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Music is degraded to *MONO* 10kHz @ 48 kbit/s?!

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Sorry for the long rant below to get my point across, but if you don't like long reads, here's the short version:


To all who read this,


Please contribute just a few minutes of your time to make a real difference and email LucasArts:


CLICK HERE to request the proper 44kHz *STEREO* music for KotOR2.


Telling LucasArts how you feel about the degraded (MONO 10 kHz muffled) music is arguably the single-most effective way you can contribute to this effort. If continuing feedback shows them that this is a bothersome issue to more than a handful customers, they will do something about it (as history showed with KotOR1).


Please, be proactive -- every voice counts!


Why is the music in KOTOR2 such a muffled, narrow-sounding, low-quality mess?


Because it's all compressed in the lowest bitrate with a 10 kHz-filter, and, to make things even worse, converted to MONO!


Why MONO?! Is this a bad joke?


I was very much looking forward to this new Star Wars-like soundtrack, particularly since LucasArts had created enough buzz about KOTOR2 using a live symphony orchestra this time around to achieve a "big, powerful sound", with legendary Skywalker Sound mixing it.


Yeah right. :huh:


This game goes back for a refund first thing on Monday. KOTOR 2 is buggy enough, but as a gamer seeking quality entertainment I won't accept such sub-standard audio quality in a 2005 game release that comes on 4 CDs! There is no excuse for that.


I won't take space concerns as a poor excuse: The whole music assets in KOTOR2 take up a measly 24 MB in its current butchered state. There is over 80 MB (!) unused space left on the 4th CD. If the music were encoded in standard 128 kbit/s STEREO, it would just need an extra 41 MB (2.7x more bytes) -- which would have easily fit on the 4 game CDs.


This is preposterous.


No... outrageous!


Music is *half* the experience for me both in gaming and in movies. It totally creates the atmosphere of the setting, characters and story. Music can generate emotions and feelings and thus pull you into this fictional world -- an effect of immersion that (apart from being there for real and experiencing your own emotions) cannot be achieved by starring at 3D graphics on a flat (2D) 19" monitor alone and listening to some dialogue.


Gaming on a flat screen is like looking through a small window into a larger world. But it's the music which opens it up and enlarges that world for you.


I'm sure many gamers here are with me on this. Music is the most powerful tool any storyteller can have, because it acts like a second narrator, who can comment on things that are too hard or impossible to put into words. As long as game graphics are still so cartoony and artificial-looking, it is the music's job to add proper gravity and seriousness to the fictional world and story.


Ok, enough of this rambling. I'm sure you get my point of how crucial I regard music in this medium (particularly RPG/story-based games).


And LucasArts gives us music in MONO (!) at 10900 Hz (half the frequency) at the lowest bitrate?!


Excuse me? Are they out of their minds?


This ignores and erases more than 10 years of progress in game audio! Music in MIDI at that time was already presented in STEREO. Even games such as Quake (released in 1996) efficiently used pre-recorded STEREO music tracks streamed from the CD (which made a huge difference to the scary atmosphere of the game). LucasArts' own Grim Fandango used a great STEREO soundtrack in 1998 to create an epic experience. That was in the "golden days" of LucasArts of course, when such brilliant minds as Tim Schaffer were still employed there.


The original KOTOR from 2003 supplied Jeremy Soule's epic music in 16-bit 44Khz *STEREO* at 128 kbit/s, which is close to CD quality, and the proper way to present Star Wars-like music. It's a symphonic score for crying out loud!


Do you people know what MONO 10kHz 48 kbit/s does to the music? In case you don't, let me spell it out:

  • 10 kHz:
    The music files are technically encoded in 32kHz, but the shocking truth was revealed when I analyzed the MP3 file-header (thanks Swaaye!), which stated that the music was encoded with a "Lowpass Filter: 10900 Hz". I couldn't believe that, so I fired up CoolEditPro and did a Spectral Analysis on the music files: There is absolutely nothing above 10900 Hz! That's what a lowpass filter does, it discards all frequencies higher than that. I was sitting there in disgust upon discovery of this fact. :blink:
    The human ear can hear up to 18-20 kHz. What this practically means is that all the "highs" of the original music were cut out -- half of the frequency range of the music is missing. It will sound muffled and dull because of that. And it does.
  • 48 kbit/s MP3 lossy compression:
    It is well-known that the MP3 codec utterly fails at lower bitrates (less than 128 Kbit/s). At such a low bitrate as used in KotOR2 the music will be garbled and muddled due to excessive audio artifacting (aliasing) because of running out of bits. This in turn will affect the mid-range and make the music sound "hollow" and "metallic". Symphonic music with its strings and trumpets is particularly prone to this.
  • MONO:
    Do I have to comment on what MONO does? Come on people, think about it, MONO! Is this the 50s? Playing back a symphonic (!) score in mono will make the whole range of the soundscape collapse. The musical score will not sound wide and epic, but small and narrow, like through a telephone. If you play your games with headphones, mono will give you a very unnatural music-in-your-head experience, which can become quite distressing to your ears after a while (listening fatigue).

Why didn't LucasArts encode the whole soundtrack in telephone-quality (~8kHz mono) right away? :angry:


Man, I'm really upset about this.


Releasing a full-priced title in such a poor quality is an INSULT to the gamer and also to the composer (Mark Griskey, who btw did an incredible job making this soundtrack much more Star-Wars-sounding than even Jeremy Soule did in KOTOR; Soule used synthesizers, Griskey a live orchestra and a style very similar to John Williams!).


A game company's job is selling an experience to the gamer -- to involve the gamer emotionally. That's the holy grail of game development. LucasArts has just shown me that they don't care about or understand the meaning of gaming "experience", and how that is achieved by a large degree through music. A shame for a company associated with arguably the greatest pioneer in sound-mastering and reproduction in the history of cinema.


Some readers might think I'm silly for missing out on the good things that KOTOR2 has, by returning the game because they bastardized the music. Well, try to see it trough my eyes (or ears): The original KOTOR for me really came to life through the epic music, more than anything else. It made the game for me. I was looking forward to KOTOR2 already after having heard the preview music, simply because the new music captivated me. And now this!


Who made this insane decision to present this beautifully composed symphonic live music in MONO 10kHz at the lowest bitrate? I'm certain that it wasn't Mark Griskey. I would love to find out how he feels about his work being disregarded and mistreated in such a way. He must be in agony as an artist and composer.


What's wrong with LucasArts? Why bother recording with a live Symphony Orchestra (which needs a bigger budget) to achieve a more organic higher musical quality, when you then pervert it by degrading it to near-telephone "quality" for the gamer who pays $50 for the experience? This is utterly pointless.


Let's not forget that LucasArts is under the auspices of George Lucas, the very man who repeatedly stressed the fact that music and sound make up for 50% of the entertainment experience (I couldn't agree more). Are we surrounded by hypocrites here? Is LucasArts still a Lucas company? How come a game from EA like "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" gets THX treatment (!) (and it really made a difference, it sounded incredible), and LucasArts' own games have never received THX treatment since the program was introduced (by Lucasfilm) for games almost 1.5 years ago?


Something is really wrong with this company, and how they treat their own games. Some would call such behaviour schizophrenic.


The final product's quality stands in direct contrast with what they promote in such features as the Designer Diaries. Have you people read the "Designer Diary #5 - Music" where Mark Griskey writes about his work on KOTOR2? If not, go read it! You will be surprised how much care and expertise supposedly went into creating and recording the soundtrack. And then you will ask yourself even more why none of that effort ended up in the final game. I'm totally baffled about this.


Here are some interesting tidbits from that interview:


I was thrilled when recording engineer John Kurlander signed on for the project. John is a veteran film music engineer whose credits include the Grammy Award-winning Lord of the Rings soundtracks. I knew that John would be able to capture the big, powerful sound that I wanted for the score.


Yes, and I as a customer would also be thrilled if what was captured by John Kurlander would actually be reproduced when I play the game.


The score was recorded at the Bastyr University Chapel outside of Seattle. Bastyr is known for its acoustic properties, and John Kurlander took full advantage of the acoustics with some very methodical microphone placement. [...]


We mixed at Skywalker Sound. Mix engineer Dann Michael Thompson and assistant engineer Judy Kirschner provided their exceptional talents, and final mixes were completed after three long but extremely satisfying days. [...]


When all was said and done, we had over an hour of new, fully orchestrated music for The Sith Lords!


As you can see, an incredible effort was undertaken to live-perform, record, and mix the musical soundtrack for KOTOR2. Even Skywalker Sound was involved, the top address for sound recording and mixing in the movie industry. And then some moron in the game design process made the unexplicable decision to degrade it all down to near-telephone quality for the final product.


I truly wonder who made that stupid decision, and I wish the person(s) responsible for this mess will be fired.


To Obsidian: Weren't you able to have some say in this? Why did you let yourself be bullied towards such a questionable decision?


The question still remains why they did that. It's not a space issue (as demonstrated above already). It's certainly not a performance issue either. Decoding and playing MP3 music needs only one decode stream. MP3-decoding is very cheap on today's CPUs, it's a non-issue performance-wise (the bottleneck in the KOTOR engine is your gfx card, not the CPU). It makes no difference to CPU load if the music source is a 128kbps or 48kbps file (original KOTOR had 128kbps music and ran just fine).


To give you an idea of how insignificant MP3 decoding in games is performance-wise, take games like the recent Doom3 which have to decode OGG streams (which need roughly twice the CPU decoding power than MP3). Doom3 uses OGG encoding for almost all sound files, not just for music! At any given moment, Doom3 has to decode 10-20 OGG sounds in realtime (in a fight even more), which is a lot. Still, sound decoding in Doom3 takes up less than 6% of CPU load on a ~1500Mhz minimum spec system (which I confirmed via email with Robert Duffy, lead programmer at id-soft).


And that is in Doom3. MP3 decoding in KOTOR1 or 2 is a cakewalk compared to that, especially when we're talking about only 2-3 streams that need realtime decoding, i.e. the music stream, ambient stream and speech. Other sound effects are in WAV. So, that is not the reason why LucasArts/Obsidian decided to butcher the music files.


Do you know what I suspect? It just dawned on me: Maybe they supplied the music in such a low quality so they could later sell a potential Soundtrack Audio CD to the public, and make some extra profit from that. Then customers would have a reason to purchase the high-quality CD, since the in-game music was so crappy. But that ploy won't work with me. I want to experience the full-quality music while playing the game, not while driving in my car.


If I'm wrong, LucasArts/Obsidian, then prove me wrong: Release the proper 44kHz *STEREO* music for KotOR2 as a separate download (patch) to the public, so that we PC gamers can enjoy the music as it was meant to be. Then I will again consider buying the game.


Because, the other possibility is that this audio blunder was a big slip-up. After all, why are the music files encoded in the exact same format they used for their voiceover files? 48 kbit/s in MONO is sufficient for speech (I can accept that), but no sane person would encode music in that same quality. Maybe in the rush to release the game, they accidentally batch-encoded all the files in the same format they configured for speech.


Another fact substantiating this is the inclusion of a music track player (!) within the game, as a menu option feature (similar to the cutscenes player). This is pure irony: Who in their right mind would include a music track player so that you can listen to the great music in pure form (without sound effects) if the whole soundtrack is reduced to this sad telephone-quality state? This shows me that the music was always planned to be of CD-quality. If not, why code a CD-Player-like feature then?


Also, the splash screen (game launcher) on the Windows desktop features the music in CD-quality STEREO. This is the only time you'll ever hear the epic soundtrack (a short segment) in the proper way -- in the launcher window! How ironic. Once you hit the game's main menu, it's all muffled & narrow mono.


If they offered us the proper 44kHz STEREO music in a patch, it would only be a 60 MB download for the music, according to my estimates. That's not too big, considering that many game-patches these days have similar (and even bigger) sizes: Rome Total War - 60MB, Armies of Exigo - 50MB, Star Wars Battlefront - 173MB.



In the meantime, I urge the fan community to come up with our own solution to this. Maybe someone can somehow gain access to the higher quality stereo music files and then we could create a MOD to fix this mess ourselves. At least we would make enough noise about it to get noticed.


I think if enough of us push in the right direction and let them know what we think about this blunder, they will eventually do something about it. This is unacceptable. Nobody who bought the game should accept this. If you go to a multiplex theater and pay 13 bucks to watch a new movie, would you just accept watching it in analog MONO? Would you allow them to rob you of the full experience (Digital Surround) if you know better?

Go email LucasArts!

CLICK HERE to request the proper 44kHz *STEREO* music for KotOR2. Telling LucasArts how you feel about the degraded music is the single-most effective way you can make this happen. If they receive continuing feedback on this issue, the chances are good they will do something about it.


If you just sit here idly, nothing will come of it. We need to make noise about this -- and act NOW, before the first patches are coming out, because now is the time when Obsidian is still funded by LucasArts to implement any such changes. Later it will be in vain.


Also, it might help to add your comment to this thread and thereby let Obsidian know what you think about this blunder. It'll ensure that this thread stays a hot topic. But don't forget: It's LucasArts who needs to get the feedback from you... *they* need to be convinced in order to make the decision to fix this.


The music playback in KOTOR2 is below standards -- more than 10 years backwards. We consumers need to speak up about this to let game companies know that we don't accept sub-standard audio! Otherwise they will increasingly treat us like gullible pushovers, who shell out the money and won't know the difference. If we stay passive and don't demand quality, more and more developers will adopt the habit of only doing as much as they can get away with in order to ensure sales. Their marketing team will do the rest.


Quality and artistic vision will then begin to erode. Do you want this to happen?


It's in your hands. Vote with your gaming dollar and make your voice heard. Small steps can make a difference.


And yes, there are always more important things to worry about in life. I can imagine some readers thinking "geez, this guy is extreme, is that all he worries about? I can't even run the game properly!" etc. etc... It's all a matter of perspective. There are many other things in life I worry about, too. But that doesn't mean we have to ridicule things we deem less of a priority. We all have our own convictions and priorities. Right now, I have set my focus on this issue, and it's important to me. And that's really all there is to say.


I wrote this big post to inform and to make a difference.


Help to make this effort not be in vain.


Also, check out Kiwegapa's useful KOTOR 2 Game Issues Guide. It is a comprehensive guide to the game's Issues & Bugs, and a central collection of Feature Requests & Performance Tips.

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I'm actually thinking about what I should do with it, as I've hit the length limit for a post on the forum it's currently on. I've got it saved in Microsoft Word format so that I can paste it onto other forums, but what I think I might do is convert it to HTML and post it on my site, and a plain text version at GameFAQs, if they'll take a guide dealing with bugs rather than gameplay.


The current version of the guide is at Rage3D, here.


UPDATE: I've now uploaded a roughly formatted HTML version of my guide to my site. You can find it for now (and likely in the foreseeable future) at this link.


Now that I've done that, I'm no long constricted by forum post lengths or formatting rules. I'll be happy to take any contributions to the guide someone may have to offer, but I am trying to verify entries as they go in by either witnessing them or getting multiple reports.

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Outstanding post... Have to agree with you for 100%... To me it seems that sound wasn't really re-worked for PC version after Xbox.


"which I confirmed via email with Robert Duffy, lead programmer at id-soft"


When I read that line, I couldn't help but get a smile on my face. It perfectly explained to me why Doom 3 had OGG sound and KOTOR2 had worst sound possible. It's obvious that Doom 3 Publisher & Devs CARED. They are continuously working with ATI to help optimize drivers and staying in touch with community. If I see a single Obsidian post in regards to KOTOR2 bugs or patch info, I might have a heart attack. I realize that LucasArts had a very unreasonable development time frame for KOTOR2, but with quality of support for this game we have seen from both LA and Obsidian, kind of makes you wonder about possible future for NWN2 (although I have noticed a lot more Obsidian Dev posts on NWN2, so there is still hope)...

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I can see it to... Eventhough i cant even play this game after character creation. I can hear that BGMs are relatively bad to KOTOR1 or whatever music that play in laucher. :thumbsup:

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You can always (in a polite matter) email Lucasarts and ask for a seperate patch for the soundtrack with a re-mastered audio-files at 44kHz stereo.

"Some men see things as they are and say why?"
"I dream things that never were and say why not?"
- George Bernard Shaw

"Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man."
- Friedrich Nietzsche


"The amount of energy necessary to refute bull**** is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it."

- Some guy 

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Why the Hell did you need to make a 3 km quote, Insssect?


Anyway, I agree fully to this thread. It's quite a shame or weird to have hired a real orchestra, Skywalker Sound, being an affiliate of a corporation who cares a lot about the overall quality of their creation with a dedicated certificate and having such damn crappy soundtrack (technical quality-wise, they must be very good artisticaly(?)).

I've already wrote to Lucas Arts, Obsidian and Griskey about this issue.

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You know what I would like (and none of us will probably ever see)...


Is the music remastered and released along with the various endings that were originally designed for this game and that were cut (no doubt) due to LA's impossible Christmas '04 deadline.


The game has massive technical issues (bugs) and then completely disasterous artistic ones as well like the music files and the "alternate endings" that are more in line with an RPG of this scope and that mimic KOTOR I in replayablity and a more branching game experience.

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I have played this on my friends PC. After reading various posts here and around the internet, I am not going to purchase this game until:


1, Music Remastered


2, Showstopping bugs fixed (My friend cannot win swoop races on ANY planet)


3, Endings restored




My friend and I have pretty similar systems so I have an idea of how it will run on mine, We both have 19" CRT monitors and watching the game blink away then come back on with extremely fuzzy/blurry lo res crap that would have been laughed at 5 years ago, never mind in 2005. KOTOR wasn't much better in that respect either admittedly. I have some avi and VCDs that look much higher in quality and are probably lower in resolution


for record PC specs

My Pc

AMD 64 3200+ Clawhammer

1 Gb PC3500

6800GT graphic card

Audigy Soundcard

Dell P991 Monitor.

Friends Pc

AMD 64 3000+ Newcastle

1Gb PC3200

ATI X800 XT-PE (jammy nowt :ermm:)

on board sound

AOC 19" Monitor

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This whole KOTOR2 situation is really appalling. I mean, the game hardly works right (just last night I lost my companions and had to blast thru a TON of bad guys all alone. They just vanished after a quest and did not appear again until I got down onto the surface of Telos). The graphics engine is a complete mess with random stutters appearing and disappearing when you leave an area. Messed up polygons, missing textures, you name it. Though it doesn't crash much, if ever, for me believe it or not. Not since the beginning of the game.


And then there's the music. Is this just carelessness or the most questionable artistic decision in history? I'd hope for the former. The latter may be a possibility though if they wanted to really make the music less for the foreground and more for background sound: make it less obvious and more atmospheric?? I can't see why anyone would want to do that though. I play the game a lot thru headphones on an Audigy 2 ZS and I didn't come looking for an AM radio experience.


And, if this was carelessess why did the person who encoded it use LAME? LAME is the best encoder for MP3 in existence really, and it's not a really well known encoder because it's free and open source and doesn't come with any big name tools that I know of. So, this person had to look this up to use it. Then this person used some horrific settings.... The only reason why I can imagine you'd want to use such a horribly low lowpass filter is to save bitrate for the remaining spectrum....but why encode it so low in the first place? And why mono? LAME has just AWESOME presets that you can use. The soundtrack sure would have sounded fabulous if "--alt-preset standard" had been used. It's obvious that the encoding person had no idea how to really take advantage of LAME, and also must have been a rookie at MP3 encoding in general.


To save disk space? Nope, there is ~80MB less on CD4 than the other 3 disks. 80MB would more than double the alloted space for the music as it is now. AND, don't you think it's time for DVD? KOTOR 1 deserved a DVD release. DVD drives have been sold in all major OEM machines for YEARS now. Enthusiasts adopted DVD-ROMs around 1999! 6 YEARS AGO! The only excuse here is to cut costs. Sad.


I simply can't comprehend the decisions made.




Let me include 2 links for LAME. Just in case the info is useful to someone at LEC or Obsidian.



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Between "onboard sound" and "Audigy", there is quite a gap. Anyway, the music is so badly compressed that they are unworthy of a good Audigy.


it is actually because of the Xbox Dolby Digital encoder, the latency is so ungodly bad that if they made the audio any bigger the music will lagg way behind the scene.


the smaller the files the lower the latency on the xbox, on the PC it's not the case for non-on board sound chips, but they din't mod the audio in anyway from the xbox besided EAX2/3/


Halo 1/2 audio is also not great..

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You know where the lack of stereo fidelity really stands out:



When you first go to the Jedi Enclave on Dantooine.


The camera rises up over the valley you've been walking in and does a panaramic reveal of the destroyed Enclave. The music swells... And it completely ruins the effect on this scene since it is in crappy mono and full of background hissing on a 5.1 Dolby Digital EAX 3 system (Audigy 2 ZS)



There is no excuse for this.


It is obvious this was a rushed port considering they didn't even use the recorded masters from the original digital recordings to make decent PC .wav or .mp3 files for the PC version. That's pathetic.

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What I don't get is that the XBox is hyped as being able to do fairly decent 5.1 sound. I've heard praise regarding some XBox games on how good the sound is.


Why would they reduce the sound quality by such an amount if XBox is capable of better and all modern PCs are as well?


One answer: Time and money constraints.


Obsidian had one calendar year to produce KOTOR 2 from the ground up (story, voice, music-wise) and that is an impossible deadline for a project of this scope.


This is why half the game endings and subplots (for the NPC characters) are literally left hanging, romance options completely cut out and why the audio was probably "dumbed down" to speed up production.

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I can unerstand that a lot of the game actually got cut out due to the time constraints - however, to encode music takes practically NO time, if they have the original digital recordings (which I think they do, because the music in the startup menu is good enough quality) it would have taken no more than 30 minutes, tops, to just make higher quality encodings to replace the lower one.


Also, am I the only one who thinks it would be nice if someone at Obsidian actually gave some comment or insight into all of these problems? I mean, it IS their forum, I'd think they would be reading it.

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I agree, Lundquist. I would love to see some developers or moderators in here with the occasional answer. The problem is that this is a 'self-help' forum which means that devs and moderators apparently stay out completely. The reason why they do so is probably because they're under a license agreement which requires that Lucasarts provide all support for the game, an agreement which is pretty common in modern developer-publisher relationships. And for good or ill, Obsidian is sticking to the letter of that agreement. <_<


The real problem is that Lucasarts has shown very little willingness in the past to communicate with the public. I expect that if a patch is being worked on, we won't know about it until it's finished and posted online.


I don't envy Obsidian right now..if they are the innocent party in this, then they've been forced to release a project that wasn't finished yet and are being prevented from working to correct it until bug reports are collected, verified, and approved by the publisher. Then Obsidian gets to fix ONLY the issues authorized to be fixed, and once the patch is complete, it will get tested and judged for approval. If the approval is denied, Obsidian has to try again on the patch and hope THAT one gets approved. If the patch gets approved, Lucasarts puts a final polish on it and then and only then releases it to the public.




Of course, since I haven't talked to Obsidian, they very well could be incredible slackers, but after seeing some of the deft touches they put in KOTOR 2 and in games done under their earlier incarnation as Black Isle, I doubt it. They seem to care for games as much as we do. Games that mean something.

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Kiwegapa, I was actually figuring the same thing, that OE stands so much to gain reputation-wise with the community by posting that their not doing so must mean they aren't allowed to. I just wish that some of the dev's would pose as regular members and post temporary bugfixes that will get peeps through the time before a patch. Perhaps even everyone could know that it was devs who posted it and realize that OE does care, but without LA being able to prove that it was them.


While this is at least the third post about the sh*tty music encoding, and I completely agree with ya'll, and it's actually more important to me than the bugs (and second only to finishing the game as it was supposed to be), LA controls the soundtrack so posting about it here is unlikely to do anything. OE probably won't pass it on to LA as a bug, even though it kinda is (what with the low-pass filtering and all). It is, at least, definitely not OE's bug.


Oh yeah, technically, the music is sampled @ 20,050 Hz iirc from a previous topic's post, but the highest frequency you can resolve at a sampling rate is half the rate, hence the ~10kHz low-pass filter (whereas the 44.1 kHz sampling rate of CD's is for resolving 20 kHz waves, the upper limit of at least our single-frequency hearing).

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I wondered why it sounded so strange. Ive been messing with my audigy2 and mlogic revolution all weekend trying to find out why. I forgot some one mentioned earlier it was only 10khz mono. Who ever made that decision must have the worst pair of headphones in the business. On any half decent set and especialy on a 5.1 or 7.1 system the sound in this game is a joke.

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