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The Nameless Guide To PC Gaming Audio (with binaural headphone surround sound)

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by namelesspfg, Jan 28, 2012.
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  1. NamelessPFG
    International shipping AND the USD-EUR exchange rate is what makes that impractical for me.
    The Recon3D USB's OpenAL caps show that it uses a "software" renderer. NOT the usual "Generic Software" device, but still some sort of software renderer that doesn't quite work right with a few games. X-Fi MB has similar issues with its software OpenAL renderer, too.
    Also baffling is why it will only support 48 KHz, even with drivers that could add more resampling features. That makes it less appealing as a USB DAC for those who want bit-perfect output.
    They say Windows 8 is making improvements for audio in general, but unless they wind up re-implementing DirectSound3D, I don't think it'll be of any use for gaming.
  2. Evshrug

    I know this was not directed at me, but I am pretty sure Creative dropped CMSS when they started the Recon3D line. EAX may be gone... but looking forward it seems games create environmental effects internally, and older games are getting harder and harder to port to new systems. The S/Nr actually looks pretty impressive on these new Z-cards, the fidelity may have improved instead of relying on extra bells and whistles that aren't getting much attention these days. Sucks for retro gaming, I do hope the spreading love for headphones and the aging of console platforms rejuvenate cutting-edge gaming audio.

    I personally feel the Recon3D USB I just got is different enough from the Mixamp to be overall the better product. Though the amp is weak and Astro's attempt suits a wider range of headphones out-of-the-box, the Creative sound card completely handles all the audio for my Mac and allowed me to max out the CPU intensive sound options on the CPU intensive Starcraft 2 game without any perceived hit to framerate, even during max-supply late-game. I won't deny an internal card may perform better on PC, but the Recon3D is IMO in a different class from the Mixamp.
  3. Evshrug
    By the way Nameless, I dumped my rather lengthy review on the Recon3D on MLE's thread (wrote while reviewing). Could you please remind me how to write a review article (like they do for headphones in the sidebar), so I can have an easier to find post while changing my thread entry to a less-intrusive link?

    Of course, I would be pleased as punch if you read it, lol #^_^#
  4. NamelessPFG
    I read the review in question a few times. Should be a nice complement to my upcoming review, because mine will naturally be more PC gaming-centric. I can't really say there was anything wrong with your review; it was organized, and you posted your honest opinions in a way that was easy to read.
    Further testing with the Recon3D revealed:
    -It does support 44.1 KHz after all...but only through S/PDIF. 88.2 KHz and 96 KHz are unsupported.
    -Feeding it DTS signals only gets you dead silence. Better than ear-shredding noise, I suppose.
    -SineGen and a stereo mix signal from the Titanium HD, played through the Recon3D, yielded some seriously distorted treble. Shrill, harsh, and unnatural at high volumes. (This is with all processing modes on both ends off.) The weird thing is that it sounds fine when running in USB mode, without the distortion, and running my SU-DH1 the same way with stereo mix from the Titanium HD doesn't result in the treble distortion. I also didn't notice anything sounding really off when using it with my Xbox, but I don't know of any tone generators or sound test utilities that run on it, either-not even any homebrew ones.
    I should get to the game compatibility testing soon, beyond my usual suspects...
  5. Evshrug

    Thanks! I had hoped to give plenty of info without causing reader overload – thanks for commenting on the organization, I really tried to break it down so that readers wouldn't be intimidated by a wall of formal text). I tried to use specific examples because I am aware that such testing can get very subjective (and of course all from my perspective), but hopefully the examples give good points of reference. Of course, ALL THAT was going to be hard for me to judge for myself for effectiveness, because I was testing and writing into 5:30 am :wink: For example, I'm not sure I had the Recon3D's volume at max, because yesterday I was able to bump it up one more step while playing some more ES: Oblivion.
    Oblivion sounded pretty decent piped Recon3D-->powered desktop speakers, by the way.

    Interesting you should say that about the treble... I was having an anecdotally similar experience in CoD4 (heli guns, eugh!), though that impression should be tempered by the fact that I had been playing for 5 hours at that point, tired, and CoD4 has always been edging harshness in audio for me. Scout mode on the Recon3D actually made it more tolerable for me. I assume that when you say you're connecting with a "Stereo mix signal," you mean that you are double-amping with your X-Fi Ti soundcard and physically connecting with a 3.5mm plug instead of S/PDIF?

    If there are any tests you would like me to corroborate with you, let me know :)
    Oh, also I obviously figured out how to post a review, but thanks for linking it!
  6. NamelessPFG
    The X-Fi cards have a "Play Stereo Mix using Digital Output" feature, which is what I was referring to. It basically plays whatever the X-Fi would play over its analog outputs through S/PDIF as well. Since I have it set to Headphones and the Titanium HD only has two analog channels to begin with, I don't have to worry about S/PDIF bandwidth limitations dropping extra channels when outputting PCM.
    I actually haven't tried the 3.5mm aux-in on the Recon3D yet. There hasn't been much of a need for me to do so, as my use cases for it will either have the audio coming through USB or S/PDIF. However, I do have the feeling that it's meant to be a line-in for PC usage and not meant for console usage at all.
    Scout Mode's changes seemed rather...subtle when checking the frequency response with a tone generator, but I did notice a slight drop in treble volume.
  7. Theolliellama
    Is it still possible to get 3d audio using a external dac such as my schiit audio bifrost or do i need a sound card to get 3d sound
  8. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Creative and Xonar sound cards can process headphone surround sound thru the digital outputs, which you can connect to the Schiit Bifrost.
    Other sound card brands can do it too, I just do not know which ones.
  9. NamelessPFG
    Not through USB, no. Gaming support generally isn't even a consideration for audiophile DACs.
    But you could just get a cheap sound card, like this $50 X-Fi Titanium, set the card's control panel to Headphone output and check "Play Stereo Mix using Digital Output", and connect the optical S/PDIF output to the Bifrost, thus bypassing the sound card's DAC circuit. It still works nicely as a DSP for gaming effects when used in this manner.
  10. NamelessPFG
    All right, just played some Battlefield 2 to put the Recon3D through its paces. Same old X-Fi/Ultra High/EAX enabled settings I always use.
    -As I mentioned earlier, there's a strange reverb to the menu sounds that doesn't happen on an actual X-Fi card whenever it's set to X-Fi mode. However, setting it to "Hardware" does eliminate that...on the flip side, why would I want to use lower sound settings on something that's allegedly as capable as the X-Fi?
    -I was caught off-guard a few times by friendly tanks and vehicles driving beside me, coming up from behind, with the Recon3D's THX TruStudio Surround. It was like they were suddenly beside me when I heard the engine noise. That NEVER happened with CMSS-3D Headphone; I could hear everything exactly where it came from with ease, especially from the rear.
    Also played a bit more Unreal Tournament with it, using the Old Unreal OpenAL renderer.
    -Underwater EAX effects seem about the same. I don't readily notice them in other map areas.
    -Elevation cues (high and low) aren't as obvious.
    -When lots of sounds are playing at once, they start sounding kind of congested together with THX TruStudio Surround, with less sense of distance and position. BF2 had the same issue at times, actually. Again, this never happens with CMSS-3D Headphone.
    If this is indicative of how the PCIe Sound Core3D cards perform (since they allegedly do their OpenAL processing in software as well), this is not a good sign for Creative. I'm still recommending X-Fi Titanium (HD) cards wherever possible for PC gaming.
  11. Evshrug
    Oh well. It's still waaaaaay better than the turtle beach DSS2 if the "360 Surround speaker swoosh" clip on the Best Buy kiosk was anything to go by for positioning only.

    One thing I'm not to clear on... Does it still create virtual surround when THX Pro mode is turned off?
  12. NamelessPFG
    The front left/right channels sound distinctly off to the sides, as clear as you'd expect in typical stereo mode, with THX off.
    The rear left/right channels are presented rather weirdly; they both seem to be coming vaguely from the rear, 6 o'clock. There's no left/right directionality there for some reason.
    Note that Scout Mode is very much the "THX off" presentation with some sort of EQ applied, so the front sounds don't quite sound like they're coming from the front, but from the sides.
  13. Phos
    I imagine that might have something to do with the EQ they used screwing up the HRTF's own EQ effects.  Seems like a really pointless feature.  
  14. Evshrug

    Well, I haven't been able to play since around the time of my review, and I was tired by the time I got around to testing those features. I used the Recon3D exclusively in Starcraft2 with little desktop speakers after the review, because I wanted to see what rank I could get before my mother shut down our Internet... This post brought to you via phone hotspot. I think RTS games are good mental exercise for people with ADHD, my mom thinks I'm training myself to kill people while also socially isolating myself :/ Now that the Internet is down, the only game I am actively playing that I think will benefit from virtual surround is Oblivion.
  15. dedemouse
    Hi, newb ask here.
    I planned to buy Titanium HD card but i always get an impression Titanium HD isn't really impressive for music. Since i'm a hardcore in both game and music, maybe using a cheap X-Fi card only as DSP is a better solution. So, can anyone recommend me any good cheap X-Fi card? or is there any card that better than Titanium HD with a an CMSS-3D?
    Very thanks.
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