Who Killed PC Audio, and will Soundcards Ever Be a Thing Again?

Discussion in '[H]ard|OCP Front Page News' started by Zarathustra[H], Feb 10, 2017.

  1. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    In the latest episode of PC World's The Full Nerd Gordon Ung interviews Ryan Schleiper from Creative Labs, and tackle the rather controversial topic of who killed PC Gaming audio, and what its future might look like. If you enjoy a walk down memory lane when it comes to old school PC tech, and would like a Creative employee's inside perspective on it, I think you guys will enjoy this one.

    I have taken the liberty of fast forwarding the embedded video to when they get to the topic at hand at 14:06, but as an old fart myself, I enjoyed the whole thing.

    This week on The Full Nerd, Gordon Mah Ung, Brad Chacos, and Adam Patrick Murray are joined by special guest Ryan Schlieper of Creative Labs as we dig into the greatest mystery of all: Who really killed PC gaming audio?

    Schlieper and the crew also cover the state of the audio API wars, why 3D positional audio suddenly matters again, and ponder the future of dedicated soundcards.

    Finally, Gordon tells us why using the front panel plug on your PC just sucks.
     
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  2. Lifelite

    Lifelite [H]ard|Gawd

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    I've never had a front panel plug that didn't have bad feedback.
     
  3. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    My take is as follows:

    Microsoft "killed" PC Gaming audio when they got rid of the audio HAL and DSP effects with Vista when they got rid of DirectAudio. Suddenly games had to use their own software audio solution, and hardware "gaming" sound made less sense. (yes, there are workarounds like OpenAL for older soundcards, but...)

    So, these days, there is no need for DSP anymore, as game devs are forced to do everything in software. This essentially tuns the sound card into nothing but a DAC.

    Truth is PC audio is not dead though. It's just moved on. The people who are really into good sound on their PC's have since noticed that inside their PC's on a PCIe bus filled with gigahertz noise is the worst possible place for a DAC, as it winds up being noisy (hearing your hard drive, mouse movements, or water pump through your speakers/headphones)

    That is why those who are serious about audio use external DAC's these days. I - for one - am VERY happy with my Schiit Modi Multibit DAC hooked up to my old X-Fi Titanium HD using toslink optical, and playing through my Schiit Jotunheim headphone amp on my Sennheiser HD650's
     
  4. Armenius

    Armenius [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Completely agree. That was one of my biggest "WTF" moments when moving to Vista. Went from having all this wonderful hardware 3D surround sound back down to basically stereo expansion until libraries like FMOD and OpenAL came around. But like most things when put into the hands of the developers support for 3D sound in software is very hit and miss in the quality of the implementation. And Microsoft's newer solution, XAudio, doesn't cut it most of the time.

    To be fair, the Sound Blaster Zx in my PC has pretty good shielding on it, and I can't hear any kind of electronic interference coming through the attached speakers or headphones even with it being right next to my video card.
     
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  5. DukenukemX

    DukenukemX 2[H]4U

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    Microsoft killed PC audio when Vista was released. Before Vista, sound cards could use their ability to accelerate audio to relieve the CPU. After that, pretty much those sound cards in Vista and beyond were just DAC's. The other problem with PC audio is licensing issues. Dolby Digital Live or DTS is a feature that's mostly disabled in drivers nowadays. Like a lot of Realtek chips can do DDL and DTS, but isn't enabled. There are hacks to enable this. So because of this, 5.1 digital sound is kinda a licensing issue that nobody wants to pay for. Even if you did get it working, it's mostly done on the CPU. I think even Creative does this now with their sound cards, which they are known for their hardware acceleration.
     
  6. ecmaster76

    ecmaster76 [H]ard|Gawd

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    MS removed audio from the kernel space in Vista because Creative and other audio vendors were responsible for a significant amount of blue screens.

    5.1 is doable without Dolby - HDMI supports PCM. And if you have a dolby encoded source you can bitstream it over HDMI to a receiver or other licensed decoders. Considering you can get a pretty decent receiver for under $200 its hard to justify a sound card
     
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  7. Wierdo

    Wierdo [H]ard|Gawd

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    Nothing about Creative destroying Aureal through lawsuits, losing their case against them but still driving their competition out through legal costs?

    Aureal's surround sound was miles ahead at the time, after they died the market for sound cards languished under the litigation obsessed Creative's semi-monopoly.

    The market was not healthy to begin with, was just proprietary technology and a company protecting its turf with litigation.

    Glad MS stuck it to them personally, the company was quite anti-consumer - for example obsoleting products through driver updates and threatening customers who fix that problem themselves - and anti-free market. Just wish an open standard came along to fill the space in surround audio.

    And I don't miss the bloated 500mb driver suites either.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2017
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  8. Jim Kim

    Jim Kim [H]ard|Gawd

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    I am not an audiophile, but w/onboard audio I could hear noise when the mouse moved.
    A $30 pci ( I know, I know ) asus xonar dg 5.1 fixed it and now powers my harx 900's with gusto.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2017
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  9. lcpiper

    lcpiper [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Amazing post.

    I never knew why my audio disappeared, I just woke up one day and realized it sucked compared to what I remembered. I even doubted myself that I was remembering it correctly.

    I think I know why this happened. In about 2007 I went to Iraq and I had no computer, in fact, I loaned my desktop gaming rig to my kid. While I was in Iraq I bought an ASUS G1S laptop which wasn't a big time gaming laptop but it was good for where I was and what I needed, and so my overall gaming experience was already reduced. The G1S was a Vista only laptop, ASUS wouldn't release XP drivers and such. But where there is a will there is a way, I found common hardware on other ASUS laptops and collected all the drivers I needed, ordered in a 64GB SSD for like $989 bucks cause $1000 was my limit. And I order a copy of Xp Pro and slipstreamed those drivers into the build and got Xp Pro running. It was pretty damn good.

    By the time I got back, Vista had been beat so hard, Win 7 was coming out, so I bought that and skipped Vista, and my next laptop was an ASUS G-whatever with the "Stealth" fighter look. And after that I bought a Razer Blade, and finally I decided I wasn't working on the road any more, didn't need gaming laptops, and I could go back to a new Desktop build. And so it's like just a couple years ago and I wanted that old desktop awesome audio and I couldn't find it. I never knew that it was gone, I just thought I couldn't find it.

    I hope we get it back.

    BTW, That killer setup I had was an HT Omega 7.1 card and the headset was Madusa's, OMG the best. If someone remembers what that quality was like and knows how to get it today, I'd be happy to hear it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2017
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  10. bjornb17

    bjornb17 [H]ard|Gawd

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    Back in the day (more than 8 years ago) I really enjoyed using sound cards because it took some of the load off of my single core CPU and let me hook up my 5.1 Klipsch setup. These days, the onboard optical out to a receiver does a much better job and it is a much simpler solution (just 2.1 setup though). I think PC audio had just kind of moved on. My builds these days seem much more simple with no other cards plugged into my mobo except for my two video cards.


    However, in the next year or so I will be streaming games to my home theater setup so I will have to reevaluate what is required to get proper surround sound from my PC.
     
  11. DejaWiz

    DejaWiz Oracle of Unfortunate Truths

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    Cheap on-board codecs killed PC audio...because Creative (and all of the smaller manufacturers of hardware-based audio AICs) failed to grasp it as a viable threat 20 years ago.

    But now they are starting to make up for lost time with their Core3D on-board offerings (which they should have done in some fashion when the ATX design was introduced back in 1995). If they had, then Creative would still likely be one of the biggest PC AIC companies ($33M net loss last year vs RealTek's $2.4B net income), and probably would still have a massively diverse product portfolio, including (their now defunct) GPU's, optical drives, and handheld audio players....as a few examples.
     
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  12. schizrade

    schizrade [H]ardness Supreme

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    This, Creative did more to kill it than MS.
     
  13. polonyc2

    polonyc2 [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Home Theater audio was rejuvenated with the introduction of Dolby Atmos (and DTS:X)...hopefully the same can happen to computer audio/sound cards
     
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  14. Riccochet

    Riccochet Necrodancer

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    Only reason to buy a AIC sound card is if the optical out on your motherboard is dead.
     
  15. lcpiper

    lcpiper [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I'll accept whatever. I remember things going on. I just never realized during my laptop gaming years that the core ability to do 3D positional audio the way I remembered it, had simply vanished. I went through headsets like crazy looking for what I remembered and I still haven't found it.

    I wish I could find it again but I sorta gave up looking.
     
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  16. Ebernanut

    Ebernanut Gawd

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    Microsoft ditching hardware audio support was pretty much the final nail in the coffin but Creative dominated the market for too long and became a shitty company so sound cards were already dying out at that point.

    I vowed to not buy another product from Creative after spending a few hundred on a SB Live Platinum only to never have all of the features work properly because they dropped support a couple months after launch and never made decent drivers for it. By the time I was ready replace it there were some other companies starting to make good sound cards again but then MS dropped hardware audio support so I've just made sure any MB I get has halfway decent onboard audio and call it good enough, maybe one of these days I'll get an external DAC and some good speakers but games tend to use compressed audio and I already have a good system for music so I'm not sure what the point would be.
     
  17. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    Or if you play older titles with OpenAL or EAX support through Alchemy. Still, you'd need one of the older X-Fi models, as the newer creative soundcards lack the EMU20k2 DSP chip.

    That is quite frankly the only reason I still keep my X-Fi Titanium HD in there. When I use the optical out to my DAC, it gets the DSP processed sound.

    As time goes on I seem to use it less and less though.
     
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  18. necrosis

    necrosis Gawd

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    I just think it was because onboard autio stopped sucking goat balls.

    Most people went "Its got audio onboard. Why buy an add in card?"

    Not to mention multi channel dieing off because everyone is wearing headsets with mics for online gaming now.
     
  19. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    I still hear this shit even with a sound card.

    I used an external DAC and insulated it from the PC by using the optical connection, and now the background is dead silent :)
     
  20. Gigus Fire

    Gigus Fire 2[H]4U

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    I still use a soundcard.

    I agree with the above opinions. Onboard sound is much better than it's been in the past. Usb devices with built in soundcards are all over the place and do a decent job. The high end has DACs.
     
  21. endalykt

    endalykt Limp Gawd

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    Asus Z97-P with Texas Instruments R4580 driving my 600 Ohm headphones just fine. I'd still like a proper dedicated DAC, but I don't see the point for hardware DSP unless you're doing studio DAW. Back in the day you needed dedicated DSP to get any kind of proper audio, but with today's technology you're better off using software algorithms (again, unless studio DAW).

    The only thing you need to worry about is did the programmer care enough to write good audio code or just copypasta "hello world".
     
  22. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    Yep, lets just get the terminology right. They are all DAC's You can't get sound to a set of analogue speakers without a Digital to Analogue Converter. Just like with old school video cards that output analogue to VGA, the DAC is just the last stage on the sound card. It's really just a question of where your DAC is.

    Is it on the VERY noisy motherboard, on a slightly less noisy sound card, or outside the PC case electrically isolated in as low noise as possible.
     
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  23. JustinCorrigible

    JustinCorrigible Gawd

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    I miss using my Aureal A3D card. I had the Turtle Beach one.
     
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  24. thejokker

    thejokker Gawd

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    One of the very first things I noticed about Windows Vista was while playing a game if the sound drivers crashed I did not have to reboot my computer to continue. I could simple hit ctrl-alt-delete, launch task manager, shut down the game and than restart the game without rebooting. To be honest I cannot remember the last time I have experienced the once common audio crash.

    I could be wrong but I suspect the limitation in audio quality for most people is more effected by one's speakers or headphones than the audio component in their computer.
     
  25. Jim Kim

    Jim Kim [H]ard|Gawd

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    I am glad with my ears that a CHEAP way worked.
    I think I saw a $100 or $60 dollar decent dac someone mentioned in another DAC thread, so at least there are affordable options for us Softocp'ers

    While your here can I get your 2 cent on this guys problem, it's a repeating buzzrip sound and he has the audio file.
    https://hardforum.com/threads/cant-fix-sound-problem.1924167/
     
  26. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    It's not necessarily your ears. My PC could also be noisier. With a custom water loop and thus a big pump that is probably not a stretch.
     
  27. magoo

    magoo [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I run HDMI through a Home Theatre receiver and have pretty good 5.1
    I'm not an online gamer so my sound set up works well for my needs.
     
  28. magoo

    magoo [H]ardForum Junkie

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    I do have an old auzen tech X-Fi Forte that still rocks the sound if I can match it to the proper game.......that was a righteous sound card.
     
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  29. Jim Kim

    Jim Kim [H]ard|Gawd

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    Have you played around with this https://www.razerzone.com/surround/ , if anything it's sure to increase latency.

     
  30. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    I'm still working my way though this video. (Damn is it long, and I have to keep pausing)

    One of my favorite bits was when the Creative guy pronounced the name of a certain well known streamer as "Pootie Pie" :p
     
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  31. Ducman69

    Ducman69 [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Like... ew... analog? *shudder* 2017 bruh!
     
  32. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    All audio is analogue by the time it hits your ears man :p I'ts just a matter of where it gets converted from digital to analogue, and how good that conversaion is :p
     
  33. damicatz

    damicatz 2[H]4U

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    Creative killed the sound card market when they decided to engage in lawfare against Aureal. A3D had 3D audio technology that was superior to Creative's EAX in every way. A3D actually modeled soundwaves as they reflected and propagated off of various objects in game whereas EAX was just a glorified MIDI effects processor that was only good for doing things like reverb. Rather than competing, they filed BS lawsuits against Aureal bankrupting them from the legal expenses.
     
  34. Lifelite

    Lifelite [H]ard|Gawd

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    I use Audio Tecknica headsets that require a 3.5 jack.
     
  35. Zarathustra[H]

    Zarathustra[H] Pick your own.....you deserve it.

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    I'm with you. I trust my DAC and my headphones a lot more than I do some LED Gamer USB headset with the cheapest DAC chip they could find in the headset itself.
     
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  36. cortexodus

    cortexodus [H]ard|Gawd

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    I remember Doom 3 with the X-Fi Fatal1ty (which is still in my main rig) being one of the most amazing audio experiences. You could hear WHERE the enemies were with incredible precision. FEAR was a great game for audio, as well. The physical audio occlusion effects were so cool. I've been waiting for audio to "come back". All of my friends over the years have given me shit for ranting about how fucking awful PC audio has been since the late 90's.
     
  37. BulletDust

    BulletDust [H]ardness Supreme

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    I run a Soundblaster X-Fi in my Linux PC, without a doubt sounds better than the onboard solution.
     
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  38. Armenius

    Armenius [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Onboard audio solutions still suck goat balls compared to other external solutions.
     
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  39. Chaos Machine

    Chaos Machine Limp Gawd

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    I pass through audio over hdmi on my video card to my receiver. A decent 5.1 receiver is about the same as a good sound card and does a hell of alot more.

    Some Dayton audio bookshelf speakers, sub, and a receiver should run you about $300-350 and kick the crap out of whatever HTIB or "desktop audio system" you can find at that price. Plus a receiver will dual as a pretty good headphone amp.
     
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  40. grifter_66

    grifter_66 Gawd

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    PC audio has never been better now that we no longer need overpriced sound cards with shitty drivers. My PC is the center of my home theater and with a single HDMI cable from my video card I get exceptional audio from both games and movies. I have better positional audio now than I ever have, Starwars Battlefront sounds amazing in Atmos.
     
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