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Topic: Heavily compressed audio ruining the experience

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Switchcraft

This thread might not be of importance to most. I know the majority does not use high quality audio equipment. The best headphones many use are Bose QC35 (superior to the Sony XM2 and XM3, IMHO) or Apple Beats Studio3. That is fine. However, I work professionally in pro-audio and high-fidelity gear. My requirements are quite a bit higher (though not necessarily more expensive).

I have created another thread a few months ago in which I addressed my concerns with the hardware of the Nintendo Switch and the headphone jack's poor performance, being limited in volume and having audible strong hiss (again, depending on the gear you use). It is something that a little accessory like the iFi Audio iEMatch can fix. I would have loved to see external DAC support via USB, but HDMI works too (with minor quality loss). So this topic is checked.

My issue now is that developers use too strong compression algorithms on the audio data to save space. I have first noticed this with DOOM, which is a HUGE downgrade in sound quality. It doesn't matter if you're using the headphone output or HDMI. The artifacts are very audible and it sounds at best as good as a 128 kbps mp3. That is not okay, IMO. It completely takes away from the experience as explosions aren't threatening, demon screams introduce a new level of fatigue and the shotgun just isn't as satisfying. This simply does not work well with the inconsistent framerate, low-res textures and long loading times. I simply accepted that the port is too much of a downgrade and appreciated that the developers tried their best.

But just yesterday I started Okami, which I imported from Japan as a physical release. I am shocked by the poor sound quality - yet again! This game lives from the atmosphere and I have the five disc original soundtrack which sounds phenomenal. But the audio in the game is just as bad is with DOOM. The artifacts take away the timbre from the original instruments, the drums have no depth, the sound overall is harsh and the voices more annoying than ever. I have ripped the soundtrack with all sound effects (215 files) and they are only 650 MB in high quality AAC. What fool thought it would be a good idea to try to further decrease the size!? If that was absolutely necessary to bring the size down to 300 MB, then the developers could have used the Opus encoder (for which of course they would have to implement a suitable decoder), which is nearly transparent at 128 kbps.
I bought this game (for the fourth time) because reviewers were sure this is the definitive version.

So I have two concerns:
1. Developers are starting to crap all over the audio to save tiny bits of space. Digital audio has never saved more space and sounded as good as today. I don't believe in HD crap and false MQA advertisement. Lossy compression is perfectly fine if you encode it correctly.
2. There are YouTube channels having a career over nitpicking on every aspect of the graphics, judging how good the technical performance is, but there is no single review I read that said that the audio performance of Okami and Doom are poor. And it really only takes a 100 € IEM to figure this out.

Luckily, these are the only two games that I have concerns with. SMO and DKCTF sound absolutely superb with high dynamic range and perfectly transparent sound! Hollow Knight is also a great example. So it's clearly not a limitation of the Switch.

Dear developers, please stop doing that and give us a 600 MB update for either game to fix the sound files.

Gameplay matters.

Anti-Matter

Street Fighter 30th Anniversary, LEGO CITY Undercover, etc also had same sounds issues.
Too low in Handheld Mode, even i set on Maximum volume.

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Switchcraft

Welp. Going by the replies, that explains why developers crap all over audio quality. It seems that nobody cares.

Gameplay matters.

toiletduck

@Switchcraft sorry pal, I really liked reading your explanation but I for one am indeed quite easily satisfied when it comes to sound quality... I wouldn't mind it though if companies would put some extra effort in this. Especially the increased compression rates to save another ~200mb seems like a bit too much.

toiletduck

Silly_G

Unfortunately developers/publishers downgrade audio quality as a quick and easy way to drastically reduce the overall file size of the game.

Similarly, Just Dance 2017 shipped on a 16GB cartridge, but the following instalment, Just Dance 2018, shipped on an 8GB cartridge, with the file size being cut by more than half (despite there being more content than the previous game). The drastic downgrade in picture quality was immediately apparent. I can't vouch for the audio, but I would bet that that would have taken a hit too. The sad irony is that the Wii U versions of these games ships on a 25GB disc, so they would feature far superior A/V quality than the instalments on its successor's hardware.

Ideally, most AAA or major third party releases should be shipped on 32GB cartridges with lossless audio and parity with the other platforms, but unfortunately, nobody seems to care. People demand 60fps at 1080p without giving a damn about audio/texture quality that are all too often cut in order to save space.

Another thing that aggravates me is when alternate language options are made to be separate downloads when they should be on the cartridge itself (Skyrim, Shining Resonance and Fire Emblem Warriors being noteworthy offenders in this regard) while on other platforms, the additional language options are included on disc by default.

Edited on by Silly_G

Silly_G

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Mountain_Man

Yeah, can't say I've ever noticed.

The Mountain Man

Yorumi

Switchcraft wrote:

Welp. Going by the replies, that explains why developers crap all over audio quality. It seems that nobody cares.

I think audio is one of those things that a lot of people simply cannot tell the difference on until it's unimaginably compressed. Combine that with most people running the audio through their tv, not exactly good quality equipment and it's going to be hard to convince people of it. I know for me personally I've had the audio guys at work show me different compression and I just cannot hear the difference.

I think a lot of people can see graphics, colors, framerates moreso than they can hear audio differences. It might help if everyone invested in some real sound equipment but I think people are too used to compressed mp3s that they just don't care.

Edited on by Yorumi

Yorumi

Nintendo Network ID: yorumi

Cobalt

@Yorumi Exactly, just look how much BEATS headphones are sold every year.
I never understood how is ot possible to listen MP3 with that kind of headphones ?

Use FLACs with a FOCAL, an Audio Technica, a Meze, a B&W etc...

Cobalt

ValhallaOutcast

@Cobalt Beats are just fine for quality not the best but not the worst either, are they over priced? of course so are Jordan sneakers, Hugo Boss polo's , RayBan Sun Glasses, Diesel Jeans, and the list goes one

Not sure why people do not realise that when they mention Beats in a discussion about audio

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Cobalt

@ValhallaOutcast Just fine ? Hummm, High Medium>>>almost non existing, Medium>>>sounds like totally muffled, Trebles and High Trebles>>> where are they ?

That crap is not over priced, I call it robbery...

Cobalt

Cobalt

@ValhallaOutcast If I remember good, it was the executive or something like that !
It's just horrible.

Cobalt

toiletduck

@Cobalt but that's the thing. For you it sounds horrible, but a lot of people really hardly notice. I think to a large extent it's just a matter of how well your hearing system is either developed or trained (or ruined by loud music when you were young). I am a big music fan and I have friends in the business. They are surprised of what quality dips I seem to miss...

toiletduck

SKTTR

People need to have trained eyes to see differences in framerate and resolution.
And even then, they still need a picture or video to compare.

Likewise, people need to have trained ears to hear differences in sound quality.

Even though a few people hear the difference in quality straight away (they're used to listen to a higher quality offering), most people still need to compare the two versions side by side to get a clear "picture".

But yeah, in general reducing video and sound quality is the first step to make a game's filesize smaller, followed by reducing texture quality.

If Nintendo ever manages to port Xenoblade X to the Switch, I bet it will be another downgrade on graphics and audio, should they decide to bring it on a 16GB instead of a 32GB cart. (The game is 23GB on Wii U).

Just imagine how great the graphics and audio in Xenoblade 2 would be, if it was released on Wii U - without the limitations of the Switch.

Edited on by SKTTR

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hirokun

I mean to be fair most people care about gameplay first and foremost. So I'm not surprised. If you wanted uncompromising sound quality you'd play games on PC or just listen to the sound track stand alone in your ideal audio environment. The Switch is a handheld system at heart, I don't know what you are expecting. I'm not saying you are wrong, just maybe being unreasonable considering the reality of the system.

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Silly_G

@SKTTR : But there were no limitations in that regard considering that the Switch is a more powerful console than the Wii U. They potentially could have released a better looking and sounding game on Switch via a 32GB cartridge, but they chose not to.

In fact, the Switch has more legroom as it currently has access to 32GB media, compared to the Wii U, which was limited to 25GB discs (there were no dual-layer Wii U game discs), and also the bandwidth limitations inherent to optical discs.

Edited on by Silly_G

Silly_G

3DS Friend Code: 2578-3134-0847 | Nintendo Network ID: sillygostly

Switchcraft

hirokun wrote:

The Switch is a handheld system at heart, I don't know what you are expecting. I'm not saying you are wrong, just maybe being unreasonable considering the reality of the system.

I was expecting what reviews made me expect, which is not a far inferior version to the 2012 PlayStation 3 release. That I would not have expected.

But I just have a thought.. It seems like really nobody is noticing the poor audio quality. Maybe there's a reason. Could it be that they squeezed the (Japanese) physical release on a 8GB cartridge while the eShop download version is actually 10 GB and has decent audio?

Gameplay matters.

NEStalgia

@Switchcraft Okami: The actual game is an old game remastered. Audio is compressed even on the XBox 1 X Enhanced version. It's not going to sound like a soundtrack, the mastering is entirely different, and games go through spacial processing where the soundtrack won't.

However, yes, textures and audio are very very large the higher the quality gets, and that's a fairly essential compromise on Switch to keep sizes manageable. 400GB of top speed storage for a mobile device runs $250+. You can get an 6TB HDD for under $200. But the 3lb 3.5" 12W HDD won't exactly be portable. If games on Switch had to push the 40-80GB threshold to include high quality everything we'd be paying Neo Geo prices for games. I hear the compression as well, but while I dislike the compression there's a trade-off one way or another. I can buy the less compressed version for my other consoles and be TV-bound, or buy the compressed version and have it portable. Tradeoffs for portability aren't ideal, but we're a good decade or more away from that not being the case. Think of it like MP3 players circa 2001.

There's also other concerns. Audio decompression takes a relative lot of CPU power that might be already stressed to the limits on AI and animation. The decompressed audio may take a lot of RAM or pipeline bandwidth that's already fully utilized by game world objects. Vorbis is a battery drain across the board and always has been. Many games use Vorbis, but the lower the bitrate the less battery drain.

There's more to system utilization than just the storage, when the system is running at max for multi-media, you can't dedicate the resources you would for pure audio playback.

@SKTTR WiiU file sizes aren't always indicative of game data sizes. Many games, and especially open world games duplicated a lot of data multiple times on the disc since it was reading on the fly, so that frequently accessed data would be within the close seek range of any random read without having to spinup and retrack.

NEStalgia

Mountain_Man

toiletduck wrote:

@Cobalt but that's the thing. For you it sounds horrible, but a lot of people really hardly notice. I think to a large extent it's just a matter of how well your hearing system is either developed or trained (or ruined by loud music when you were young). I am a big music fan and I have friends in the business. They are surprised of what quality dips I seem to miss...

For me it's mostly because I don't play games at a high sound volume. I generally have the sound up just loud enough to hear audio cues but not enough that I can readily discern if the audio quality is poor. Depending on where I'm playing, I sometimes don't have the sound on at all, so I'm considerably less concerned with muddy audio than I would be with muddy visuals, or an inscrutable user interface.

The Mountain Man

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