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3D Sound Glossary



3D Sound Glossary

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3D Sound™ -- retrieves the spatial information from any stereo recording and restores the original three-dimensional sound field which is much closer to that of a live performance;

3D Monoscopic: A representation of objects in a 3D space (length, width and height coordinates) on a 2D surface, such as a computer monitor. The perception of depth is simulated by visual clues such as lighting, shadows and perspective.

3D Stereoscopic: Depth perception is simulated by using two images (a stereo pair consisting of a left eye perspective and right eye perspective) where through a variety of techniques, the left eye sees only the left view and the right eye sees only the right view; mimicking the real-life behavior of the human eye.


A3D Aureal's 3D positional audio technology and audio API.

A3D 1.x Aureal's API that provided for hardware accelerated 3D audio in Windows 95 and 98. Similar to DS3D, it improved upon DS3D by providing hardware acceleration, high-frequency roll-off, and a resource manager. A3D 1.x was designed to work on licensed Aureal A3D hardware only, though many companies have created emulation A3D.DLL files to intercept A3D calls and translate them to DS3D calls. Showcase titles for A3D 1.x are Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II and Unreal.

A3D 2.0 Aureal's audio engine that provides for hardware accelerated 3D audio, Wavetracing (geometry-based occlusions and reflections), and environments. Unlike A3D 1.x or EAX, A3D 2.0 is a complete audio engine that works on any sound card, providing some form of 3D audio on every platform. Showcase titles for A3D 2.0 are Half-Life and Heretic II.

A3D 3.0 Aureal's new audio engine that provides for hardware accelerated 3D audio, Wavetracing (geometry-based reflections, occlusions, and revrb), reverb, streaming audio, Dolby Digital support, MP3 playback, volumetric sound sources, I3DL2 and EAX compatibility, and environments.

Unlike A3D 1.x or EAX, A3D 3.0 is a complete audio engine that works on any sound card, providing some form of 3D audio (and possibly reverb) on any platform. Upcoming showcase titles for A3D 3.0 are Messiah and Experience.

A3D.DLL File distributed by Aureal with their licensed A3D products necessary for playing A3D titles. Several other audio companies also provide their own version of this file to provide A3D 1.x emulation.

A3DAPI.DLL File distributed by Aureal and games that use the A3D 2.0 or A3D 3.0 engine; necessary for enabling the audio engine.

API Application Programming Interface - a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. A good API makes it easier to develop a program by providing all the building blocks.

Aureal Inc. The company that creates, sells, and markets the A3D technology and Vortex chipsets. (Formerly known as Aureal Semiconductor.)

Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP): An expansion port which enables faster data transmission between a graphics card and the computer's CPU, resulting in faster 3D graphics display.

Active Glasses/Shutterglassses: Glasses (usually Liquid Crystal) used to view stereoscopic content in which the left and right lenses alternate between transparent and opaque.

Anaglyph (format): Stereoscopic image format that uses color filters (often red/green or red/blue) to block the left image from the right eye and the right image from the left eye.

Anaglyph Glasses: Color filter glasses used to view Anaglyphic images. For example, a red lens over the left eye blocks the right viewpoint (printed in red) and a blue lens over the right eye blocks the left viewpoint (printed in blue).

Anti-Aliasing: The blending of adjacent pixels to simulate a smooth non-jagged edge.

Aspect Ratio: The ratio of width to height of an image. Most televisions and computer screens have a 4:3 aspect ratio whereas most movies and HDTV screens have a 16:9 aspect ratio.

ASIC -- 'application specific integrated circuit' or fully customized, task-specific semiconductor; ASICs are built by connecting existing circuit building blocks in new ways. Since these building blocks can already exist in a library, it is much easier to produce a new ASIC than to design a new chip.


Bitmap: A graphics format in which an image is comprised of rasterized pixels. Common bitmap image formats are: gif, jpeg, tiff, bmp and PICT.

Broadband: A high speed data connection usually via a cable or telecommunications provider. An Internet connection faster than a dial-up modem, such as a cable modem or DSL connection.

Buffer: A temporary memory location used to store data, usually to prevent hardware such as the computer's CPU to be overwhelmed or bottlenecked by data.


Creative Labs The company the creates, sells, and markets the EAX technology and Sound Blaster cards.

Crosstalk The fact that when listening to a set of stereo speakers, the left ear can hear some of the right speaker, and the right ear some of the audio coming from left speaker.

Crosstalk cancellation The process of removing such crossing of audio information to the "opposite" ear.

Cache (Web Cache): A location in memory on the hard disk of a computer that stores a copy of the most recently requested web pages. Because of the cache, web pages are displayed more quickly because the browser retrieves data locally, rather than over the Internet.

Codec (Encode/Decode): Software or hardware technology that uses a variety of mathematical algorithms to compress and de-compress data. Codecs are often used to create smaller file sizes for transmission over the Internet.

Cookies: Software sent to a browser to customize a site for a user.

CPU (Central Processing Unit): The main processing chip on a computer's motherboard.

Cross-Eyed Viewing: Method of viewing a stereoscopic image where the right and left images are displayed side by side with the left view on the right and the right view on the left. To see the stereoscopic effect, the viewer slowly crosses his or her eyes until the images merge into one center image.

CRT (Cathode Ray Tube): A monitor which displays images by beaming electrons towards the CRT, which produce light as they collide with phosphors on the inside surface. This is the type of monitor that works with X3D shutterglasses.

Circle Surround™ -- a multi-channel encoding and decoding technology designed to encode five discrete channels into two channels (the same space required for stereo) and decode the two channels back into five for playback over a hi-fi or home theater system equipped for multi-channel playback.

CS-5.1™ -- the latest adaptive matrix technology with built-in intelligent steering logic; includes multi-channel surround sound with full bandwidth for both movies and music;


Diamond Multimedia The company that makes and sells the Monster Sound line of sound cards.

DirectSound (aka DS) Microsoft's standard API for playing sounds in a 2D environment; part of their DirectX technology.

DirectSound 3D (aka DS3D) Microsoft's standard API for playing sounds positioned in 3D space; part of their DirectX technology.

Direct Path Sounds that travel directly from a source to the listener.

DLS Downloadable samples - a standard format for soundbank downloads.

Doppler effect The change in frequency of a sound wave due to the motion of a sound source or of a listener. For example, if a car moves past a listener while sounding its horn, the listener will hear a sudden drop in pitch as the car passes.

Depth-of-Field: The difference between the nearest point and farthest point of an object in an image that is within acceptable focus.

Detonator XP Unified Driver Architecture (UDA): nVIDIA graphics card driver that enhances performance in all of nVIDIA's GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) in both Direct X and Open GL, as well as new hardware acceleration for Windows XP for 3D textures and shadow buffers.

Digital -- all data that a computer processes must be encoded digitally, as a series of zeroes and ones. Internally, computers are digital because they consist of discrete units called bits that are either on or off. But by combining many bits in complex ways, computers simulate analog events;

Direct 3D (D3D): The Direct X interface used to accelerate 2d and 3d graphics.

Direct X: A technology developed by Microsoft that gives programmers low-level access to the sound and graphics capabilities of a computer in order to optimize and accelerate performance. This technology is most often used for games that require "real time" rendering of visuals.

Dongle: A hardware device connected to a peripheral device that regulates access to a specific application or device control.

Drivers: Software used for a computer to communicate with peripheral devices such as printers, scanners, keyboards etc.


EAX  Environmental Audio Extensions - a reverb property set created by Creative Labs for Microsoft's DirectSound 3D.

EAX 1.0 Creative's first revision of their API which provides for global reverb on DS3D audio sources, using 26 presets.

EAX 2.0 Creative's second revision of their API that was later abandoned in favor of I3DL2, which provided similar functionality.

EAX 3.0 Creative's third revision of their API which adds support for occlusions and obstructions, reflections, dynamic morphing between environments, and provides for complete control over individual environment parameters.

EMU 10k1 Creative Labs's audio DSP used on the SB Live! series of sound cards.

Environmental Audio Creative Labs's term for the technology of 3D positional audio (via DS3D) and reverb (via EAX).


Flat Panel Display: A very thin display screen that utilizes plasma or liquid crystal technologies.

Frame Buffer: Temporary memory used to store a bitmapped image being sent to a monitor; usually stored in main memory in the video chipset on the motherboard.

Frames per Second: The amount of images displayed per second in order to create the simulation of motion. For example, NTSC is a television format that displays 30 interlaced images per second.

Frequency: The number of oscillations per second, usually measured in Hertz (Hz); refers to the refresh rate of the image on a computer monitor.

Fab-less -- a design production facility that does not manufacture integrated circuits onsite but outsource tasks to suppliers;

FOCUS™ -- electronically repositions a sound image from any non-optimally located speaker. The technology was originally designed for use in automobiles where producing a vivid stereo sound image is often a challenge due to door-mounted speakers;


Graphics Card: An add-on card attached to the computer's motherboard to accelerate the display of computer graphics.

Graphics Processing Unit (GPU): Micro-processing computer chip used in graphics cards to accelerate the display of graphics. The GPU is used especially for mathematically intensive tasks, such as the display texture maps and lighting effects that would otherwise be handled by the CPU, thus slowing down its speed and performance.


HRTFs HRTFs are the algorithms used to render the positional audio in DS3D and A3D games. Aureal's HRTF algorithms are measured from a sampling of head sizes and ear shapes to generate a default set that work best for the majority of users.

A single HRTF (Head Related Transfer Functions) consists of two audio filters (one for each ear) that contain all the listening cues that are applied to a sound as it travels from a position in space, through the environment, and arrives at the listener's ears. The filters change depending on the direction from which the sound arrives at the listener. A complete HRTF set contains dozens of filters to describe a spherical map that covers all directions around a listener (360 degrees in all directions).

High Definition Television (HDTV): A television format that has more scan lines, resulting in higher resolutions, better color and enhanced sound.

HTML (HyperText Markup Language): Standard language used to create documents for the World Wide Web.

Hyperlink: Text on a web site created with HTML that navigates to another web page or another location on the same page when visitors click on it.

Hyperstereo: A stereo imaging technique in which the horizontal distance of the left and right views is increased. This gives a stereoscopic effect to far-away objects for which depth is normally not perceived.

Hyperstudio: Multimedia authoring software; a browser plug-in is required to view Hyperstudio multimedia content on the Internet.


I3DL1 An IASIG standard for 3D positional audio.

I3DL2 An IASIG standard for reverb and occlusion/obstruction effects.

IASIG Interactive Audio Special Interest Group - groups of industry professionals who help to formulate new standards.

I/O (input/output): The transfer of data in and out of a computer.

Infrared (transmitter): The wireless transmission of data between electronic devices.

Interleaved/Interlaced Stereoscopic: Image format in which the left and right views are combined or "woven" together, line by line. Each line alternates between the left and right view of the image.

ISP (Internet Service Provider): Company that provides access to the Internet.

IC -- integrated circuit, 'chip' or semiconductor;

Internet appliance -- any tool or device which acts as an add-on or enhancer for a downloadable digital medium such as MP3;


Jps (stereo jpeg): Jpeg files which contain stereo pairs of images.


There are no terms in this glossary that start with this letter.


LCD (Liquid Crystal Display): A display technology that displays images using two polarizing surfaces, separated by a liquid crystal solution. This type of display technology is used in laptop computers and flat panel monitors and does not work with shutter glasses.

Lenticluar: A special process in which images are interwoven to simulate depth, using light-bending filters.

Listener The place or character in a game (usually the player character) that is defined as the player's ears. This is the object in space that is sampling - or listening to - the sounds.


Materials (aka acoustic materials) What an object is made out of; the material affects how sounds are occluded and reflected - a stone wall will occlude more sound than a wooden wall, and a wooden wall will reflect more sound than a carpeted wall.

Monitor: The screen a computer uses to display an image. See CRT, LCD and PDP.

Motherboard: The main circuit board of a computer containing the CPU, bus, memory and coprocessor sockets. All peripheral cards for the computer are plugged into the motherboard.

Multi-plexing (Muxing): Merging of several low-speed data transmissions into one high-speed transmission.

MP3 -- popular though low-fidelity downloadable internet music format; dramatic sound improvement with WOWThing™.


nVIDIA: A company that develops graphics cards. nVIDIA graphic cards are compatible with Open GL, Direct X and AGP technology.


OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer): Manufacturers of equipment that is sold to other companies or resellers, which they use to build a complete system.

Open GL: A graphics language developed by Silicon Graphics Incorporated for use with 3D graphic accelerators.

Obstructions Sounds that originate from a sound source but get blocked by a moving object such as a character, a closing door, or a vehicle before reaching the listener. The result is that the sound is obstructed, and sounds muffled.

Occlusions Sounds that originate from a sound source behind a wall or door or other solitary object. The sound is occluded (changed - usually with a volume drop and muffling) as it passes through the wall, depending on its thickness and its material.


Page Flipping /Page Flip Mode: Method of viewing stereoscopic content by using video hardware to rapidly switch the left and right eye view in temporal sync with shutter glasses.

Parallel Port: 25 pin interface cable usually used to connect a computer to devices such as a printer, scanner or other peripheral device.

Parallax - Negative: The perceived depth of an image positioned in front of the projection plane of the stereo viewing window.

Parallax - Positive: The perceived depth of an image positioned behind the projection plane of the stereo viewing window.

Parallax - Zero: The subject of an image that lies on projection plane of the stereo window.

Parallel Viewing (Relaxed Viewing): The left and right views are displayed side by side with the left view on the left side and the right view on the right side. The stereoscopic image is then viewed by slowly relaxing the eyes or using a "3D Viewer."

PDP (Plasma Display Panel): A display technology that passes a high voltage through low-pressure gas in order to create light. This type of display technology offers a brighter picture, wider viewing angle, better color purity, and higher contrast ratio than LCD monitors. It offers a clearer, sharper picture, more uniform brightness, flicker-free images, and consumes less power than CRT monitors. PDP monitors do not work with shutter glasses.

Polarized glasses/passive glasses: Glasses with polarized lenses that enable people to view stereoscopic content that is usually displayed by a projector.

PPI (Pixels per Inch): A unit of measurement used to determine the resolution of a rasterized image, which is an image comprised of pixels rather than objects. A higher PPI display allows for greater resolution. The number of pixels per inch that is used to display an image.

Protocol: A language that dissimilar computers use to communicate with one another.

Pulfrich Effect (format): Stereoscopic image format that requires horizontal motion. 3D depth is achieved when one eye is covered with a dark filter and the other eye is left free. By default, the brain matches information from an image in the unfiltered eye with information that came a beat earlier from the filtered eye.


QuickTime: A cross-platform multimedia technology developed by Apple that enables both Macintosh and Windows users to play back audio and video.

QuickTime VR: Form of QuickTime that enables users to view and interact with Virtual Reality by using their computer mouse. QuickTime VR usually involves content such as panoramas and 3D objects.

Quad mode Setting in the Vortex Control Panel that sets the sound card up for 4 speakers where each speaker is addressed separately.


Reflections Sounds that originate from a sound source and bounce off walls, floors, and ceilings before reaching the listener. When the sound bounces off one wall and reaches the listener, its a first order reflection. If the sound bounces off two walls before reaching the listener, its a second order reflection. All other reflections are referred to as late order reflections, or reverb. First order reflections sound very similar to the original source.

Reverb The sum of all sound reflections in a given environment.

RAM (Random Access Memory): A memory chip used to run applications and computer operating systems. Computers use RAM because it is much faster than hard disk memory. RAM chips can only retain memory while the main power source of the computer is on.

RAMDAC (Random Access Memory Digital/Analog Converter): Portion of the graphics card used to convert the digital color signal that is transmitted from the computer into analog signals to be displayed by a CRT monitor. Higher screen resolutions and refresh rates require faster RAMDACS.

Refresh Rate: The rate at which a monitor redraws the screen image. This rate is usually measured in Hertz (Hz). For example, a monitor with a 65Hz refresh rate redraws the screen image 65 times per second. Faster refresh rates reduce the amount of "flicker" in the monitor image.

Rendering: The computation of the light, colors, shadows and textures of an image.


Serial Port: Hardware interface used to connect modems and mice to a computer; serial ports come in USB 9 or USB 25 pin varieties.

Stereo: Pair of images used to create a stereoscopic effect; one of a "left" view and one of a "right" view.

Stereoscopic: see 3D

S/PDIF S/PDIF stands for Sony/Philips Digital Interface. It is a technology for transmitting data in a digital medium to preserve quality. It is a lossless transmission.

Sensaura The company that produces the 3D positional and reverb algorithms for the newer ESS and Yamaha audio chipsets.

Source (aka sound source) The object or point in 3D space from which a sound originates.

StereoX2 Setting in the Diamond Control Panel that sets the sound card up for 4 speakers where the audio sent to the front speakers is duplicated and sent to the rear speakers. The same feature is in the Vortex Control Panel and takes effect when either the "Monitor Speakers" or "Satellite Speakers" option is selected.

Semiconductor™ -- integrated circuit or 'chip', a micro electronic circuit imprinted on a silicon wafer, usually defined as the brains of a computer controlling the operating system and functionality;

System-On-Chip -- highly specialized and ultra miniature tools which add extra functionality to a chip;

SRS Headphone™ -- audio enhancement technology that provides a realistic and spacious listening experience through standard headphones by repositioning sound from inside the listener's head into space, creating more natural sound;


Terratec The company that makes and sells the XLerate line of sound cards.

Turtle Beach The company that makes and sells the Montego line of sound cards.

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol): Protocol used to identify computers and to transfer data between computers on a local network or via the Internet.

X3D True Depth Visualization: Stereoscopic technology that simulates the way the way a human eye perceives depth; the left and right eye sees its own perspective view, resulting in "true depth."

Texture Mapping: Bitmaps images applied to a 3D object. Higher resolution texture maps require more processing time, and often a graphics card is used to accelerate real-time rendering for games.

TruSurround™ -- a Dolby(r)-certified technology that allows for a virtualized surround sound experience from a two-speaker playback using any multichannel audio source, including Dolby Digital, Dolby Surround or Dolby Pro Logic;

TruBass™ -- a remarkable new audio enhancement technology that provides deep, rich bass to small speaker systems without the need for a subwoofer or additional extra physical components. For systems with a subwoofer, TruBass complements and enhances bass performance;


Unified Driver Architecture (UDA): see Detonator XP


VideoLogic The company that makes and sells the SonicVortex 2 sound card.

Vortex 1 (AU8820) Aureal's first generation audio chipset, featured on Xitel's Storm VX and Turtle Beach's Montego A3DXStream sound cards.

Vortex 1 (AU8808) Aureal's cost-reduced version of the AU8820 chipset. It has the same feature set as the 8820, and uses the same drivers.

Vortex 2 (AU8830) Aureal's second generation audio chipset, featured on Aureal's SQ2500 and SQ3500 Turbo sound cards.

Vortex Advantage (AU8810) Aureal's low cost, low power audio chipset, designed for use in laptops and on motherboards.

Vector Image: An image that is comprised of objects created by mathematical equations rather than pixels as in a rasterized image.

VGA (Variable Graphics Array): The port on a computer where the monitor is connected. VGAs use analog signals to display digital information. This enables a monitor to display subtle differences in color. VGA is the industry standard used in desktop monitors and LCD screens. VGA enables monitors to display resolutions up to 640x480 with up to 16 colors at a time and 320x200 resolution with 256 colors.

Video Card: see Graphics Card

Video Processing Engine (VPE): Graphics procession unit developed by nVIDIA that increases general performance by decoding and playback of video, instead of using the CPU.

Virtual Reality (VR): An artificial space that exists within a computer. VR is often displayed using 3D goggles to display true depth and enhance the computer viewing experience.

VIP™ -- a patented, DSP-based, voice technology from SRS Labs that provides remarkable improvements in audio intelligibility, especially in environments with high levels of ambient noise;


Wavetracing Aureal's audio technology which uses the geometry of a room passed from the graphics engine to trace sound waves and model and render occlusions, obstructions, reflections, and reverb.

Wireless Transmitter: see Infrared.

WOWThing™ -- an Internet appliance that creates extraordinary enhancement to the listening experience. The device easily plugs into any sound system including small multimedia speakers, mini-stereos, "boom boxes" or TVs and can deliver an profound audio performance with improved image size, dynamics and immersion;

X & Y

Xitel The company that makes and sells the Storm line of sound cards.


Z-Buffers: A space in memory used to temporarily store "z-depth" information for a 2D image. Memory that stores z-axis or "depth" information about an object.



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