6, 2004 4:00 am

Final Thoughts

 

From our results we can see that there is a good difference in frame rates between the best and worst sound solutions, especially in games such as Battlefield Vietnam which have a big emphasis on audio in delivering the overall gaming experience. It is also important to keep in mind that real world gaming effects will be far more intensive on the various sound solutions performance, as action scenes will put an even bigger load on the soundcard's processing power. Considering the SoundStorm is producing true surround sound in all of our tests, it stood up very well against the competition and even managed to take the lead in certain games which is very impressive. We noticed almost a 60% drop in performance with the cheap Cmedia onboard sound solution compared to the best performer which is hardware accelerated.

 

So why on Earth don't gamers, enthusiasts and computer companies pay attention to these types of sound solution figures as much as they do with GPU performance? It has been the consumer, mostly enthusiasts (just 10 million or so of us around the world) which have forced companies such as ATI and nVidia to work extreme overtime in order to produce the better 3D graphics performance from their GPU's - heck, you've even showed them the value to the point where they will also consider cheating to seemingly produce the better GPU, yet hardly any consideration in comparison is given to sound solutions as far as frames per second influence and true and high quality positional surround sound is concerned.

 

Why is this happening? The answer seems clear to us. Consumer demand - No company is going to produce something which is more expensive to mass manufacturer unless there is consumer demand for it, especially with the Chinese culture - which is only fair enough. And why is there no consumer demand? There is nowhere near enough mainstream coverage as to the benefits of impressive sound solutions such as nVidia SoundStorm. Most consumers seem happy with their "5.1 sound" but they are not experiencing the ultimate sound performance possible as demonstrated by SoundStorm. It's going to be up to websites such as TweakTown, magazines around the world and consumers to make the change - there will need to be a clear and obvious push for better standards in computer audio for anything to happen.

 

If there is no push, the vast majority of companies will continue to produce the cheapest audio solutions they can to maximize profits but once the consumer awareness of the type of high quality sound solutions available increases, computer users will not mind spending some extra dollars on their new motherboard knowing full well they can expect to experience proper and true digital surround sound. All Microsoft Xbox games have full Dolby Digital support with the "Xbox Advanced AV Pack" since it uses the SoundStorm for processing so why shouldn't we just expect the same standards for computer gaming?

 

It seems really simple, doesn't it? Hopefully we have presented a solid argument here today and we hope other tech sites, magazines, marketing people and most importantly consumers take notice and spend more time thinking about computer audio as it's about time we were given consistently better quality computer audio for our gaming needs with nVidia's SoundStorm being a perfect example as to the benefits that can be had in this area.

 

- We are happy to discuss sound card solutions with manufacturers which we think will sell like hot cakes. If you want our opinion, feel free to contact us for ideas. If you want to discuss this article, please post all of your comments here in our Audio and Visual forum where Steve and I will be responding.

 


IMPORTANT - We have posted Part 2 as a follow-up to the article

 

In response to quite a lot of feedback on our original article entitled "The forgotten component - What's up with computer audio?" since its birth, it's been brought to our attention that not everything we mentioned was entirely profound in reference to the SoundStorm's Dolby encoding. We have a few adjustments we need to make to deliver entirely accurate content to you, our readers.

 

Please read it here!

 

 

 

Find the lowest price on Sound Cards!

 

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