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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

X-Fi Crystalizer and Framerates

One of the features introduced with the SoundBlaster X-Fi series is the 24-bit Crystalizer. Games, movies or mp3's sound better or at least they are supposed to. Creative even claims that a mp3 will sound better with Crystalizer enabled than it would on the CD it was taken from.

24-bit Crystalizer

Does it really work? Well, it does but for people with low to mid range speakers or headphones. On low to mid range speakers/headphones it really is an improvement since Crystalizer makes up for the shortcomings in the frequency range. People with higher end sound setups will probably keep it disabled.

But the sound quality is not the topic here. The question is: Does my framerate suffer from having the 24-bit Crystalizer enabled or am I wasting processing power? To test this it would be ideal to benchmark some games with various Crystalizer settings and compare the results.

The first game for this test was supposed to be Quake 4, but sadly timedemos in Quake 4 don't come with sound. Battlefield 2 doesn't come with any benchmarking options at all and using FRAPS to gain results isn't the best idea either. One of the games that can be benchmarked with sound is Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. It is a bit older than Quake 4 or Battlefield 2 but that shouldn't worry us since Crystalizer works on any sound, old or new. All tests have been run three times.

Crystalizer SettingFramerate
Crystalizer at 75%52.8fps
Crystalizer at 100%53.2fps

Definitely no noticeable difference in framerates. Average framerates are 53.4fps with Crystalizer off, 53.1fps at 75% and 53fps at 100%. Let's try another game, this time Nadeo's recently released free game Trackmania Nations. Sound settings - Quality: High, EAX: ON, Speakers: 5.1. Also this time all tests have been run three times using the build in benchmark option.

Crystalizer SettingFramerate
Crystalizer at 75%47.8fps
Crystalizer at 100%47.8fps

Like in the previous test also here there are no significant differences. Average framerates are 47.8fps with Crystalizer off, 47.9fps at 75% and 47.8fps at 100%.

So does the 24-bit Crystalizer affect your framerates? Not one bit and the reason for that is probably the fact that the effect is being processed by your X-Fi soundcard and not by your CPU. Should you keep it enabled? Well, it's up to you. If you can hear a difference and like it - keep it. Either way it doesn't affect your system performance only your hearing experience.


Blogger Mutha said...

Well done sir! I discovered that even on my Bose 5.1 system, the Crystalizer made a marked improvement (IMO). However, before reading your column, I had it off in fear that the framerate hit would be too siginificant. You've done a great service, keep up the good work!

5:47 AM  
Blogger RosOne said...

Thank You, glad you find it useful. Since I've bought my X-Fi I've been wondering what effect certain features got on framerates. Seems I'm letting Crystalizer enabled ;)

6:18 AM  

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