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Onboard sound card for actuator output?

Discussion in 'DIY Motion Simulator Building Q&A / FAQ' started by Map63Vette, May 19, 2016.

  1. Map63Vette

    Map63Vette Member

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    So maybe this is hidden somewhere in here, but I haven't had much luck in my searching. I'm looking at getting some fairly basic feedback into a sim rig and was just going to start with a single actuator on a seat like a ButtKicker or the like. It seems most builds and guides I've found always talk about a second sound card to run actuators, but most of these builds are using multiple channels and need the extra outputs. It is possible to use the onboard audio of my motherboard to run both audio and actuator output? I have 5.1 (if not 7.1, would have to check) capability with my onboard hardware, but only use the standard "speaker out" port to run a set of stereo speakers. Is it possible to use one of the free channels (like the sub for instance) to run an actuator with SimTools? I know I can just hook the actuator up to the sub channel to get low frequency sounds to play as vibration, but I want the telemetry powered vibration instead so I can tune just what is transmitted. I may later upgrade to more actuators and might need the extra channels a secondary card would provide, but as it stands now I have 2-3 free channels on my onboard card that aren't being used by anything. Does SimTools completely take over a sound card though so it can't be used for audio as well?
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    Ads Master

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  3. Historiker

    Historiker Dramamine Adict Staff Member Moderator Gold Contributor

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    Hi @Map63Vette,

    Simtools does not yet have vibration support (coming in Simtools 2.0)

    As for using a separate channel from your existing card, I have done this in the past. The downside is that you cannot tune those channels to pick up specific forces, just the normal audio cues sent to the sound card. You can do this with any sound device that has more than one audio output (5.1 or 7.1)

    The drawback is that your audio device is already sending bass signals to the subwoofer unit (using 2.1 speakers) so the sounds available to the outputs left over (left and right front) are not that heavy with bass (which is what the transducers [not actuators] use to transmit vibrations). You would also need an amplifier for those channels that are not being fed into the subwoofer.

    I have also soldered extra wire to the subwoofer speaker and then to an additional amplifier then to a transducer. This worked pretty well but I ran the risk of backfeeding into my subwoofer and blowing it.
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  4. Map63Vette

    Map63Vette Member

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    Hmm, I guess maybe I had the wrong impression of the SimTools software then as I thought they supported the telemetry output on some games already. I get that I can use one of the existing channels if I'm using an audio source to drive the transducer, but my understanding was that telemetry based output (like SimVibe) almost always seems to say that you need an secondary card. I never quite understood the "why" for this particular quirk. The best guess I could make was that the software was an "all or nothing" setup where it needed full control over the hardware unit and couldn't just use channels within one card.

    The concept in my head is I have 6 available audio channels in a 5.1 setup (realistically this number is more like 4 because left and right get output on a single plug for front and rear channels). I would like the front left and right channels to be controlled by Windows to output audio like it normally would. Then I would like to use one of the remaining 3 channels (center, rear, or subwoofer) and have SimTools or SimVibe or something like that output telemetry data through that channel. I have yet to see this question come up in my searching. All guides just seem to say you need a second card. It seems like the software can only control a full hardware component and not individual parts of it I guess, but that never seems to be stated anywhere that I've found yet.

    Alternatively, this may not be a problem in the long run as I was planning to run the system with an Oculus Rift, so it would have sound over USB and I could dedicate the onboard card entirely to any telemetry software, but it would be nice to have both options available.
  5. Historiker

    Historiker Dramamine Adict Staff Member Moderator Gold Contributor

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    Simtools does use telemetry from games but that is for motion. Simtools 2.0, when released will also use telemetry from games to drive transducers via an audio device.

    The reason for a separate audio device is, as I understand it, the software sends signals to the audio device to be compiled as sound and then distributed. The device can only handle instructions from one source at a time so for both sound and vibration you would need two devices. Think of it as a video signal. Although the monitor might have many types of inputs it can only display one of those at a time.
  6. Map63Vette

    Map63Vette Member

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    Ah, that makes sense. Makes for an easier way to look at it. I realize a second card isn't a huge expense, but if I didn't need one I'd like to leave out the complexity. Do you think it would be possible to have audio over USB with a Rift and have SimTools drive outputs with the sound card or does the USB still "use" the sound card for audio processing so that SimTools can't?
  7. Historiker

    Historiker Dramamine Adict Staff Member Moderator Gold Contributor

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    I have no experience with the Rift but if it uses a USB sound device then it will not interfere with your using the internal sound device to drive transducers as they are separate devices.

    I use a Logitech G930 USB headset for sound and a separate sound card for SimVibe.

    If you have a spare PCI-e 1x slot (or any non GPU slot for that matter) it is a simple matter to install an extra sound card.
  8. gazza1101

    gazza1101 Member

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    How about splitting the subwoofer signal into 2? I use a Buttkicker type device made by Earthquake attached to my sim rig using just the basic bass sounds that can not be tuned, well other than adjusting the volume, and I really would not like to race without it, it makes it much more immersive, can't wait for Simtools 2 ☺
  9. Map63Vette

    Map63Vette Member

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    That's where I'm leaning at the moment for a quick fix, but I'm not yet sure as I don't want to do things twice if I can avoid it. Ultimately I'd still have to buy a transducer anyway, so whether I drive it from just audio or telemetry is down to whether I want to spend a little extra cash or not for a second sound card (if I really need one).

    I'm mainly aiming to have a VR setup to play Assetto Corsa using an Oculus Rift, which I know has built-in headphones and communicates over USB, so in that regard I could probably still use some kind of telemetry software to drive a transducer with the onboard sound card. However, I think I like a little more "power" in my sound and may prefer something more like a 5.1 setup where I route my audio out of the optical port on my sound card to my receiver and speaker system I have set up for the TV. The computer can technically supply discrete channels to speakers individually, but at a low power relatively speaking, so each speaker would need individual amplification if I wanted more punch. Either way, if I want to use anything but the Rift headphones I'd need a second sound card from the sound of it. Not a huge investment, but I just wanted to make sure before I went buying things. I still need to build my cockpit to start with, so I have some other work to do. Not supposed to get my Rift until August either, so I have some time to work it out.
  10. Historiker

    Historiker Dramamine Adict Staff Member Moderator Gold Contributor

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    The other day I set up a bass shaker for my static flight simpit, I used an app that had been mentioned here in the forums before by @SilentChill I think. It is called Equalizer APO. You can use it to customize the output of any audio source. This means that you can indeed use the unused audio ports from a single sound device for your bass shakers (a dedicated is still best). You can create filters to make the left and right front outputs into subwoofer output for bass shakers, create new channels, etc. Great little program and it is free!

    https://sourceforge.net/projects/equalizerapo/

    Here is a Reddit post discussing the use in more detail. The author is using text commands but there are several very nice GUI interfaces as well.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/oculus/comments/2kd05t/my_free_bass_shaker_equalizerlow_pass_filter_setup/

    With the way I set it up, I turned the game sound off completely and played only with the bass shaker (Cliffs of Dover). I could feel the roar of the engine...course I had to turn up the volume to hear those pesky Spitfires shooting at me.....the broken cockpit and instruments were also a give away :D
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  11. SilentChill

    SilentChill Problem Maker

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    OOoopps never mind that will teach me to read the full thread lol
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  12. Map63Vette

    Map63Vette Member

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    Oh wow, that's a pretty nice middle-of-the-road solution. I'll have to look into that some more and see what I might be able to pull off with it.
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  13. gazza1101

    gazza1101 Member

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    Looks intersting.