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The Future of PC-Audio: Interview With Keith Kowal 260

Posted by michael
from the clang-clang-clang-goes-the-speaker dept.
red_ed writes "The Noise Report have an interview with Keith Kowal from VIA technologies' Audio division about the future of PC audio. Here's a snippet: 'I think the next big thing will be the widespread adoption of wireless speakers and headphones--cause none of us like a tangle of wires. From a PC infrastructure point of view I can easily see support for these devices being integrated right into the PC.'"
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The Future of PC-Audio: Interview With Keith Kowal

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  • Good to see development with PC audio after a long time.
    • by leathered (780018) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @02:02PM (#10725918)
      .. and that's a company called Creative Labs and their patent portfolio.

      Aureal, Nvidia and most recently id software are all firms that have fallen foul of Creative's desire to stifle innovation. Until someone challenges these patents, we will see few developments in PC audio which has stood still for many years.

      • Check Yamaha's 01X [01xray.com]. It uses Yamaha's new protocol : mLan which consists of MIDI with audio over Firewire.
        I guess this is the future : isochronous audio over an heterogeneous network.
    • by Simonetta (207550) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @03:09PM (#10726788)
      The big new wave in PC audio should be to revitalize the programmable music synthesizers that died ten years ago. Let's start with open-source virtual MiniMoogs and ARP Odyssey clones that use GigaHertz PC CPU speeds to make instruments that sound as good as the originals.
      Then let's make some serious musical instruments like additive synths like K5 clones along with real exciting and inexpensive controllers that plug into USB and legacy slots.

      It's a shame that MIDI equipment never 'took off' in a big way in music equipment sales in the early 1990s. I believe that could have revitalized the retail music store business.
      But all the MIDI items offered for sale in that initial market window were completely underdocumented, poorly implememented, terribly supported, and overpriced.
      The big manufacturers (Roland, Yamaha, Kawai, and Korg) should have pooled together to offer a $10 MIDI interface for the PC and given away voice editor and sequencer software (including source code) for every model that they offered.
      That would have been tough on all the little software companies selling $150 voice editors for synths that sold a total of 5000 units worldwide, but it would have energized the market for synths and tone modules to the level of guitars and amps.
      Today all the $100 voice editor companies are gone and the advanced $1600 synths of 1990 are sold on eBay for $50-$200. The only software still available for them is Atari ST programs run on the PC through an emulator (the STeem emulator).
      The rare MIDI auxiliary device (such as controller pedals or switcher) gets sold at an undervalued price due to the uncertainity of whether it can still be used.
      If I had an extra million dollars and an extra twenty IQ points then I would make a serious attempt to revitalize the MIDI industry with open-source programs and equipment selling at 1/20th the cost that it did when the first MIDI wave ended ten years ago. The fact that the music equipment industry is still run by nitwits like Roland (who are still fighting attempts to open-source the MT-32 which was obsolete 15!! years ago) just fills me with despair.
      • Synthesizers dont die, they just move to software ...

        There is no need to "revitalize" the music synthesizer scene, as you suggest - it is alive and kicking. As we speak, literally hundreds of synths with all kinds of engines (additive, substractive, sampling, FM, granular etc.) are being developed, sold and given away for free. Go to KVR [kvr-vst.com] to learn more.

        Admittedly, not too much open-source in that field. But if you simply want tools for music production, you can be up and running with a cheap off-the-shel

  • Wireless Speakers (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Apple's already ahead of the game [apple.com]. I know it only works with iTunes, but it's the right sort of idea.
  • wireless? Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tanktalus (794810) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:17PM (#10725300) Journal

    Ok, I have a tangle of wires. A huge tangle (2 monitors, keyboards, mice, 5 computers, one printer, two KVMs, ...). But why would I get wireless speakers? Either a) they'll all waste a ton of batteries, or b) they'll all need to be plugged in to the wall. The former is way too expensive, the latter is still another wire - and outlets are at a premium here!

    I was hoping this would be a story about mainstream going to surround sound support, for a more realistic audio experience (whether that's playing Doom 4, or listening to a concert-hall performance of Bach or Beethoven).

    • Ah yes, the "no wires, how the hell is it going to run" problem. Shame Tesla wasn't a sound engineer, eh?

      How about hacking some battery-powered-wireless speakers up to a track-lighting system? That might do the trick nicely, plus make them easier to position and mount.
    • Re:wireless? Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:50PM (#10725745) Homepage
      but surround sound on a pc IS available but generally not used because of it's requirements.

      No not hardware, but space .. most homes do NOT have a specalized computer desk and room so you can place the rear speakers at the right location behind you. Hell most people that have surround sound at home for therei stereo and movies do NOT have it set up right and are missing out on a huge part of the sound field.

      Until they can eliminate the rear speakers (Carver Sonic Holography style) it will not catch on except with the people that desperately want it and are willing to sacrafice style for function.

      I am hoping that PC audio would come to a standard. all PC audio talks in X way and Y way.. all the extra stuff can talk through the OpenAL interface.

      much like a video card. all video cards give you a display without a driver. why cant audio do the same?

      • much like a video card. all video cards give you a display without a driver. why cant audio do the same?

        In general, they can. Your program just needs to talk to the sound card as if it were an 8-bit ISA Soundblaster card.
  • Battery? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:18PM (#10725314) Homepage
    Wireless speakers would be fine, but they would need to address some VERY important issues first.

    First, I'm assuming that the speakers would still have a power cord, and thus still technically be "wired", but if they didn't have a power cord, batteries would be a big issue.

    Second, and most importantly for any audiophiles out there, what happens to the sound quality? God knows how much money is spent on expensive speaker cables, so what happens when it goes wireless?

    • All it needs is for audio to be transmitted wirelssly much like the Apple AirTunes gadget. It encrypts the data so that it will only be decoded if it is lossless. We have the bandwidth to do lossless audio wirelessly.
    • Re:Battery? (Score:5, Funny)

      by cheide (731641) <cnh_pub@shaw.ca> on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:41PM (#10725626)

      Second, and most importantly for any audiophiles out there, what happens to the sound quality? God knows how much money is spent on expensive speaker cables, so what happens when it goes wireless?

      It would almost certainly be a digital encoding, so there would be no quality loss at all as long as there's enough signal strength.

      Of course that probably won't stop some people from buying a Monster Air Ionizer, for "reduced quantum harmonic interference for your wireless signals!"...

    • The next big thing in power will be induction, in the form of furniture that charges devices set on it.

      The technology exists to power speakers, mice, keyboards, digital cameras, cell phones, even LCD monitors, all without power cords.

      Beneath the surface of the desk will be induction pads that power the device via induction, without the risk of electrocution, even in the event of a spilled drink.

      The technology is maturing rapidly. I'd like an entertainment center that powers everything on it wireless. I
      • yes, of course, thats the logical step. Just because we are walking through millions of cell phone radiation, microwave radiation, we live under power lines, we have 802.11B, A, PCS, TV, FM, all sorts of particles streaming through us daily. We definitly need to get some electricity going through the air! Induction, woot! I can see the warning signs now... Or, better yet, it will be like those unknown drug commercials. May cause diaherra, vomiting, headaches, and in rare cases death... OK, but that
        • Induction is similar to magnitism or gravity in that it's effectiveness (and physiological impact) diminish exponentially the further you get away from it.

          So it is less like radio waves and similar radiation, and less of a concern. However, we will be in rather close proximity if we are leaning on the desk all day.

          It should be said, however, that the worst thing we are around, all day, every day, is CRT's, in my opinion. My eyesight can attest to that. When I became a programmer my eyesight changed qui
    • Why not have a small cradle to charge the speakers when you're not using them? That would be ideal for a headphone version as well. As far as audiophiles go, this is ideal. You could have the computer send the signal digitally, so if their stereo has a bluetooth receiver or similar they'd get digital all the way to their high end equipment. Then the quality of the wires or jacks don't play a role, just the quality of the speaker itself.
    • Teeny-tiny fuel cells
  • The real future (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DogDude (805747) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:19PM (#10725333) Homepage
    The REAL future of PC audio is what smart people have been doing for years... getting a $3 rradio Shack cable, and plugging the computer into a real stereo amp. I don't understand the obsession with getting tiny, overpriced, shitty sounding computer speakers when even a basic stereo from Wal-Mart is going to sound better than even the best "computer speakers". I know, I know, everybody has their favorite computer speakers, but there is simply no replacement for displacement. Meaning, bigger speakers being driven by a real amp will almost ALWAYS sound better than any computer speakers.
    • Re:The real future (Score:2, Insightful)

      by CtrlPhreak (226872)
      The thing is, if you're sitting at your computer, the 'computer speakers' are designed for the listener to be much closer to the actual speakers. For music when you're farther away, yeah the standard stereo will sound better in a room for music when you're around in the room, when you're at your computer playing a game, or whatever, the close field of the computer speakers can sound better, and the huge stereos can be overkill.

      The main problem is that most computer speakers are made on the cheap, and no m
      • Good point. I never thought about that because I've always had at least one computer in my main living room along with my TV, stereo, PS2, etc. My computer has always been a part of my home entertainment stuff, so I never thought of putting a computer in a room without a stereo.
        I remember using a Sound Blaster 1.0 about 10 years ago to play Doom 1 in my dorm room in college, and when I cranked the volume, we actually had the police show up at one point to investigate because everybody thought that ther
        • by Anonymous Coward
          I've often heard this kind of story as proof of the fidelity of a computer sound arrangement. I don't really understand it. Why would anyone call the police over recorded gunfire? It's not as if recorded gunfire was a rarity in 1994, or the fifteen years preceeding it.

          I'm thinking particularly of the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, which had a track opened with loud gunfire and dialogue from the movie.

          Anyone who hadn't seen the film might easily think gangsters had come by and opened fire... if, that is, they'd
        • Re:The real future (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ibpooks (127372)
          In reality, they probably called the police because you were a jackass playing obscenely load video game sounds while others were trying to sleep or study. I doubt it had anything to do with thinking there was actual gunfire.
    • Agreed. They make all these funky 5.1, 6.1 & now even 7.1 sound arrangements for PC's but you have to buy crappy (& overpriced) PC speakers in most cases to take advantage of all the plugs. Last time i built, i made sure my audio had SPDIF in/out. One cable runs neatly to the cheap $60 wal-mart amp/speaker set w/ SPDIF in. It sounds better than any other PC audio arrangment i've had. (Why oh why, did nVidia axe soundstorm?).
    • Or if you care about the sound, drop a hundred bucks on something like an M-Audio 2496 [zzounds.com] that has rca outs and run that into your tuner. I have a similar setup with the outs going to a Sony receiver that I bought at a garage sale for five dollars, and a half-way decent set of home theatre speakers which I plan to replace with a set of entry level studio monitors at some point. But for the money I spent on the receiver (garage sale), speakers and soundcard (ebay) you can't beat the performance. It gets loud
    • actually i see things going the other way, with computer speakers improving to the point they are at now. My ~$50 Logitech 2.1 speaker set will kick the crap out of a Wal Mart Sterio, especially with the right sound hardware/software behind it, the only thing I have heard better is a Bose CD/Radio (~$500). The reason so much computer audio sounds bad ius people not knowing how to use it, they set every component at max volume except one to control volume, so sure they get the highest possible volume, but th
    • Except not all situations that require speakers need high quality. For example, we have a VoIP system at work that allows users to listen to voicemail from their Exchange account. It requires speakers, obviously. Why would we want to hook up a large stereo for each user in this situation?

      Second, if computers all go to wireless sound, I'm sure you'd see stereos hit the market that have Bluetooth (or whatever standard) receivers inside. Then you don't even need a cable.
    • I don't know about that. My $50 computer speakers (some sort of altec lancing 3 piece set) sound a lot nicer than my $50 walmart stereo.

      Maybe around $100 things change.
    • Re:The real future (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ImpTech (549794) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @04:01PM (#10727366)
      > even a basic stereo from Wal-Mart is going to sound better than even the best "computer speakers"

      Such a profoundly untrue statement... I don't know where to begin.

      Last time I went to Wal-Mart, they had *nothing* for speaker systems. Oh, they had speakers, but nothing anyone should ever pay money for. If you're comparing Wal-Mart stereo systems to Wal-mart PC speaker systems then maybe you have a point. Otherwise... just about anything Altec-Lansing will beat everything in Wal-mart. Nevermind the PC speakers put out by an actual speaker company, i.e. the Cambridge Soundworks systems from before Creative bought them, or the old Boston Acoustics sets, or hell even Klipsch.

      > bigger speakers being driven by a real amp will almost ALWAYS sound better than any computer speakers

      Gross oversimplification. "Bigger" speakers? There are plenty of very very large speakers that sound absolutely like crap. For examples, look at any of the floorstanding speakers you'll find in a place like Sears. I'm not sure what you'd call a "real" amp versus a "fake" amp, but there are plenty of computer speaker sets with builtin amplifiers that have very nice signal characteristics.

      I'll agree with you that a nice stereo system with a nice separate amplifier will beat any pair of computer speakers you can buy. I guess my point is there are plenty of bad stereo systems and bad amplifiers out there that won't, and to imply otherwise is disingenuous.
    • I don't think you have ever heard the Klipsch Promedia computer sound system. It cost me $250, I think a loss leader for that company. And now I think they even have a better system for sale for computers. These systems are just scaled down versions of their incredible home theater additions. The sound is awesome. Mp3s can truly be distinguished from CD's. I need to go to the Klipsch site and check out the new model.
    • Or, what the insane people have been doing: SPDIF to a digital mixer (Yamaha 01V in my case) running to JBL reference monitors. Yeah, it cost me a bit of cash, but I can (and do!) do studio-quality production work on it.

      Plus, there's nothing like using MIDI to make the faders on your mixer dance...
    • I agree!

      I'm sitting in front of a late 70's Kenwood amp and some similarly aged 7 inch speakers. They're older than I am, yet they sound much better than most computer speakers I find at the houses of friends and family. They should sound decent, since they cost more than my entire computer in inflation adjusted dollars! Let's face it, regular amplifier and speaker technology hasn't really changed that much over the years.

      I'm sure at the higher end of PC sound systems, things are different, but in th
  • by Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:19PM (#10725334)
    I think the next big thing will be the widespread adoption of wireless speakers and headphones--cause none of us like a tangle of wires

    But speaker wires are about the least likely cause of wire tangles in my setup. Considering power ables, mouse cables, monitor cables, ethernet cables, USB cables, Firewire Cables, MIDI cables. Even if I eliminate Mouse and Ethernet AND speaker, it still won't help much

  • ... but worth replying anyway.

    I think this guy's right on the money. I mean, we've had AirTunes for a while now, and now we've got bluetooth stereo headsets. [sonorix.com]

    If you count Macs with onboard bluetooth, and most laptops too, then his prediction is already true.

    I could definitely see widespread adoption if the price came down a bit -- that bluetooth headset is $240 USD, just a bit on the steep side.
  • Bluetooth (Score:3, Insightful)

    by exhilaration (587191) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:19PM (#10725343)
    I really *hope* they use Bluetooth [slashdot.org] instead of coming up with anothe random standard. There are already several Bluetooth headphones [engadget.com] available, HP [engadget.com] has some excellent ones.
  • "I think the next big thing will be the widespread adoption of wireless and speakers headphones--cause none of us like a tangle of wires"

    I can see the benefit of wireless headphones, but how do wireless speakers even make sense?

    I suppose you could eliminate the cable running from the PC to the amplifier if the amplifier was wireless enabled, but you still have to have some sort of wire running to each speaker to provide power. Unless you're planning on running your speakers off of batteries... in which case they'd need frequent recharging and would not be capable of putting out enough juice for decent sound.
    • I have electrical outlets on all my walls but only one set of speaker connections at the receiver. If I have to pick between a power cable or a speaker cable, I'd pick the power cable that needs to have wire run to a plug on the same wall over a speaker cable that needs to be run all the way around the room.

      • I'd pick the power cable that needs to have wire run to a plug on the same wall over a speaker cable that needs to be run all the way around the room.

        That's a valid point, but having self-powered speakers with a wireless audio connection means that now each speaker has to have its own power source and amp. So you've have to have some sort of nasty "wall wart" at the electical outlet, or incorporate a amplifier in the speaker enclosure itself.

        To me, that definitely feels like something that would real
    • I can see the benefit of wireless headphones, but how do wireless speakers even make sense?

      Indeed, I also wonder what the fuss is about when you are talking about fixed speakers close to your desk. I have a whole lot of cables dangling from my pc, they are ugly, but hidden below the desk, and do no bother me at all.
      But I can see a bright future for surround applications. The rear speakers require cables to go all the way to the other side of the room. Not so well hidden, and a risk of tripping over them
  • by hubs99 (318852) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:20PM (#10725356)
    I like that everything is becoming wireless but as that happens more and more batteries are needed and to make matters worse those damn batteries die. Whats the point if you have to charge those items or replace the batteries every now and again. This kind of defeats the purpose of the simplicity of a wireless device. Why cant the industry standardize on a common induction system so I can just place all my wireless devices on a pad and have them charge automatically.

    Bah,
  • Wires. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arose (644256) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:20PM (#10725360)
    Am I the only one that likes wired peripherals better than the overhead added by wireless?
    • maybe. i for one love reducing wiring clutter. it also allows for greater freedom of arrangement.
      • I don't know, I enjoy the challenge of hooking up all my peripherals and hiding the wires. I agree that nixing the wires just makes it much nicer-looking and allows you to hide components in unexpected and unobtrusive places, but getting the right desk and doing a little work to make the wires look nice is really satisfying.
    • No, you are not. I don't like wireless for a few reasons:
      1- Price.
      3- Batteries.
      4- Complexity / overhead. (I guess I'm old fashioned, but I'd rather put more development time into making smaller and more efficient programs rather than just upping the system specs.)
      5- Performance/Reliability.
      My housemate uses 802.11x for his internet connection, and I use cat5. The layout of the house prevents us from both using cat5, so we're stuck this way. When I turn on the wireless antenna in the router, I get 5
      • 6- Wheight. My headphones aren't lightweight as is, adding batteries won't help. The 3m cord is enough for me.
      • >When I turn on the wireless antenna in the router, I get 56k speeds.

        1. One of three things:
        2. Your router is a cheap, stupid router that prioritizes wireless client traffic unreasonably high. This sometimes leads to slow connections from the hard-cable side of the router.
        3. Your router is handling traffic from someone else who is reassociating to the built-in WAP. Double-check your WEP/WPA.
        4. The router is picking a frequency set that interferes with the CAT-5 cable transmission. Try changing the "Channel"
    • Depends on what you're using. I personally would rather use wires for things that aren't moving - for example, monitors, keyboard, printers, scanners, and speakers.

      For things that are frequently moving, like a game pad or a mouse, wireless can be much more useful.

      My current setup at home is a wired USB keyboard and a wireless USB mouse. Everything else is currently wired directly to the computer. Yeah, there's a giant mess of cables behind the desk. But who cares? It's behind the desk. It's not li

  • 32bit audio? No Way (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ironsides (739422) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:21PM (#10725371) Homepage Journal
    Keith: Certainly for more professional soundcards there is a need for 32-bit support as producers often like to do the mastering in the highest level possible before downcoverting for the final tracks. I agree though that it is more difficult to justify 32-bit support on the desktop. I don't think its really intended as a marketing gimmick, its just more that the HD Audio spec supported 32-bit operation, so they are of course touting that support. I would not expect to see many 32-bit HD Audio codecs in the foreseeable future though.

    Current hadware is only really able to achieve an effective ~20bit resolution due to thermal noise in the components. Unitl we take that down a couple of notches there is no reason to use anything more precise such as 32bit.
    • by wowbagger (69688) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:49PM (#10725730) Homepage Journal
      I will have to disagree with you on this.

      When you do filtering, summation, scaling, etc., you frequently find yourself adding multiple values together, then later dividing by some number - for example a filter algorithm would involve adding 256 samples together, then dividing by 256 (roughly speaking...)

      When you do something like that, you need at least 8 bits of headroom in the processing stages or else you either overflow (nasty) or have to drop least significant bits (noisy).

      Running a 32 bit processing channel, even though the final result doesn't need more than 20 bits of resolution allows you to process filters with up to 4096 taps without overflow.

      Sure, you can go to a floating point system, but that adds quite a bit of complexity to the system.

      I work with 24 bit DSPs all the time (Motorola 56301), and frequently have to use the 48 bit long-long format in the core of my routines to prevent overflow. If they were 32 bit DSPs, that would greatly simplify my life.
      • I work with 24 bit DSPs all the time (Motorola 56301), and frequently have to use the 48 bit long-long format in the core of my routines to prevent overflow. If they were 32 bit DSPs, that would greatly simplify my life.
        And just think how many applications out there use 24-bit DSP and don't bother doing the long-long trick to avoid losing precision. Yeccch.

        32-bit audio hardware will be good thing, agreed.

    • "Current hardware is only really able to achieve an effective ~20bit resolution due to thermal noise in the components."

      Do you mean all audio components, or just PC-based components?

      If it's just a PC issue, how does that affect recording vs. playback?
      -- Is resolution lost (at the permanent media) when I copy & store a sound-file or stream from the net?
      -- If not, then is resolution lost during playback of the stored copy? Does it depend on the playback chain (i.e. PC vs. line-out to conventional audio
      • Ok, Lets say that somehow a piece of audio is recorded perfectly in full 24 or 32 or however many bits. When playing back that piece through the highest end amplifier money can buy (assume you are pumping your optical output into a high end amplifier/reciever) the thermal noise in the system is greater than the precision of the system around the 21st bit. Basically, if you sampled at the output of a 20 bit system and a 24 bit system and a 32 bit system as it went out to the speakers, the first 20 bits wou
        • Mod this guy up!

          Nevermind that the audible noise from the average PC will drown out most of that dynamic range. Assuming the entire hardware chain from the digital audio source to the speakers could represent even 20 bits accurately, there's no chance that a person sitting near a computer could hear that kind of resolution over the noise. Most people can't hear more than about -94-something dB in an average listening setup, so even without any noise sources the improvements are wasted.
  • power? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by twitter (104583) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:27PM (#10725466) Homepage Journal
    Good luck selling wireless speakers or any speakers for that matter. Speakers will always require a wire, most people have enough speakers already and the market is flooded with good quality speakers already. Wireless soloutions that work with most people's stereos are already available and work well.

    My speakers will always require some wires because I don't want to power them with batteries.

    To go wireless with any PC, get yourself a nice little stereo FM transmitter and tune in from the next room. Monster cable's model for cars works excellently. The cheap battery powered model from CompUSA looks great with that aluminum case, but it did not broadcast in stereo for me. I hope they fix that because it was perfect otherwise with an external power jack for an included car plug or any cheap transformer and AAA battery for walking around. You can be sure that others, such as the Belkin models for $15 at Walmart, will work or one that does will find it's way to the shelves soon.

    Why did I want to buy another set of speakers again? So that someone could slip the RIAA encrypted streaming wet dream on me? No thanks.

  • by shine-shine (529700) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:27PM (#10725474)
    Give me the ability to set the volume level per application. I mean really, did you ever had a system message go off when you were watching a movie that required you to turn up the speaker to maximum volume?
    • My current driver [lugosoft.com] has per-application volume support.

      Downside is this: say you turn on winamp, and it's all good. Then you switch to your web browser - sound goes up or down. Then you switch to gaim - sound goes up or down. Or you launch a game or something and BAM - super loud, oops.

      So really, it's just a pain. I'd rather have everything consistent. I also just turn off system sounds.
      • I think the original post meant actual per application support for varying sound levels. So you can say Winamp plays at 75%, GAIM plays at 15%, System Messages at 20%, etc. Then when you're playing Winamp all is good, you shuffle over to GAIM and Winamp doesn't change volume. You message somebody via GAIM and the GAIM created noise is reduced to 15% of max base volume, blended seamlessly with Winamp so that the GAIM noise sounds 1/5 as loud (15/75) as Winamp and you aren't hideously annoyed.

        It sounds like y

    • "I mean really, did you ever had a system message go off when you were watching a movie that required you to turn up the speaker to maximum volume?"

      Well, if you're using KDE, go into the control panel...there you can go to the section for system notifications, and either turn them off...or you can set the volume for notifications to whatever level you like.

  • by davidwr (791652) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:30PM (#10725504) Homepage Journal
    In the business world, I don't want wireless ANYTHING on the workstations unless it's encrypted AND authorized.

    Last thing I need is some employee using wireless audio to download corporate data to his car out in the parking lot. Worse, a virus using it to send corporate data to anyone within scanning distance.

    I want 5.1+ wireless at home so I can pipe it through my stereo in the next room, but for security's sake, if you put it on the motherboard make sure I can disable it in the BIOS.
    • Is this a serious concern? If you have an employee that wants to get data so bad that he'll turn it into a sound file and stream it over his wireless speakers and have a receiver elsewhere to download it, he seems pretty determined and will get that data one way or another. Disabling a speaker port won't stop somebody like that. If you work in a business where data theft is a huge concern, I recommend employee background checks more than anything. Treating people well so they aren't inclined to want revenge
      • I forget which movie it was, but I remember seeing one where a usb thumb drive was hidden in the base of a stainless steel coffee mug and used to smuggle data out of the CIA.

        There have been cases of employees in the company I work for; the employees used a coworkers computer and emailed a hotmail acount some confidential documents. Sure it got flagged, but the information was at the hotmail account, which was subsequntly forwarded on. The person whose computer was used got questioned, but he was in the c
    • if it is digital audio out all you need to do is disable the windows driver, then make sure the (l)users don't have the required access to add or change drivers.
  • Question (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What do they really mean by integration? Have the antenna built into the motherboard? This would cause some major EMI issues combined with your box's ability, by design, to block signals. I'd imagine the antenna would have to be external. In this case, I still don't trust the sound quality unless they're using DSS and sending a relatively high powered signal to your headphones. In which case, more issues arise because you'd basically have to have a sound card built into the headphones, how much power d
  • by claussenvenable (820336) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:41PM (#10725616)
    Portable wireless speakers are retarded. I don't need to spend 10 bucks on batteries every few days, and I don't need my shitty portable speakers to have 6 feet of stereo separation between them.

    What, do people think that putting two 5-dollar cost-of-goods speakers 6 feet apart for "big stereo image" makes them sound like anything other than the crap they're made of? Good speakers are large, heavy, and permanently installed with wires hidden.

    There IS, however, a use for this stuff.
    If I need it wireless, it's because I need to move around.
    If I need to move around, it's pretty safe to say I will piss of *everyone* if my music moves around with me (see: bumps in the trunk)
    A wireless set of high-quality in-ear-canal headphones (Etymotics make some, Sony makes some, Apple too now) could be *great*.

    They have very little driver travel, so the power consumption is small, and properly designed you could have a combination headset/headphone setup with passable-not-great quality. It would kick ass to be able to wear headphones under my hat and not have those pesky wires.

    Anyone else use Etymotics and have the painful experience of snagging a wire on a doorknob? Accidentally yanking things out of the ear canal ain't fun.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    We lay in bed while the music, scenery, and environmnet surrounding us changes on a vague thought as we have 24hours/day of non stop orgasms.

    which company is ready to build me a chip that allows this?
  • Yes, for VOIP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wombatmobile (623057) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:49PM (#10725725)
    Wireless headphones are a natural for Skype. You can walk around the room talking on the phone.
  • I won't use Bluetooth, and I won't use wireless keyboards, and I'm very leary of wireless speakers and sound. Why? Security.

    I have not seen one single wireless standard that actually took security seriously enough to for the protocol to be reasonably secure. They've all had glaring flaws. I have not seen one implementation of The Resurrecting Duckling Protocol [acm.org] for personal wireless devices, despite that being a decent choice that's not at all hard to set up or for lay people to understand. The state o

    • by iabervon (1971)
      I don't know about you, but I use wireless sound all the time. Wires just don't have the frequency response you want, and the impedance-matching with your ear is generally terrible.
  • There really isn't much of a future for innovation in PC Audio. Most people have a PC with a motherboard that has built in soundcard and couple of cheap speakers and have absolutely no reason to upgrade.

    Hard drives, monitors, graphics cards - as time goes by you can find an application, game or fashion reason to upgrade. However sound cards? When was the last time you upgraded your 5.1 built-in sound card especially for a game or application?

    • However sound cards? When was the last time you upgraded your 5.1 built-in sound card especially for a game or application?

      About two years ago, I upgraded the sound card in my computer from one that only supported original Soundblaster emulation to one that supported Soundblaster 16 emulation. Older games sound so much better in 16-bit sound.
  • How about we make only the rear surround speakers wireless? Either battery or outlet powered is OK, but the worst part of surround sound is routing cables to the rear, the front 4 speakers (counting sub) is not a big deal. Wireless rear speakers would rock.
  • by Sai Babu (827212)
    Keith says... any audio engineer will tell you a lot of audio design is "black magic" Well maybe not so much a myth if taken to mean that a lot of audio design is done by folks who don't know what the hell they are doing...
  • These devices and their users, as I understand it, are required to "accept any interference" from nearby devices.

    Virtually every low-powered RF gadget I've ever bought--wireless telephones, wireless headphones, etc. have more or less worked when I bought them, then within a few years have gradually become more or less useless due to interference from similarly-equipped neighbors.

    Doubtless the specs on this equipment will claim umpteen-bit DACs, 100 db signal-to-noise ratio, and 0.01% THD. And in practice
  • I think it's a good idea. If you try to compare wireless speakers to something like a wireless mouse, you're missing the point. A speaker sits stationary, a mouse does not, and a power cord running to the speaker is no big deal. However, the current run of computer speaker setups are so completely covered with wires that I find it rediculous. I'd like wireless speakers for more than just my computer, though.

    In my 14' x 20' living room I will have to run speaker wire under the house and through the attic to
    • I remember old DAK catalogs which let you run your audio over the 120V power wires in your house. So when you plugged in a speaker, it got power and the "signal" at the same time. Now, we can easily run data over a power line. It would be practical to even offer internet access this way, except for the fact that there are transformers in municipal grids which interrupt the signal. But on power lines inside the home, this should be no problem at all.

      So instead of wireless plug-in speakers, I propose sendi

  • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @03:03PM (#10726731)

    The thing about my home computer is, it always stays in the same place. I really have no objection to the CPU being tethered to the power outlet, and the keyboard and mouse and monitors and cable modem and home theater receiver to the CPU, and the coaxial cable to the cable modem, and six speakers to the receiver, because they never move. All the components stay in the same place in relation to each other and to everything else.
  • Bluetooth. (Score:3, Informative)

    by John Sokol (109591) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @03:34PM (#10727046) Homepage Journal
    I have a generic Taiwanese USB Bluetooth adapter on my PC that I use to transfer photos from my Phone to my PC.
    It uses the Widcomm drivers.

    I bought one of those Motorola HS810 bluetooth Wireless earpieces for uses with the phone.

    Just as an experiment I was able to pair the earphone with the PC. I lost the ablity to use the soundcard on the PC but I was able to hear and record decient audio from the earpiece.

    Worked great, but with there was an easier way to switch between the two, or have both work at the same time. Maybe more mixer channels.

    I was able to use a VOIP app with the earpiece and walk about my house even better then a cordless phone. Total cost $20 for USB->BT and $100 for BT Earpiece.

    I wish someone would come out with Bluetooth speakers, expecialy if I would be able to use them from multiple PC's.

    As for someone else post about security in here I do believe there is type of security implemented when you Pair Bluetooth devices.

  • by btempleton (149110) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @03:54PM (#10727274) Homepage
    Wireless PC speakers sounds fun (they still need power) but what we really want is a generalized IP based speaker architecture for the whole house, so all speakers can be sent a digital stream from any audio source. The current wired PC speakers woudl actually be the easiest ones to first bring into this system.

    I wrote up a description of ethernet speakers and the ideal home A/V setup [templetons.com] some time ago mostly to talk about the broadcast flag's effect on the design, but it's still the right way to go.
  • ...or the future of cheap omnipresent mass-market audio?

    If the former, all this talk of wireless, 192KHz/32bit/etc could be corrent.

    If the latter, forget it. The future of mass market audio is paired with the future of mass market displays - flat screen LCD monitors. They'll all have built in speakers and for everyone on the planet who doesn't read /., it'll be just fine and it will get rid of two more annoying objects on your desk.

    I suppose you could look to getting wireless video and audio to your fa
  • I can plug just about any PCI/AGP video card into any PC with a standard VGA monitor with any Windows OS all the way back to Windows 95 or all the way back to linux kernel 2.0 distros and at least get a 640x480 16 color screen with minimal to no work. Can the same be said of audio cards? On windows, perhaps. On linux? Hell no!

    The future of PC audio should be a foundational move to provide a minimum driver model for default performance of at least one tone.

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