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sharrken

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About this mod

A high-definition restoration of Skyrim's orignal voices and music, drawing from the much higher quality PS4 audio as a source.

Permissions and credits
Changelogs
Unofficial High Definition Audio Project

Update to 1.0 is to signify completion of the project and coalesce version numbers across languages, no need to update (apart from if you downloaded UHQ Audio before 2018-07-17)


What is this?

A high-definition restoration of Skyrim's original voices and music, drawing from the much higher quality PS4 audio as a source.

YouTube Comparison video:




Be aware that the YouTube file will have been re-compressed on upload, thus impacting quality a bit.

Link to some comparisons on soundcloud.

Why?

Bethesda encoded Skyrim's voices and music as 48kbit XWM files (Skyrim SE's fx sounds are uncompressed WAV files). This level of compression has a pronounced audible impact on the quality of the recording - making both music and voices sound flat, tinny, and lacking in range.



In the above animated spectrogram, you can see a visualization of the differences. All the blue patches that are there in Vanilla, but not in UHDAP, is sound that has been completely lost to the low quality compression of Vanilla. In some areas (bottom 1/4) Vanilla is a brighter orange, which means it is louder; this distorts the sound, giving a less clear bass. (please open in a new tab, or using the media viewer above for the best comparison)

In the below example of a Male Nord voice file, you can see the drastic effects of the compression in Vanilla - huge sections are missing or are simplified to rectangles - and how much closer UHDAP is to the PS4 files. (again, please view full size for a better comparison )



This mod fixes this, by using the high quality PS4 audio as a base, and carefully processing to retain as much quality as possible while making it perfectly integrate into the modded Skyrim ecosystem. It uses files loudness-matched to vanilla, and packed as .bsa for compatibility and fast loading.

Upon completion of this project, all Bethesda released languages apart from Chinese will be supported (I sadly don't have access to the Chinese copy of the game). That includes English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian and Spanish.

Installation:

TL;DR: 
  • Download HQ Music and your respective language - all parts! You only need one language.
  • Install as normal with a mod manager of your choice, MERGE, not replace.
  • If using Mod Organizer, place the .esp's in your load order just below the DLC, and ABOVE ANYTHING ELSE, including USSEP. As high as you can go basically.
  • If you're using NMM/Vortex, see below for more detailed specific instructions (sResourceArchiveList2 load method).
  • Enjoy high definition audio!

Please read the rest of the description before you report any issues, or ask any questions. It makes it easier for everyone.

My apologies to any non-English speakers. My placement of your respective languages in "optional files" is in no way a reflection of my views on their importance. It is simply a  step against complaints from people who refuse to read descriptions/file names, about how I have turned everyone in Skyrim French/Spanish/Russian etc. and their game is now completely ruined. I hope you understand.

Full instructions:

Pick HQ or UHQ music (see below, "A note on audio" for explanation of the differences). Download both parts of the language of your choice, you will need 7zip to extract them if you are not using a mod manager (Mod Organizer 2 is highly recommended).

NMM has some issues with the special .esp files used, so there are more detailed instructions below.

First install option (Mod Organizer)

To load correctly, these need to override vanilla files, and be overridden by all other mods (including USSEP). As such, the UHDAP is packed as .bsa files as this is the best way to ensure a correct load order. The load order of the .esp files MUST be as follows in order to avoid conflicts with other mods:

Skyrim.esm
Update.esm
Dawnguard.esm
HearthFires.esm
Dragonborn.esm
UHDAP - MusicHQ.esp OR UHDAP - MusicUHQ.esp
UHDAP - en0.esp // replace en0 as necessary with respective language
UHDAP - enX.esp // replace X with the rest of the language .esp
... // Any other mods that the authors state should be above USSEP
Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch.esp
... // Rest of your load order

If you use LOOT, add custom metadata. In the Main tab, under Group, change to 'DLC'. This keeps it as high as possible, which is where it should be.

Note that these .esp files are used solely for loading the .bsa files (they are empty apart from the file header), and because they are actually ESL files (see FAQ) they don't count towards the .esp limit - so please, please do not extract the BSA's to avoid hitting the 253 esp limit. You will likely end up with issues with mods such as USSEP and RDO if you try and use this mod as loose files.

Second install option (NMM/Vortex):

As NMM/Vortex has difficulties understanding .esp files with an ESL flag (the special bit that prevents them taking up load order space), we need to work around this issue.

The first way is using LOOT. Add custom metadata:  In the Main tab, under Group, change to 'DLC'. This keeps it as high as possible, which is where it should be. Although NMM can't handle the files correctly, LOOT can, and this will put them in the right place. You can then use NMM to handle the rest of your files as normal.

If you don't use LOOT, another option is to 'register' the BSA files in your Skyrim.ini. This makes the game load the UHDAP BSA's with the other official files.

To do so, you need to add the following to the end of the line sResourceArchiveList2 in Skyrim.ini:

English:
UHDAP - MusicHQ.bsa, UHDAP - en0.bsa, UHDAP - en1.bsa, UHDAP - en2.bsa, UHDAP - en3.bsa, UHDAP - en4.bsa
French:
UHDAP - MusicHQ.bsa, UHDAP - fr0.bsa, UHDAP - fr1.bsa, UHDAP - fr2.bsa, UHDAP - fr3.bsa, UHDAP - fr4.bsa
German:
UHDAP - MusicHQ.bsa, UHDAP - de0.bsa, UHDAP - de1.bsa, UHDAP - de2.bsa, UHDAP - de3.bsa, UHDAP - de4.bsa
Italian:
UHDAP - MusicHQ.bsa, UHDAP - it0.bsa, UHDAP - it1.bsa, UHDAP - it2.bsa, UHDAP - it3.bsa, UHDAP - it4.bsa
Spanish:
UHDAP - MusicHQ.bsa, UHDAP - es0.bsa, UHDAP - es1.bsa, UHDAP - es2.bsa, UHDAP - es3.bsa, UHDAP - es4.bsa
Polish:
UHDAP - MusicHQ.bsa, UHDAP - pl0.bsa, UHDAP - pl1.bsa, UHDAP - pl2.bsa, UHDAP - pl3.bsa, UHDAP - pl4.bsa
Russian:
UHDAP - MusicHQ.bsa, UHDAP - ru0.bsa, UHDAP - ru1.bsa, UHDAP - ru2.bsa, UHDAP - ru3.bsa, UHDAP - ru4.bsa

So for English, your sResourceArchiveList2 line should now look like:

sResourceArchiveList2=Skyrim - Voices_en0.bsa, Skyrim - Textures0.bsa, Skyrim - Textures1.bsa, Skyrim - Textures2.bsa, Skyrim - Textures3.bsa, Skyrim - Textures4.bsa, Skyrim - Textures5.bsa, Skyrim - Textures6.bsa, Skyrim - Textures7.bsa, Skyrim - Textures8.bsa, Skyrim - Patch.bsa, UHDAP - MusicHQ.bsa, UHDAP - en0.bsa, UHDAP - en1.bsa, UHDAP - en2.bsa, UHDAP - en3.bsa, UHDAP - en4.bsa

If you are using UHQ music don't forget to change UHDAP - MusicHQ.bsa to UHDAP - MusicUHQ.bsa

If you take this install route, you no longer need the .esp files provided, so either just ignore or delete them.

Compatibility

This should be compatible with everything because of where it is in the load order. In case of conflicting files, UHDAP will lose and the mod added files will be used instead, just like overwriting Vanilla files with modded ones.

Explicitly compatible (checked by me):
Audio Overhaul for Skyrim
Immersive Sounds
Lucidity Sound FX
True 3D Sound for Headphones

As UHDAP only adds voice and music files, any mod that only adds files to /Data/Sound/FX (like the above) will definitely be compatible.


A note on audio:

For music, you have a choice of quality - 192kbit XWM, or WAV's that have not been re-encoded. There's a huge quality difference between either choice and vanilla music, easily perceptible and borne out by ABX (blind comparison) testing - I had 99.95% confidence results that I could correctly identify each file (100% accuracy). I'll be putting up some comparison files at some point.

My own ABX testing of the 192kbit XWM vs the WAV's gives results below statistical significance (74% confidence), though obviously this may vary according to your own ears and audio equipment, so the files are there if you want them. If in doubt, just go for the 192kbit XWM's, they are a huge improvement over vanilla and do not use the extra 3GB of space needed for the WAV's.

The voices only come as one encoding option, 192kbit XWM's - WAV's would both be far too large (25-30GB) and couldn't be packed into .fuz files with lipsync data. Again, ABX testing against the vanilla files gave 99.95% confidence of perceptible difference between vanilla and the mod. These have been carefully level matched to within 0.2dB of the original vanilla voices - so they will fit fine with any mod-added voices based on vanilla volumes. 1dB is generally regarded as the limit of perceptible volume difference for humans, so any difference should be imperceptible.

The original Vanilla files are 44.1kHz at 48kbit  XWM files. UHDAP's files are 48kHz 192kbit  XWM files. WAV Music is lossless PCM conversion from the PS4 AT9 compression (so not re-compressed in any way)

Languages:

Currently completed languages:

English
French
German
Polish
Spanish
Italian
Russian

If anyone knows of other PS4 localization languages, let me know and I will look into converting them.

FAQ:

Q: Can I just use the music OR the voices? Not both?
A: Yes, it's modular, so you can just use the music on its own or not use the music and just the voices.

Q: Why are there about a million .esp?! You'll put me way over the 253 .esp limit!
A: These .esp files are special. They are actually .esl files, which means they don't each take up an .esp slot in your load order (you can have over 4000 .esl's loaded at once, all of them up just a single .esp slot as a whole). They are necessary to ensure that the mod's files override vanilla Skyrim, but can also be overridden by every other mod. Having these .esp's ensures that the mod is loaded in just the right place, and is crucial to compatibility.

Q: Why is the extension .esp if they're actually .esl?
A: Because having the files with an .esp extension (in addition to an ESM flag) means that they can be placed correctly in the load order.

Q: Couldn't you just have one .esp load all the  files? Why are there multiple .bsa's anyway?
A: No, for a few reasons:
  • It's hard to get Skyrim SE to load multiple .bsa archives for one .esp. It can be done, but there are many restrictions, none of which work with this mod. If someone has a solution I haven't heard of, please come forward and I will implement it.
  • There have to be multiple .bsa files, because none can be over 2GB. If they are, the game will still start fine, but it only loads some of the files in the .bsa. Notice how the vanilla .bsa's are all below 2GB.
  • Separating Music and Language options reduces the number of files I have to create and upload, and in turn the amount of storage space this is using on the Nexus.
  • It keeps files below the Nexus 5GB limit without having to resort to split archives.

Q: Why not loose files?
A: Because .bsa's are the only way to ensure that fixes from USSEP and changes from mods like RDO can apply correctly. It also has a drastic impact on load times, even on high-end (NVMe) SSD's.

Q: What's the difference between this and SSEHQV?
A: 

Q: This just a rip-off of SSEHQV!
A: I will freely admit that this project was heavily inspired by SSEHQV. However, all work and processing has been done from the ground up, with no use of Myania's files outside of personal comparisons - to ensure that this mod stood up to the excellent quality of SSEHQV. I feel that the level-matching and .bsa features of this project make it different enough from SSEHQV to be worth uploading and sharing. If you would rather use SSEHQV, you're completely free to do so, but rest assured that this work is in no way stolen.

Q: How did you do this/what was your workflow?
A: Process is as follows:
  • Rip PS4 game file audio.
  • Extract audio to .xwm and .lip (actually PS4 .at9 at this stage) using Yakitori Audio Converter with xWMAencode deleted
  • Convert .at9 to wav with VGAudio
  • Apply -6.0dB volume adjustment with normalize (to match Stereo to Mono in-game)
  • Duplicate mono into stereo channels with SoX (to allow >48kbit XWM encoding)
  • Encode/pack .wav and .lip to .fuz with Yakitori (192kbit XWM)
  • Split into <2GB chunks (manually...)
  • Pack into .bsa with Archive.exe

Q: Why -6.0dB?
A: ReplayGain Analysis of in-game recordings of original files and converted ones. Seems to be that a stereo vs. mono voice file results in ~6dB louder voices by the engine.

Q: Oldrim/Skyrim LE Support?
A: I will look into it when I've finished all the languages. No promises/guarantees.

License/Permissions:

This mod is under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal License. That means:
  • You can do what you like with it (edit, re-upload, patch, change etc)
  • Feel free to give credit if you would like to do so. 
  • You are under no obligation to distribute derivative works or components of this mod under a similar license, you may be as open or restrictive as you wish.
  • This in no way replaces Bethesda's EULA and any modification, redistribution or use of this work must be in line with it's restrictions.

I respectfully ask that you do not re-upload these files elsewhere if you have made no modifications to them, but you are under no obligation to abide by this request.

A note to Mod Authors:

In line with the permissions above, feel free to reuse/edit the audio from this mod in any way you wish. My dream is that it can become a replacement for vanilla audio entirely, with authors drawing on it as a resource for dialogue splicing etc. rather than using the lower quality original files.

If you are a mod author and really want the un-encoded WAV's for maintaining maximum quality, then please contact me. Just be aware that each language is over 50GB (over 350GB for all languages) - way beyond what could reasonably uploaded to the Nexus. I'm happy to supply smaller archives of the specific files you need if you get in touch, but please consider using the XWM's first if at all acceptable. It might be worth using the XWM files for prototyping (while you are still deciding which files to use) and I would then be able to send over just the WAV's you need. In any case, even re-encoded XWM files will be of significantly higher quality than the vanilla audio.

If there are a lot of requests I will probably re-encode these WAV's losslessly to FLAC and create a torrent, but getting all languages released is a higher priority. This would still unfortunately require an amount of archiving, as close to a million files in total for all languages (.lip and .wav) is beyond what a torrent can support. If you are willing to work from the .at9 files, then the overall archive for all languages is just a comparatively tiny 22GB! But it requires the majority of the process outlined in the FAQ to get usable files for Skyrim PC out of it. I'm more than happy to give further instructions if you wish to take this route.

Credits:

Bethesda, their voice actors, and Jeremy Soule for Skyrim's original voices and score.
Myania for SSEHQV which inspired this mod.
/u/Nesavant for acting as a sounding board for ideas.

BowmoreLover for Yakitori Audio Converter
Thealexbarney for VGAudio
The PS4 modding/hacking community for all their work, without which this mod would have been nearly impossible.
Contributors to SoX 
Manuel Kasper for normalize
Casey Connor for Lacinato ABX
Queen Mary, University of London for Sonic Visualizer
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