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Sound Blaster X-Fi Coverage: Interview with Steve Erickson
By Daniel Lim
Category : Interviews
Published by Vijay Anand on Tuesday, 30th August, 2005

Introduction & EAX Technology Developments

Following the recent announcement of Sound Blaster X-Fi, the next generation sound card series from Creative Technology, www.hardwarezone.comĀ® made a trip down to Creative Headquarters in Singapore to find out more about the product which claims to change the way we hear audio, forever. To better understand certain aspects of the new Sound Blaster X-Fi series, how it would impact the market and Creative's future directions, we met up with Steve Erickson, General Manager and Vice President of Creative Audio products, for a one-on-one interview.

Steve Erickson, the Vice-President and General Manager for Creative Audio

HWZ : Tell us about yourself and what are your main roles in Creative Technology?

Steve Erickson : My name is Steve Erickson, General Manager and Vice President for Creative Audio products. Within Creative, I manage the Sound Blaster product line and manage the engineering for EMU. I also run the technology center back in California.

HWZ : What kind of development has EAX technology seen to date? Can you give us a run down?

Steve Erickson : Well, I think EAX has been around since the Live! series back in 1998. The introduction of EAX has in a way changed gaming in the aspects of bringing real time effects to the platform. Over the years we have increased the performance and capabilities of gaming from EAX 1.0 to 2.0 and now we have EAX Advanced HD 5.0. What we have seen over the years is that people have really understood how much change it makes to the interaction of the game and how they performed in the game. EAX has basically become the standard in games. Most people who are running our product line on their hardware don't want to settle for anything else because it changes how they play. Without it, they can't play (games) anymore.

With EAX Advanced HD 5.0, we have really brought it to a new level and with 128 voices support, we've change the paradigm a little bit. We have added the ability to hear more, of course, and that brought in an even more sense of realism and activity with not just gunshots or car sounds, but the overall music of the game and the environment. We are getting to a point now when I listen to someone who is playing a game, I actually think it is happening around me just like I was driving on the road with a car. So it has become so real, that when you turn EAX off, people forget how to play.

HWZ : Can you tell us the differences between EAX 4.0, 5.0 technology?

Steve Erickson : Within the EAX family of technologies, the difference between EAX 4 and 5 is the ability to do multiple environments. For instance when you are driving down the road with a car, you hear the environment in the car as well as the noise outside that seems to be coming from the outside. We are able to emulate that in the EAX 4. And with EAX 5.0, what we did is not just to increase the voice counts to get more sound effects; we have also introduced something very unique we called MacroFX. It is the ability to hear the sound of the object whether it is beside you or far away. So we added those distance cues in EAX 5.0 so you get an even better sense of realism where the object sits within the environment.

HWZ : How does CMSS 3D compare with EAX technology?

Steve Erickson : Well, CMSS 3D is a completely different thing. CMSS 3D is really orientated around 3D audio. We either have sound coming from a three-dimensional space or from an environment, which is what EAX is about. CMSS 3D is really about making headphones sound like you are listening to speakers and not listening to headphones, and for speakers to do a much better job at panning sounds within the environment so it sounds like it is coming between speakers instead of one or the other.

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