TrueAudio

As part of the Kaveri package, AMD is also focusing on adding and updating their fixed function units / accelerators. Due to the jump on the GPU side to GCN we now have the TrueAudio DSP to allow developers to increase the audio capabilities in game, and both the Video Codec Engine (VCE) and Unified Video Decoder (UVD) have been updated.

All the major GPU manufacturers on the desktop side (AMD, NVIDIA, Intel) are pushing new technologies to help improve the experience of owning one of their products. There are clearly many ways to approach this – gaming, compute, content consumption, low power, high performance and so on. This is why we have seen feature like FreeSync, G-Sync, QuickSync, OpenCL adoption and the like become part of the fold in terms of these graphics solutions.

AMD’s new feature is TrueAudio - a fully programmable dedicated hardware element to offload audio tasks to.

The main problem with developing new tools comes down to whether they should be implemented in a general fashion or with a dedicated element. This comes down to the distinction of having a CPU or an ASIC do the work – if the type of work is specific and never changes, then an ASIC makes sense due to its small size, low power overhead and high throughput. A CPU wins out when the work is not clearly defined and it might change, so it opens up the realm of flexibility in exchange for performance per watt.

CPUs are now significantly powerful that a range of audio based techniques are available to them and the algorithms are optimized. The only limitation in this regard is the imagination of the developer or audio artist, which actually becomes part of the problem. When implementing an audio filter on the fly to a video game, the processing via the CPU can be overly taxing, especially when the effect is persistent over a long time. The example AMD gave in their press slide deck is one of adding reverb to an audio sample. The longer the reverb, the bigger the draw on CPU resources:

AMD cites this CPU usage as the effect of one filter on one audio sample. Imagine being in a firefight situation in a video game, whereby there are many people running around with multiple gunshots, splatter audio and explosions occurring. Implementing effects on all, and then transposing audio location to the position of the character is actually computationally expensive, all for the sake of realism. This is where the TrueAudio unit comes into play – the purpose is to offload all of this onto a dedicated bit of silicon that has the pathways built in for quicker calculations.

TrueAudio is also implemented on AMD's latest-generation R9 260 and R9 290 video cards – basically anything at least GCN 1.1 and up. Meanwhile we also know that the PS4’s audio DSP is based on TrueAudio, though given the insular nature of console development it's not clear whether the APIs are also the same on both platforms. AMD for their part is working with major audio middleware plugins (wwise, Bink) in order to help develop the TrueAudio ecosystem, so even in the case where the APIs are dissimilar, middleware developers can abstract that and focus on the similarities in the hardware underneath.

As is usually the case for these additional hardware features, games will need to specifically be coded to use TrueAudio, and as such the benefits of TrueAudio will be game specific. At the same time there are not any games currently on the market that can take advantage of the feature, so the hardware is arriving before there is software ready to use it. The first three games on AMD's list that will support TrueAudio are Murdered: Soul Suspect, Thief, and Lichdom. Much like FreeSync, I expect the proof is in the pudding and we will have to wait to see how it can affect the immersion factor of these titles.

Unified Video Decoder and Video Codec Engine

I wanted to include some talk about the UVD and VCE with Kaveri as both are updated – we get UVD 4, an update to error resiliency for H.264, and VCE 2, as shown below:

Of the two blocks, the improved VCE has the more interesting improvements to discuss. With the addition of support for B frames in H.264 encoding, the resulting ability to do backwards frame prediction should help improve the resulting image quality from VCE and/or reduce the required bitrates for any given quality level. Meanwhile the addition of support for the higher quality YUV444 color space in the H.264 encoder should help with the compression of primarily linear lineart/text, which in turn is important for the clarity of wireless displays.

Llano, Trinity and Kaveri Die: Compared A Deep Dive on HSA
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  • SofS - Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - link

    Following your links and looking around I found:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-memory-sc...

    It links to previous similar articles concerning the Phenon II and the i7 of the time (975). Seems that indeed the C2Q does not benefit much from memory improvements compared to the other two, but there is a difference. This and all of those three cases are relevant since all three models were very popular. Also, I remember choosing the on time smaller modules for my first kit whit this particular system since they were the only reasonable DDR3 modules at 1600 within reach, albeit I never managed to stabilize it at CL6. On the other hand the latter I upgraded with got CL6 from XMP since the beginning while being larger. Given that memory is very cheap compared to the whole system plus the cost of repurchasing non portable software then this (maybe also a new GPU) might just be the final push needed to wait for the next generation native DDR4 systems for many.
    Reply
  • fokka - Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - link

    i understand your sentiment, but then again, about every modern mainstream cpu should destroy a c2d and even quad in raw performance. and you even get relatively capable integrated graphics included in the package, so about everyone even moderately interested in computing performance and efficiency "should bite the bullet" if he's got a couple hundred bucks on the side. Reply
  • just4U - Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - link

    and that's the problem.. their not. "It's good enough" Numbers are.. just that numbers. We hit a wall in 2008 (or there abouts..) and while performance kept increasing it's been in smaller increments. Over the span of several generations that really can add up but not the way it once did.

    It used to be you'd get on a old system and it would be like pulling teeth because the differences were very noticeable and in some cases they still are.. but for the most part? Not so much.. not for normal/casual usage. There is a ceiling .. Athlon X2s P4s? No.. you'll notice it.. Quad 8x Core2? hmmm.. How about a socket 1366 cpu or the 1156 stuff? Or the PIIs from AMD. Those people should upgrade? Certainly if their board dies and they can't replace.. but otherwise not so much.
    Reply
  • just4U - Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - link

    That should have read Quad 8x series Core2s.. anyway these days It seems like we do a lot more change out video, add in ssd, increase ram, rather then build systems from the ground up as systems can stick around longer and still be quite viable. Yes/no? Reply
  • tcube - Thursday, January 16, 2014 - link

    Totaly agree. We're led to believe that we need to upgrade every 2 years or so... yet a great many are still using old cpu's even dual cores with new software and os without a care in the world. Because there is no noticeable improvement in cpu usage. Cpu power became irrelevant after C2Q nothing beyond that power is justifiable in normal home or office usage. Certainly certain professional users will want a cheap workstation and will buy into the highend pc market likewise extreme gamers or just for bragging rights. But thinking that for anything from browsing to medium photoshop usage or any moderate videoediting software use will REQUIRE anything past a quadcore like lowend i5's or this kaveri is plain false. You will however notice the lack of a powerful gpu when gaming or doing other gpu intensive tasks... so amd has a clear winner here.

    I do agree it's not suited for heavy x86 work... but honestly... most software stacks that previously relied heavily on cpu are moving to opencl to get a massive boost from the gpu... photoshop being just one of many... so yeah the powerful gpu on kaveri is a good incentive to buy, the x86 performance is better then richland which is sufficient for me(as i currently do use a richland cpu) so...
    Reply
  • Syllabub - Friday, January 17, 2014 - link

    I am not going to try and pick a winner but I follow your line of reasoning. I have a system with a e6750 C2D and Nvidia 9600 that still gets the job done just fine. It might be described as a single purpose type of system meaning I ask it to run one or possibly two programs at the same time. What I think is pretty wild is that when I put it together originally I probably sank something close to $250 into the CPU and GPU purchase while today I potentially get similar performance for under $130 or so. The hard part is buying today in a manner that preserves a level of performance equivalent to the old system; always feel the tug to bump up the performance ladder even if I don't really need it. Reply
  • Flunk - Thursday, January 16, 2014 - link

    That doesn't really make sense unless you also include equivalently-priced current Intel processors. People may be moving on from Core 2s but they have the opportunity to buy anything on the market right now, not just AMD chips. Reply
  • PPB - Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - link

    Adding a $350 CPU plus $50 GPU to a iGP gaming comparison = Anandtech keeping it classy. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - link

    You do realize they're not recommending this in any way, just showing the full potential of a low-end discrete GPU which wouldn't be bottlenecked by any modern 3+ core CPU? Reply
  • Homeles - Tuesday, January 14, 2014 - link

    PPB being an ignorant critic, as usual.

    "For reference we also benchmarked the only mid-range GPU to hand - a HD 6750 while connected to the i7-4770K."
    Reply

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