New Sound Technology for PCs

By Jeffrey Barish
Ph.D., President EuPhonics, Inc.
Gamasutra
March 6, 1998
Vol. 2, Issue 10

New Sound Technology for PCs
Introduction
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Conclusion
Sound for PCs is about to get a lot better. For years consumers had to endure poor quality. Synthesizers typically were based on a primitive music synthesis technique known as “FM synthesis” which inevitably produces ersatz sounds. Codecs in PCs were capable only of poor noise performance – often in the range of 12-13 bits worth of precision, not the 16-bit quality provided by CDs. Bandwidth often was limited to 8 kHz and many sounds were monophonic. While such audio quality may have been adequate when it was novel, the growing sophistication of consumers, game developers, and the underlying technology renders it obsolete today.

Fortunately, a wave of new technology is about to sweep away this dead wood. Wavetable synthesizers are replacing FM synthesizers. Codecs with performance comparable to CDs are appearing. Most systems now are capable of stereo output. AC97 enforces support for bandwidths up to 48 kHz. And new APIs from Microsoft give game developers new capabilities. These audible innovations parallel better-known visible ones, so new PC applications will not only look good but sound good.

This paper will explore the changes that are occurring, the new applications these changes will enable, and speculate a little on further changes down the road.
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