This is a continuation of the hardware article series that dealt with the sound board and the CD-ROM drive. This article discusses several interesting improvements in some newer sound boards.
MIDI sound reproduction (FM Synthesis vs. Wavetable)
Early sound boards used a technology called FM synthesis to simulate the sound of a musical instrument by combining a series of sound waveforms. Very reasonable simulation of certain instruments can be created, while other instruments don't sound very natural. FM synthesis is used primarily because of its low cost.
Wavetables are digitized sounds recorded from real musical instruments and provides a much more realistic sound than using FM synthesis. Wavetable synthesis has been used in stand-alone professional music synthesizers for a number of years. It has become available on a few PC compatible sound cards in the past few years. Now, many more sound boards are offering wavetable synthesis as standard equipment or as an option.
Three Dimensional Sound
Three dimensional sound boards have been available for about a year and a half. Now these boards are the latest new multimedia add-on and many manufacturers are shipping or have announced one (see Infostream this month).
Standard stereo sound allows you to hear the sound move between the speakers. Three dimensional sound goes beyond that and allows you to hear sound that moves BEYOND the two speakers. You hear a jet fly overhead from left to right or a wave crash around you. You keep checking to see if the speakers have left the desk as you can hardly believe the sensation. I have heard several of these systems and they are incredible!
Another manufacturer has a board which processes stereo sound and it simulates the quadraphonic sound of the mid-seventies. It adds acoustical information to two additional "rear channel" speakers. The size of your room can appear to change in size and this effect is quite impressive.
© 1994 Rick Smith All rights reserved.