XBOX One audio performance review
XBOX One is way too advanced in comparison to the PS4 in many aspects. Kinect itself is a great addon for XBOX One which allows users to give out voice commands. Kinect has allowed lot of controller-less games to be developed and in addition to that XBOX One has also been a favourite toy of the geeky hackers. There are many entertaining games as well as cool software implementations on XBOX One + Kinect platform which will definitely bring a big WOW out of people. The features such as voice command are not perfect and do have some glitches and not to forget the possible user monitoring via Kinect camera which had become a security concern for many.
We will be taking a look at how XBOX One’s audio system performs in comparison to the audio performance of PS4.
There are two HDMI ports, one of them is an input while the other one is an output. Along with HDMI, we also have the optical audio jack that can be plugged right into your home theatre receiver. You can achieve various configurations using the given options.
Unlike PS4, XBOX One has an HDMI input jack allowing you to watch live cable TV or an input from external source without requiring you to unplug your TV screen from the XBOX.
Apart from the sophisticated audio jacks that work excellent for large 5.1 channel multi watt speaker systems, there are times when we just want to use our headphones. On the Sony PS4 system, you could stream audio to your headphones via your wireless controller. On XBOX One, you have to buy special headphones with a custom audio controller and a USB jack.
Technical overview of the audio block
Traditional architecture of a computer’s audio block consisted of an ADC for the microphone and a DAC for output, some amplifiers and driver circuitry and a controller to synchronize all the data flow. In some higher end systems there is a Digital Signal processor (DSP) that can add special filters and do a whole lot of amazing audio manipulation to deliver good sound. The entire task of outputting proper channel data to respective DACs is handled by the microcontroller, whereas all the channel data manipulation happens on the DSP.
It is the first time that a console has come out with extremely sophisticated audio block and it is only on XBOX One. There are so many components and blocks inside the audio module that it is obvious there is a whole new level of black magic going on in there. First of all, there is a DMA controller and a powerful ARM core with a large amount of SRAM for caching data and also DRAM for the ARM core to do its job. We know that Kinect supports sophisticated audio beam forming techniques for its soundbar to give us that virtual surround sound effect and it can also hear you clearly from any direction.
A whole lot of amazing stuff is possible with such a powerful audio block. Programmers can take advantage of delivering highly directive sounds to gamers in a room because there will be very little latency encountered on such a powerful block.
The audio block also consists of the Dolby Digital surround sound solution which can deliver up to 7.1 channel audio output from both, the optical output as well as the HDMI output. Unlike the PS4, we do not have any kind of audio switching glitch when we have optical cable and the HDMI plugged in at once.
Problems related to audio
Problems occur with any system and it is good to have a solution on hand. Audio glitches can occur in XBOX One also, but that is mostly due to the way you have setup your system rather than being a system bug. There is a comprehensive guide on XBOX One official support page which can help you fix the audio stuttering.
There is a very common problem with having no audio while the HDMI cable is being used as a source of sound. Nearly 9 in 10 problems are a result of a bad HDMI cable, so make sure to have a good quality cable and a clean jack to avoid trouble. A bad HDMI cable can also result in a very quiet audio output from XBOX.
If you are a Kinect lover, then you will not be disappointed with the new Kinect as it has the ability to detect your location in the room and do beam forming to pick up your voice commands from wherever you are located. That fails when there is just too much noise in the room or when you speak the commands in a very low voice.
It can also get confusing for the Kinect when there are multiple players in the room playing the same game. It just cannot pick up commands when the two or more players speak a voice command at the same time making the players resort to a regular controller.
XBOX One apps
There are many native apps that come with the XBOX One console that make this console a media hub rather than just a gaming console. Xbox music lets you listen to music by paying a subscription fee and it is also a cross platform app. There are nearly 38 million music tracks available on the store. Unlike PS4, which has severe problem multitasking various applications, XBOX One handles multitasking like a “boss”. You can have any number of applications open at once and there will be no problem or a hit on the performance. On the other hand, PS4 deliberately limits the background apps to two.
Just like PS4, XBOX One users also suffered from the limit which prevented users to listen to their own music leaving them to stream music from Xbox music app or some other source. Although, Microsoft recently added the support to play music from USB drive similar to what Sony did to PS4. There is one problem that bugs all the users, you cannot make a playlist or you cannot make the XBOX play all the music on your USB while playing a game. You will have to manually play each track once the previous one finishes.
There is also a restriction to play music from a CD or store it on the Xbox’s hard drive which has driven many owners to the edge while driving some away to XBOX’s competition.
You can also stream music to your XBOX from a local media server using DLNA protocol, or you could install Plex media server and use that to stream music. What PS4 lacks is the support to multiple media formats such as the MPEG 2 TS, WMA, WMV, MKV, etc. XBOX One will receive an update which will allow it to play a whole wide array of media in different formats. A detailed list of expected updates can be found on the XBOX One news page.
A large number of apps are available to stream music and video from different sources in case you hate to use the Xbox music app. There is Vevo, YouTube, Netflix, NBA, ESPN, comedy central, ENCore and many more apps that can be downloaded to your XBOX One, whereas PS4 does not enjoy so many apps. Only recently has there been the PS4 YouTube app released for the users while XBOX One users have enjoyed it for a long time.
The main difference between the PS4 and the XBOX One is that Sony focused more on the gaming aspect while Microsoft took notice of the people’s need to have a single multimedia device that can be used to watch movies, listen to music and play latest games. Microsoft’s XBOX One is several times ahead of its competition with all the sophisticated hardware, software and technology, but it all comes at a steep price of £364 with Kinect 2, and £329 without the Kinect.