TSS Audio Environment Review
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Audio Environment - General Aviation Edition
For FSX Published by Flight1 / SimStop
Reviewed by Joe Lawford
 July 2012

Introduction
In my view, one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of flight sim aircraft models, especially the default models, are the sounds. I have invested in a pretty good sound system for my PC, I use a Bose Companion 5 setup which really delivers the sound with a punch, especially the base.

Sometimes I fly the default models and the sound experience is, well, flat. The droning of the engines and dull sounds of other events often have me turning the sound down and my airband radio up, that is true of some freeware and payware models too.

Turbine Sound Studios are a well established company in the business of providing replacement sound sets for popular, mostly payware, aircraft. Following on from their popular Audio Environment Airline Edition, TSS has partnered with Flight1 again to produce a sound replacement library for most of the default general aviation aircraft in FSX.

Included are replacement sound sets for King Air 350, Cessna 172, Cessna Caravan, Extra 300, Piper J3 Cub, Baron 58, Robinson R22 and Bell 206 helicopters. You can even install the sound packs into other third party add-ons with an included, easy to use, third party aircraft utility.

As well as the default and third party aircraft sounds, there is also an option to install enhanced ground vehicle, rain and thunder sound sets using the config manager.

Installing
My review is based on the boxed version so comes on a single dvd and has a glossy printed manual. There is a soft copy of the manual in pdf format that will be installed at the same time.
 
The specs on the box advise the following minimum system requirements:
    • Microsoft FSX
    • Windows 7, Vista or XP
    • 2.8Ghz Processor
    • 256Mb Graphics card
    • 2Gb Memory
    • 1.5Gb Available Hard drive space

The DVD autorun pops up in no time and the installation process runs without problem. One neat feature is it only installs the essential files and folders to your hard drive, therefore leaving your flightsim installation untouched. You activate the sounds via the configuration manager, shown below.

As you can see, the user interface is very intuative, the FSX path is detected from the registry and a backup folder for your default sounds has also been created.

Installing a sound set is as easy as clicking on the set(s) install buttons as required. It's quite easy to figure out that here I have the Cessna C172 & Robinson R22 sound set installed. Restoring them only requires another click on the same button.

If you want to install any of the soundsets over one of your payware aircraft, then you fire up the third party aircraft utility and simpy assign one of the Audio Environment sounds to your chosen aircraft. This creates a backup folder within your 3rd party aircraft folder and will restore them when the unassign option is used.

When assigning sounds, it doesn't have to be the same model, as you can see below, I have assigned the Cessna C172 sounds to the Moony Bravo. One downside of this installer is that you cannot see at a glance which aircraft have been assigned sounds, you have to click in each aircraft in turn to see what the assign/unassign button reads. A nice touch would have been if the altered aircraft were highlit in some way.


Be wary of installing to some of the more well known payware products as they often have custom sound sets themselves and may not work correctly if this utility is used. Most freeware aircraft would ideally suit this product. One important point to note is the installer will only find aircraft in the default folder and that has a sound folder so AI aircraft are excluded from the 3rd party automated installation.

The manual does highlight a problem with the Bell 206B soundset caused by FSX limitations (Where have we heard that before!) the engine autostart will not work and you will get call outs from the sim such as "Don't Sink" this happens as the engine type for the 206 had to be changed to a jet engine in order for it to work. The only way to stop it is to set the cockpit volume slider to zero. It's interesting that TSS / Flight1 see this as an acceptable limitation but run with it, the engine sounds will be worth it.

How does it sound?
Ok, I have set up a couple of aircraft and activated the environmental sounds. In an attempt to experience the whole environment deal I am going to park on the apron in a glorious thunder storm, I will wait for it to blow over before I go flying though.

Here's what I experienced.

As you can hear, this product makes full use of FSX sound cones, when moving around outside the sound sweeps around depending on your position in relation to the source of the sound. These extra evironmental sounds do get a bit drowned out when the engine is running but it is a positive addition to the ambience.

The ground vehicle sounds were less noticeable but definitely richer and more varied. In the default set up, most of the vehicle sound sets alias themsellves to the FuelTruck\soundai folder and all use the same config file. With AE sounds installed, you get a lot more variation in engine notes using more sound files which are better defined in the config file.

Moving on to the main purpose of this product, it's time to look at the aircraft. For the purpose of this review I looked closely at the Cessna C172, Robinson R22 and Extra 300.  This should be enough variation and you will have to discover the others for yourself!

One of the most listened to and noticable events is the engine start up and shut down. Looking at the default Cessna C172, the start up sound really is lame and unimpressive. With AEGAE you get sound with attitude! You really get the feel of the cranking sounds and ignition burst, see the following clip of the engine start and judge for yourself.

Whilst you're still in the mood, check out the shut down sound, I think this is just as impressive as the start up sound.

Of course there are many other sound effects such as wind sounds, flaps and the stall warning, these have all been given the treatment with a new sound file.  Some of the other events appear to use the default sound but TSS have improved the sound config files so the sounds react in a more convincing way.

In flight, advancing the throttle gives you a real sense of engine power with a growl rather than the limp response you get from the default. A good aircraft to hear this on is the free revving Extra 300 in an aerobatic display. I hope the following clip illustrates this.

I have never been a fan of helicopters, the default Robinson R22 is pretty easy to fly but the sound is rather hollow. With AEGAE installed the engine spool up and rotor sound is very realistic and rich in timbre.

I recently purchased Ultimate Terrain USA and Canada from Flight1 and thought I would take the R22 for a blast up the highway between Banff and Calgary. It was brillant, I thought the engine and rotor sounds gave it a sense of power I haven't experienced before. I can't get enough, I will be making the return trip soon!

Here's a snippet of the action.

This has only scratched the surface, there are another 5 sound sets. Both the Caravan and King Air gave just as good results, the turbo prop turbines had a good whine to them. The Baron 58 and especially the Cub where miles better than the default.

If you want to experience more sound examples then there is a video made by the developer here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-UumjlAN4A&hd=1

Verdict

I am a big fan of TSS sound sets, I have several in my collection. I've never been a fan of the default FSX aircraft with poor VC and sound quality being big issues for me but Audio Environment GA Edition is a quality enhancement and makes a big difference to your enjoyment.

So what score should I score Audio Environment GA Edition? Quality of the UI and supplied sounds would give it top marks. Leaving out the Mooney, Beaver and the Maule is an oversight in my opinion, as is the lack of indication of 3rd party aircraft that you have assigned to the Audio Environment sound sets.

I was put off trying the Bell 206B sound set purley by the limitations imposed, I would rather had one of the other aircraft mentioned above or perhaps the EH-101.

Will I keep the sounds install after this review? a big yes, would I recommend this product to others? well at just under £2.00 per sound set and an easy way to install that would be a resounding yes!

Overall, I award this a Mutley's Hangar score of 8.5/10  


Joe Lawford
Review machine Spec:
Core i7 Extreme 965 @ 3.6 Ghz | 12Gb Corsair DDR3 Ram |GTX580 Graphics |Windows 7 64bit