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Sound Blaster X-fi: just hype or what? - Page 3

post #31 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by lini
I wouldn't use that for regular music listening purposes, either - but it can be quite useful for beefing up old movie soundtracks, for example. And it could also work for parties, I'd assume...



Yup, that CMSS 3D Headphone sounds quite nice for movies and gaming to me. For music I prefer plain stereo - which is what I'd exspect to go for most regular headphone listeners.

Greetings from Hannover!

Manfred / lini
I would use the x-fi occasionally for music with all the dsp wizardy swiched off. But for games and movies then I agree that the cmss 3d could be appealing. I just wonder how it would sound thru my headphones that's all.
post #32 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by BradH
For casual gamers, you're probably right - some of those guys are probably using multichannel speaker setups. But the true "competitive gamers" - the guys/teams you see in the top 10 at CPL, WCG, Quakecon, etc. - they're all using headphones. Headphones provide such a huge advantage over speakers that you can't afford to compete without them.

I also don't think EAX has any dependence on multichannel.
I would think its safe to assume the majority arent critical gamers - they are probably more of a niche market like us audiophiles. So is X-Fi clearly superior for headphone HRTF gaming as well, well worth the price difference? I thought it was mainly for the multimedia speaker crowd, not that it matters to me either way.
post #33 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by BradH
I have never met a pro-caliber player from any competitive game platform (Quake, UT, CS, etc.) that has used anything but headphones. This isn't to say that there aren't some good players running around on pub servers using nice 5.1 speaker setups. I'm just saying that the top gamers - the guys that are competing at the professional level and travelling to national/international tournaments - all use headphones exclusively (for home use as well as lans.)

I know first hand that this is the case, so I won't bother to argue. We'll just have to agree to disagree on this one
This isn't really agreeing to disagree. There's nothing subjective about speakers vs headphones when it comes to games. This is straight "you're wrong." Speakers are superior to headphones when it comes to soundstage and picking out where things are in games. I'm an engineer. This is a technical issue relating to current sound processing technologies and the inherient advantages/disadvantages of speakers and headphones. It's not even an argument.



Your reasoning is flawed.
This is basically what you proposed:
Higher frames per second helps a player achieve better play. The fastest computers and video cards are capable of the highest frames per second. Conclusion: Pro-gamers use the fastest computers.

Just because top players are using a certain computer doesn't mean that computer is the fastest in the world. Pro-gamers may train for 10+ hours a day, and it's best to mimic competition conditions. Even the highly anticipated tournements won't be able to setup high-end speaker systems for each player(not to mention sound leaks to the other players from speakers, you would need dedicated rooms for each player). If pro-gamers won't be able to compete using a speaker system it would be disadvantagous to practice using speakers.
post #34 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeeeMeS
This isn't really agreeing to disagree. There's nothing subjective about speakers vs headphones when it comes to games. This is straight "you're wrong." Speakers are superior to headphones when it comes to soundstage and picking out where things are in games. I'm an engineer. This is a technical issue relating to current sound processing technologies and the inherient advantages/disadvantages of speakers and headphones. It's not even an argument.
I would be interested in a real technical explanation of the statement you made in bold typeface. What technical issue are you referring to, specifically? I don't mean to sound insulting, but I'm always unimpressed when someone uses a "self appeal to authority" to try and justify an argument, such as "I'm an engineer!"

Just for the sake of conversation, let's use an example:

Assume I am playing in a 1v1 duel on a Quake map. I hear an opponent moving up ahead. The sound card/game/drivers generate a sound in my headphones that plays at a volume of 70 in my right ear and 50 in my left ear. (Note the actual numbers here mean nothing.) My brain/ears clearly differentiate the difference in volume between the two channels, and I can very accurately guess the location of my opponent.

Now assume the same situation using speakers. 70 out the right speaker and 50 out the left. Although sound out of the right channel is a bit louder than the sound out of the left channel, I'm going to hear a lot of the sound from the right speaker in my left ear, and a lot of the sound from the left speaker in my right ear. No doubt this will make it harder to pinpoint the exact location. (Will it be dramatic enough to even determine that my opponent is more to the right?)

Additionally, some sound will bounce around the room in crazy ways, there will be some various delays in the audio reaching my ear, reflections, echo, other noise in the room, etc.

Now also consider the important factor that you can hear far more detail in headphones than with speakers. You can hear the slightest enemy footstep with perfect clarity. (This effect is no different than listening to music on headphones, where you'll find yourself hearing instruments that you weren't even aware were there.)

How again are speakers superior to headphones for competitive gaming?

Quote:
Originally Posted by PeeeMeS
Your reasoning is flawed.
This is basically what you proposed:
Higher frames per second helps a player achieve better play. The fastest computers and video cards are capable of the highest frames per second. Conclusion: Pro-gamers use the fastest computers.

Just because top players are using a certain computer doesn't mean that computer is the fastest in the world. Pro-gamers may train for 10+ hours a day, and it's best to mimic competition conditions. Even the highly anticipated tournements won't be able to setup high-end speaker systems for each player(not to mention sound leaks to the other players from speakers, you would need dedicated rooms for each player). If pro-gamers won't be able to compete using a speaker system it would be disadvantagous to practice using speakers.
I think it's funny how you point out that my reasoning is flawed, and then go on to make the same type of argument. You bolstered your point by making true statements on an unrelated topic! Which is one of the oldest flaws in the book (right next to the appeal to authority.)

Nobody was arguing that it doesn't make sense for a competitor to practice by mimicing tournament conditions. Obviously it does, it's a true statement, and any competitor would acknowledge this. It's also obvious that it would be unreasonable to setup a seperate room for every competitor to use speakers.

But you can't state outright that competitors are only using headphones as a matter of necessity and convenience. Why wouldn't a gamer choose to use an option which provided unparralled sound detail and perfect channel seperation?
post #35 of 91
In my logic and the way BradH explained. It seems headphones would be a disadvantage because there will be 2 places a sound may be coming from. Let's say you think an opponent is at 1 o'clock which is in front of you but there is no way to tell if he is in the same spot mirroring the back of you which would be 5 o'clock. Given there are clues to where he might be coming from in the game this is still a disadvantage. With surround speakers well placed, it would be much more accurate to pinpoint an opponents location as long as you're used to it, but getting used to a gaming environment with a set of speakers and more importantly their placement will take time and really cripple the players which is why headphones will be better for competitors, because they're used to it. I think it also depends on how eax is designed, is it more oriented towards headphone use or surround speaker use?
post #36 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Razoramus
It seems headphones would be a disadvantage because there will be 2 places a sound may be coming from. Let's say you think an opponent is at 1 o'clock which is in front of you but there is no way to tell if he is in the same spot mirroring the back of you which would be 5 o'clock.
I do agree that this is the one example where surround sound speakers would be beneficial.

In reality, this is rarely an issue and is mitigated by two things:

1.) Unless you're a relatively new player, you have an understanding of the map layout and realize there are only a few specific directions from which you could possibly be attacked. Usually there are walls, hallways, doorways, structures, etc. which eliminates 80% of the possibilities.

It's very unusual for a knowledgable player to be in a situation where he doesn't even have a general idea of where the opponent is located, and could be attacked from either exactly 1 o'clock or exactly 5 o'clock.

2.) Movement. Unless you're standing perfectly still, the sound isn't at a consistent volume in each ear. As with the 1 and 5 example, if you're rotatating from 12 to 1 o'clock to line up your crosshair with the expected enemy location, and the sound gets louder in the left channel, than you know you're correct. If the enemy was actually at 5, the sound will get quieter in the left channel and you'll instantly know that you're off.

Also, if you are stuck in the unique position that an enemy could attack from two mirrored positions (3 or 9), you'll purposely face somewhere in between so that any sound from either side will indicate direction.

It sounds like a lot of trouble, but when you're doing those types of things instinctively in game you don't even think about it. However, I can see how in a game like CS or BF it may be better to have surround speakers in some of these situations.

So in that case, it's a tradeoff. Either you can choose headphones for a huge boost in detail and perfect channel seperation. Or you can choose surround sound to avoid the 1 and 5 situation, at the expense of detail and seperation.
post #37 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by BradH
Assume I am playing in a 1v1 duel on a Quake map. I hear an opponent moving up ahead. The sound card/game/drivers generate a sound in my headphones that plays at a volume of 70 in my right ear and 50 in my left ear.
This is not how we naturally percieve sound. There are spacial queues as well as delay. Volume is a very tiny part of the story. You would have to unlearn the current way you hear and attempt to cram in a new way to percieve sound. It still wouldn't sound natural. This is why there's no argument. You don't understand the biology part of it, the technical part of speakers/headphones, the industry's concentration on 5.1 speaker sound processing or how surround sound works.


Quote:
Originally Posted by BradH
Now assume the same situation using speakers. 70 out the right speaker and 50 out the left. Although sound out of the right channel is a bit louder than the sound out of the left channel, I'm going to hear a lot of the sound from the right speaker in my left ear, and a lot of the sound from the left speaker in my right ear. No doubt this will make it harder to pinpoint the exact location. (Will it be dramatic enough to even determine that my opponent is more to the right?)
This is how we naturally percieve sound. Your reaction time on pinpointing where exactly the enemy is will be reduced. You won't have to practice learning a new way to hear(you would have to hardwire it as instinct to have it come close to your natural hearing).


Quote:
Originally Posted by BradH
Additionally, some sound will bounce around the room in crazy ways, there will be some various delays in the audio reaching my ear, reflections, echo, other noise in the room, etc.
Not if you have a listening room.



Quote:
Originally Posted by BradH
Now also consider the important factor that you can hear far more detail in headphones than with speakers. You can hear the slightest enemy footstep with perfect clarity. (This effect is no different than listening to music on headphones, where you'll find yourself hearing instruments that you weren't even aware were there.)
... Yea there's no argument.


Until there's a major breakthrough in the digital sound processing industry, it's not even close.
post #38 of 91
Thread Starter 
Quite an interesting and self moderated debate here. I had no idea games relied so heavily on audio. Then again I merely play arcade games. heh.

I must admit I used to be into UT. I have a powermac G4 with M-Audio revolution 5.1 card connected to a Logitech Z5500 via S/PDIF. I know those are merely multimedia speakers but the channel separation was quite apparent. Ultimately it became aggravating for some reason and I would plug in the Sony MDR-7506's and gain a few more frags. yea...right.

Anyways, carry on.
post #39 of 91
Are there any 5.1/7.1 PC speaker systems that come close to the quality found in a $200+ headphone?

I have a crappy 5.1 setup (Logitech $50 clearance special!) and a pair of DT770s.

Since I started using the Beyers, I've had no problems pinpointing any sounds around me in UT2004. For some reason, I always seemed to have trouble placing sounds with the surround speakers (maybe because they suck?). The awareness the Beyers have given me allows me to stalk targets and visualize their movements better than I've ever been able to, which makes the game a lot more entertaining to me.

Maybe if I heard a surround system of comparable quality to my headphones, I'd change my mind. Right now, there's no contest, headphones all the way.

Back on topic:
I go between Gaming and Entertainment mode pretty exclusively, the only difference being that Entertainment mode has everything turned off (Crystallizer/CMSS3D/etc) and Gaming has CMSS3D and EAX turned on.

Is there a way to set up profiles in the Creative software so I don't have to have the stupid console open all the time? (That's my only real gripe with the X-Fi, other than cost)
post #40 of 91
How do the x-fi cards compare to cards like the e-mu 0404 for music ?

I realise that the x-fi elite pro has better output for rear speakers, but if I am just using stereo/headphones then that's no big deal, right ?

Would you have to output from the 'front' speaker to the headphones?
post #41 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeeeMeS
This is not how we naturally percieve sound. There are spacial queues as well as delay. Volume is a very tiny part of the story. You would have to unlearn the current way you hear and attempt to cram in a new way to percieve sound. It still wouldn't sound natural. This is why there's no argument. You don't understand the biology part of it, the technical part of speakers/headphones, the industry's concentration on 5.1 speaker sound processing or how surround sound works.
PeeeMes, I understand that volume isn't the only factor in sound perception, and I wasn't trying to imply that it was. I was simply trying to pick out a standard element for the purpose of creating an example to discuss the issue.

I think you're losing track of the fact that we're discussing sound that's being generated in a virtual world by a 3D video game. Who cares if headphones create an environment which isn't how we "naturally" hear? Is there anything natural about moving a virtual character through a virtual world carrying a virtual rocket launcher?

My point from the beginning is that headphones provide an advantage over speakers to the players that are using them for these types of games, not that they create a natural environment which simulates real world listening conditions.

As far as I can tell, your responses consist of nothing more than a few sentences telling me that I don't know what I'm talking about, followed by absolutely no content explaining why. What specifically don't I understand about biology, surround sound, or speakers/headphones? And more importantly, how does it lead to speakers being superior for games? Are you just saying things because they sound nifty, or is there some actual content to go along with your statements?

Quote:
Originally Posted by PeeeMeS
This is how we naturally percieve sound. Your reaction time on pinpointing where exactly the enemy is will be reduced. You won't have to practice learning a new way to hear(you would have to hardwire it as instinct to have it come close to your natural hearing).
Huh?

Quote:
Originally Posted by PeeeMeS
... Yea there's no argument.

Until there's a major breakthrough in the digital sound processing industry, it's not even close.
OK, so you're acknowledging that headphones provide far more detail, and that you may hear things with headphones that you wouldn't hear at all with speakers.

But then in the next sentence you say that it's not even close, and imply that speakers are uncomparably superior. Huh? And what major dsp breakthrough are you referring to? (This is another one of those sentences that sounds nifty but provides no real content.) Are you saying that after this major breakthrough headphones will be superior to speakers for the purpose of playing these games?
post #42 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seirrah
How do the x-fi cards compare to cards like the e-mu 0404 for music ?

I realise that the x-fi elite pro has better output for rear speakers, but if I am just using stereo/headphones then that's no big deal, right ?
You got that wrong, the Elite Pro has a better output on all channels, it is indeed more similar to the EMU0404.
The other X-Fi cards have about the same output quality as the Audigy2s (same good DACs, same rather dubious op-amps).
post #43 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ikon
You got that wrong, the Elite Pro has a better output on all channels, it is indeed more similar to the EMU0404.
The other X-Fi cards have about the same output quality as the Audigy2s (same good DACs, same rather dubious op-amps).
Oh my bad. Thanks for the info.
post #44 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by BradH
PeeeMes, I understand that volume isn't the only factor in sound perception, and I wasn't trying to imply that it was. I was simply trying to pick out a standard element for the purpose of creating an example to discuss the issue.
Point taken




Quote:
Originally Posted by BradH
I think you're losing track of the fact that we're discussing sound that's being generated in a virtual world by a 3D video game. Who cares if headphones create an environment which isn't how we "naturally" hear? Is there anything natural about moving a virtual character through a virtual world carrying a virtual rocket launcher?


Your brain cares. You won't be able to pinpoint where your opponents are with as much precision, accuracy or speed if the sound isn't reproduced in a way that's "natural." Thinking about where the sound came from will decrease your reaction speed. Making the sound as close as possible to what you would hear in real-life will increase accuracy/precision/speed in determining where a sound came from.






Quote:
Originally Posted by BradH
My point from the beginning is that headphones provide an advantage over speakers to the players that are using them for these types of games, not that they create a natural environment which simulates real world listening conditions.
Yes there are advantages to using headphones...
Size/Portable
Price
Don't need a dedicated listening room
Don't need to worry about speaker placement


Quote:
Originally Posted by BradH
As far as I can tell, your responses consist of nothing more than a few sentences telling me that I don't know what I'm talking about, followed by absolutely no content explaining why. What specifically don't I understand about biology, surround sound, or speakers/headphones? And more importantly, how does it lead to speakers being superior for games? Are you just saying things because they sound nifty, or is there some actual content to go along with your statements?
It's less time-consuming on my part.


Quote:
Originally Posted by BradH
OK, so you're acknowledging that headphones provide far more detail, and that you may hear things with headphones that you wouldn't hear at all with speakers.
No, I'm saying it's pointless to argue that. Compare high end speakers setups to high end headphone setups.


Quote:
Originally Posted by BradH
But then in the next sentence you say that it's not even close, and imply that speakers are uncomparably superior. Huh? And what major dsp breakthrough are you referring to? (This is another one of those sentences that sounds nifty but provides no real content.) Are you saying that after this major breakthrough headphones will be superior to speakers for the purpose of playing these games?
The difference is the different requirements for making surround sound for headphones vs speakers. It's much easier making surround sound effects by emitting the sound closest to the point where the sound is supposed to appear rather than closest to the listener and using advanced algorithms to try to "guess" how it should sound. Not to mention your ears arn't the only thing that can help determine where a sound came from.


Headphones can provide enough performance to where it doesn't matter. Basically you'd have to scan in your head/ear placement(or a listening test) and then the computer will adjust algorithms based on this information. If the algorithms arn't advanced enough, an extra recording of each sound(or more than 1 set) will be made, specifically for headphone users. Once you have this information, you can specifically tailor sounds to each individual. You'd get something even more convincing than:

Right click->Save As
Right click->Save As
Right click->Save As
Right click->Save As
Right click->Save As

Problem with all this? Current algorithms just arn't good enough and the market isn't concentrated on headphones. 2-3 years down the line, this may all change. Producing this effect in real-time with a master recording that has no spacial information present is the challenge.
post #45 of 91
theoretically, PeeeMeS is right, but it just doesnt work out in reality:
- 99.99% of gamers neither have a "listening room" setup nor a perfect placement of their speakers to make real use of the advantages of a 5.1 surround speaker configuration.
therefore you will always have disturbances like background noise and an "imperfect" locating-ability (due to your speaker placement).

i did some gaming at a competitive level myself - i played UT2003/2004 and Quake 3 duels and also a little bit of CS. I played with crappy 30$ headsets, with my HD650 headphones and with 5.1 multimeadia speakers (logitec Z-680, and some creative products). My conclusion is, that even with the crap headset, my locating abilities were much better than with any 5.1 setup, because i can hear my enemy loud and clear all the time. the sound goes directly into my ear, without any background noise. to get the same effect with my speakers, i'd have to put the volume so loud that my neighbours would pay me an unpleasant visit.
an experienced player has absolutely no need of being able to hear the difference between "enemy at 4 o'clock" and "enemy at 7 o'clock" - its even sufficent to know in which room he is (no matter how big it is =p), cause all you need to know is where your opponent will go next. its useless to know where he EXACTLY is at the moment, as you cant shoot through walls.

again, theoretically you're right, but as long as you dont have something like an audio-recording room, you won't be able to make use of the advantage

i hope you got my point
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