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Sound quality in Win98SE and Win7


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Ok lets talk about the sound hardware I used:

Soundblaster LIVE 5.1 (with SPDIF digital CD IN)

And/or

Soundblaster X-fi Fatality (extreme music)

ATA DVD rom Samsung with SPDIF-CD Oout

Bose speakers

Software:

Windows 98SE + KEX + Windows media player 9

WDM drivers for Soundblaster (they work by some miracle)

Direct X 9.0 with Directsound

and/or

Windows 7 Ultimate x64

WDM drivers 32 bit

Direct X 11 without Directsound (removed since vista)

OpenAL, ALchemy

Windows media player 11 (+-)

Getting work SPDIF input on Win98 was a hard nut. No other software except WMP 9 was able to run it. But when it was done, and WMP has been tuned up to use digital-CD-IN the sound was very very good. to re-test it i have run program which consumed up the CPU, but the sound was still perfect. Therefore I believe that sound is processed via soundcard without any direct need of CPU. (hardware accelerated). But here the first and last degradation occurs. SB Live outputs sound natively in 48KHz while CD format is 44 KHz.

New system, new hardware... But no SPDIF input for standard digital CD input. Still possibility to connect it via SPDIF IN but only via jack, not PIN. Until i construct that cable the sound must be "grabbed" and transported via ATA cable. Sound quality from CD has been here downgraded for the first time. there is not direct sound - therefore there is no pure hardware acceleration. When CPU is involved another sound stuttering might occur during high load of system. At all the card is able to output sound in 44Khz

Still the older system has one less possible degradation... If I will be able to connect the DVD drive directly to the SPDIF it might help to improve sound quality. But is there any software able to play from SPDIF? Will see.

But for me its strange to know that 10 years hardware has better sound as the new one.

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But for me its strange to know that 10 years hardware has better sound as the new one.

I'm not that surprised. I have a 15 year old Sony amplifier that sounds a lot better than the cheap rubbish you can buy now. It's all about the quality off the analogue components. And in the end, your speakers because these actually deliver the sound to your ears.

But do I understand correctly, you are using direct sound as output with Win98? Everything will be down sampled to 22kHz...

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It's all about the quality off the analogue components. And in the end, your speakers because these actually deliver the sound to your ears.

What matters most IMO is how good your soundcard DAC is, if it's crap even the best speakers in the world won't make it sound any good.

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Onboard sound cards are decent for regular usage, like listening to MP3s and playing games, but crappy for anything else. People will tell you how much better today's onboard sound cards are than the old SoundBlasters, but they're looking at features (quantity), not quality.

For instance, the onboard sound card on my Windows XP PC is fine for listening, but its microphone input quality is rubbish. The SoundBlaster 16 I have on my old Windows 95 PC is good at both.

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Most Sound Blaster 16s I have came across have been quite poor, the analog sides are monstrous don't improve anything much, more the opposite. Output is very hissy and muffled, sometimes having distortions at higher input/output levels.

Mostly its all about analog side rather than anything else, onboard sound is plagued with wrong choice of filter caps so sound is muffled and power supply is not filtered properly and digital stuff runs close by analog things so you hear bus noise and other fun things in the sound.

Some modification on the sound cards will help resolve some problems but not all of them....

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Its not the hardware... the crap is windows 7 and the "security". Audio is downgraded to avoid be copied. You will do right if you delete this OS from your machine and go back to XP or use other OSes

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with Vista MS moved the sound drivers in usermode. So not all drivers were updated (especially Creative has a terrible driver support). So it can be that the drivers don't work so good like the old ones from XP.

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Here are the audio results using a dual-boot system (Windows 2000/Windows 7).

This is what to expect using Windows 98

Windows 2000

EdYDw.png

This is what to expect using Windows XP Service Pack II and above.

Windows 7

P9V3u.png

If you are looking for the best audio quality, you will need to put down Windows 98.

I held on it for as long as I could for audio. The newer operating systems exceed Windows 98 using the same on board hardware in terms of audio.

Higher sample rates, higher bit rates, in addition to, a lower noise floor was the reason I had to retire Windows 98 for

professional audio.

If I remember correctly Windows 98 does not offer 32 bit for Audio purposes like Windows 2000.

Edited by Atmosphere XG
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P9V3u.png

If you are looking for the best audio quality, you will need to put down Windows 98.

I held on it for as long as I could for audio. The newer operating systems exceed Windows 98 using the same on board hardware in terms of audio.

Higher sample rates, higher bit rates, in addition to, a lower noise floor was the reason I had to retire Windows 98 for

professional audio.

Professional audio with onboard AC97... You are joking, right? Because that's what you are showing us if I am not mistaken. :whistle:

A windows 98 system with an M-Audio 2496 or one of the M-Audio Delta series will have sound playback and recording quality leagues above a Windows XP/Vista/7 system with onboard AC97 chip or latest Creative Labs card... ;)

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AC97 is mostly locked to 48KHz and all other sample rates are generated by the driver for you. Most of the "HD audio" things have most things done for you in software, many do not support over 16bit 48KHz. It is not unusual to see some oldass ISA or PCI sound card incapable of doing even 48KHz do 192KHz 32bit in Win XP and newer with the WDM drivers it may have. Lot of drivers also do software based noise reduction

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Professional audio with onboard AC97... You are joking, right? Because that's what you are showing us if I am not mistaken. :whistle:

A windows 98 system with an M-Audio 2496 or one of the M-Audio Delta series will have sound playback and recording quality leagues above a Windows XP/Vista/7 system with onboard AC97 chip or latest Creative Labs card... ;)

You are mistaken for the example is based on using the same onboard sound card embedded on the on the same motherboard.

Since there is a difference in performance by stepping up the operating system to use the latest drivers, it answers the question Offler posed.

In regards to the M-Audio 2496 it is limited 96 kHz, 24-Bit since it was designed to perform on Windows 95. It is not tied in to direct X like sound blaster cards (which is what soundmax is) or AC 97. I would know for I own M-Audio 2496, AC 97, & Soundblaster cards. So you won't gain anything stepping up your operating system if you use the M-Audio 2496.

I could have easily used RME but that would not answer Offler’s question since he/she based it on soundblaster cards on different operating systems.

If you were referring to better in terms of ASIO drivers, yes, the 2496 would be better under those conditions. But, since the 2496 is 16-year old sound card, it is outdated in the professional audio market in this day in age and, considered a budget soundcard for those who are just getting in to the world of professional audio.

Edited by Atmosphere XG
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