Realtek Audio Codecs Not Rendering True EAX

SoundMAX returns ready to take on Realtek.

Analog Devices and Creative Labs have made claims that Realtek’s high definition audio solutions do not render EAX or EAX2 audio — at least not very well. While Realtek’s audio drivers have the proper driver flags to enable EAX and EAX2 in supported games, the listening experience presents a different story. Listening tests demonstrated by Analog Devices and Creative Labs show that Realtek’s high definition audio solutions render EAX and EAX2 incorrectly, removing the 3D positional audio aspects and immersion of EAX and EAX2 completely.

DailyTech met up with Analog Devices today for a listening demo at Analog’s suite. The audible differences are quite noticeable with the Analog Devices solution having immersive audio accuracy with reverb effects that help pinpoint the direction audio is coming from. Channel separation with the audio positioning was particularly noticeable as well. Realtek’s high definition audio solution on the other hand produced a muffled sound with very little channel separation and differentiation. Sound came from all over the place.

Analog Devices and Creative Labs believe this to be a problem for gamers that use onboard audio and not getting the full EAX/EAX2 experience. There’s also an issue with some motherboard reviews that use Rightmark 3D Sound for CPU utilization tests and award the onboard audio solution with the lowest utilization the superior solution when the onboard audio solution isn’t fully rendering EAX/EAX2 audio. Analog Devices and Creative Labs testing show the Realtek high definition onboard audio showing very little CPU utilization in Rightmark 3D Sound’s EAX2 CPU utilization test because it’s not applying any EAX2 effects.

Testing methodologies is outlined by George Thorn, Digital Media Relations, Technical Marketing, Creative Labs Inc, in Analog Devices’ Benchmarking Integrated Audio: Why CPU Usage Alone No longer Predicts User Experience. The testing methods and results are as follows:

We use two types of tests in our internal work. The first is an automated parameter test that checks to make sure that all parameters support the correct range of values. Out-of-range values should fail with an appropriate error code reported. The second type of test is a manual listening test to make sure each EAX parameter works correctly and changes the audio in an expected manner. While we have found that the SoundMAX product executes EAX 2.0 calls correctly, the same cannot be said for other popular motherboard audio subsystems that we have tested, even though they claim to support EAX 2.0 within their feature set.

Currently Realtek is the only known high definition codec manufacturer to render EAX and EAX2 incorrectly as IDT/Sigmatel does not support EAX or EAX2. It is unknown if previous C-Media audio solutions produced before it was acquired by Realtek produce similar results. Analog Devices and Creative Labs made no mention if add-in sound cards such as the recent Dolby Digital Live equipped C-Media CMI8768+ or CMI8778 are affected. Various manufacturers including ASUS, Universal abit, DFI, Gigabyte, MSI and others use Realtek audio solutions.

Apple also uses a Realtek high definition audio codec in its Mac Pro workstations too. This is strange as the rest of Apple’s product lineup including the Mac mini, iMac, MacBook and MacBook Pro integrate Sigmatel audio codecs. Nevertheless Apple does not integrate EAX or EAX2 support and is unaffected by these allegations.

News source: DAILYTECH


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