LiveWare 2.0 First Impressions

By Boon Kiat
Hardware One

Preliminary Report On LiveWare 2.0 15/05/99
Downloaded the 28 megger monster TWICE! The first time, from Creative's site (which was craaawwwwling)... it helped that I was watching Seinfeld on-demand on Magix/ADSL with the spare bandwidth)

Anyway, that file got restarted several times and when I tried unzipping it, it died. When I got back today, was happily informed by Hardware One that it is now available on the Fun (Singapore One hispeed network) server, so I downloaded it in a jiffy at over 200kb/s!

A. General Performance
Have only tested it on a few 3D audio apps so far, and here are my

System Tested:
Celeron 300A overclocked to 450 (4.5x100)
128MB PC100 RAM
ABit BH6 -KG
Canopus Spectra 2500 (@100/115 core/memory)
Creative Voodoo2 SLI
Creative SB Live full
Creative Desktop Theatre 5.1 (in Four Point mode)

1.    Unreal
I honestly have no idea what is improved since Unreal was pretty nifty in 3D sound even with the original drivers. I need to reinstall the Live-specific/ unique levels designed by Creative to showcase 3D audio on the Live and test the game out again. (after a bad HD crash a month ago, haven't gotten around to reinstalling Unreal until today)

2.    3D Audio WinBench
Didn't try out the whole suite.. only the 3D audio section and it sounds pretty good! I can even tell elevation (ie above and below the plane of the ears/speakers) which was missing before! (this is from the perceptions test, ie when the program played a certain 3D sound source and you had to determine the direction the sound is moving in)

3.    Expendable
Didn't try this out much. It was supposed to support 3D audio + EAX but I honestly couldn't discern it much when playing the game. Maybe I need to let the normal auto-demo run so I can focus on the 3D audio, and not focus on staying alive =)

4.     Occlusion/Obstruction demo
This is quite a cool demo actually, and it also demonstrated the improved 3D audio separation from before.

In the past, I had a hard time telling sounds which was supposedly directly between the front and rear speakers (either to the right or left of me), ie in position X or Y.

FL                    FR

X         me       Y

RL                    RR

With Liveware 2.0, this is VERY easily detected.. I am really impressed. Even my Denon AC3 amp has problems pinpointing these two positions.

Occlusions and obstructions sound the same way they should be. What more can I say? (I don't have a Vortex2 card so I can't compare the two) Right now, I just hope developers will start supporting these new features in EAX2.0

B.    EAX effects
Haven't seen anything new in the list of preset EAX effects. But instead of presenting the WHOLE LONG list of EAX effects, they now classify them into quite logical categories:

a.    Default (zip nada)
b.    Compose Desktop Music (MIDI Sequencing)
c.    Play Game (Quake 2, Age of Empires.. etc)
d.    Play Movie (Movie Mode On/Off) etc..

C.    MP3 support
This is a welcome addition to PlayCentre. I don't need to buy a registered version of WinAmp just to play MP3s, and I like the idea of having a playlist (something the latest Media Player from MS didn't have)

D.     Controls/Layouts
The new layouts seem VERY intuitive in LW2.0. The mixer/ fader/ bass/ treble/ master mixer and even the recording controls (no need to switch between playback and recording modes) are all placed neatly in one panel, and the mixer also allows you to choose CMSS modes/ EAX effects/ Speaker modes etc..

All in all a welcome addition!

Add-on Rantings 17/05/99
Here's a follow-up report on Liveware 2.0

BTW, if you haven't checked out Ee Siang's extensive look at Liveware 2.0 at ALive.. you should! Great work Ee Siang! I have been testing EAX2.0 on some older titles recently and throwing my 2 cents into the mix...

I got around to installing the Unreal levels from Creative which I
downloaded ages ago.

The improvements to the 3D audio positioning effects are subtle but discernable and as Ee Siang put it, the rear channels are no longer a muddy "It's behind me" impression, but a more distinct "where behind me". Note that to get 3D audio, you need to use the older v2.20 patch. The latest 2.24v breaks 3D audio support.

This improvement in positioning also comes through very well in the two racing games I tested it on: Ultimate Race Pro and Need for Speed III. I can now tell if a car if trying to overtake me from the left or right. Just brilliant!

Now the bad part.

I think Creative took the comments in the newsgroups quite seriously and for most EAX games, the comments have been: where is EAX? I can't feel it at all??

So, with EAX2.0, I think they have boosted the default reverb levels used. What this means is that for older games where the EAX impact is not really felt, they would be now.

However, with older titles which were tuned correctly, the EAX 2.0 impact can be overbearing. I am of course referring to NFS3 and Ultimate Race Pro (URP). Even with EAX 1.0, URP had this annoying EAX effect, where the environmental presets would go from a subtle setting to a loud one. This is really apparent when you drive through a tunnel. Instead of varying the reverb level slowly from the external setting to the highly echoey tunnels, it would switch instantaneously and the effect is highly jarring. With the added boost of EAX2.0, the effect is even worse.

I was hoping that the recently released 1.50 patch would solve this, but the problem still remains.

Now, NFS3 also suffers from the same problem. In the past, the NFS3 reverb levels seemed just right to me. Now, it is really over the top! While it sounds impressive when you hear the roar of the tunnel, it can be quite deafening and I find myself pausing the games several times to adjust the volume settings on my amplifier. It would be too soft in the normal stetches of the tracks but thundering when I drove into the tunnels.

I had to turn the engine volumes way down in order to hear the other cars.

To be fair though, the new EAX2.0 settings for NFS3 sound right to me. Actually, they sound pretty impressive. It is the sudden changes in volume that I am picking fault at.

Will start to reinstall Half Life in my PC again, to determine the effect of EAX2.0 on it. If I recalled correctly, Half Life was quite well tuned to EAX1.0. I have read on the sblive newsgroup that in Half Life, most of the sounds are over-saturated with EAX2.0, and that I would need to turn the volumes down to get it right again.

Also been playing Quake3 test over ADSL with Wymun. Man, this game just cries out for good 3D audio positioning... Half the time when I was playing the second map, I couldn't even tell where Wymun was. =)



  • Where to obtain LiveWare 2.0? Click here.