Onboard sound uses CPU…

Is there not perhaps a bitter-sweet irony in the fact that people with onboard sound won’t hear, albeit figuratively, when you try to tell them that their sound system sucks. Literally. As in sucks up system resources.

http://techreport.com/reviews/2005q4/soundblaster-x-fi/index.x?pg=7

(Thanks to veubiah for the link)

13 Comments

The soundcard and the soundcard drivers have always been a place of bottlenecks for me with this game.

You can actually increase your fps by the right soundcard and current drivers.

There is a reason I love my X-Fi Fatality sound card. :-)

Oh i know it chews up my cycles, but until somebody puts out an ePCI sound card I don’t have any choice (No PCI slots on my MB, ePCIx16 & ePCIx1 only).

I don’t suppose anyone knows about charts like that for USB headsets?

trying to convince my brother to buy a regular headset for his SB audigy2 (I think it is) but I don’t think he really belives me when I say that the usb thingy uses lots of cpu to create the sounds… at least compared to the sound card.

Show him a soundcard and his USB headset device.

That silicon realestate on the soundcard is where the work is being done off-CPU. I would imagine if you opened your USB headset’s unit, you would find there is probably a DAC (Digital-Audio Convertor) and maybe some stuff to handle any lights/etc.

Do a search on the blog for my other post about sound cards where I did some of the math. It’s not a chart but I’m sure you can put together a simple real-world demonstration of the fact that the USB headset doesn’t actually create sound, it just plays it for you, which means the CPU has to do the work.

I still haven’t seen in any review like the linked one, a comparison of the three significantly different hardware levels within the seven-model X-Fi-internal-sound-card line.

The Xtreme Music, Platinum, Xtreme Gamer Fatality Pro and Fatality models all have the full audio processing chipset plus the onboard Pentium III CPU. The onboard differences between them are solely in the presence at the higher end of onboard XRAM, which gives more sample capability in applications specifically written to support that hardware feature. Since it’s so rare, in practice that means that it’s mostly only useful in MIDI music-composing and sound-creation applications. The various models above the Xtreme Music also include various combinations of remote control, external control panels and breakout boxes.

The Elite Pro model is similar to a Fatality (i.e. onboard XRAM), but with a fancier free-standing, cable-connected external control panel; a remote control; and (possibly most significantly, since they’re what produces the analog waveforms you actually hear) more expensive A/D and D/A convertors.

Notwithstanding their intentionally misleading names, all of the above models can be software-switched into any of the X-Fi software functionality modes…Audio Creation, Entertainment, or Gaming.

The two newest models, the Xtreme Audio (lowest pricepoint) and Xtreme Gamer, include the X-Fi audio reproduction circuitry, but not the onboard-CPU processing capability. The Xtreme Gamer has a somewhat faster clock rate on its audio chip. Both of these cards rely on main CPU to locate sound sources in 3D space. Neither can handle more than 64 sources.

It’d be very interesting to see a review comparing the Xtreme Music with the Elite Pro and one of the two new inexpensive models.

I don’t know how good (or bad) the SoundStorm system of the Nforce2 chipset is, but I’ve never had a problem with it…
Onboard systems don’t use to be as well done as this anyway.
I would really like to see that test made with the SoundStorm.

Any on board device is going to suck from the CPU. I have an X-Fi and I love it! The thing has got 50million freakin transistors!!

Onboard sound compared to dedicated sound(ala X-Fi) is like comparing your onboard Intel graphics chip to a dedicated Video card.

Hey, thanks for posting that, I was just looking for exactly that information :)

somewhat of a misnomer. there is not reason a x-fi couldn’t live ‘onboard’. the problem with onboard solutions is they rarely are designed to ‘accelerate’ IE offload sound.

the nforce2 soundstorm chip was at the time, on par with and better in some regards (128 voices) to the available offerings from creative.

My understanding is that sound chips do waveform calculations and effects, with directional-placement-related calculations being done by a CPU. Obviously sound chips are designed for some number of channels of effectively simultaneous waveform/effects calculations, and/or some processing rate that amounts to the same thing at normal quality levels.

I don’t think any of the common sound-chip packages include a CPU on-die. Most models of the X-Fi have a PIII on the board, so that directional-placement calculations are handled without main-CPU involvement. Do any other common sound cards had their own dedicated CPU on the board?

there is no P3 on the X-Fi boards.

as you can clearly see the x-fi chip is made and badged by creative.

The soundstorm is better than most the Audigy series of cards – and does not munch on CPU resources – it has it’s own controller – and all in all, uses LESS system resource than an Audigy PCI card.

Unless of course you’re using Vista – if you’re using a creative card, you’ll not have anything, if you’re using the soundstorm you’ll be forced to use the REaltek drivers which bypass that controller :(

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