This'll be a bit of a long one, since Wonka has become my favorite game over the last couple years, and audio production is pretty much the thing I have spent most of my life doing, now. I've got something close to 25 years of music performance, audio engineering, audio mastering, and critical listening under my belt, for whatever that is worth in analyzing what I hear going on with Wonka. So, temper any readings of my frustrations that might be apparent in this post (I still love the game and I appreciate everyone that worked on it!). But, I've always found the audio system to be the weakest part of the experience.
I also picked up a PinWoofer JJP Super Kit for my LE a couple months ago. It took me just a couple hours following the instructions to install with no significant issues or challenges working slowly through it. I think the price and effort were entirely worth it for giving me a cleanly packaged system with a lot more control of the overall audio performance of the game than the factory setup. However, the issues with Wonka are deep enough that Pinwoofer as it is designed isn't going to be able to fix everything to my ideal results. I could imagine a theoretical Pinwoofer amp upgrade that gave us a few fully parametric bands of equalization, separated for the cabinet speaker vs. backbox speakers, allowing someone to tweak things in a little better (but probably jacking up the cost a good bit and burying most people in way too many knobs that it'd take a decent understanding of equalization to put to use while not making the machine sound even worse), but the real issues for me beyond the things that Pinwoofer improves (the speakers/amp) are in the samples and audio playback/mixing code in the game where no amp/eq/speakers can fix them. Also, the Pinwoofer system doesn't prevent the few loud startup/shutdown pops in audio - it actually kinda makes them louder (but they sound fuller/nicer) depending on how much the amp is turned up. Still, for anyone that isn't too concerned by the price that wants a self contained clean way to step up the audio a bit, I think Pinwoofer is a good option. I considered doing something more DIY, have tried hooking up subs and studio monitors to my Wonka, and I like the Pinwoofer solution better than those approaches for myself (studio monitors don't sound/feel like a pinball machine and made all the issues in the audio mixing more obvious, and the external sub didn't help with the harsh factory backbox tweeters).
I've attached pictures of how I currently have my Pinwoofer amp and in-game Sound Settings configured. Note, these are largely subjective and will vary significantly from space to space (I'm in a carpeted living room that is really quiet and dead sounding, for reference).
For some more thoughts on what I think could be improved about Wonka's audio, I'm going to dive a bit deeper into my own attempts at understanding what is going on with the audio playback/mixing code and the samples that the system is playing.
In the System Settings, JJP give us control over the following Sound Channels:
Music - Contains mostly what you would expect (all the background music comes from this channel), but the volume of this channel varies wildly with certain musical sounds really jumping out and others being pretty laid back. Also, it seems the audio code is designed to apply significant ducking/compression to this channel (in fact, all channels except Speech) based on sounds activating on other channel(s?). This gets really annoying if you try reducing other audio channel volumes in settings. The reduction in level of the main Music channel still occurs, even when everything else is turned completely down, and it does not seem to be scaled with the actual level of other sounds. I understand that attempting to make sure the callouts are audible in what might be a noisey arcade through the relatively weak factory speakers and amp in this game would be a challenge, and I get that this is probably an attempt to deal with that. But, if I were designing this myself, I'd have preferred to see smarter audio mixing code that takes into account the average/peak level of other channels after their mixer level in settings to apply any ducking/compression and would have wanted to level out the amplitude and frequency response of this track to avoid needing such drastic measures. If adding this kind of extreme audio ducking feature, I'd have wanted to add a few options in settings to control its overall effect or disable it.
Speech - Contains the game announcer, voice clips of kids/wonka/etc from the movie. Volume level is mostly pretty even across these callouts, but frequency response is all over the place. A lot of clips from the movie suffer from some harsh upper mid and high frequencies and often a hint of clipping. Conversely, the announcer is very clean and has lots of low mids in the voice recording. Any attempt to reduce high frequency overall with something like the Pinwoofer EQ to help with harshness makes the announcer sound a bit muffled and highlights the thick low mid frequencies. Any attempt to add low mids to help the thinness of lots of the movie audio clips ends up making the low mid boominess of the announcer excessive.
Fanfare - Contains sounds like the cymbal crash and rising notes at end of ball, computer award collect noise, gobstopper ball lock, short orchestral stabs in lots of modes that signify hitting the right shots / making progress. This channel also has the audio compression/ducking issue present in the Music channel. Again, the amount of volume reduction is extreme and it happens even if other channels are turned down.
FX - Incidental sound effects, ball launch sound, also lots of orchestral stabs for making shots that maybe aren't directly mode related - seems like maybe some of what could have been put into Fanfare is instead (or also?) in the FX channel. This channel also has wildly varying volume level like Music and Fanfare based on audio mixing code.
I've been psyching myself up to take a look at unpacking the full game update iso to see if I could unzip the individual partition images to find the audio samples, and test replacing a few then rezipping the image to see if the game will load it (not sure if there are checksums or other things in place to prevent users from tampering at this level). If it'd be possible to re-source and master them myself, it could be worth the effort over time. I've got the 4kHDR Blu Ray of WW, and have a feeling I might be able to get nicer source audio and put in the effort to level out some of the variations in frequency response and amplitude for things like callouts and all with the set of tools I have available to me. That STILL wouldn't resolve the issue with the reactive audio mixing in game (unless things are more open than I expect and I could get a chance to tinker with that code as well - I do have a good bit of audio programming experience).
Anyway, that's a whole lot of words, and thanks for anyone that got this far in reading what is effectively a big rant, so I will see myself out for now Wonka Pinwoofer Setting.jpegWonkaSoundSetting.jpeg