Thief becomes the first AMD TrueAudio enabled game

How can AMD make gunshots sound even cooler?

I first got the inkling that AMD was planning something big to shake up the audio back in 2012 at AMD’s developer conference. At that time I was listening to a keynote on multi-dimensional audio by  the CTO of SRS and wondering how this was relevant to AMD’s products. Back then the idea that AMD would make any kind of audio effort outside of its video decoding hardware and its GPU-based audio over HDMI interface was preposterous.

AMD is a hardware company, and all modern audio processing is done in software. The computing industry solved the audio problem back in the late 90’s. I haven’t had a dedicated sound card since I quit using my old Pentium 4 Extreme Edition. So why would they be interested in audio? It’s not as if they were going to release a sound card.

The fact of the matter is that with multicore CPUs and ever higher levels of component integration audio has been more or less irrelevant to the larger performance discussion since the turn of the century. And while TrueAudio doesn’t take us back to the nineties like the motherboard makers are trying to do right now with OPAMPS and gold-plated connectors. It does add a new a wrinkle by offering hardware acceleration of audio effects that would otherwise eat up a bunch of CPU cycles. By doing so AMD has made real-time positional audio and complex reverberation effects not only easy to do but almost cost-less from a performance perspective.

For quick demo of how TrueAudio changes the soundscape in game check out this Lichdom demo.

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AMD has finally released some of the gory details of how the Tensilia DSP that is TrueAudio is implemented on its silicon. There is one Xtensa HiFi EP core and a trio of Xtensia HiFi 2 cores for a total of four cores inside the TrueAudio block. There is no word on clockspeeds, throughput, cache-sizes, or really any other design metrics but at least we know the core count now. But even with only four cores AMD expects developers to fully offload their game audio environments to the TrueAudio processor.

Thief is the first game to support TrueAudio. We haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but we did get a good look at a TrueAudio enabled Occulas Rift demo. Please note that this demo is publicly available on AMD’s website as of today.

TrueAudio Occulas Demo

Needless to say audio in this demo is not only excellent but it gives the player a much stronger sense of immersion than current games. Although the visual fidelity of this demo is rather sub par considering how good the audio quality is. That said TrueAudio is pretty neat and my first hand impression of it are positive. It’s another strong step by AMD towards building the mythical holodeck.S|A

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.