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Creative Labs X-Fi Xtreme Music
OpenAL wrapper allows X-Fi users to take advantage of 3D sound in Windows Vista

Creative Labs has opened up the doors to its ALchemy Project to enable hardware acceleration for DirectSound and EAX audio algorithms in Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Vista. The Alchemy Project is currently in its beta stages and intends to work around Microsoft’s audio limitations in Windows Vista due to the removal of the Hardware Abstraction Layer, or HAL.

Microsoft’s removal of the HAL removes the software layer required by digital signal processors to enable hardware acceleration for various 3D audio algorithms including DirectSound3D and EAX in pre-Vista games. Nevertheless, digital signal processors that support OpenAL can still take advantage of hardware audio acceleration.

The Alchemy Project intends to work around Windows Vista limitations by translating DirectSound calls into OpenAL – essentially an OpenAL wrapper. In order to take advantage of the ALchemy Project OpenAL wrapper the installer copies a few necessary files into each game directory.

The automated installer will install the necessary files into each game directory, if there is official support for the game. Officially supported games include:
  • Battle for Middle Earth 2
  • Call of Duty
  • Call of Duty 2
  • Diablo 2
  • Everquest 2
  • FEAR
  • Full Spectrum Warrior
  • Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers
  • Guild Wars
  • GTA: San Andreas
  • Hitman: Blood Money
  • Max Payne 2
  • Midieval 2: Total War
  • Neverwinter Nights
  • Neverwinter Nights 2
  • NOLF 2
  • Rome: Total War
If the installer does not officially support your game, Creative Labs provides a guide for advanced users to take advantage of the OpenAL wrapper. Manually adding game support requires the copying of two files – dsound.dll and dsound.ini. On occasion, the unsupported game will work with the default configuration settings. If the default settings do not work, the dsound.ini file is tweak able for better performance. Available settings in the dsound.ini include Buffer, Duration, DisableDirectMusic and MaxVoiceCount settings.

In its current beta stages, Creative Labs ALchemy project only supports Sound Blaster X-Fi based sound cards with OpenAL compatible drivers. Users of Creative Labs previous Audigy 2 and Audigy 4 will have to wait patiently for hardware accelerated DirectSound3D and EAX support in Windows Vista. Jessie Lawrence, developer relations for Creative Labs claims:
For the initial beta phase of Creative ALchemy, we made the decision to concentrate on products based on the X-Fi chip. Games developers have put a lot of effort into supporting the advanced features of this chip so we want to provide the best level of support that we can for our most recent hardware. Support for Audigy 2 and 4 class products will be determined as the current beta progresses and we are able to assess the quality of the beta and overall demand for Creative ALchemy.
Users fortunate enough to have an X-Fi based sound card can download the ALchemy Project installer from the Creative ALchemy Project download page.

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RE: Still no support for live cards
By RandomFool on 1/23/2007 7:43:35 AM , Rating: 2
There's no support for live cards? That's terrible. My SB Live has served be faithfully for about 7 years now. I guess I'll have to switch to onboard when I install Vista.

It's looking more and more like Vista is going to force me to upgrade if I want to use it.

RE: Still no support for live cards
By Spivonious on 1/23/2007 3:59:34 PM , Rating: 2
Even if you stick with XP, the X-Fi sounds at least 50x better than the Live!. I should know, I upgraded from one to the other on the same machine with the same speakers.

RE: Still no support for live cards
By guwd1 on 1/25/2007 8:02:08 AM , Rating: 2
I love the X-Fi, but saying x50 is just going to upset different minded people :P It's BETTER, but x50... depends on how much you care about sound in the first place. Some just want a little more clarity and 50x will probably seem like alot for them.

It is x50 times better than old built in soundcards tough! Used once recently and at first I thought something was misconfigured or broken (I've been using Audigy2 and X-Fi since their respective launch date, so I'm not used to crappy sound :P ). Then I realised nothing was "wrong" and decided it wasn't worth playing on that machine as I had intended (thief, a game where good sound is essential). The whole experience would have been ruined imo :(

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