Purchased Creative G6 External DAC/Amp

Discussion in 'Soundcards, Speakers HiFI & File formats' started by Chastity, Aug 11, 2019.

  1. Robbo9999

    Robbo9999 Maha Guru

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    I know this is an old post but I wanted to reply because I think there is some misinformation here. I've got SoundblasterX G6 too, connected with Line Out to JDS Atom Amp headphone amp and then to AKG K702 headphones. You've put that for surround gaming you use direct mode in 7.1 - if you do that there will be no HRTF effects applied at all, ie no 3D positional effects will be applied, instead it will just take the 7.1 channel audio of the game and downmix it directly to 2 channels without applying any positioning. The HRTF effects are linked to the "Surround" variable in the SBX software - which you can set from 0-100, and this is what directly controls the HRTF algorithm - if you have "Surround" turned off or if you're using the G6 in Direct Mode you will get no surround sound processing and you won't be getting any 3D sound positioning beyond just pure Stereo. I recommend a value of 67% for the "Surround" function in the SBX software as a starting point. In fact, if you have your G6 in Direct Mode then none of the SBX sound processing effects have any influence at all on what you hear - all sound processing in any form is completely bypassed by using Direct Mode....that's the point of it, it's supposed to be used for neutral unadulterated music listening.

    Like you I've noticed that there are some bugs associated with the "Direct Mode" and "Audio Effect Mode" in terms of what the lights are showing on the G6 and what the software is showing. Also, like you I found I could fix this by switching it once back and forth between the two modes to bring the mode lights on the G6 in line with what the software was displaying.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2020
  2. Robbo9999

    Robbo9999 Maha Guru

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    Also, Line Out analog is completely quiet for me in terms of noise floor, no problems with this what so ever for me. On audiosciencereview they review the G6 and test the Line Out function and the noise floor is very very low. There might be some kind of a problem with your line out cable or maybe even your G6 or something else in your audio chain. Here's the review to the G6: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...w-and-measurements-of-sound-blasterx-g6.7016/.

    P.S. Run the Line Out at about 79% windows volume rather than 100%, because he noticed some measurable distortion when operated at 100% windows volume. The DAC tested better than almost every DAC he has ever tested if you run it at -2dbfs which equates to roughly 79% windows volume.
     
  3. Robbo9999

    Robbo9999 Maha Guru

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    This is a non-issue if you run your DAC at 24bit (or above) audio setting - and it doesn't matter if your source audio is only 16 bit, it won't have any negative effect if you have your DAC running at a higher bit depth (eg 24bit or 32bit), but it will have a positive effect in that you won't lose any dynamic range when running below 100% windows volume if you have your DAC in 24bit or 32bit mode.
     
  4. Robbo9999

    Robbo9999 Maha Guru

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    I agree, I tested different filters on my G6, and Fast Roll Off Linear Phase sounds the best - I found it gives more subtlety/character & detail to female vocals.

    P.S. Apologies for all the multiple posts in a row from me, I'm replying to the whole thread as I'm reading it.
     

  5. Chastity

    Chastity Ancient Guru

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    I discovered afterwards that the Line-Out noise is the result of noisy power coming from my laptop. I use a iFi iDefender3.0 to isolate the USB 5V from the port, and supply 5V power from an external source. I also picked up a bit of hum on the new amp, so isolating the USB 5V power fixed both issues.
     
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  6. Chastity

    Chastity Ancient Guru

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    Actually, no. The G6 will still create a HRTF 2.0 mix of multichannel input in Direct Mode. By enabling Direct Mode, you are bypassing the APU, and all the APU effects. You also disable the mic input. Obviously the APU isn't responsible for HRTF mixing, however, it can apply spatialization effects from the Acoustic Engine, as you mentioned.

    This is easy to test for yourself. Throw the unit into 7.1 direct mode, and run the speaker test. When I do the test in Direct and Audio Effect mode, the output is identical. I had someone on Reddit thinking the same thing as you, and he confirmed that HRTF and Direct Mode works. I know it works because I have 6 channel FLACs of DVD-A rips, that I made, and I can easily tell when they are downmixed to 2.0 vs HRTF mixed to 2.0. There's a lot of audio loss on the 2.0 downmix.
     
  7. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

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    Depends on a number of things.
    16bit audio I agree.
    24bit audio depends on the DAC and volume level.
    With 24bit audio and my 24bit DAC (Holo Spring Level 3) I dont notice much change if volume is reduced 30dB from maximum but quieter loses a bit more detail than expected just from the volume change.
    Oppo 205 BD player with the 9038 Pro DAC had a comment from the manufacturer to keep volume above 70% (or something slightly above) for max fidelity. I dont recall the db per % volume though.
    There was another high end BD player with analogue out that was quite terrible at lower volume, they noticed a huge improvement as volume increased.

    Some 32bit DACs may only be using 32bits for internal processing and not the output.
    My Holo Spring DACs output can be set to 32bit in some software but it is not a 32bit DAC.
     
  8. Robbo9999

    Robbo9999 Maha Guru

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    Ok, I'll test it soon. I don't really see the point of the Surround function in the software if it's not related to HRTF....all resources I've found on the net point that Surround function in the SBX software is what controls HRTF...even when people have tested effectiveness of HRTF. Actually, I'd prefer to run it in Direct Mode if it still creates HRTF because the directional soundstage of my AKG K702's is really good so I don't need that expanded, I just need HRTF applied. I'll test it out..what you're saying.
    In relation to SoundBlasterX G6, you get best sound from running at about 79% windows volume...given what you're saying that's still not gonna compress the dynamic range as long as you run it in 24bit or 32bit mode. We're only talking about a 2.0dBFS and 79% volume....nothing like the 30dB reduction you're mentioning there. So you're not losing any audio fidelity by running 79% windows volume with this DAC as long as you're in 24 or 32 bit.
     
  9. Robbo9999

    Robbo9999 Maha Guru

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    @Chastity ,an update to my previous post. I just tested 7.1 Direct Mode in BF1 and I heard zero HRTF effects - there was no distinction between sounds from in front vs behind. After turning on Audio Effect mode and running 67% Surround in the software then it is clear to hear the front & back sounds in BF1. I also tested 7.1 Direct Mode on the Speaker Test which is built into Windows...it does sound like HRTF works in that little test but I think it's because the back speakers have a lower tone than the front speakers...I think they've baked that into the rear speakers, as in you could play that same test in Stereo Mode (if it would let you), and I bet those rear speakers would still sound like they're behind you...I'm sure they've baked in the sound for the rear speakers on that test to be at a lower frequency which gives the illusion that the sound is coming from behind - in fact it's such a large difference in frequency I think they've exaggerated the bake so to speak, HRTF is a bit more subtle than that. Direct Mode definitely does not provide 7.1 surround sound in headphones though, I know that for a fact after playing BF1 just now...I've got 2000hrs in that game so I know if the positional audio is working or not.

    So folks, you need to run your SoundBlaster products in Audio Effect Mode with Surround in the SBX software turned on if you want 5.1/7.1 positional audio cues in games through headphones - don't run it in Direct Mode. This also happens to be the advice that is seen in comparative testing in YouTube comparative videos on the subject of SBX vs other surround sound technologies from other companies...and it also aligns with advice in many forums...and it also aligns with the description of Direct Mode in the Sound Blaster Connect software itself where it say "Direct Mode gives you audio in its purest form, directly from the source. All audio effects will not be applied to output" - and HRTF is an audio effect, so it makes sense that Direct Mode does not give positional audio in terms of front & back differentiation (HRTF).
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2020
  10. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

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    If there is a pre-amp in between, fair enough, then you can set the Windows volume to whatever you like and not damage the speakers.
    I would not recommend anyone use 79% windows volume direct to a power amp.
     

  11. Chastity

    Chastity Ancient Guru

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    @Robbo9999

    I did some testing too, with SBX Surround On and Off, Direct On and Off. Source: Film Busters DVDA - "The Ten Commandments Main Theme", a 24/96 6-channel source. Good sweeping orchestration. With SBX enabled at 25% surround, the audio sounds more spacious, but audio quality is affected. Too much reverb applied. With SBX disabled, in either Audio Effects Mode or Direct Mode, 5.1 or 7.1, the orchestration sound more natural, and on the mark. In 2.0 mode, there is instrument loss due to missing channels.

    In gaming, there is still surround with SBX off, but the effect is enhanced with SBX and Surround enabled, and as such I can understand why you feel the way you do. But with 6 channel music, the SBX / Surround combo is horribad.

    With the Speaker Test (7.1) the SBX/Surround combo produces a more defined surround effect. W/o there is still HRTF, especially with the Center channel appearing as if right in front of you, but the rears and the sides sound similar to each other. However, it still demonstrates that there IS some level of HRTF being done with SBX off, even in Direct Mode.

    "So folks, you need to run your SoundBlaster products in Audio Effect Mode with Surround in the SBX software turned on if you want 5.1/7.1 positional audio cues in games through headphones - don't run it in Direct Mode."

    My ears tell a different story, sorry, you didn't prove anything, at least to me. :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2020
  12. Robbo9999

    Robbo9999 Maha Guru

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    Yeah, that's ok, obviously you have a different opinion. When you mentioned 6 channel music play...that when you have the DAC in 2.0 mode (stereo), then yes you will have missing channels...that doesn't prove that you have surround sound with your music when you run 7.1 Direct Mode with your 6 channel music, obviously you don't have any missing channels because the DAC is setup to receive a 7.1 channel sound in this instance, but all it will do is downmix it to 2.0 stereo - essentially blending the sound of front left & left & rear left and doing the same for the right channel...that way you don't get any missing music but you don't get positional music either. This is what is happening in BF1 if you run it in 7.1 and Direct Mode, no missing sounds just no front to back directional audio. And yes I wouldn't choose to listen to 6 channel music with surround SBX on because it wouldn't be "pure" enough for me, so I wouldn't be buying 6 channel music to listen to on headphones....I would use SBX surround in movies though, although I've yet to experience that because I don't watch movies on my PC. We'll have to beg to differ on our opinions, but like I said I'm sure I am right due to my own experiences in BF1 with which I have many many hours experience, but also because my experience tallies with both everything that is written online in reviews/forums and even the descriptions in the SBX software itself - that all tallies with the knowledge that Direct Mode removes all sound processing including HRTF processing which is a requirement for front/back positional audio in games/movies/etc.
     
  13. Robbo9999

    Robbo9999 Maha Guru

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    Most DAC's Line Out default to 2V, so when using Line Out you can expect 2V, which equates to what the SoundBlasterX G6 outputs when it's at 100% Windows Volume - so that's all "normal". Yes, so running it at 79% you get a little less than 2V output, and I've got it connected like that to a JDS Atom Amp headphone amp. My headphone amp runs either Low Gain or High Gain. Low Gain doesn't add any extra amplification and instead just modulates the volume from a maximum of whatever the DAC is outputting down to 0 volume if you turn the headphone amp volume knob to zero volume. High Gain I think is a factor of x2 amplification (not sure on exact figure) - so High Gain will amplify the signal. I suppose you need to be careful what you're connecting to the Line Out of any DAC, the SoundBlasterX G6 is no exception to this...it's just all normal stuff.
     
  14. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

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    Yep. Most new DACs are 2V or more, old less. Audiophile tend to be higher.

    My speaker amps gain is 32dB, slightly higher than typical.
    My tube headphone amp has 12dB gain on low impedance and a switched resistor network for volume to keep quality up. I need to knock a few dB off my DACs output to prevent saturating the input of this amp on loud peaks. Its a very high end amp, I built it recently but the design was finalised a while back. It doesnt quite cope with the single ended 2.5V peak from my Holo Spring DAC.

    Sensitivity of headphones/speakers and distance from the speakers will make a difference to how loud they appear.
    Mine are headphones 100dB/W, speakers 91dB/W 2.5m away.
     
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  15. Chastity

    Chastity Ancient Guru

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    Grab yourself a 6 channel music track, and throw it into Foobar2000. Alternate between FB2K's "Downmix to stereo" DSP, which will downmix the 5.1 to stereo, and not just throw out the extra channels, and the G6 mix with and without Acoustic Engine's Surround. You will discover that the G6 mix still retains some depth of field, with some cues regarding position. So the non-SBX mix is more than just flattened 5.1 to 2.0, tho it tends to have less 45 degree positional info. You can refine it further with Surround which will spread it out more, tho for music I recommend a low setting, like 10 (Heck, even 0 produces a desirable effect). FB2K's Downmix is a lot flatter sounding, with no depth at all.

    TL;DR The G6 mix w/o SBX Surround still has positional depth and cues, but it can be refined and spread out more with SBX Surround setting, when compared to using a strict downmixing to stereo DSP.

    BTW, I tend to not take anything at face value, despite being "written everywhere on the Internet and Creative's own documentation", but prefer systematic testing with multiple sources, including music, movies, and gaming. And in regards to EA's Battlefield franchise: bleh. Not my cup of tea. :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2020

  16. Robbo9999

    Robbo9999 Maha Guru

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    I got zero front/back sound positioning in Direct Mode...we just disagree, which is fine, we've both explained our experiences.
     
  17. Chastity

    Chastity Ancient Guru

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    I did some further testing, found a good track to test with. Metallica's "Enter Sandman" 5.1 DVDA mix. It's a good test track due to their abuse of channel mixing during the mastering. They liked to abuse the center channel for sudden guitar input. Anyhoo, I discovered that with SBX off, there is image flattening, and with the center channel, while present, gets flattened with loss of audio. With SBX enabled, the audio is restored, and you get better off-axis presentation. (Anything not directly in front, and 90 degree left/right) So I will concede that the non-SBX enabled mix is flawed, and tends to force more of a left/right separation.

    I can see how this would be apparent in gaming, with it's 360 degree directional, including 360 Z-axis up/down. Also considering that mic input is disabled when using Direct Mode, it makes the mode kinda moot, except for 2.0 listening or using an external virtualizer, like Dolby Atmos for Headphones.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2020
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  18. Robbo9999

    Robbo9999 Maha Guru

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    Yeah, for Battlefield 1 I found gaming in 7.1 Direct Mode the worst possible experience, was way worse than just a plain 2.0 stereo.............SBX enabled 7.1 being the best.

    (I don't think 7.1 (& SBX) does Z-axis though, there is no up & down sound positioning...just front/back/left/right positioning. Dolby Atmos and Windows Sonic does elevation though I think - but in BF1 I found those two software solutions to be inferior to SBX 7.1.)
     
  19. Chastity

    Chastity Ancient Guru

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    CMSS-3D did Z axis, so why shouldn't SBX? Basically it should adjust loudness of source for distance. I know SBX can do above HRTF cues.
     
  20. Robbo9999

    Robbo9999 Maha Guru

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    Hmm, I could be wrong, I've been trying to Google for some evidence that SBX doesn't do above & below head simulation, but I can't find anything. When you say "Basically it should adjust loudness of source for distance" then yes that will occur for both above & below your head, that's a given, but being able to distinguish if the sound is coming from above or below (not distance) is what we're talking about. At the moment I'm unsure if SBX makes a distinction between above & below, have you got any links that show it makes a distinction? I know Windows Sonic and Dolby Atmos definitely make that distinction between above & below head from documentation I've read. For any of that to work though, games would have to output that above or below head sound information to the "sound processor" rather than just being 7.1...not all games have that capability. "Pure" 7.1 is just simulating a horizontal plane rather than a vertical by virtue of the fact this speaker configuration doesn't have speakers above or below the head...not unless there is additional positional sound information (above & below head) being sent out from the game which is in a format that the sound processor can then apply the vertical HRTF component. I have a feeling from research I did months ago that only Dolby Atmos compatible games output this above & below head information...with which Windows Sonic is also compatible....but I don't know if SBX is compatible with that Dolby Atmos output sound information. Correct me if I'm wrong about some of these points because I'm a bit unsure about some of these points...but show me some links if you can.

    Here's a link showing that both Windows Sonic & Dolby Atmos can decode information regarding above & below head information: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/win32/coreaudio/spatial-sound
    It would be good if we could find something similar for Creative's SBX technology. I'm also not sure if SBX is compatible with this.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2020

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