Sound Experience Tests

When we first sat down to test with our copy of Doom 3, we didn't go with anything fancy. We had a 3 speaker (left, right, sub) setup and just jumped right in. The sound effects, voice acting, and overall impact of the audio was intense, even with our simple setup. Unfortunately, the issues discussed previously were very apparent only a little way into the game. When unable to see, feel, or hear exactly where enemies are coming from, death tends to reach out with its cold embrace rather quickly.

Our hope, after this initial experience with audio, was that hooking up a 5.1 system and enabling surround in the game would allow us to hear where danger was coming from, turn towards it and unload without having to think about it. In our opinion, no matter how visually stunning, the dark and shadowy visual environment was too restrictive and frustrating to play in without some other method of sensing danger.

The first surround setup we tried was comprised of the Realtek AC'97 audio solution attached to our MSI K8T Neo2 board. The onboard 5.1 hardware was paired with Logitech Z5300 speakers (purchased for this test at $199 from our local retailer). We also tested a Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2 with our Logitech speakers in order to determine if there were any perceivable advantages to onboard or discrete audio when paired with Doom 3. After we tested our 5.1 system we hooked up a much cheaper generic 4 channel system just to see if the center channel and sub had a real impact on gaming.

We will compare our surround systems to our standard stereo setup. The computer system we used in this test is the same one we used for our Doom 3 Graphics article earlier this week, equipped with the NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra and 2GB of RAM.

Index Sound Experience Test Cont.
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  • DerekWilson - Sunday, August 08, 2004 - link

    ViRGE ... I suppose almost partially glad is alright ;-) And I agree that it should be a user's choice ... But I don't think using audio solution specific enhancements are the way to go. And I'm gonna have to disagree with any acceptance of software patent strong arming.

    Definitely an opinion, and, obviously, id Software's thoughts were on par with your own.
    Reply
  • ViRGE - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    Considering the lackluster headphone performance, this is why I'm almost partially glad that Creative is strong-arming id in to working in EAX; while good 3D sound with a 2.1 system is still too difficult to be very useful, there's no good reason why such a feature shouldn't be included for headphones. Even EAX2 can do good positioning of 3D sound for headphones, and if it's an issue of lacking reverb or whatever, that should be a choice the user can make. Reply
  • Concillian - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    Did you guys do any performance comparisons?

    I would have liked to also see a SoundStorm included, as well as performance comparisons of no sound vs. software 3D onboard vs. Audigy2 vs. SoundStorm APU.

    With the obvious CPU dependency seen in the CPU article, I imagine performance differences may be more with Doom3 than your average game.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    I should have mentioned that we also tested with headphones.

    While much more immersive than a simple 2 or 3 speaker setup, headphones (unless the headphones support "5.1" -- which we didn't test) just cannot represent sound the same way as a surround system.

    If you absolutely can't get your hands on a front/back channel setup, go with headphones over 2 or 3 speakers.

    And, Poser, if you set you speakers to headphones in the control panel you will not be able to enable surround in Doom 3.
    Reply
  • SilverBack - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    The graphics are really great, the sound is great, unfortunatly the game is after a very small time boring.
    Go into room A be attacked by a spawned in fire thrower. Kill it, find health and ammo. Follow the linear game movement to the right door and go through it.
    Go into Room B. Kill things that walk at out you from the dark. Kill them all. Find health and ammo. Follow the linear game movement to the right door and go through it.

    Repeat as often as necessary to follow the linear game movement. Figure out some simple puzzles and follow the linear game movement.

    Game of the year, so far, FarCry..
    Reply
  • Poser - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    I've got much the same question as SKiller. If I understand how hearing works correctly, you can only tell that a sound is behind you or off to one side because of how the sound waves get distorted by your outer ear and by when the sound arrives at each ear. I was under the impression that a important piece of what a good gaming sound card could do is reproduce those distortions and timing shifts to accurately immitate surround sound with just a pair of headphones.

    I'm fairly sure I'm right about the hearing part. I'm not near so sure I'm right about a good gaming sound card being able to really trick the ear.

    Anyone who can test it firsthand -- how good is the surround sound immitation when you use headphones + an audigy2 (set to headphones in the control panel) + Doom3?
    Reply
  • Anemone - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    Surround is really great when its done well. There is nothing like being real enough to hear a critter coming from back and to your left, spinning and dealing with the situation based on what you 'heard'. TONS o fun and wish more dev houses had the means to do it this well. Let's hope this engine gets used in other places yes?

    As for your 2gb system, I'm assuming that's on an AMD64 system? Your graphics article used both sides and its not clear to me which this was testing on.

    Thank you :)
    Reply
  • SKiller - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    What about headphones? A good implementation can get you close to an actual surround system and has always been prefferable to a 2 speaker setup for me. Anyone try it with a good pair of cans? How does it compare? Reply
  • skiboysteve - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    my cambridge THX 550s were the best piece of hardware i had for this game Reply
  • gibhunter - Saturday, August 07, 2004 - link

    I have to agree with the reviewer. I've been playing the game at home on a laptop with headphones, then tried it today at a friend's house on his desktop with 4 channel expensive Cambridge Soundworks setup hooked up to Nvidia's Soundstorm. The sound from behind and the sides was amazing. Makes you forget where you are and immerses you totally into the game. Yes, it's definitely a more intense eperience. Reply

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