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Old 07-21-07, 10:45 PM   #9
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Join Date: Jun 2004
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Default Re: Really confused! What home cinema speakers do I need for x-fi?

Originally Posted by Redeemed
I am aware of this. ProLogic is no where near as accurate as discrete surround- but with games I'm not sure there is really such a thing as "discrete surround". I guess anologue 5.1 might come close... but it is still a far cry from DD or DTS we get with our movies.

For gaming, if surround is your primary focus, I've found that the anologue 5.1 out seems to work very well in most games- and for the ones it doesn't work well with there is ProLogic. Aside from EAX and what I've mentioned, there isn't much else one could do to get great surround in games. And even with EAX you need a game that actually takes advantage of EAX Advanced HD to be impressed- where as the 5.1 anologue route or ProLogic requires no real compatibility from the games' end.
Correct, except for the games and EAX part. Games are with very few rare exceptions entirely discrete audio. Sound in games consists of just numerous mono sound clips, and those clips are mixed into the individual channels in real-time.

Many game engines only do this with two channel support built into the engine. Most that don't use directsound to process this, the game just tells directsound where the individual sound effect is coming from relative to the "listener," and then directsound automatically takes care of the channel mixing. The same is done with surround as well, with directsound3d. Both directsound and directsound3d use discrete audio; that is they can send completely different audio to each different speaker if desired.

EAX actually has nothing to do with surround processing (aka positional audio) at all. EAX, meaning Environmental Audio eXtensions, is literally just a proprietary set of extensions for directsound3d (and optionally, OpenAL) which add various types of effects (e.g. reverb, echo, chorus, envelope, etc) to a given sample to give it an effect to make it sound like a different "environment" (e.g. hallway, stadium, etc.) EAX AdvancedHD extends EAX a little further by being able to apply multiple effects to a given sound sample, as well as add transitional effects to a sample which e.g. comes from a different type of room than the listener is currently standing in.

With regular directsound3d, in say for example the arena in Oblivion, you can hear those footsteps coming at you from whichever direction, be it front or rear. With EAX extensions, it can sound more like you are actually inside of the arena instead of just your room because of the echo effects that are added. With EAX AdvancedHD, this would sound the same as regular EAX unless you were down in that hallway before you set foot into the arena, and heard something moving in the arena, in which case you'll hear sounds coming from the arena into the hallway where you are standing. Without AdvancedHD you just hear the sounds as if they were from far away in the hallway, with no "distant arena" effect added in. (I don't know if Oblivion uses EAX BTW, this is just a hypothetical example.)

Also the differences between eax 1.0 through 5.0 (aside from AdvancedHD being added in 3.0) are only changes in the maximum number of audio samples that can be processed at a given time.

(and off topic a bit, FWIW, vista doesn't remove eax nor directsound3d as many fud spreaders claim, it just removes HAL support which tends to be buggy, and this made creative freak out because now their marketing team has to change its tactics)

Originally Posted by Bman212121
I know that when you are using the digital from your X-FI to say my Z5500's there is some form of 5.1 channel sound going on because if it were only 2 channel than the front and rear would sound the same, and the center wouldn't do anything.
This is actually a function of the z5500, and not your sound card. Your sound card is only sending stereo (e.g. left and right) audio, and isn't applying any kind of effects to it to make the z5500 interpret it differently. The z5500 takes that audio and mostly duplicates what is heard on e.g. the left channel to the left surround channel, the right channel to the right surround channel, blends together the left and right speakers for the center channel, and sends the low frequency sounds to the subwoofer. It then makes some sounds more pronounced from the rear or the front, but it is somewhat random(ish.) But say the game makes an effect that is supposed to come from the right rear channel for example, you generally won't really hear it coming from the right rear, just somewhat on your right side.

Remember that prologic is designed for a cinematic experience. Even with discrete 5.1 audio, movies are supposed to (or at least are intended to, with some exceptions) give you most of the sound from the front, and the surround is only to add ambiance, and not distract from what you are seeing on the screen. For games, prologic is only going to provide just that: ambiance.

Games have a bit of a different approach for surround though. Games, at least FPS games anyways, are supposed to give you the impression that you are actually there.

Think of it like this: In movies, if you are watching two people speak at a restaurant, and behind the "fourth wall" there are some dishes rattling and a waiter speaking. That is just kind of a side effect that adds to the feel of being in the restaurant. You aren't really supposed to be able to make out what the waiter in the background is saying, as that is more of a distraction from the focus of the camera.

In the game however, you should be able to hear the waiter speaking on the other hand, because you aren't just supposed to feel like you are in the restaurant: you are supposed to be in the restaurant, and furthermore you control the camera, so the focus goes wherever you want it to go as you more or less have more control over what is going on in the story, and there really is no "fourth wall." You can't really get this out of prologic, but you can get this out of discrete audio on the other hand.

For this reason, if you are going to combine any creative card with any 5.1 speaker setup, and you intend on primarily using that setup for games, then I would highly recommend using the analog connections and not digital. With that setup, you should use digital for music and movies only. Don't bother with that analog to DTS converter box that creative sells either, as that won't get you anywhere, and really isn't useful for anything IMO.
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