Page 5 - Gaming and Benchmarks
Since the Sonar 5.1 are technically a sound card, I thought it might be interesting to run a few benchmarks to see how the Sonar stack up against a discreet sound card, like the Creative Labs X-Audio. I used a few games, Bioshock and Call of Duty 4, to test the Sonar, as well as World of Warcraft of Skype tests. Fraps was used to count frames for Bioshock and CoD4. Five runs each of 60 seconds were averaged to get a fairly consistent FPS count. There is also a brief subjective impressions using the Sonar with these games compared with a Creative Labs X-Audio (reviewed in Feb, 2008) and Grado SR-125 stereo headphones.
The test machine is configures as follows:
- Intel E6600 (@2.4GHz)
- Intel 975x mobo
- 2GB DDR2
- 150GB WD Raptor
- WinXP Pro SP2
- Sonar 5.1 Headset (v. 18.104.22.168)
- X-Audio PCIe (v. 22.214.171.124)
Bioshock has some great sound effects, and we found the Sonar liked it fairly well. However, when switching to a combination of X-Audio and Grado stereo headphones, we realize how much stuff is missing with the Sonar. Yeah, I'm kindof a jerk like that. The Sonar clearly cant handle all the subtle environment sounds, like water splashing under foot, or the ambient rumble, or the groaning lights. It is just lost with the Sonar. The surround sound modes worked great, though, and I could tell that the sliding doors opened to the left and slightly behind, that were not quite so evident in the stereo headphones. Some effects, like the hissing water werent so dramatic, but hey, when you're giving some Splicer a fistful of lightning, who cares?
Essentially, there's no performance loss at all. We'll have to try a different game, then.
Call of Duty 4
Quite possibly the worst surround sound Ive heard in a while. I am not entirely sure it isnt a problem with the Sonar, actually, but I think its the game engine itself. With the 5.1 surround, there really wasnt any particular direction that anything was coming from, just around. It was better if I let CoD4 choose Windows Default for surround sound (it was set for 7.1 Wide). Call of Duty 4 is such a visual game anyway, but really, not to have a correctly functioning surround sound mode is a little bit of a let down. It really spoils the immersion.
A little bit more interesting results. The X-Audio was in software mode, no CMSS 3D or EAX, to match the Sonar. Of course, the difference is much wider in subjective terms, where plain old stereo was more enjoyable to play than the surround mode.
World of Warcraft
While I do hope we see an updated graphics engine for WoW, its really about the communication for me. So, I pestered some of myvrygoodfriends to gauge how the Sonar sounded via Skype. The Sonar is Skype compatible after all, and Im pleased to report that the Sonar microphone sounds very, very clear. They reported that my geeky voice came through, better than ever. I asked, "For better or worse?" The reply, "Worse." Ah, the humiliation of smackdown.