AMD has announced a new audio processing chip, called TrueAudio, that will feature on its upcoming R9 and R7 graphics cards.
The Digital Sound Processor (DSP) is a dedicated bit of silicon that uses a scalable architecture of audio processing cores to parallelise audio effects computations, in a similar way to how graphics cards spread graphics calculations across hundreds of processor cores.
The reason for the DSP to be on a graphics card isn't entirely clear apart from being able to take advantage of the graphics pipeline's direct memory access, for high speed data retrieval. Seemingly the technology could just as easily be implemented on an APU or dedicated card too.
What TrueAudio isn't, however, is a sound card. It won't be taking over the output of audio but merely offsetting certain calculations, which would otherwise be too taxing to be left for just the CPU to do. These include effects like reverb and spatial audio as well as core functions like channel remixing and even just mp3 playback.
To get the ball rolling on support for TrueAudio, as well as approaching developers AMD is working with a number of audio middleware providers such as GenAudio to power its audio technologies. However, it will probably still be some time before widespread support starts to show.
TrueAudio will be in all of the R9 and R7 graphics cards that were just announced, and we believe the capabilities of it will be consistent across all the cards - currently there appears to be only one chip based on the new architecture.
Of course hardware accelerated audio processing is nothing new with the likes of Aureal and Creative having pushed the technology years ago. However with Windows Vista Microsoft completely pulled support for hardware-accelerated audio processing with DirectX. Now, with Windows 8 and the new consoles there is an opportunity for the technology to take off again.
This approach by AMD also ties in with its announcement of a new gaming API called Mantle
, which offers an alternative programming interface to DirectX and OpenGL. Clearly AMD is going to use the fact that its APUs power all the new consoles to push for a slew of new features that will help push forward gaming performance and features across both consoles and PCs.