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Audio quality and Vista
chelgrian
post Mar 18 2008, 22:06
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QUOTE (uart @ Jun 10 2007, 02:52) *
Of course I think it's a load of bull, but what do the changes to audio in Vista really amount to?


From at least some of the people I've talked to at least some of the changes in Vista amounted to "Get Creative Labs out of the Kernel". MS would never publicly admit it but the rumour is that Creative drivers are the biggest single cause of BSODs other than actually broken/failing hardware.
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john33
post Mar 18 2008, 22:08
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Sorry, I should have been more clear! I was comparing basic Vista repro with Kmixer. Using KS circumvents that issue.

Systems:
1. E4300 @ 2.4GHz, Asus P5W-DH Deluxe, 4GB generic PC2 6400, M-Audio 2496, XP Pro;
2. E6750 @ 3.4GHz, Asus P5N-E SLI, 4GB Crucial Ballistix PC2 6400, X-Fi Extreme Music, Vista Ultimate;
3. E6700 @ 3.4GHz, Asus P5N32-E SLI, 4GB OCZ Reaper PC2 6400, on-board audio, XP Pro;
4. AMD FX-57 @ 2.8GHz (stock), Asus A8R-MVP, 2GB Corsair DDR1 4400, Terratec Six-Pack, Ubuntu.

Vista is really just a testbed, although having sorted out a proper Admin account, dumped Defender and taken ownership of most of the folders, it's a lot better than it first looked!! I still wouldn't use it from choice, but I could probably live with it. wink.gif


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Xenno
post Mar 18 2008, 22:30
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Nice overclocking there ... I'm running XP x64 and Ubuntu 7.10 x64 in a dual boot on a stock E8400 through a 2496. Both OS's sound equally groovy but pardon the subjectiveness as ABX'ing would be impossible.


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Woodinville
post Mar 18 2008, 23:41
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QUOTE (chelgrian @ Mar 18 2008, 14:06) *
QUOTE (uart @ Jun 10 2007, 02:52) *

Of course I think it's a load of bull, but what do the changes to audio in Vista really amount to?


From at least some of the people I've talked to at least some of the changes in Vista amounted to "Get Creative Labs out of the Kernel". MS would never publicly admit it but the rumour is that Creative drivers are the biggest single cause of BSODs other than actually broken/failing hardware.



No, the point was to get Kmixer gone. There are many issues around many drivers that cause many problems, and it would be unfair to single out any one manufacturer for this issue.

The goal in terms of Vista was 'get ALL the processing out of the kernel'. Which was successful, only the low-level drivers that talk to the hardware are in kernel. Everything else is in (high priority) user mode.

QUOTE (Xenno @ Mar 18 2008, 13:42) *
I agree with SLD. Examine the playback flow with an M-Audio 2496 using MA drivers (that must bypass kmixer and route to the patchbay which can enable/disable MA's monitor mixer).
...


I am talking about what the non-pro user would have, which would include Kmixer in XP, and the MF and WAVE stacks in Vista. This is, after all, what 99% of windows world (give or take) uses.

If you've heavily customized your system, obviously nobody but you can guess what it will do. So why would you presume anyone else would even know what you've done, or why or how it would work?


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DigitalMan
post Mar 19 2008, 00:02
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I have Vista Ultimate and a really good test microphone w/preamp (don't know the mfg - bought it from Liberty Audio). The Vista room correction is calibrated with a series of chirps, not pink noise, so I think there is some time domain correction going on as well. I was hoping to do an in-depth review of its performance by measuring steady state performance before/after, but haven't had the time to do it. The room correction can be enabled / disabled per output device, so SPDIF vs. desktop speakers can be done separately (which I did) with separate correction.

When I did the room correction on my main system (SPDIF from the PC @ 16/44.1 into a Theta Casanova digital preamp, Paradigm Active Reference 40 speakers and Velodyne HGS18 subwoofer) I noticed it sounded different in casual listening (no ABX yet). It would have been nice if MS allowed me to see what measurement and correction it performed but I can't figure out how to do that. Maybe somebody knows how to prise that out of Vista?

Having tuned systems before it sounded like the correction tended toward a technically flat response which sounded weaker in the bass than the purposely rising low end I had tuned in before. But that will have to be tested so I have some data to see what it really did.

On my desktop system (Logitec X-230, 2 satellites/woofer) it also seemed to make a noticeable difference. In this case, a big subjective improvement in clarity subject to the wrath of the microphone when I can get to it.

In general it seems to have an audible affect and I would love to get to some test data.


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Woodinville
post Mar 19 2008, 00:38
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QUOTE (DigitalMan @ Mar 18 2008, 16:02) *
I have Vista Ultimate and a really good test microphone w/preamp (don't know the mfg - bought it from Liberty Audio). The Vista room correction is calibrated with a series of chirps, not pink noise, so I think there is some time domain correction going on as well. ...
In general it seems to have an audible affect and I would love to get to some test data.


http://www.aes.org/sections/pnw/ppt/room_correction.ppt

Is a very good description of both the design and the implimentation, at least as good as one gets without going into specific code and such.


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wyup
post Mar 19 2008, 15:58
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QUOTE (wyup @ Mar 19 2008, 01:53) *
Effects like Creative's 24-bit Crystalizer are not counted.

Hello again. Well I forgot to say that I tested both OS with same samples, using foobar2000, M-Audio ASIO output, 1024 samples latency and same volume, pure output and no DSP whatsoever.

I cannot afford an ABX at present setup and I might violate ToS#8 with my claims, but after several switchouts and paying close attention I still like better the sound in Vista ,to my ears it's smoother, less coarse than in XP.
Hang me if I sinned, but let me people contribute with my audiophile ability to assess a personal outlook on the subject.
Thx,

This post has been edited by wyup: Mar 19 2008, 16:11
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Hancoque
post Mar 19 2008, 16:19
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Let's get this straight. People here are comparing apples and oranges.

One group compares XP and Vista using methods like ASIO or kernel streaming where the goal is that *one* application can output an audio signal as unmodified as possible without any effects or mixing with other applications' audio. In that case there should really be no noticeable difference at all between XP and Vista.

The other group compares XP and Vista under more "normal" conditions like using DirectSound output and maybe using additional effects that should enhance the output subjectively. Under these conditions Vista is the clear winner because its audio engine is much more precise and even features a high quality resampler (at least udial.wav doesn't produce any audible artifacts). In Vista you can listen to high quality music while also listening to high quality game sound, for example, because every signal is treated the same (high quality) way and can even be mixed together without a problem.

So, if you are willing to sacrifice a certain amount of usability, XP can sound as good as Vista, but Vista allows for high quality audio without sacrificing anything.
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Squeller
post Mar 19 2008, 16:54
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QUOTE (john33 @ Mar 18 2008, 23:08) *
Vista is really just a testbed, although having sorted out a proper Admin account, dumped Defender and taken ownership of most of the folders, it's a lot better than it first looked!! I still wouldn't use it from choice, but I could probably live with it. wink.gif
I'm using it at 30% (70% XP) maybe. With Vista, you first need to turn all those annoying notifications off.
And the longer you use it, the less the constant hard disk action will be. The constant hard disk access was really annoying. It still does a lot after booting (prefetch, indexer, ...), but getting quiet later the session. the prefetch thing seems to work pretty well and it's true, applications statup times (1st non cached start) decrease to maybe 50% of how long XP needs. Also the Vista booting itself gets better.

QUOTE (wyup @ Mar 19 2008, 16:58) *
I cannot afford an ABX at present setup and I might violate ToS#8 with my claims, but after several switchouts and paying close attention I still like better the sound in Vista ,to my ears it's smoother, less coarse than in XP.
Then one or both of your audio chains (which include the OS) can be considered as seriously broken.

This post has been edited by Squeller: Mar 19 2008, 16:55
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thinkum dinkum
post Mar 19 2008, 18:03
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QUOTE (Gabriel @ Jun 10 2007, 09:36) *
Resampling is also vastly improved. A side effect is that it also allows per application volume setting.

hmm, does that mean with vista i could (finally) control web stream volume signal and my music player signal separately?


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Hancoque
post Mar 19 2008, 18:12
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QUOTE (thinkum dinkum @ Mar 19 2008, 18:03) *
hmm, does that mean with vista i could (finally) control web stream volume signal and my music player signal separately?

Assuming that you don't use the same application for playing back the stream, yes.
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wyup
post Mar 19 2008, 18:53
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QUOTE (Hancoque @ Mar 19 2008, 16:19) *
One group compares XP and Vista using methods like ASIO or kernel streaming where the goal is that *one* application can output an audio signal as unmodified as possible without any effects or mixing with other applications' audio. In that case there should really be no noticeable difference at all between XP and Vista.

Yeah, I agree that it makes sense, but I still have the impression that Vista sounds better in both DSDirect and ASIO compared to whatever in XP. In Vista, like in XP, I cannot discern between DSDirect and ASIO from within foobar2000, except that in ASIO mode I get clicks when i.e. I open taskmanager and resize the window, even with 'normal' latency. It happens to me in both XP and Vista. However, with DSDirect I don't get those clicks when I do other tasks in the computer.
QUOTE (john33 @ Mar 18 2008, 23:08) *
QUOTE (wyup @ Mar 19 2008, 16:58) *
I cannot afford an ABX at present setup and I might violate ToS#8 with my claims, but after several switchouts and paying close attention I still like better the sound in Vista ,to my ears it's smoother, less coarse than in XP.
Then one or both of your audio chains (which include the OS) can be considered as seriously broken.

Well, I'm talking about slight subjetive improvement, I would like to do a blind test and check, it could be derived from my leaning or whatever but I have payed close attention and I got that impression right from the first time and on. I just wanted to discuss others opinions about sound in Vista.

This post has been edited by wyup: Mar 19 2008, 18:56
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thinkum dinkum
post Mar 19 2008, 19:31
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QUOTE (Hancoque @ Mar 19 2008, 18:12) *
Assuming that you don't use the same application for playing back the stream, yes.

well, 99% of the time they are flash based audio samples from my favorite record stores, and they tend to be 2X louder than my max foobar setup, so it's annoying to play with that master volume at taskbar all the time sad.gif


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Woodinville
post Mar 19 2008, 20:51
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QUOTE (Squeller @ Mar 19 2008, 08:54) *
QUOTE (wyup @ Mar 19 2008, 16:58) *
I cannot afford an ABX at present setup and I might violate ToS#8 with my claims, but after several switchouts and paying close attention I still like better the sound in Vista ,to my ears it's smoother, less coarse than in XP.
Then one or both of your audio chains (which include the OS) can be considered as seriously broken.



So, you are arguing what? I have specifically mentioned substantial differences between XP and Vista above. What are you saying, then?

And when I say "differences" I mean testable, verifiable, ... NOT subjective.

QUOTE (thinkum dinkum @ Mar 19 2008, 11:31) *
QUOTE (Hancoque @ Mar 19 2008, 18:12) *

Assuming that you don't use the same application for playing back the stream, yes.

well, 99% of the time they are flash based audio samples from my favorite record stores, and they tend to be 2X louder than my max foobar setup, so it's annoying to play with that master volume at taskbar all the time sad.gif



There's also the loudness EQ in Vista, if you're concerned more with level control. It certainly does modify the signal, of course.


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Xenno
post Mar 19 2008, 21:16
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He says he has a 2496. Who would bother installing such a nice card then use generic win stock drivers? If he's using M-Audio drivers, then Vista CAN'T sound better than XP. I am assuming that MA Vista drivers would skirt around the OS just like they do in XP. I could damn near guarantee that you (woodinville) couldn't ABX between a properly setup XP system (kmixer or not) and that of Vista ... with just a generic soundcard using windows drivers. Seattle eh? ... your not a MS employee trying to eradicate Vista FUD from the masses, are you? Too late if so ...

This post has been edited by Xenno: Mar 19 2008, 21:19


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Woodinville
post Mar 19 2008, 21:49
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QUOTE (Xenno @ Mar 19 2008, 13:16) *
He says he has a 2496. Who would bother installing such a nice card then use generic win stock drivers? If he's using M-Audio drivers, then Vista CAN'T sound better than XP. I am assuming that MA Vista drivers would skirt around the OS just like they do in XP. I could damn near guarantee that you (woodinville) couldn't ABX between a properly setup XP system (kmixer or not) and that of Vista ... with just a generic soundcard using windows drivers. Seattle eh? ... your not a MS employee trying to eradicate Vista FUD from the masses, are you? Too late if so ...


You claim that you can prove something, prove it.

You don't know what M-audio is doing, but you assert results. You "assume". You imply that stock drivers are somehow worse. Evidences for that, please? You assert that one can not hear the resampling problems in Kmixer. Evidences, please? Fact: I don't know what M-audio does, either. Rather than spew supposition, why don't you try for information instead of guesswork? Do you know what the difference between stock drivers on Vista and third-party drivers on Vista gets you?

Allow me to give you a simple situation. Set your card's sampling rate to 48kHz. Use Ry Cooder's album "Jazz", the first thirty seconds of the last track. Play it through Kmixer, play it through Vista. Now explain what you heard. Hint: Think "resampler". Go ahead, try it. Report back on YOUR findings. You want to argue, try having some facts in hand, first, ok?

You engage in ad-hominem behaviors (by the way, I do work for MS, which should be rather evident as I just talked about testing various Vista processing before product launch, eh?) and question things that can be tested and verified by simply trying them. Why don't you try for some evidence before you make claims?

Do you have anything of FACT to say, now? How about evidence? How about doing some basic homework like looking up "kmixer" on the net?


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wyup
post Mar 19 2008, 22:09
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I would like to make sure about this: if I am using ASIO/KS drivers and compatible audio application like foobar2000 that bypass Windows Mixer, then the sound wouldn't be discernible from Vista to XP as hancoque and Xenno say, isn't it? It makes sense, because all these send audio directly to the audio card mixer for DA output. I noticed that Wave level windows monitor mixer doesn't work in this setup.

So then all Vista sound improvement would come to the internal OS kernel and mixer, DirectSound-compatible, capable of better mixing application-wide, windows sounds and Direct Sound applications like WMP, in terms of performance and stability. But speaking about audio quality, if the bits sent to the soundcard are the same, then it outputs the same signal and sounds the same, because the DA converter chip is on the soundcard.

So then I can assume equal audio quality output on XP/Vista as long as ASIO/KS drivers and compatible software are used. The question is: Does Vista DS mixer send the same or better data from the application to the soundcard as XP with the sampling untouched?

Excuse for the wordy post, hope this helps clarify..
thx in advance
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Xenno
post Mar 19 2008, 22:41
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>> "I just talked about testing various Vista processing before product launch, eh?) ... "

Yeah ... I missed that. But I did have a suspicion that some of your content sounded an awfully lot like an MS press release. Tester? Does that mean you don't know what's happening at the core level any better than I do?

>> "You claim that you can prove something, prove it."

I have no need to prove anything ... the burden is upon you. You say you have and the results are in ... OK ... I'll wait for un-biased 3rd party comparisons. I won't make them personally because Vista won't see the light of day here (unless they have it all straightened out by SP4).

I have no doubt that the Vista sound sub-system is better than any previous win version. Yes, kmixer apparently resamples, and Vista's "mixer" doesn't. I'm saying the improvements are much more theoretical than audible. It also doesn't apply to the OP given the soundcard he's using tho he hasn't stated yet what drivers he uses. If MA XP drivers loop around the OS and the MA Vista drivers use the system then that's great ... it achieves the same result.

FYI: I am not a MS basher with an axe to grind as I like most of what they've ever put out

This post has been edited by Xenno: Mar 19 2008, 22:44


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Hancoque
post Mar 19 2008, 22:45
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QUOTE (wyup @ Mar 19 2008, 22:09) *
The question is: Does Vista DS mixer send the same or better data from the application to the soundcard as XP with the sampling untouched?

As far as I know every application's audio data is converted to 32-bit float and resampled to a common sample rate which has been set by the user and which is also natively supported by the sound card. The different streams are then mixed and the resulting stream is quantized to the bit-depth set by the user, which is also natively supported by the sound card.

So, let's assume you have two applications running which output audio. Application A outputs data at 22050 Hz and 8-bit integer. Application B outputs data at 48000 Hz and 24-bit integer. The sound card's output is set to 44100 Hz and 16-bit. Then I would assume the signal flow is basically as follows:

Step 1 (conversion):
A [22050 Hz, 8-bit int] => A' [44100 Hz, 32-bit float]
B [48000 Hz, 24-bit int] => B' [44100 Hz, 32-bit float]

Step 2 (mixing):
A' + B' => C [44100 Hz, 32-bit float]

Step 3 (conversion):
C [44100 Hz, 32-bit float] => D [ 44100 Hz, 16-bit int]

Step 4 (output):
D => sound card

I left out any effects in this chain. But per-stream effects (like application-specific volume) should be applied to A' and B' and global effects (like EQ) should be applied to C.

If you
  • don't apply any per-stream or global effects and
  • only have one application outputting audio and
  • the sample rate and bit-depth set for the sound card matches the material's sample rate
then there should theoretically be no difference to the original because a conversion from even 24-bit integer to 32-bit float is lossless. But I didn't verify all this. Perhaps Woodinville can shed some light on this.
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Woodinville
post Mar 19 2008, 22:52
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QUOTE (Xenno @ Mar 19 2008, 14:41) *
>> "I just talked about testing various Vista processing before product launch, eh?) ... "

Yeah ... I missed that. But I did have a suspicion that some of your content sounded an awfully lot like an MS press release. Tester? Does that mean you don't know what's happening at the core level any better than I do?

Well, actually, I'm what they call an "architect". But that won't mean anything more to you than any other simple fact.
QUOTE
I have no need to prove anything ... the burden is upon you. You say you have and the results are in ... OK ... I'll wait for un-biased 3rd party comparisons. I won't make them personally because Vista won't see the light of day here (unless they have it all straightened out by SP4).

So, you made a claim, but you won't support it, and won't even run the test. What you're saying is plain as peaches in Georgia, dude.
QUOTE
I have no doubt that the Vista sound sub-system is better than any previous win version.

Um, then why did you just say otherwise? Sorry. I'm confused now. Is it a horse, or is it a mule?
QUOTE
Yes, kmixer apparently resamples, and Vista's "mixer" doesn't.

Both resample if they need to. XP in Kmixer, in the kernel, with very short filters, which you must do if you're in kernel mode. Vista in user space, with entirely better resampling for anything that's a low stream count. (there are valid reasons for a very fast resampler when you're pulling in 100 stems from a game at once)
QUOTE
I'm saying the improvements are much more theoretical than audible.

And I'm asking for your evidence. The issues with Kmixer resampler are well known, documented in a variety of places, etc. It's not like I'm just now stating utterly brand new news, after all.

What you, then, are saying, is that VISTA RESAMPLER IS NO BETTER THAN KMIXERS. That's what your claim boils down to.

And I'm asking you for the evidence for your positive assertion.

Where's the beef, then?
QUOTE
FYI: I am not a MS basher with an axe to grind as I like most of what they've ever put out


Right, like you just bashed me twice for working there. Got it, you don't bash MS, just its employees.

That's clearer now, thank you.


QUOTE (Hancoque @ Mar 19 2008, 14:45) *
QUOTE (wyup @ Mar 19 2008, 22:09) *
The question is: Does Vista DS mixer send the same or better data from the application to the soundcard as XP with the sampling untouched?

As far as I know every application's audio data is converted to 32-bit float and resampled to a common sample rate which has been set by the user and which is also natively supported by the sound card. The different streams are then mixed and the resulting stream is quantized to the bit-depth set by the user, which is also natively supported by the sound card.

So, let's assume you have two applications running which output audio. Application A outputs data at 22050 Hz and 8-bit integer. Application B outputs data at 48000 Hz and 24-bit integer. The sound card's output is set to 44100 Hz and 16-bit. Then I would assume the signal flow is basically as follows:

Step 1 (conversion):
A [22050 Hz, 8-bit int] => A' [44100 Hz, 32-bit float]
B [48000 Hz, 24-bit int] => B' [44100 Hz, 32-bit float]

Step 2 (mixing):
A' + B' => C [44100 Hz, 32-bit float]

Step 3 (conversion):
C [44100 Hz, 32-bit float] => D [ 44100 Hz, 16-bit int]

Step 4 (output):
D => sound card

I left out any effects in this chain. But per-stream effects (like application-specific volume) should be applied to A' and B' and global effects (like EQ) should be applied to C.

If you
  • don't apply any per-stream or global effects and
  • only have one application outputting audio and
  • the sample rate and bit-depth set for the sound card matches the material's sample rate
then there should theoretically be no difference to the original because a conversion from even 24-bit integer to 32-bit float is lossless. But I didn't verify all this. Perhaps Woodinville can shed some light on this.



Not quite. Since we can not assure that there was nothing added, no gain controls changed, etc, we must dither the final float->fix conversion, so you will incur one step of dithering at your card's level. As annoying as this is for gain=1 with single sources, we can't possibly single-source in general.

If you don't want even that, there is exclusive mode, which is roughly speaking a memcopy.


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evereux
post Mar 19 2008, 22:56
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Here are some RMAA tests of the MAudio Audiophile 2496 in Windows XP:
http://www.daefeatures.co.uk/tests/Audiophile2496Transit.htm

If you search the listening tests pages you'll find some samples recorded from the audio out of that card on XP. Anyone is welcome to ABX those files against the original, in Vista.

I don't believe for a second the original claim made with regards to this card is real.


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Woodinville
post Mar 19 2008, 22:59
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QUOTE (evereux @ Mar 19 2008, 14:56) *
Here are some RMAA tests of the MAudio Audiophile 2496 in Windows XP:
http://www.daefeatures.co.uk/tests/Audiophile2496Transit.htm

If you search the listening tests pages you'll find some samples recorded from the audio out of that card on XP. Anyone is welcome to ABX those files against the original, in Vista.

I don't believe for a second the original claim made with regards to this card is real.


It's quite obvious that the card was set to the native rate of the input signal there. (Which you can believe I'd do as well on XP!)

Got anything from any other situation?


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germanjulian
post Mar 19 2008, 23:00
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I want to say this first because this is from the audio programer:
"The end result of these changes should be a significant improvement in the quality of audio being rendered, especially on UAA compatible audio adapters."

I really do not understand why people do not simple go to the people who know best.. M$:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/925901

Video about the audio stack from m$:
http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=145665

also:
http://blogs.msdn.com/larryosterman/archiv.../19/471346.aspx
http://blogs.msdn.com/larryosterman/archiv.../20/471872.aspx

"Before Vista, the kernel audio stack set the output audio format to match the format of the audio being played. Normally, this isn't a problem, since it means that we do less DSP of the signals. Unfortunately, it can lead to some rather unanticipated consequences. For instance, if you're playing a system sound (usually stereo, 22kHz), at the same time you start playing your MP3 files, then the MP3 file rendering happens at 22kHz, which is a noticeable degradation of audio quality. Once the audio system goes quiet, the rendering format will reset to the format of the content being played, but that may be quite some time later."

really good article also linked from M$:
Vista for Audio, 1 Year Later: Talking OS Plumbing with Cakewalk’s CTO:
http://createdigitalmusic.com/2008/01/16/v...-cakewalks-cto/


http://search.technet.microsoft.com/Defaul...p;Brand=technet

This post has been edited by germanjulian: Mar 19 2008, 23:10
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Xenno
post Mar 19 2008, 23:02
Post #49





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Jesus ... your saying the different schemes between the 2 are clearly audible and I'm saying they're not. Again ... this all sprung off claims you more or less made starting from your 1st post here that Vista will always sound better than XP .. under any circumstance. Every replyer except for yours has scoffed at that idea. Can I put it any plainer? Now whose the simpleton here that can't get the general point?

This post has been edited by Xenno: Mar 19 2008, 23:04


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No one can be told what Ogg Vorbis is...you have to hear it for yourself
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greynol
post Mar 19 2008, 23:05
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Give it up Xenno, you've been sussed! laugh.gif


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I should publish a list of forum idiots.
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