Ray-Traced Sound? Ninja Theory Confirms That the Xbox Series X Has a Dedicated Audio Chip

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Image: Microsoft

The Xbox Series X is promising a massive leap in graphics performance, but its audio capabilities should be pretty impressive, too.

According to Ninja Theory (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice), Microsoft has blessed its next-generation console with a dedicated audio chip, which will allow audio engineers to generate especially complex soundscapes.

“It’s extremely exciting,” said senior sound designer Daniele Galante. “We’re going to have a dedicated chip to work with audio, which means we finally won’t have to fight with programmers and artists for memory and CPU power.”

“We take for granted that graphics are powered by their own video cards. But in audio, we haven’t had anything like that. Now we have some power dedicated to us,” added audio lead David Garcia.

This audio chip will enable technologies such as 3D audio and audio ray tracing, the latter of which was teased during a podcast with Microsoft’s Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb and Xbox director of product management Jason Ronald.

“Now, with the introduction of hardware accelerated ray tracing with the Xbox series X, we’re actually able to enable a whole new set of scenarios, whether that’s more realistic lighting, better reflections, we can even use it for things like spatial audio and have ray trace audio so that you feel much more immersed,” mentioned Ronald.

While Ronald didn’t go into any of the technicalities, it could work on the same principle as NVIDIA’s VRWorks Audio, which “traces the path of sound in real-time, delivering physically realistic audio that conveys the size, shape, and material properties of the virtual environment” that players are in.

Sony has also confirmed that the PlayStation 5’s AMD chip would feature custom hardware for 3D audio. “As a gamer,” lead system architect Mark Cerny said, “it’s been a little bit of a frustration that audio did not change too much between PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. With the next console the dream is to show how dramatically different the audio experience can be when we apply significant amounts of hardware horsepower to it.”

Tsing Mui
News poster at The FPS Review.

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