Originally Posted by 7-Zark-7
@FromWithin. Going slightly O/T, but what of the next-gen consoles? Has there been sufficient improvements in the sound dept.(aside from the Blu-ray/DVD playback).
Playstation and PS2 are utterly dreadful. The PS2 has two of the Playstation audio chips in it and a stereo PCM output, but that's it. Gamecube was not too bad with its own DSP and 16MB audio RAM, but was hampered by Nintendo renaming the audio from Audio RAM to Alternative RAM, and allowing it to be used for secondary storage. The Xbox was the best so far with Sensaura 3D audio, modular DSP and Dolby Digital encoding.
The indications are that the new consoles will have no audio chips in them. Just an addressable output. Everything will be software mixing which gives you the ultimate flexibility. Longhorn is going this way as well, making it difficult, if not impossible to use hardware audio through DirectSound (which is why Creative pushes OpenGL on the PC).
But internal capabilities have been largely ignored. The only real audio innovation on the PS2 I can think of is Burnout 2 which managed to access the output of the audio chip and add distortion. The Xbox audio was severly underused thanks to a majority of early/mid games being ports from the PS2 and having no enhancement. The audio chips have mostly just been used for straight sample playback, with all music being streamed off the disc. Perish the thought of using the main processor for interesting audio. It's just not a possibility, especially on the PS2 with its rubbish processor. Graphics always have priority. CRI
(cough, sega, cough, ahem) middleware made their entire product out of streaming data from the disc efficiently, and they've been very successful. Apart from some of the Japanese RPG companies, nobody does music with on-board chips anymore. It just doesn't sound anywhere near as good as streamed audio.
So, in answer to the original question: Audio technology on the consoles hasn't really changed since the introduction of the CD-ROM, and you can pretty much blame Sony for that. The new consoles will be better as software mixing allows ultimate flexibility, so all it takes is an interested programmer.