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Tuesday, March 18, 2014
AMD Releases Mantle and TrueAudio Patch for Thief

If you own any of the AMD Radeon R9 and R7 Series GPUs are now able to experience the new AMD TrueAudio and Mantle technologies yourself, using a just released patched version of the Thief.

In order to experience Mantle, you'll also have to install the new AMD Catalyst 14.3 Beta drivers.

AMD TrueAudio technology is a hardware-level feature found on the AMD Radeon R9 290X, R9 290, R7 260X and R7 260 graphics cards. A small block of audio processing hardware (DSP) is integrated directly into the graphics chips in these products.

A DSP is specialized silicon dedicated to the task of processing digital signals, such as audio compression, audio filtering, speech processing and recognition, simulating audio environments, creating 3D sound fields and more.

DSPs are fully programmable, which allows developers to harness that hardware.

AMD used the Cadence IP and their portfolio of Tensilica Xtensa series DSPs. The company licensed their technology to equip each AMD TrueAudio-capable graphics card with Xtensa HiFi EP (PDF) core and a trio of Xtensa HiFi 2 (PDF) cores. Together, these four DSPs allow game developers to fully offload their game audio environment from the processor to AMD's GPU. Full offloading of a game?s audio engine is a key benefit of AMD TrueAudio technology.

AMD TrueAudio enters the audio chain at the application level, long before sound ever reaches your audio chip or audio endpoint (e.g. headphones). Whether you have integrated audio on the motherboard, a discrete sound card, or a standalone USB headset, AMD TrueAudio is already part and parcel of the audio stream that's being fed to these devices by the game?s audio engine. And because it operates at the application level, AMD TrueAudio is aware of the game?s positional and environmental data.

With respect to Thief, AMD TrueAudio is utilized to calculate an effect called "convolution reverb." Convolution reverb is a technique that mathematically simulates the echoes (i.e. reverberation) of a real-life location. This effect is accomplished by recording an "impulse response," which is a snapshot of the echo characteristics of a real-world location. That impulse response is fed back into software that can recreate that behavior in a PC game.

Thief uses this technique to make buildings, cathedrals, alleyways and other in-game venues sound. In an environment where there are adjacent areas with different echo characteristics and impulse response (example: a cathedral adjacent to a cave and an open space), multiple convolution reverbs must be processed in parallel to create the most realistic sound environment. AMD worked with Eidos to process up to four convolution reverbs simultaneously with AMD TrueAudio technology.

In addition to Thief, today AMD will also release an AMD TrueAudio-enabled demo prepared by GenAudio and FMOD for the Occulus Rift.

In this demo, called Tuscanny, AMD TrueAudio is utilized to calculate the spatialization of an audio environment. Spatialization is a technique that permits the audio engine to create a fully 3D soundfield on a stereo headset. This effect is powered by AstoundSound 3D RTI plugin by GenAudio, and it includes support for elevation, distance and positioning.

As far as Mantle is concerned, it is an Application Programming Interface (API), or a language that game developers can use to write code that creates graphics. In its current iteration, the Mantle API leverages the hardware in the Graphics Core Next architecture (GCN) of modern AMD Radeon GPUs for peak performance.

More broadly, Mantle is functionally similar to DirectX and OpenGL, but Mantle is different in that it was purpose-built as a lower level API. By "lower level," it's meant that the language of Mantle more closely matches the way modern graphics architectures (like AMD's own GCN) are designed to execute code. The primary benefit of a lower level API is a reduction in software bottlenecks, such as the time a GPU and CPU must spend translating/understanding/reorganizing code on-the-fly before it can be executed and presented to the user as graphics.

In Thief, Mantle is utilized to improve the graphics performance of many common PC configurations at a resolution of 1080p.

According to AMD's benchmarks, an entry-level gaming system based on the CPU in the new AMD A10-7700K APU (the on die GPU is disabled) and an AMD Radeon R7 260X graphics card sees up to 23% more performance when Mantle is enabled in Thief. In addition, the "High Quality" graphics preset offers playable framerates with Mantle enabled. However, users with this class of system would have to opt for lower image quality if it weren?t for Mantle?s performance improvements.

With a mid/high-end gaming system based on the AMD FX-8350 and an AMD Radeon R9 280X graphics card, Mantle will offer 19% higher framerates, under the game?s highest graphics settings.

In a high-end gaming system based on the Intel Core i5-4670K and the AMD Radeon R9 290X Graphics, gamers could see up to 17% additional performance at 1080p, according to AMD.

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