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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: No HAL in Vista
By daniyarm on 1/23/2007 9:49:27 AM , Rating: 2
Intel, VIA and Realtek need to learn from Creative how to make good sound cards. Creative drivers might be hit or miss, but their hardware is several steps above everything else that's out there. It's stupid to do sound processing in software if you have dedicated hardware. I doubt this will hurt Creative as they will come up with something new, but it will hurt all the gamers out their by dropping their FPS. Vista gaming performance is simply terrible, and now they are going to make it even worse.


RE: No HAL in Vista
By Hare on 1/24/2007 3:56:13 AM , Rating: 2
If you want a good soundcard you need to check out ESI Juli@, M-audio, E-mu and many others.

Intel, Via and Realtek are not high end audio and they don't want to be. There are many soundcards out there that completely blow away any Creative card. The only advantage the Creative cards have is EAX. Otherwise the cards are pretty generic stuff.


RE: No HAL in Vista
By Bluestealth on 1/25/2007 12:46:32 AM , Rating: 2
I would have purchased a completely different sound card if I didn't play games... however I don't think any audio vendor has "great" sound card drivers, even some integrated companies put out heaps of garbage. I think a majority of the problem is that most people don't care what sound they get out of their computer and are happy using the 15 dollar speakers that came with their dell.


RE: No HAL in Vista
By Bluestealth on 1/25/2007 12:57:42 AM , Rating: 2
EMU is now owned by creative... since 1993... Its not like creative has no idea how to make a good soundboard... unfortunately I have heard their drivers are just as hit or miss in the pro line(ouch)


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