Soundcard Attrition Page

This page will be in a state of fairly constant development, especially as new formats become established, and information on more soundcards reaches me.

last modified: 3rd June 2001

HEALTH WARNING:  this page has links to some non-'standard' WAVE files.
They may cause problems to either or both your browser, and your soundcard, if they are not clever enough to reject them, but not clever enough to play them either.
At worst, they might crash or hang your system.  If your doubt is stronger than your curiosity,
DO NOT CLICK ON THE WAV LINKS!  All files are also available in zip format for downloading.
 

What can I do with a multi-channel device?

A paper (Word 97 format)  by Dave Rossum (Creative Labs), 'An Integrated Approach to Multi-Channel Audio', presented at WinHEC 99, is well worth reading, for a broad perspective on the many multi-channel paradigms, argued from the perspective of a 'virtual' recording studio, as might be implemented in a modern Audio Workstation. It includes a reference to the new WAVE-FORMAT-EXTENSIBLE ('WAVE_EX') multi-channel file format, which is supported in Windows2000, and also in Windows98 Second Edition, recently announced.

Recent changes.

May 1999:

    I have replaced all the floatsam and 16bit soundfiles (except the first two, which are kept as 'minimum-header' examples, but including the Michael McNabb examples) with otherwise identical ones which contain the newly defined PEAK chunk. This gives information on the position and amplitude of the absolute peak sample in each channel (in the range  +- 1.0). It can be used for all WAVE, AIFF (including AIF-C), and WAVE_EX  formats. As the PEAK chunk is 64bit aligned, it is fairly future-proof (it could be used in a SDIF file, for example). However, to allow for later enhancements, it includes a version field. This is version 1. Detailed information for programmers can be found at Tom Erbe's website. The PEAK chunk is supported in the CDP Multi-Channel Toolkit.

June 2001:

Added a 32bit floats AIFC example.
 
 

Test WAVE files.

Mono and stereo files:

Soundfile 1:  a basic minimum-header standard mono WAVE file.  Should be safe.
 22050Hz, 16bit, 2.58 secs, 113,748bytes.
Zipfile    99,216 bytes

Soundfile 2: the same, except in TYPE-3 32bit floats.
22050Hz,  16bit, 2.58 secs, 32bit floats, 227,452 bytes
Zipfile   209,316 bytes

Soundfile 3: a standard 16bit stereo WAVE file, but with a long header. Should be safe.
22050hz, 16bit, 1.32 secs, 118,168 bytes
Zipfile   79,796 bytes

Soundfile 4: the same, but in TYPE-3 32bit floats.
22050hz, 32bit floats, 1.32 secs, 234,246 bytes
Zipfile   99,914 bytes

Soundfile 5:  a basic enveloped sinewave, 440 Hz, TYPE-3 floats
44100 Hz, 32bits,1.85 secs, 328,458 bytes.
Zipfile 299,546 bytes

Soundfile 6:  a minimum-header mono 24bit WAVE file.
22050hz, 24bit PCM, 2 secs, 131,682 bytes (created with Cool Edit Pro)
Zipfile   112,303 bytes
 

An AIFF-C Example:

Soundfile 7: same as Soundfile 4, but PEAK chunk only
Zip File (95K)
(NB: the Quicktime plugin seems not to like this file!)
 

Multi-channel files (all with long header) (created with CDP):

Soundfile 8: a quad (4-channel) file. Three channels have boring sounds.
22050Hz, 16bit, 1.98 secs, 352,288 bytes
Zipfile   165,108 bytes

Soundfile 9: a six-channel file. A mono sound, reverberated into 6 channels.
(The direct sound is written to channels 1 and 2 only)
22050Hz, 16bit, 2.36 secs, 626,812 bytes
Zipfile   351,869 bytes
 

Soundcards.

To play a multi-channel file on a PC, a soundcard must have a Windows MME and/or DirectX* driver offering a single WAVE device with the required number of channels. On the Mac, since the Sound manager only supports mono and stereo, you will need to rely on ASIO drivers. Users of SGI machines can usually enjoy at least 4-channel audio; newer machines include an 8-channel ADAT port. Refer to their audio page for more details.

The following cards should be able to play all the multi-channel files:

Sonorus STUDI/O (the most flexible driver support I know of : drivers are also in development for Linux and BeOS)
            (almost certainly also the new MEDI/O card; includes Windows2000 WDM drivers)
Creamware PULSAR (V1.1 update provides 16ch WAVE modules), and TDAT-16 (presumably using theSonorus drivers)
Frontier Design WaveCenter (single 8-channel device)
Soundscape  Mixtreme (twin TDIF ports)
RME DIGI96/8 (ADAT port + SPDIF/AES-EBU port; supports 96KHz, 24/32bit audio)
Terratec EWS88MT (8ch analog I/O, 24bit, 96KHz, SPDIF I/O and MIDI, includes  NT4 driver)

There are probably others; I will list them when I have confirmation. As new drivers are introduced for Windows2000 (and Win98 SE), many more cards can be expected to support multi-channel files.

The following cards definitely cannot play these files at present:

Creative Labs SB-series**
Lexicon Studio
Gadget Labs WAVE/4, and WAVE/8.24
Yamaha DSP-Factory

*Although it is possible for a DirectX/DirectShow  audio driver to accept more than two channels, as for MME, a majority of DirectShow plugins will probably not. The general situation regarding DirectShow remains less than clear!

**the NT version of the SB16PnP driver (MME and DirectX)  will in fact accept a quad file, and play it in stereo, at half speed!
 

The following software products are known to read multi-channel files:

Syntrillium Cool Edit Pro, with the v1.1 update,  loads as multiple mono, cannot save a multi-channel file.
Sonic Foundry SoftEncode (5.1 version) (known up to 6 channels)
Composers Desktop Project (CDP) (can create files with any number of channels, WAVE and AIFF)
Csound (can read and write quad and 8-ch  files)

The Yamaha 'Tiny Wave Editor' for the Macintosh will (apparently) read in a multi-channel file, and even save it.
Unfortunately, the Windows version I tried crashes when it attempts to draw the fourth channel.

I have been told by one of their UK reps  that the Sonic Solutions DVD authoring tools will read and write 6-channel AIFF files in 5.1 format.

Floating-point files:

the following applications are known to read and write Type-3 floating-point files:
Syntrillium Cool Edit Pro
Composers Desktop Project (CDP)
Csound

Again, there are probably others.

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