Sound Experience Test Cont.

We started a new game in order to get the full experience of Doom 3 in surround sound. When we first turned on our onboard audio and 5.1 speakers, we were hit by the wall of sound that is the Doom universe. To have the ambient sounds of Mars City active all around is a slightly disturbing (in a good way) experience. Our first real test of the sound card was in talking to some of the first few people we meet on Mars and spinning around. With a touch of satisfaction, we heard the voices pan around.

More important than analyzing how well id Software could handle programming a rudimentary positional audio test is determining how effectively they put all the Mars City sounds together when evil is converging from every direction.

Taking our new audio arsenal into combat lived up to everything for which we could have hoped.

Hear a grunting noise behind you? About face and fire away! Navigating in the dark chambers of the Martian base with surround sound became much easier. With our two channel audio (either speakers or headphones) we can hear left and right, but determining front and back positioning without surround just didn't work as well as we needed it to.

For those out there with 4 speaker or 4.1 setups (or those who just want to hook two pairs of speakers up to their system to save a little on the cash flow, we tested audio with an old 4 channel system. We noticed that the center channel on our 5.1 system, in addition to playing noises that were directly in front of us, is used for radio communications, and audio played back via the PDA. But all is not lost for those without a center channel. Doom 3 seems to play all center channel data through the front left and right speakers as well. Not having a center channel doesn't impact our amazing surround sound gaming experience in any real way. Yes, the PDA, radio communication, and the like loose just a bit of distinction, but the real meat of the system is to be able to locate enemies via audio. This is just as amazing using 4 channel sound as it is with 6.

Discrete Audio Solution Testing and Performance

This is more of a foot note than anything else. We noticed absolutely no difference in audio quality when testing with the Sound Blaster Audigy 2. Of course, the Audigy offers more bells, whistles, and features, but as far as fulfilling its function as a 5.1 channel audio solution, it's no better or worse than our Realtek onboard hardware. Were we doing an in depth sound reproduction test, our results may or may not have been different, but from a subjective standpoint (simply taking gaming experience into account), we couldn't say one was better than the other.

We have also attempted to test the performance impact of enabling surround audio in Doom 3, but had a very hard time doing so. When playing Doom 3, the frame rate is locked at 60 frames per second, whether vsync is enabled or not. Our original sound test system spent its time maxed out at 60fps, so we hooked up or Sempron 3100+ system and went to work. We still couldn't get the frame rate to drop sufficiently below 60fps without creating a graphics card bottleneck. We tested the cut scene right before the action starts in the decommissioned communications building, and noticed absolutely no difference in measured frame rate (with FRAPS) when playing with and without surround enabled. This test was performed at the default High Quality mode.

It is possible that on lower end processors a performance impact might be noticeable, but we don't believe it would be significant at this point.

Sound Experience Tests Final Words
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  • joldershaw - Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - link

    I have had the same problem. It seems that unless the program used is compatible with AC3 or Dolby Digital/Prologic, then Windows relies on the 6 speaker outputs on the sound device.

    It only gives a basic stereo on the two front speakers, and all other channels are silent.

    If you hear of anything else, please reply.

    Config:
    Nforce2 MOBO with Realtek ALC650 sound and SPDIF output going to digital input on amp.

    PowerDVD works OK, but nothing else in Windows takes advantage.
    Reply
  • joldershaw - Tuesday, February 01, 2005 - link

    Reply
  • mareksteele - Saturday, August 14, 2004 - link

    I'd like to comment just one thing about this review. There was no reference to how game settings (high/med/low) affect sound diversity for this game, I haven't seen yet a concrete explaination anywere for this issue (if it only affects low or slightly medium too). Thanks for your time. Reply
  • vhato - Thursday, August 12, 2004 - link

    I have a 5.1 setup with an Audigy 2 ZS and Doom 3 did not support 5.1. The Surround was there, but all voice was played on the front speakers and not the center channel. Definately not a problem though. Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Tuesday, August 10, 2004 - link

    #16 - this is an issue I have heard many people talk about on various sound setups. I myself experience it using an Asus K7N8X-E Deluxe with SoundStorm audio, but I have also heard of other onboard solutions and Audigy 2 ZS users having the same problem. As far as I can tell, id/Activision is aware of the problem, and hopefully they will fix it. In the meantime, there is something of a hack workaround. Open the console (Ctrl+Shift+~ or something like that) and type the following:

    bind m "s_restart"

    You can use whatever you want for m, but the idea is to bind a key to the audio reset function. I generally hit my M key every three or four minutes, and sound keeps going. Otherwise, about every 5 to 10 minutes it will start cutting out. Very annoying.

    The alternative solution is to open up DxDiag and turn down the hardware acceleration on your audio. It doesn't seem to affect things *too* much in Doom 3, but it will likely affect other games. I prefer the bind key solution as it's a Doom 3 specific problem and workaround.
    Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    I'd still like to know if anyone else is experiencing the same problems I am with the sound... when I have "Surround Speakers" enabled the audio cuts out at what seems like random points. It must have something to do with a specific (or multiple specific) EAX effects because it doesn't do it when I turn Surround Speakers off. I have an Audigy 2 ZS and I'm using all the latest drivers for it... it's really a pain in the ass when you're fighting and all of a sudden the audio cuts out.

    I have to hit ESC and go to the options, turn Surround off, then back on, and it works again until the next event that causes it to lose the audio. I don't think it's a problem with my sound card because no other game has problems like that. Has anyone heard anything about this problem?
    Reply
  • magnusr - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    Where is spdif support out enabled? Doom3 dosen`t seem to support ac3 audio.....

    I have a sony ac3 amplifter. an optical cable from my audigy 2 card to it. Also using a projector (good picture at least)

    I have a lot of friends with similar configs.

    None of us can seem to get ac3 audio over the optical link.

    So much talk about sorround sound when it`s dosen`t even seem to support ac3 sound. Only a bunch of cables on small sound systems...... Where is the joy in that?
    Reply
  • Aquila76 - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    Warden - you got it exactly right. Doom3 only looks to whatever the Windows Control Panel is set to and takes it from there. It doesn't know/care about soundcard type. Reply
  • Aquila76 - Monday, August 09, 2004 - link

    Warden - you got it exactly right. Doom3 only looks to whatever the Windows Control Panel is set to and takes it from there. It doesn't know/care about soundcard type. Reply
  • TheWarden - Sunday, August 08, 2004 - link

    For those of you asking about the performance differences between Audigy/onboard/nForce, etc... the performance is likely identical. As the first poster alluded to, Doom 3 does not use the fancy hardware of an Audigy or nForce to process any sound; it's all done by the CPU no matter what sound solution you are using. I got this information out of an interview in the latest PC Gamer, but I'm sure it's available on the web, too.

    Cheers,
    Warden
    Reply

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