Xbox Series X 'Project Acoustics' audio ray tracing revealed

Xbox Series X Motherboard
Xbox Series X Motherboard (Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • The Xbox Series X is Microsoft's upcoming next-generation console.
  • It's expected to launch in Holiday 2020, but may be delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Digital Foundry confirmed that early performance was similar to an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080.
  • It also features audio ray tracing to enhance sound-based immersion.

A few weeks ago, we reported that the Xbox Series X featured audio ray tracing for even better sound. While a lot of details about this were unclear, today, we learned a lot more because of the official reveal.

Microsoft's audio ray tracing solution is called "Project Acoustics" and it sounds very impressive. You can read a little more about it below and on the company's website. It could be a real game-changer when it comes to immersion in games going forward. Hopefully, a lot of developers will implement it.

Project Acoustics is a wave acoustics engine for 3D interactive experiences. It models wave effects like occlusion, obstruction, portaling and reverberation effects in complex scenes without requiring manual zone markup or CPU intensive ray tracing. It also includes game engine and audio middleware integration. Project Acoustics' philosophy is similar to static lighting: bake detailed physics offline to provide a physical baseline, and use a lightweight runtime with expressive design controls to meet your artistic goals for the acoustics of your virtual world. Ray-based acoustics methods can check for occlusion using a single source-to-listener ray cast, or drive reverb by estimating local scene volume with a few rays. But these techniques can be unreliable because a pebble occludes as much as a boulder. Rays don't account for the way sound bends around objects, a phenomenon known as diffraction. Project Acoustics' simulation captures these effects using a wave-based simulation. The acoustics are more predictable, accurate and seamless. Project Acoustics' key innovation is to couple real sound wave-based acoustic simulation with traditional sound design concepts. It translates simulation results into traditional audio DSP parameters for occlusion, portaling, and reverb. The designer uses controls over this translation process.

It's hard to understand the difference until you experience it for yourself from what I understand. It'll be doubly interesting to see how it feels when you're using headphones. Is there an improvement to clarity? Dimensionality? Or more? Only time will tell.

For reference, Sony's upcoming PlayStation 5 also appears to support 3D audio, but the specifics at this point are unclear. We'll keep you posted as soon as we know more about both.

Xbox Series X/S


Asher Madan

Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.