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Dualshock 4 audio out (PlayStation 4 & USB music)

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi... I was wondering if anyone here happened to know about the chips in the Dualshock 4 controller and/or PS4 that relate to the audio quality that you get from listening to music, movies or games from the headphone jack. It has an option for all audio out, instead of just chat audio, and it sounds really good.

 

I don't have much experience with expensive audio equipment though for comparison, but I did compare it to Realtek ALC662 (onboard audio on my Acer computer) and Realtek ALC989, if I remember those numbers right, the one that's in the Sound Blaster Audigy FX, also on this computer, and I compared it to the audio out of my LG monitor that is using "Intel Display Audio" (powered by either Realtek). And I thought it sounded better than that, a little more musical. It wasn't obvious at first. I tried it back and forth, attempting to adjust volume levels, but I don't think volume levels affected it, because the Audigy FX is indeed louder, which ought to bias me toward it, and it sounds worse. 

 

So I went looking for info on what's inside the $60 controller and I didn't get much. This page for instance: 

http://www.psdevwiki.com/ps4/Talk:DualShock_4

It says

 

Quote:
 Audio codecs: There's a QFN 32 pin chip marked with "WM1801G" (Wolfson Microelectronics) "36A0LM6" dead center on the bottom side of the PCB. It is near the audio stuff but it is also near where all the buttons connect. There are 5 test points near it. It appears to be communicating with SPI BUS with constant activity. There's also two resistors that look like I²C pull-up resistors, and there appears to be constant I2C traffic.

 

So Wolfson was bought by Cirrus last year, but this Scottish company made chips for top phones, yes? Like iPhone? So it is one of the best "micro" DACs out there, perhaps? Anyone have any info on this kind of stuff? 

 

Just kind of curious... I'd never given these details much thought over the years, and presumably most other people don't either. When I looked up reviews of Xonar PCI Express cards, like DSX and DGX, I did get info from Tech Report (Geoff Gasior) in his review about the musical qualities of these cards (DSX was usually judged to be better), but not a lot of info on why, like if it's a difference in amps, in the DACs, both, or other circuits and aspects of the chips, such as the "audio chip" (CMI8786). I know very little about electronics...! :) But learning about external amps, and the way people mod these things... my interest has grown a little about how they work and why one would be worth more than the other. 

 

For instance, this thread here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/560122/all-dacs-sound-the-same/30

has someone saying all DACs sound the same, then others scoffing, then others sort of agreeing, saying, "all GOOD DACs should sound the same; yes -- there shouldn't be any coloration."

 

But at the beginning of that Tech Report article, on the second page, it says, "Like the Xonar DG that came before it, the DGX has been programmed to give certain elements, specifically vocals and percussion, a little more oomph. We liked this extra kick when we first heard it, but the artificial emphasis can sound a little harsh. Cyril's ears seem especially sensitive to this special programming. He's experienced fatigue when listening to the Xonar DG for long periods. Throughout our blind listening tests, he also said the DGX reminded him of the DG."

 

Now these cards look very similar, similar price, similar main company (ASUS), etc., so one might think they'd sound the same -- right? Or that all cheap cards (internal or external) sound the same. But I'm no audiophile at all and I can hear the differences between the Dualshock 4's Wolfson (?) chip output and various Realteks, and that's just using Portapros or cheap $10 Sony earbuds. 

 

So if anyone can shed some light on these matters... or point me to a site that discusses these electronics, their differences, I'd really appreciate it. It's hard to find stuff on Google sometimes. You just get a lot of commercial stuff, like stores, and very little information from the companies themselves, which are sort of hidden behind a smokescreen of English pages when the companies are really Chinese or Singaporean or whatever. I guess Cirrus is from Texas, though. Well, I just wish I knew what was accounting for the subtle differences in the sounds and what goes into the engineering (design) of these chips. To what extent, for instance, the engineers at C-Media, Realtek, Wolfson, etc., are tuning things to sound better, or trying to leave it neutral and accurate, or what. Do they have a musical ear? Or is it just kind of random that one sounds better and it's due to better op amps? 

 

I don't know how to approach this subject because it seems complex. 

 

What I'm not interested in are things like whether one card can do 5.1 vs 7.1 or whether one can go all the way up to 192khz, or even signal to noise ratios are probably not what is the issue here. It's definitely the actual sounds and how they're placed in the sound field - like how a saxophone sounds against percussion sounds, or how crude the bass comes through... things like that. 

 

Usually when I look up sound card info I just get stuff about whether you can hear the footsteps in the distance of a Battlefield game or something else with the audio processing software (EAX, etc). Not interested in that. I turn off those features. I'm talking about music. 

 

Thanks if anyone can help or bring up something I need to know. 

 

Matt

 

P.S. I'm aware that this is an enthusiast forum that mostly cares about expensive equipment ($300+) and that if I do want better internal sound in a PC I can get cards like SB Z or Xonar Essence. But I want to know *why* it works as it does, why the chips would sound better or not, just with 16-bit 44khz CD-quality music. I'd think they'd all sound virtually the same (accurate) at this point, yet you plug the same headphones into different cards and different stereos and the like and you always get a subtlely different sound. So now I'm interested in what's causing that, the different chips and how that works. Maybe I just need to learn basic electronics. 

 

P.P.S. I see the warning in red about DAC posts supposed to be in the dedicated component section... sorry if this should go there instead. It's sort of about lots of things, but maybe i posted in the wrong section. I didn't get much of a response though when I posted a similar topic in the introductory help corner. 


Edited by stalepie - 3/22/15 at 1:10pm
post #2 of 7

Ok, someone more knowledgable will likely be along shortly but I'll give a brief answer to the best of my knowledge.

 

In short I cant find any info on the headphone out section of the PS4 but these early incarnations of the Realtek codecs in your laptop and PC are not really worth comparing audio quality against, on the other hand the more recent ALC1150 is a lot better when well implimented and with a decent amp section for the headphone out and can be compared favourably (in most cases) to low/mid range non pro soundcards such as the SB Z.

 

There really are many reasons why audio can sound better and differ from soundcard/device and Id say the number one reason is implementation and development (finetuning) as soundacrds and devices with the same DAC and amp section can sound noticably different.

 

You also have soundcards which are sheilded to help prevent/reduce EMI pickup to reduce the noisefloor and some even take power from a molex direct from the PSU to further reduce induced noise often caused by the power being routed through the motherboard instead. Its also worth noting that some PSU's are also inherantly noisy with high ripple figures. 

 

There also comes a point where you will not hear any difference in SQ/detail/clarity between devices until you improve the most important part of your chain... your headphones/iems.

 

Re- tuning, in most cases you will find a degree of coloration from many devices and also in headhones/IEM's you will also find the same which means that certain headphones will usuallywork better with certain devices. Then to throw another curveball into the mix... we all have different hearing... and audio preferences (not necessarily of a neutral and accurate sound)

 

I've bought a good few soundcards in my time and all with nearly one exception were a real improvement up from the available onboard sound (at that time) The one exception was actually an SB-Z which I found mediocre at best and whilst a small improvement over onboard sounded pretty meh.. compared to even my old Audigy 2 ZS.

 

I now have a second hand OPA627 modded Xonar ST (PCI version of the STX) which I bought for £100 and I really can't see myself even trying to improve on it, its amazing... budget audio buy of the decade IMO.

 

 

Hope that helps a little..

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

That definitely helps. Thank you. I knew i was opening way too many cans of worms with a topic like this and rambled on for a lot longer than I would have liked. Initally just meant to say that I was impressed with the headphone out on the PS4 controller in comparison to this Sound Blaster budget card I bought. 

 

Walking out of Frys last week with the Audigy FX I was thinking it would at least offer a point of comparison between it and the Realtek on board (ALC662) that I had, but then on opening it (or rather when looking it up online) I saw it just had a Realtek ALC989, rather than something of Creative's own devising, like the SE did (CA-0106). Not that those are that bad -- at first I thought it sounded much better (probably due to the headphone amping)... but yeah, anyway it's interesting that that ALC1150 is much improved. I'd read that on other forums. I guess once they get into the thousands with their numbering schemes they have to make good on their word about sound quality. 

 

The Xonar Essence looks fantastic. An unboxing on Youtube showed it even had a specially printed booklet showing off your hand-tested card with charts, among two user guides, fold out posters and other things. Definitely top of the line, I'd assume, and classier-looking than the Creative offerings. 

 

I may get a Xonar DSX or DGX just to see if I can hear a difference. Probably more so with DSX. But I'd still like to know to what extent audio processing on the cards are affecting the sound. And you bring up a new topic for me, the tuning -- what does that entail? What goes into making the same DAC sound different by the way it's implemented? 

 

With the Essence it has the CMI-8788 OxygenHD under the name of either AV100 or AV200. But the CMI8788 is also what's used in the much cheaper DX and DS cards. 

 

So that made me think it wasn't really the sound processor that affected the quality because the cheapest PCIe cards on eBay (in the $5-15 range) often say "CMI8738" or similar (ex.: http://www.ebay.com/itm/6-Channel-3D-PCI-Digital-Stereo-Audio-Sound-Card-C-Media-CMI8738-Chipset-/120609715690?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item1c14e635ea). I know the '88 and '86 may be deluxe and newer, but I wondered if the true differences in sound quality were stuff like the amps, which I have even less understanding about. 

 

Oh wel. I probably can't get into this stuff without seriously learning electrical engineering and sound theory. But I'd assume what goes on inside the chips (like Realtek and C-Media's) are only known to the engineers and software teams that work at those companies and design them? It's all proprietary and secret, right? Whereas an AMP can be fiddled with and tried with different boards more easily in homebrew tests.


Edited by stalepie - 3/22/15 at 4:47pm
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 

The Xense also looks amazing, I should add: 

 

http://www.enet.com.cn/article/2010/0607/A20100607665835.shtml

 

It's amazing how beautiful a piece of tech can look. 

post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

Changed my mind. Audigy FX sounds much better than Dualshock 4. Not sure what I was thinking earlier. Perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for high intensity sound when I was writing earlier. Music appreciation is colored by mood, isnt it? Gee, I wish I could be more decisive about this sort of thing. 

 

You know, what if there's a "burn in period" for sound cards, too? If it doesn't exist in headphones, but people persist in believing it does, then I can start believing it exists in sound cards and I'd be no more dumb, really..

post #6 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by stalepie View Post
 

Changed my mind. Audigy FX sounds much better than Dualshock 4. Not sure what I was thinking earlier. Perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for high intensity sound when I was writing earlier. Music appreciation is colored by mood, isnt it? Gee, I wish I could be more decisive about this sort of thing. 

 

You know, what if there's a "burn in period" for sound cards, too? If it doesn't exist in headphones, but people persist in believing it does, then I can start believing it exists in sound cards and I'd be no more dumb, really..

 

I cant say I've ever experienced burn-in in any gear Ive ever bought. I have an old very well used pair of Sony nc-020 that came with my X-series and about a year ago I bought an unused pair as a back up... I thought it would be interesting to compare the sound back to back but they sound almost identical, in fact its the newer pair that actually sound a tiny amount tighter, with slightly less woolly bass.. maybe its the wool packing in the chamber that has worn in... but no, its not for the better.

 

Why would burning in a sound card, dap or headphones necessarily improve the sound? I think its mainly our perception. Our ability to memorise audio quality/resolution etc is a tiny amount of time which really makes the possibility of the whole 'burn in' idea hard to accept.  Id suggest its just our ears/brain that just takes a while adjusting to a new sound signature.

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ari33 View Post
 

 

I cant say I've ever experienced burn-in in any gear Ive ever bought. I have an old very well used pair of Sony nc-020 that came with my X-series and about a year ago I bought an unused pair as a back up... I thought it would be interesting to compare the sound back to back but they sound almost identical, in fact its the newer pair that actually sound a tiny amount tighter, with slightly less woolly bass.. maybe its the wool packing in the chamber that has worn in... but no, its not for the better.

 

Why would burning in a sound card, dap or headphones necessarily improve the sound? I think its mainly our perception. Our ability to memorise audio quality/resolution etc is a tiny amount of time which really makes the possibility of the whole 'burn in' idea hard to accept.  Id suggest its just our ears/brain that just takes a while adjusting to a new sound signature.

Oh, I was just being facetious... I'm sure the mind just adapts to what it's used to hearing. That may correspond to some people's burn in times if they don't watch it. But if they're using pink noise or burning it in with music but not listening during that time, and it sounds better or different afterwards, then of course there's something to that process. But not with sound cards! :) So it's purely psychological there, what you get used to hearing. I just know that you can go back to less, listening to a bad radio or something for a time and not mind it so much. 

 

With the PS4 it's possibly some sort of audio processing done in the system software, rather than the DAC or amps in the controller, that was making the difference.


Edited by stalepie - 3/23/15 at 12:49pm
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