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Hissing voice recordings once again *sigh*

posted by Quanta on - last edited - Viewed by 1.6K users

i just registered my account to post this issue as it bothers me since the first "Sam & Max" Season by Telltale. It's an issue of purely technical nature. No criticising of artistical quality.

Telltale apparently uses a really (and i mean REALLY) bad compression algorithm for the voice recordings as they HISS very badly. I'm certain that this is not the fault of the recording studio (it would be bankrupt anyways with such bad quality work) as the german voices of Sam & Max for example hiss just the same way they do in english.

I wouldn't write here if it wouldn't really bother me but it does. BIG TIME. And I don't get it. Every average shooter with a hilariously stupid plot and bad voice acting has ultra-clear sound quality whereas here - a game heavily focused on dialogs - sounds like a game from the mid-nineties.

There are high quality audio codecs for free which certainly do a better job than this (OGG, for example). Why not use one of them?

Tell me, Telltale. Please!

PS: If my grammar appears to be strange: english is not my native language.
36 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • For what it's worth, some audigy drivers do a fair amount of post-processing on audio that can emphasize compression artifacts. You might want to check your settings to see if any reverb effects or the 'crystallizer' setting are turned on.
  • Any post-processing is deactivated by default. And the Crystalizer you mention is exclusive to the X-Fi series i think. I've got CMSS(2) and certain EAX effects to choose from. But none is active.

    I just replayed some parts of the demo with my Sennheiser headset plugged in and the hissy voices stay exactly the same. :(
  • And check the equalizer too : if you hear a lot of hisses, don't add too much high tones, or you'll hear the compression a lot !

    I just launched the ingame "Preview" with my SB Audigy 2 (all effets off) and hearing on headphones (Sony MDR-7506), the voices sounds the same than Sam & Max. It's not great quality, of course you can hear the compression, but it's enough I think. With all the speech the game includes, having a little improvement on sound quality would make the file grow a lot.

    (And, I use subtitles, so... ;))

    Old games, like the first Sam & Max (HTR), used 8 bit 22050 Hz sound, in VOC format. It was not compressed like MP3, but the sound was very noisy. Music was simple Midi files (and sometimes a CD track).

    The main problem for me is, like other threads talked about, the sound mixing (music being too loud for the speech).
  • Well, usually i have 55% treble. But on 50% default setting it's the same. And lowering it even more would only decrease overall sound quality.

    I've checked the files in the Wallace & Gromit demo "pack" folder and it says:
    • 1_wallacegromitdemo_pc_data.ttarch - 98,2 MB
    • 2_wallacegromitdemo_pc_voice.ttarch - 3,73 MB
    • 3_wallacegromitdemo_pc_ms.ttarch - 12,4 MB
    If I assume that the "voice" file contains the speech samples, then a compression factor even half the size would increase the overall size only by a small amount.
  • It's funny how I never ever heard hissing on any of my computers... This must truly be a sound card oddity. I'll have to say that the acoustics of some S&M season 1 voices sound a bit hollow/"small room" like, but that improved over time anyway. :)

    About compression: I'm a person who's more annoyed by the compression/low res on textures and stuff sometimes. I'd love for Telltale to lower the compression a bit on these for DVD versions and stuff...
  • The 's' sounds by the neighbor lady sound really bad to me. It really does hurt the overall experience. I'm sad. The other voices aren't bad at all though. The flower lady's voice just breaks quite a bit whenever she says an s. It's not just a little glitch you can notice - it's hard not to pay attention to it when you play.

    Is there really no way for you to provide a 'hi-def' audio version for those with the bandwidth to download it? It couldn't be that much work to make a bit less compressed audio package available, would it? It'd really make a difference, at least to me and apparently to several other people too. Please don't dismiss this as pointless bickering. :(
  • First I have a background in the film and though I am not an audio engineer I do have a fair amount of knowledge in regards to proper audio quality.

    I just signed up specifically to chime into the big reason why all the dialog has a crackly, crispy, and distorted sound to it.
    It is called audio clipping which occurs when the audio engineer mixes the audio level beyond the threshold, or rather the range. What you will hear then is distortion and when excessive with speech you will experience those annoying artifacts. Everyone has a strong digital lisp, painfully apparent with the neighbor lady.

    Audio compression, different from mp3 compression, is another annoying attribute that is far too common in the game industry and notoriously in the music industry. Audio compression reduces dynamic range in order for the sound to be louder, when used properly it is an essential tool but these days it is excessively abused.

    I enjoyed the demo from a visual and game play aspect but the poor mixing between the various audio elements is frustrating and should be addressed with separate volume levels. Why is the music mixed so much louder than the dialog?
    Frankly it all sounded very lo-fi. I know the ogg format can deliver clean dynamic audio if that is what is provided. Heck a game from 1996, the Pandora Directive has cleaner dynamic audio than today's stuff.

    This is not a driver or sound card issue, this is an originating audio engineering issue which is perpetuated by those who have lost some hearing and listen to low quality audio sources, such as todays modern music recordings and earbuds, on less capable audio systems.

    Unfortuntately this is a big reason why I haven't purchased any of the second season of Sam & Max or even completed the first series because of these issues.
    I know my equipment and it is not the highest end stuff in the world but it is more than adequate to reveal great recordings and accurately reproduce poor ones. Alas as far as the demo shows and S&M this is systemic to Telltale Games audio department and even worse is that so many people assume that crispy distortion equates to good sound.

    I lament the good old days of Hi-Fi.

    Best Regards

    -Not affiliated with this site.
    Check out this website to learn more about audio compression and audio clipping. There are additional articles in respects to these issues.

    Actually to disprove my observation someone should extract the dialog audio and examine it in an audio editing suite, please post some pics because it will be very telling.
  • Thanks for all the feedback, everyone. We are continuing to tweak the audio for the final release to hopefully address some of the issues that have been mentioned here.
  • Seriously... I never have ever had this problem, but here is what telltale needs to do.

    #1) provide very high quality voices in the releases, at least triple the quality so that it sounds good on all sound setups.

    #2) but this is going to make the game rather large, and may take a lot more time to download for some users with slow connections, so telltale should offer individual episodes on CD (nothing fancy, just the installer and files on a plain disc in a paper holder so they can be made for little/no charge) for those who it would take a day or longer for them to download the game... these discs would be separate from the bonus DVD gotten for purchasing the season set and made available to ONLY those who really need them.

    That way... everyone is happy, case dismissed
  • Linque;118501 said:
    The 's' sounds by the neighbor lady sound really bad to me. It really does hurt the overall experience. I'm sad. The other voices aren't bad at all though. The flower lady's voice just breaks quite a bit whenever she says an s. It's not just a little glitch you can notice - it's hard not to pay attention to it when you play.
    Agreed. I didn't notice this as much when I first played through the demo on my laptop, but now that I'm home and running the game through a proper sound system, especially the flower lady sounds over-compressed.

    Sound quality has been a problem with both seasons of Sam & Max and with Strong Bad, so I'm also hoping this is something that will be fixed in the future. A separate download "patch" with higher quality dialogue for those who want it? Or just increase the download size for all, though since you've got download caps and crazy stuff like that in the states, maybe download size is a bigger issue there than in Europe.
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