If you’ve been playing Skyrim: Special Edition on PC or Xbox One, you might have been a little surprised by what you heard in the game.
According to a Reddit user by the name of LasurArkinshade, that’s because the audio files for these new versions of the game use a compressed format that makes them sound even worse than the original Skyrim, released almost five years ago.
“I launched the Special Edition last night and began playing, but something about the audio seemed... off to me. I couldn’t tell whether or not it was a placebo effect since I was going out of my way to analyse everything that could possibly have changed in the SE, but I couldn’t help but notice that the audio seemed... muddier. Less crisp.”
A comparison of the extracted files from both versions of the game revealed the following,
“The vanilla game has sound assets (other than music and voiceover) in uncompressed .wav format. The Special Edition has the sound assets all in (very aggressively compressed) .xwm format, which is a compressed sound format designed for games. This isn’t so bad, necessarily - it’s possible to compress audio to .xwm without significant quality degradation unless you crank the compression way up to insane levels.”
LasurArkinshade even went so far as to put together an audio comparison to try ans demonstrate the difference. In the clip below, the first sound effect is from the original game while the second is from the new Special Edition.
Especially with nice set of gaming headphones (which is what I used while listening to the sample), the second clip does indeed sound more hollow and muddled. A look at the sound profile of each sample confirms the difference.
In response, Bethesda’s global community lead, Matt Grandstaff, stated, “We’re currently testing a fix and hope to have an update out next week.”
Of course, it’s still unclear at this time what form the fix will come in and what exactly it will achieve. While the problem will most likely be addressed through a new downloadable patch, we still don’t know whether it will boost the sound quality to that of the PS4 version, or simply restore it to the former uncompressed standard established by the 2011 edition of Skyrim. LasurArkinshade followed-up to that effect, asking,
“Is the team at Bethesda also aware of the massive difference in audio quality on voiceover and music between the PS4 version and the others? The voiceover and music audio in the PS4 version of the Special Edition is astronomically higher quality than even the original PC release of Skyrim, to the point where it almost seems like Bethesda intended to push out higher quality audio for the Special Edition but didn’t include those files in the PC/Xbox One versions, possibly by mistake or as an oversight. If not - I figure it’s best to ensure that it’s brought to the team’s attention to ensure that the Special Edition has the highest-quality audio possible.”
In some ways, this turn of events is a bit ironic, given that it was the PS3 version of the original Skyrim that repeatedly crashed and burned, with Bethesda still trying to fix issues months after it launched. This time, the PS4 version seems to be working as intended, at least in the audio department.
If you don’t feel like waiting for Bethesda’s solution, user TI36X found a work around that involves swapping the files with the original. Also, be sure to check out out our tips for playing Skyrim and a list of its best mods.