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January 2004
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Will Video Games Save High-End Audio?
Article by Steven R. Rochlin
Click here to e-mail reviewer

 

  Not one to ever mince words, we all must be honest. Home theater, MP3, and the high usage of computers are taking vast amounts of money from the younger generation. i say younger as this 38 year old is, well, old. All the "kids" are busy right now enjoying their Xbox, Game Cube, new computer system or what-have-you that they received during the recent holiday. Fortunately the true gamer realized long ago that those tiny computer loudspeakers simply do not have what it takes for full gaming immersion. They see past the $119 loudspeaker systems and are heading towards better audio.

We can all debate how video games are not what some may call "the absolute sound", yet nearly all new game systems and better computer audio cards offer a good variety of sounds, and in many cases surround sound to boot! Hard core computer users have long sought out to have the bleeding edge of technology. Not just with their video cards that can render images ever more intricate, faster, and with greater color possibilities, but also with their soundcards.

As seen above, the specifications of these sound cards -- the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 shown above -- offers high bit and sampling rates with a useable signal-to-noise ratio. Fear not as just in the audiophile community, computer users are also listening. There are those who feel the Philips Acoustic Edge provides superior sound than that offered by the Audigy 2. Like the Audigy 2, Philips Acoustic Edge has a long "shopping list" of features.

Philips Acoustic EdgeVarious modes including 5.1 surround, headphone modes, DVD player application with 5.1 channel Dolby Digital decoder and Dolby Headphone, S/PDIF Digital Input for connection to other home entertainment equipment. This sound card also handle external analog or digital stereo sources like FM receivers, CD changers, satellite receivers, even TV and VCR's to 5.1 channel sound. Then there is S/PDIF digital output for connection to external decoders. And if you felt audiophiles has the proverbial alphabet soup of DVD-A/SACD/CD/etc, video gamers with the Philips Acoustic Edge add EAX 2.0 game support with additional layers of surround sound created by QMSS for "the ultimate 5.1 channel gaming experience". Of course MP3, WMA and MIDI are supported as well. Surround sound junkies need not worry as there is full support for bass management, yet a neat twist is that surround sound is achieved for those with only a pair of loudspeakers via QSound3Dinteractive for games, QXpander for music and Virtual 5.1 DVD playback using QSurround.

In fact games like Microsoft's Xbox also offer HDTV video resolution plus the ability to play others around the world via a high speed Internet connection. Guys like me who grew up on Space Invaders, Pac Man, Defender and the like now are enjoying a retro resurgence as Midway has released all these "old school" games for the new video game systems. But the real breakthroughs are, of course, with each and every new game, and supporting hardware that comes out on a nearly quarterly basis. Obviously there is a market for these new audio cards and while high-end audio may not have begun with this in mind, our industry would also be very foolish to turn our backs on these new enthusiasts.

Frankly, video game sound has come a long way since Pac Man. These new games can produce high resolution digital surround sound on the fly! The previously mentioned Xbox creates their game sounds as it needs to happen, and we must remember who now owns the critically acclaimed HDCD technology. No longer is it Pacific Microsonics, but Microsoft! Audiophiles young and old should take a serious look and listen to the new generation of computer systems and games. Some offer not just "games", but damn good simulation. While enjoying Project Gotham City 2 for the Xbox i was amazing at not just how good the driving simulation and video was rendered, but also the supporting sound. This is but one of many examples that can be cited.

Enjoy the Music.com's own Bill Gaw has long been a proponent and user of bleeding edge technology sound cards within his system. In his Audiolics Anonymous Chapter 36 Home Theater Computers back in August 2002 the M-Audio 1010 10-channel balanced audio card got the nod. No matter what sound card is the flavor of the month, high-end audio stores should not simply ignore this new consumer. They tend to be very technically minded and computer savvy. In fact they may laugh at 24-bit audio as 32-bit sound processing has been around for many years! The highly touted Z-Systems digital equalizer employed 32-bit processing oh those many years ago while their newest generation studio surround sound processors provide a claimed astonishing dynamic range better than 144dB with a THD+N of better than -135dB!

Sure internal sound cards have the associated problems of lackluster power supplies and they operate in a "noisy" environment, yet as Bill Gaw knows, M-Audio provides an external box for audio processing. This outboard processing and decoding does away with most of the aforementioned limitations. Another professional sound card manufacturer is Digigram who offers extremely impressive products for the professional audio field. The whole point here is the simple realization that computer and video game audio need not be relinquished to something akin to a Kia or Hyundai in the automobile industry versus, say, a Ferrari.

High-end audio stores and audiophiles alike should take note that those young kids are not uneducated. They do seek to improve their system and have the funds to fill their desires. While video games may not be vinyl, it is simply another alternative and we must all recognize that the sound of video games have come a long way since Pac Man. To ignore this fact is to ignore many generations of people who also love music. As always, in the end what really matters is that you...

 

Enjoy the Music (Will Smith "Human Video Game" right now),

Steven R. Rochlin

 

"{Ready Rock C does the intro to Donkey Kong}

Ever since I was younger, I was into video games
Tron or whatever, it didn't matter the name
Thousands of my dollars, have been poured
Into all types of games, tryin to get the high score
But now I think I have a favorite
It's me against an ape, he's got my girl, I've got to save her!
Oh no, I feel an attach comin on
Yo Ready Rock C I wanna play a game of Donkey Kong!

It used to be a problem this addiction I have
I would feel the urge, then I'd go stark raving mad!
Break into the arcade, screamin' and hollerin'
Anticipatin' puttin' twenty-five dollars in
Any machine, I was out of control!
I didn't need quarters I brought, $10 bank rolls

Bags of quarters, I was insane
People thought that I worked there, and asked me for change
But I would get defensive and yell, leave me alone!
These are my quarters stupid, go get your own!
Dude walked away with this look in his eyes like,
Yo man, I wonder what's wrong with that guy?

I was addicted, a video burn-out
And I would crazy when the guy would have to turn out
The lights at midnight, I'd fall on my knees and say,
Have a heart pal, one more game please? 
Some nights I might sleep on the subway
Or outside of the arcade until it opened up the next day
And when it opened at a quarter to ten
It was the same old thing all over again...

Now my life is wonderful and I feel great
I haven't been in an arcade since seventy-eight
Thanks to Ready Rock C I'm on an upward trail
Because he's always by my side, he never fails me
Whenever I have a video attack
He's right there by my back, keepin' me on track
So if I bug out, and act like a lunatic
He does Donkey Kong, and as soon as it
Gets to my eardrums, from his vocal chords
I get hyped up...

{ready rock beatboxes and then does Pac Manís death sound}

{Game Over!}
{Yo, scrammy, why you still standin' there? }
{The game is over.. hahahahaha, sucker!}"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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